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16 Dec 2021, last revised 19 May 2024

Newspaper ad - The Portage Lake Mining Gazette, 25 Mar 1869
Mar 1869

The history of the A. C. SHEFFER bottle remains a mystery as we could not find any documentation of Sheffer operating his own bottling works in Hancock.

Ambrose C. Sheffer was born in Bohemia, Germany in about 1840 and was married on 30 Dec 1868 in Houghton to Lizzie McKenzie (3). We could not find census records for an A. C. Sheffer residing in Houghton or Hancock, probably because he had not yet arrived in 1860 and left before 1870.

While in the Copper Country, A. C. Sheffer was a partner in the firm Shelden & Sheffer for a drug store in Houghton (see S. & S.). They opened the drug store in Oct 1864 (6), started a pop factory in Jul 1866 (7), and dissolved their partnership, at least for the pop factory, in Jun 1867, with Shelden becoming sole proprietor of the City Bottling Works (8). The only indication of an operation in Hancock comes from the 1867 Michigan State directory that listed Shelden & Sheffer in Hancock in the classified section for Soda and Mineral Water Manufacturers (1). If they operated a bottling works in Hancock, why was only Sheffer's name embossed on the bottle?

By at least Mar 1869, Sheffer was sole proprietor of the drug store (9), and then the store closed sometime after 01 Jul 1869 (10,11). It is unlikely that he then moved to Hancock in 1869 to start a new business given that the entire business district of Hancock burned in Apr 1869 (4). He was listed in the 1871 and 1873 volumes of the Detroit City directory as a druggist (2,5), indicating that he had left the Copper Country.

Is it possible that Sheffer was in Hancock before starting the drug store with Shelden in Houghton? If so, the bottle would date prior to Oct 1864, which is unlikely given the shape of the bottle. Could Sheffer have operated a bottling works in Hancock after Shelden became sole proprietor of the bottling works in Houghton? This seems more likely; unfortunately, we do not have access to the 1869 Michigan State directory or issues of the Portage Lake Mining Gazette from Aug 1867 to mid-Mar 1869 in order to investigate this time period.

One Sheffer bottle was recovered from an outhouse just inches away from an S. & S. bottle, suggesting that they date to about the same age; however, another was found about a foot higher in the same outhouse. At another site, dozens of Sheffer and S. & S. bottles were smashed together, while T. Smith and J. L. shards were rare among the mix. So at least, anecdotally, it seems the Sheffer bottle dates to about the age of the S. & S. bottle, or perhaps a little later.

The Sheffer bottle remains as one of the rarest of the Copper Country squat soda bottles. Whatever business operated in Hancock, they probably ordered just a small quantity of embossed bottles.

References

  1. Chapin & Brother. 1867. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1867-8. The Detroit Post Company, Printers. Detroit, MI.
  2. Chas. F. Clark & Co. 1871. Annual City Directory of the Inhabitants, Business Firms, Incorporated Companies, Etc. of the City of Detroit for 1871-2. Tribune Book and Job Office. Detroit, MI.
  3. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952; Film: 2; Film Description: 1868 Genesee-1869 Branch (accessed on ancestry.com)
  4. anonymous. (1869, Apr 25). The Burning of Hancock, Mich. The New York Times (New York, NY). p. 1.
  5. J.E. Scripps & R.L. Polk, compliers. 1973. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1873. Tribune Book and Job Office. Detroit.
  6. anonymous. (1864, Oct 15). Drug Store. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  7. anonymous. (1866, Jul 05). Soda Manufacture. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  8. anonymous. (1867, Jun 27). City Bottling Works. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  9. anonymous. (1869, Mar 18). Corner Drug Store ad. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI).
  10. anonymous. (1869, Jul 01). untitled. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  11. anonymous. (1904, Mar 29). A. J. Scott Sells Out. The Copper Country Evening News (Calumet, MI). p. 3.

10
A. C. Sheffer bottle
capacity: half-pint
color: aqua
top: blob top - applied
base: key mold
maker's mark: A & D. H. C. (heel)
other marks: (none)
date: c.1867
rarity: extremely rare