Friday, December 29, 2023


                                              By Eric McGuire

It has been nearly 52 years since I first wrote about this bottle in THE CORKER, the November 1972 issue of the newsletter of the Golden Gate Historical Bottle Club.  Back then the bottle was a curious rarity with virtually no information available regarding its provenance.  The Cassin brothers were already famous in bottle collecting circles for their Grape Brandy Bitters, Old Plantation Whiskey in glass and stoneware, and for a rare variant of the Mills Bitters.  The soda water bottle was so rare and elusive that no one was sure if it was even a product of the San Francisco Cassins, especially since it had a decided British style, with its typical round bottom “torpedo” shape.

By a stroke of luck I located an advertisement for the product in the April 1872 issue of the Wine Dealers’ Gazette, a relatively obscure monthly trade newspaper published in San Francisco.  That find brought me to publish my original short article in The Corker.



The first, and last, advertisement found for the Cassin’s English Aerated Waters ( Wine Dealers’ Gazette, San Francisco, Calif., April 1872).

There is one benefit to growing up, and growing old with an interest such as antique bottles.  One can track, over time, the relative numbers of a particular bottle through digging, bottle sales, auctions and networking with other collectors.  Remarkably, this bottle is nearly as rare now as it was fifty years ago.  I have seen probably a handful in all that time.  The relatively simple advertisement that appeared in the Wine Dealers’ Gazette definitely documented the origin of the product but little else.  In the same issue of the Gazette the editors inserted a short article about the introduction of the product that I did not publish previously.  I quote from the Gazette:

English Aerated Soda Water - What is it?

   In our advertising columns will be found a notice of the introduction into this market, of the above named spring and summer beverage.  Samples are sent to us, which to the taste, are pleasant and agreeable.  We could not give them editorial indorsement, in a sanitary sense, (being somewhat of a chemist  ourself) until we were assured of the materials from which they were manufactured.
     We are a little sensitive on the subject of “Soda Water”, as we have suffered from its effects.  We inquired of Messrs. Cassin Brothers, the manufacturers, from what material they made their Sodas.  They appeared to be reticent, thinking as we supposed, we were prying into their secrets.  We then reminded them that as editor of the GAZETTE, we conceived it to be our duty to inform the public as to the healthfulness of all new beverages, such as they were offering to the people.  From further conversation, we are satisfied they have imported the machinery for the new English process in manufacturing Sodas, wherein the base is Carbonate of Potass.  The new process consists, in part of passing carbonic acid gas through a solution of the Sub Carbonate, and evaporating at a temperature of 212 (degrees) to crystallization.  This new process is indorsed by English and German chemists and European Pharmacologists, as a “wholesome effervescing draught”.  The base of the old style Soda was Sulphate of Potass or Salt of Tartar.
     We have long known the deleterious effects of many of our, so called, Soda Waters.  Some are made in the old style, even out of Bisulphate of Potass, which is nothing more than a high character of Nitric Acid!
     This article is written by the editor of the GAZETTE, not for pay, nor for the two dollar advertisement, we believe there is in another column of this paper; but for the benefit of Soda drinkers.  We do not say, because we do not know positively, that Messrs. Cassin & Co. have the machinery and process above alluded to, for the manufacture of pure Soda Water; but from the reputation they bear, as Front Street merchants, and the fact positively known to us, of the enlargement of area of operations, and having sent to England and engaged a man to manufacture Soda Water, it is fair, at least, to presume they are entitled to the confidence of the public, and we believe they have the improved process, and we believe they mean business.

After all these years, I have seen no new information come to light regarding this product.  Production must have been very short-lived, as no further advertisements were printed in the Gazette or any other newspapers of general circulation.  There were no directory listings for the Cassins regarding the manufacture of soda water.  It must be assumed that the venture ceased operations shortly after inception.  Most of the bottles were likely returned to the Pacific Glass Works for sale as frit, thereby making the few “escapees” rare artifacts.  A huge question remains as to why their soda water was such an immediate failure.

Frances and Patrick J. Cassin were born in Dublin, Ireland and became caught up in the lure of California gold. Francis was the first to arrive, in 1849, and Patrick followed a few years later.  They both operated separately until late 1866 when they formed their partnership. They are most famous for production of their Wild Grape Root Bitters from 1867 to about 1872, and for the introduction of their embossed bottle for OK Plantation Whiskey in 1874. The Cassin brothers separated their partnership on October 8, 1880 when Frances retired. He never married but maintained a residence with his sister, Mary Cassin, in San Francisco.  After retirement he seemed to slip into oblivion as no record of his death could be found.  Patrick remained in San Francisco and continued to operate a wholesale liquor company for a few years.  He later moved into real estate and maintained a saloon for awhile.  In 1878 the 45 year old Patrick married 18 year old Frances Titus Cole in San Francisco.  Patrick died August 5, 1889, aged 56 years.

This soda water bottle was not the last time the Cassin name appeared on products of a decided English style. In 1883, Patrick Cassin imported tan and white stoneware jugs from England for his O.K. Plantation Whiskey.  He sold the whiskey, in the one gallon, half-gallon and quart sized jugs at $5.00 for the gallon. (San Francisco Chronicle, June 10, 1883)  The gallon size is stamped with the name of P.J. Cassin & Co., 433 Battery St., San Francisco and the name of the contents, O.K. Golden Plantation Whiskey.  This marketing move was probably a final attempt to sell his remaining stock of Plantation whiskey.

The Cassin English style soda water bottles are found in shades of very dark to light aqua.  They are 9.5 inches in length and look very much like their British counterparts, such as Ross’s, Webb’s and Cantrell & Cochrane. It is plainly embossed CASSIN'S / ENGLISH / AERATED / WATERS





The rounded base has a small “dot” at the bottom, which very likely was the location of a mold vent for escaping air as the molten glass was blown against the mold

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