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14 Sep 2021, last revised 16 Jul 2022

Today, Eagle Harbor is a picturesque, small town on a natural harbor of Lake Superior visited by tourists for its scenic beauty and historical sites, including a lighthouse and a general store. The general store is known by bottle collectors as the home of the Foley & Smith beer bottles, the only Copper Country bottles from Eagle Harbor. Eagle Harbor was settled in the 1840s and served as a port for nearby copper mines and shelter for ships seeking protection from Lake Superior storms (1,2).

Foley & Smith Store<br>Courtesy of Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections, Copper Country Vertical File Photograph Collection, MTU Neg 01375
Foley & Smith Store

The history of Foley & Smith starts with their fathers, who were pioneers of the Copper Country and founders of the general store. The Foley brothers consisted of Michael, John, and Martin (2,3). They were born in Ireland and immigrated to America, with Michael and John arriving in 1848 and Martin arriving in 1851 (2,4). After spending three years on Isle Royale (15), John started a liquor business in Eagle Harbor in 1854, and then engaged in the meat market (2). In 1857, they established a general mercantile store in Houghton, which was managed by Michael and Martin (2). In 1858, Michael Smith, also an immigrant from Ireland, who arrived in America in 1854, bought interest in the Foley brothers, and they formed Foley Bros. & Co. (2). Their general store in Eagle Harbor was established in 1861 (5), but it is unclear if it was an expansion of John's early liquor and meat business or if it was a new establishment. They also established a store in Red Jacket in 1874, which Martin managed and resided in (2). The 1875 Polk directory listed their three general stores under the name, Foley Bros. & Co. (6).

The Houghton store was lost to fire in 1875 (2). John Foley and Michael Smith sold the Eagle Harbor store to their sons in 1885, who then called it the Foley & Smith General Store (5). The firm name also changed to Foley & Smith for the Red Jacket store (10), which lasted until 1888 (14). The 1907 directory identified the sons as Robert Foley and John Smith (7), and the 1897 and 1907 directories list their business as a general store and saloon. (7,8). It was during their time as owners that they sold beer in bottles embossed with their names. These bottles date to about 1890 to 1895.

In May 1890, Foley & Smith purchased the bottling operation from Frank Knivel Jr. in Eagle River and moved it to Eagle Harbor (11). Frank Jr. was an agent for Bosch from 1889 (12), and now Foley & Smith became agents for Bosch (11). By Dec 1890, they had the bottling works set up in their basement (13).

Newspaper article - The Calumet and Red Jacket News, 12 Dec 1890 p. 2.
Newspaper article - Dec 1890

Paul Foley of Mohawk provided information on the store for the bottle book, Old Copper Country Bottles. Foley & Smith were not brewers. They were agents, as stated on bottle #108, who bottled beer purchased from the Bosch Brewing Co. in Lake Linden. The beer was, for the most part, transported by horse-drawn wagon in 31-gallon barrels to Eagle Harbor. In the basement of the store, they transferred the beer to their bottles, and presumably, sold them in their saloon. They continued to distribute Bosch beer for many years after 1895, but evidently, not in their own embossed bottles.

The Bosch Brewing Co. listed Eagle Harbor as one of their branch or storehouse locations (9), and we identify the branch as being the Foley & Smith store. Ownership of the store changed over the years (1) and the store became known as the Eagle Harbor General Store (5). It operated until 2004 and today is a museum (5).

The Foley & Smith beer bottles are not the pioneer beer bottles used in late-1870s and 1880s, but they are highly prized and eagerly sought after just the same because they relate to and represent such a fascinating part of Copper Country history. Having one in your collection adds a special connection to Eagle Harbor and Keweenaw County history.

References

  1. Monette, C. J. 1977. The History of Eagle Harbor Michigan. Welden H. Curtin. Lake Linden, MI.
  2. anonymous. 1883. History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Western Historical Company. Chicago, IL.
  3. Charles F. Clark. 1863. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1863-4. Charles F. Clark. Detroit, MI.
  4. Ancestry.com. Boston, 1821-1850 Passenger and Immigration Lists [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2003.)
  5. Eagle Harbor General Store Museum. accessed 2021. www.eagleharborgeneralstoremuseum.org.
  6. R. L. Polk & Co. 1875. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1875. The Tribune Printing Company. Detroit, MI.
  7. R. L. Polk & Co. 1907. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1907-1908. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  8. R. L. Polk & Co. 1897. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1897. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  9. anonymous. 1899. Compliments of The Bosch Brewing Co.: Bottlers and Brewers of Fine Lager Beer, Lake Linden, Michigan. Mining Journal Print, Marquette. (company pamphlet)
  10. R. L. Polk & Co. 1887. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1887-88. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  11. anonymous. (1890, May 08). Keweenaw Jottings. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 2.
  12. anonymous. (1889, Jun 28). Keweenaw Jottings. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 2.
  13. anonymous. (1890, Dec 12). Keweenaw Jottings. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 2.
  14. anonymous. (1888, Aug 28). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  15. anonymous. (1899, Dec 14). Death of John Foley. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 5.

108
Foley & Smith bottle
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: lightning stopper - applied
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD (back)
date: 1890
rarity: extremely rare

109
Foley & Smith bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD (back)
date: early 1890s
rarity: extremely rare
  • varieties differ in style of back embossing
Foley & Smith bottle
109a
Foley & Smith bottle
109b
Foley & Smith bottle

s8
Foley & Smith bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: NOT TO BE SOLD OR TRADED (back)
date: 1890
rarity: extremely rare
  • larger plate than 109
  • plate low on mold
  • different mold shape than 109 (see comparison)

s9
Foley & Smith bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: early 1890s
rarity: no known whole example

110
Foley & Smith bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - tooled
maker's mark: CLYDE GLASS WORKS CLYDE N.Y. (base)
other marks: (none)
date: mid 1890s
rarity: extremely rare
  • different plate design

111
Foley & Smith bottle
capacity: pint
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
maker's mark: CLYDE GLASS WORKS CLYDE N.Y. (base)
other marks: (none)
date: mid 1890s
rarity: extremely rare
  • pint-sized complement to 110