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 Achaper 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
In 1876 the Democrat reported that Schaper and Stellern supplied
seltzer water and cream soda to towns within a 50-mile radius of Ft.
During the winter, deliveries were made to Dallas City, Ill. [as
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
mangement of the works in 1930, Stellern's list of carbonated soft
drinks included sasparilla, grape, root beer, ginger ale, banana,
lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, and their original
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
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. Stellern'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 yearsm 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.
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
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
This company owns a fine up-to-dat brick and tile making plant just
ouside 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