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Stellern Bottling Works
Hawkeye Dairy
Stellern Pressed Brick Company

Stellern Bottling Works

Stellern Bottling Works

A soda beverage bottling works was founded at Ft. Madison in 1873 by J.B. Beelman, who died the following year.  In 1875, the bottling works was purchased by John G.H. Stellern, who took Conrad Schaper as a partner the following year.

At that time, the firm manufactured only seltzer water and cream soda, the vanilla-flavored beverage that was the original and for some years the only soda pop bottled in Ft. Madison.

In 1878, when Schaper and Stellern gave a case of cream soda to the Ft. Madison Democrat stall, the paper commented that it was "taken down by the pop, pop, pop, of the escaping cork".   At that time, soda bottles were sealed with corks, the "popping" off of which resulted in the name "soda pop."

In 1876, the Democrat reported that Schaper and Stellern supplied seltzer water and cream soda to towns within a 50-mile radius of Ft. Madison.

During the winter, deliveries were made to Dallas City, Ill. [a
s Dallas City, Ill.  was across the Mississippi River, the horse and sled traveled across the frozen river], by horse and sled. Schaper left the partnership in 1878.

Expands to Beer
During the 1880's, John Stellern begin to bottle various beers, including that produced locally by the Schlapp Brewery. Stellern bought the brewery in 1894. He retired the same year and transferred the business to his son, Frank. They ran the brewery and bottling works until 1910, when competition and new state laws forced the brewery to close.

Meanwhile, during the 1880's, Stellern's also began putting up apple and pear cider (perry) in season, using earthenware jugs fired at the Stellern brickyard kilns near Ft. Madison.  In 1902 Frank Stellern took over the business from his dad.

In 1921, the firm moved their soda bottling works from Avenue G to a part of their disused brewery across the alley on Avenue H.

11 Flavors in 1930
When George Henry Dues, a grandson of the firm's founder, assumed management of the works in 1930, Stellern's list of carbonated soft drinks included sarsaparilla, grape, root beer, ginger ale, banana, lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and their original flavor, cream.

During the years of national prohibition from 1920 to 1933, Stellern bottled Budweiser and Atlas near beers. These were substitute beers brewed from malt, like beer, but from which nearly all the alcohol had been removed.

Stellern advertisements of the period claimed that their Atlas near beer tasted just like the real product. Near beer was produced and sold legally during prohibition.  Sometimes, however, not all of the alcohol seems to have been removed. For example, several confiscated bottles of near beer of undesigned brand exploded while stored at the Ft. Madison police station.

Half Gallon "Picnics"
While Stellern's resumed distribution of real beer after prohibition ended in 1933, they use half-gallon bottles called "picnics" which retailed for 50 cents each.

In 1938, the firm began to bottle a new soft drink called Orange Crush. This was not the sugary drink of that name sold currently, but a carbonated orange juice that contained bits of pulp. vStellern's bottled Dr. Pepper briefly in 1939 and in 1942 begin bottling Squirt, a popular carbonated grapefruit drink.  Management of the firm was assumed by Jim Keller in 1946.

For more than a remarkable 80 years from 1875 to about 1958, the cost of a bottle of soda pop remained at 5 cents, but inflation during the late 1950's eventually forced up the price.

Finally, unable to compete with the resources and popularity of nationally advertised carbonated beverage manufacturers, Stellern's closed in 1960.

Stellern Bottling Works

Hawkeye Dairy

Around 1930 the Hawkeye Dairy was started by Henry Stellern. Upon Henry's death, Harry, his son, came back from Chicago to help his mother, Bertha with the farm and dairy.

Milk at first was delivered in the bulk to individual homes in Fort Madison and was sold by the dipper.

Harry Stellern milked between 20 and 25 cows and delivered milk 7 days a week for several years. Later he stopped delivering on Sundays and Christmas.

In 1937, milk was put in glass round bottles in three sizes, quart, pint and half pint.  Half-pint was mainly used for cream.

Milk was delivered as raw milk until the late 1940's when it was then pasteurized. About the same time, square bottles started being used.

In 1955, the cows were all sold and Harry Stellern had an agreement with Peterson's Dairy to bottle milk for Hawkeye Dairy. This lasted until 1957 when Harry Stellern decided to get out of the delivering business.

Stellern Pressed Brick Company

This company owns a fine up-to-date brick and tile making plant just outside the city limits on the Denmark road.  Henry Stellern is the owner and manager.  The latest down-draft kilns are used and the products are of the best.  The capacity of the plant is 25,000 brick and tile a day.   In this working season from fifteen to twenty-five men are employed while several are employed the year around.

Contributed by Thomas Stellern

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