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22 Nov 2021, last revised 14 Jun 2024

The number of bottles from the Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co. with some being common stands as a testament to the success of this mineral water and soda company in the Hancock/Houghton area. The bottles bear the monograms of three different proprietors: P L, L J, and H L. When Old Copper Country Bottles was published in 1978, P L was known to be Peter Larsen based on an ad, but the other proprietors were unknown. Peter Larsen had a long history as a pop manufacturer prior to his arrival in Hancock.

Peter Larsen was born on 11 Jan 1849 in Denmark (1) and immigrated to the U.S. in 1865 (3) or 1868 (2). The 1880 U.S. Federal Census recorded that he resided in Neenah, WI, was married to Caroline, worked at a flour mill, and had Henry Larsen as one of three children (3). In 1886, he was remarried to Elizabeth and had more children (2).

Peter had a pop business by at least 1881 (35). In 1888, he was a pop manufacturer in Florence, WI (27). After doing "considerable business" with the merchants of Crystal Falls through their Florence pop factory, "Peter Larson & Company" in Nov 1890 planned to open a pop factory in Crystal Fall (28). In Apr 1891, "Peter Larson" moved into "his new building erected for the purpose of bottling the Crystal Falls mineral water and the manufacture of pop" (29). The 1893 directory listed Peter Larsen as proprietor of "Crystal Falls Mineral Spring Water" (5) and the directory ad purported that the mineral water from a Crystal Falls spring had medicinal properties.

Polk directory ad - <i>Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1893-94</i>
Polk directory ad - 1893
Newspaper ad - <i>The Copper Country Evening News</i>, 20 Sep 1900
Newspaper ad - Sep 1900
Newspaper ad - <i>The Copper Country Evening News</i>, 20 Dec 1900
Newspaper ad - Dec 1900

In Jun 1897, Peter Larsen returned to Crystal Falls after an extended stay in the Copper Country where "he lately purchased a pop factory" (30), but it was not specified whose factory he purchased. State labor records specified 1897 as the start date of Peter Larsen's Hancock business (17), and the 1897 Houghton County Polk directory listed him as a soda water manufacturer in Hancock with his residence being in Hancock (7).

The Hancock branch was first located on the south side of Franklin St., two units east of Tezcuco St. (7). In Dec 1898, he purchased property on Hancock St. with plans to erect a residence (20). He then decided to also erect a factory building on the property (21). In Mar 1899, the building was expected to be completed in four weeks (22), and Peter planned on moving his family from Crystal Falls to Hancock in the spring (23). The 1899 directory located the bottling works on the north side of Hancock St., three units west of Mesnard St. (8) and the 1903 directory specified the address as 511 Hancock St. (9).

Sanborn map - Jun 1900
Sanborn map - Jun 1900
Sanborn map - Nov 1907
Sanborn map - Nov 1907

As for the Crystal Falls factory, it continued to operate with Hans Johnson as manager (32). Peter offered the factory for sale in Mar 1899 (31), but then in Jun 1899, he leased the factory to Johnson who would conduct the business for himself in the future (32). At some point, Peter sold the factory to the Jackson Bros. (38), and they were running the factory by Jun 1901 (33). The 1903 directory listed the Jackson Bros. (Frank and Roger) as proprietors of the Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co. in Crystal Falls (34).

During 1901, the Hancock plant was improved and its capacity was nearly doubled (39). By Dec 1901, all kinds of soft drinks were being manufactured in addition to heavy sales of the famous Crystal Falls mineral water, of which about 40,000 gallons were imported annually (39). The flavors listed in Sep 1902, with Peter Larsen as manager, included lemon soda, brown pop, red pop, white pop, ginger ale, lemon sour, cream soda, raspberry cream, Brazilian chocolate soda, grapelet, and ironbrew (40). Peter explained what set his bottling works above others: the use of only pure sugar (no artificial sweeteners) despite its higher cost, thoroughly washing the bottles by machine and hand, and the use of glazed stoneware crocks that would not absorb flavor unlike wooden barrels (40). Peter continued as proprietor; and his son, Henry, was listed as manager in 1903 (9) and teamster in 1905 (10). The business had four employees in 1904 (18) and eight in 1905 (17).

Polk directory ad - <i>Houghton County Directory 1901-02</i>
Polk directory ad - 1901
Newspaper ad - <i>Hancock Evening Journal</i>, 27 May 1902
Newspaper ad - May 1902
Newspaper ad - <i>Hancock Evening Journal</i>, 18 May 1903
Newspaper ad - May 1903

By May 1905, the patronage in the Copper Range had increased over the past six months to such an extent that Henry found it impossible to get sufficient supply shipped from Hancock in due time (41). Accordingly, the company decided to erect a branch in South Range to be managed by Henry (42). Construction began in late May 1905 (43). The first floor would be devoted as a storage room at first, but if needed, it could house machinery for manufacturing pop on site (44). The second floor would be divided into four living quarters (44). It is unknown when the branch building was completed, but Henry was selling a large quantity of product in Dec 1905 for the holiday rush (45). In Sep 1907, Henry and his family moved back to Hancock, but the "branch storage house" would still be conducted (47). The Polk directory then listed the South Range branch managed by Henry Larsen in its 1907 volume (11), but not in subsequent volumes.

In Jan 1906, Peter Larsen planned to retire and dispose of his business due to ill health (46). But it was not until Jan 1907 that he closed a lease on the factory to Henry Larsen and Hans M. Johnson, who would continue the business under the new firm Larsen & Johnson (35). The lease was for two years (24). Johnson was employed by Peter since 1881 (35) and may have been related to Peter's wife, Elizabeth, given her maiden name was Johnson (46) and they both immigrated from Norway (3). Peter suffered from rheumatism and he intended to visit Mt. Clemens for treatment (35). The new firm took over on Apr 01 (35,36), with Johnson managing the Hancock plant and Henry managing the South Range business (24). The 1907 directory listed Larsen & Johnson as proprietors, but with Peter as the Larsen (11). Specifying Peter instead of Henry was clearly an oversight since the Polk representatives were in the Copper Country surveying for the directory in Aug 1907 (48). In Aug 1908, Larsen & Johnson purchased the property and business that they had been leasing (38,6). The 1910 directory listed Larsen & Johnson with Henry being the Larsen (12). The partnership then dissolved in Jan 1911 with Johnson retiring and Henry continuing the business (25). Thus, only Henry Larsen was listed as proprietor of the Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co. in the 1912 directory (13).

Newspaper ad - <i>The Evening Journal</i>, 13 Dec 1907
Newspaper ad - Dec 1907

Sodas from Henry Larsen in Hancock were tested by the State of Michigan Dairy and Food Department in 1910 (15) and 1912 (16), which revealed the varieties he produced (and that they all contained saccharin): Royal Brew, Ginger Ale, Lemon Soda, Orange Cider, Cream Soda, Cremo, Iron Brew, Pear Cider, and Root Beer. In Apr 1911, Henry replaced steam with electricity to power the pop factory (26). The company had 25 employees in 1911 (19). By Apr 1914, Henry had installed an electric ozone water sterilizer, the first of its kind in the Copper Country (37).

The 1916 directory no longer listed the Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co., but it listed Henry Larsen at the same address (13), and Hancock had bottles bearing only Henry Larsen's name. We continue the history of this bottling works on Henry Larsen's page.

Based on the transitions in proprietors, we can date the bottles with the different monograms. P L bottles date to 1897-1906. The L J bottles date to 1907-1911. The one H L bottle dates to 1911-c.1912.

References

  1. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan; Death Records (accessed on ancestry.com).
  2. U.S. Census Bureau. 1900 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau. 1910 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  4. U.S. Census Bureau. 1880 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  5. R. L. Polk & Co. 1893. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1893-94. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  6. anonymous. (1908, Aug 08). City News in Brief. The Evening Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 6.
  7. R. L. Polk & Co. 1897. Houghton County Directory 1897-98. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  8. R. L. Polk & Co. 1899. Houghton County Directory 1899-1900. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  9. R. L. Polk & Co. 1903. Houghton County Directory 1903-04. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  10. R. L. Polk & Co. 1905. Houghton County Directory 1905-06. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  11. R. L. Polk & Co. 1907. Houghton County Directory 1907-08. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  12. R. L. Polk & Co. 1910. 1910 Calumet, Houghton, Hancock and Laurium Directory. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  13. R. L. Polk & Co. 1912. 1912 Calumet, Hancock, Houghton and Laurium Directory. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  14. R. L. Polk & Co. 1916. Houghton County Directory 1916-17. R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers. Detroit, MI.
  15. State of Michigan Department of Dairy and Food Department. 1910. Bulletin No. 173-178, Jan-June 1910. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  16. State of Michigan. 1912. Nineteenth Annual Report of the Dairy and Food Commissioner of the State of Michigan for the year ending June 30, 1912. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  17. Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics. 1906. State of Michigan Twenty-Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics Including the Thirteenth Annual Report of State Inspection of Factories. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  18. Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics. 1905. State of Michigan Twenty-Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics Including the Twelfth Annual Report of State Inspection of Factories. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  19. Michigan Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics. 1912. Twenty-Ninth Annual Report of the Department of Labor of the State of Michigan. Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., State Printers. Lansing, MI.
  20. anonymous. (1898, Dec 09). Portage Lake news. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  21. anonymous. (1899, Feb 09). Portage Lake news. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  22. anonymous. (1899. Mar 03). Portage Lake news. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  23. anonymous. (1899, Mar 25). Portage Lake news. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  24. anonymous. (1907, Mar 30). Take over business. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 5.
  25. anonymous. (1911, Jan 11). Partnership dissolved. The Calumet News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  26. anonymous. (1911, Apr 10). Hancock briefs. The Calumet News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  27. anonymous. (1888, Mar 31). People talked about. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 5.
  28. anonymous. (1890, Nov 22). A pop factory. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 9.
  29. anonymous. (1891, Apr 18). Diamond drill cores. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 5.
  30. anonymous. (1897, Jun 12). Terse town topics. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 1.
  31. anonymous. (1899, Mar 25). For sale. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 4.
  32. anonymous. (1899, Jun 10). Terse town topics. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 8.
  33. anonymous. (1901, Jun 22). Terse town topics. The Diamond Drill (Crystal Falls, MI). p. 8.
  34. R. L. Polk & Co. 1903. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1903-1904. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  35. anonymous. (1907, Jan 23). Leases pop factory. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  36. anonymous. (1907, Apr 02). Hancock brevities. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  37. anonymous. (1914, Apr 30). Device to purify water. The Calumet News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.
  38. anonymous. (1908, Aug 08). Hancock brevities. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  39. anonymous. (1901, Dec 31). Mineral spring water. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 5.
  40. anonymous. (1902, Sep 30). Mineral water. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 5.
  41. anonymous. (1905, May 19). Build pop factory. The Evening Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 7.
  42. anonymous. (1905, Mar 09). Pop firm at South Range. The Evening Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 7.
  43. anonymous. (1905, May 23). Erection of Larsen branch. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 4.
  44. anonymous. (1905, Dec 15). The holiday rush. The Evening Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 7.
  45. anonymous. (1906, Jan 16). Will retire from business. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  46. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan; Death Records (accessed on ancestry.com).
  47. anonymous. (1907, Sep 19). South Range brevities. The Evening Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 3.
  48. anonymous. (1907, Aug 11). Getting material for new county directory. The Daily Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 6.

42
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
date: 1897-c.1900
rarity: common
  • L in MINERAL under the G in STERLING
42a
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: rare
  • different plate from 42
  • L in MINERAL left of G in STERLING
  • different maker's mark
  • same plate for 42a, 42c, and 42d
  • this variant was pictured in the book
42b
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: N. B. B. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: (base)
rarity: extremely rare
  • different plate from other variants
  • L in MINERAL under I in STERLING
  • different maker's mark
  • same plate for 42b and 42e
42c
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: ?
  • same plate for 42a, 42c, and 42d
  • does not have a maker's mark
  • a different base mark style
42d
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P. L. (base)
rarity: ?
  • same plate for 42a, 42c, and 42d
  • block-letter P.L. base mark
42e
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (base)
rarity: extremely rare
  • same plate for 42b and 42e
  • no maker's mark

43
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: common
  • different plate design
  • W in WATER aligns with A in HANCOCK
  • A in MINERAL aligns with P in SPRING
43a
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: N. B. B. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: (none)
rarity: scarce
  • different plate from 43
  • W in WATER aligns with N in HANCOCK
  • different maker's mark
43b
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
base: ?
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: scarce
  • different plate from 43 and 43a
  • W in WATER aligns with A in HANCOCK
  • A in MINERAL ahead of P in SPRING

44
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: scarce
  • different plate from 43 and 43a
  • smaller PL monogram on base
  • SPRING misspelled
  • plate higher on mold
  • various base mark styles
44a
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: scarce
  • same plate as 44 but with misspelling corrected

s22
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: extremely rare
  • different plate design
  • PL monogram links this bottle to Hancock

47
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: extremely rare
  • same plate for 47 and s44

s44
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: Baltimore loop seal - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: extremely rare
  • same plate for 47 and s44
  • different color

48
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: rare
  • different embossing from 47
  • same plate for 48, 50, and s70
  • no base mark

50
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: crown top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: scarce
  • same plate for 48, 50, and s70
  • different color and top
  • contains a base mark

s70
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: crown top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: I G Co (back heel)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: extremely rare
  • same plate for 48, 50, and s70
  • different top from 48
  • different color from 50
  • contains a base mark

49
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: crown top
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: scarce
  • larger plate than 48/50/s70
  • K in HANCOCK under R in WATER
  • E in MINERAL slightly left of G in STERLING
49a
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: N B B G CO (back heel)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: scarce
  • different plate from other variants
  • K in HANCOCK left of R in WATER
  • E in MINERAL under G in STERLING
  • slightly shorter body
49b
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: scarce
  • different plate from other variants
  • K in HANCOCK slightly left of R in WATER
  • R in MINERAL under G in STERLING
  • no maker's mark
  • same-sized body as 49
49c
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: P L monogram (base)
rarity: scarce
  • different plate from other variants
  • K in HANCOCK slightly left of R in WATER
  • R in MINERAL right of G in STERLING

165
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: colorless
top: siphon top
base: footed
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: extremely rare

s62
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: colorless
top: siphon top
base: footed
maker's mark: monogram (base)
other marks: MADE IN AUSTRIA (base)
date: 1900-1906
rarity: extremely rare

45
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (stamped out, back heel)
other marks: L J monogram (base)
date: 1907-1911
rarity: rare
  • change in monogram
  • E in MINERAL under G in STERLING
45a
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: ROOT (back heel)
other marks: L J monogram (base)
rarity: rare
  • different plate from 45
  • E in MINERAL left of G in STERLING
  • different maker's mark
  • lacks a date code

s47
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: crown top - tooled
base: cup-bottom
maker's mark: I. G. CO. (back heel)
other marks: L J (base)
date: 1907-1911
rarity: extremely rare

52
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: crown top - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: ROOT (back heel)
other marks: L J (base)
dated: 1910
rarity: rare
  • full-mold plate
  • this example has date code: 1170 ROOT 10

51
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: quart
color: aqua
top: crown top - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: N B B G CO (back heel)
other marks: L J (base)
date: 1907-1911
rarity: rare
  • san serif monogram

46
Sterling Spring Mineral Water Co bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: light green
top: Hutchinson top - tooled
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: ROOT (back heel)
other marks: H L monogram (base)
date: 1911-c.1912
rarity: rare
  • different plate design
  • change in monogram
  • lacks a date code