My love affair with Sparklets Syphon (seltzer) bottles began in the early 1990s when I first laid eyes on one in a little antique shop located in an area of Orlando, boarding Winter Park, called Antique Alley. It was a chance meeting, the scenario went like this: instantaneous attraction, best price negotiation followed by cash out of pocket! I now possessed the inanimate object of my affection! I had never seen a seltzer bottle so classically art deco in design, or so I thought at the time. Instantaneous fascination begets curiosity!
Of course, my Sparklets Syphon purchase (pictured upper left) was before you could just Google a search term and have a wealth of instantaneous internet information, there was no AOL or eBay and I’d never heard the word syphon. The shopkeeper didn't know much about the bottle, other than it made seltzer water and had all of the original parts. My limited personal knowledge coupled with the fact that my parents were martini drinkers, led to the mistaken notion that the bottle was of an art deco design and period. To me seltzer was purchased in little bottles and made by Canada Dry, stocked in the bar along with other often ignored little cans of pineapple, tomato and orange juice (eww) for those who didn't drink theirs neat.
Over the years my Sparklets research has opened a portal through which I became a virtual time traveler and has taken me across the globe, back through history, and across cultural oceans. The first stop, The Industrial Revolution, the beginnings of modern day consumerism and the obsession with Global market domination! How intriguing that a seltzer syphon bottle could so quintessentially represent and be so steeped in our global commerce history! The first siphons’ were credited to the French; my focus will remain with the Sparklets Syphon bottles, originally from Great Brittan; wherein my fixation lies.
In an effort to properly frame the beginnings of Sparklets Bottles, a bit of history is in order and is sadly overlooked in most discussions. Reviewing this pivotal time in the development of man, his environment and economics is key to appreciating just how imbedded this single product is in our present day consumerism. While we continue to romanticize our understanding of the era through movies like Becoming Jane Austin and Jane Eyre, according to The UK and Future Statistics dot gov dot uk, the "population in England had doubled from 16.8 million in 1851 to 30.5 million in 1901", housing and sanitary concerns were at critical mass. There were no sewage lines or uniform waste water disposal methods, housing shortages meant severe over crowding; the mortality rate in industrialized areas was almost twice that of agricultural based communities. Not since the plagues were poverty, slums, disease, waste removal and water quality so negatively impacting human survival. The use and mistreatment of uneducated women and children as a form of cheap labor also kept wages low and contributed to the vicious cycle of poverty. These conditions were mirrored, to some degree or another, across the globe in rapidly industrializing urban areas.
Advancements in the scientific community paralleled and intersected with industry; without going into too much detail, it is important to note studies on carbonic acid and its ability to kill bacteria were being discussed in high regard. I should also note that many of the French seltzer bottles contained lead and resulted in metal poisoning of the consumer had come to light.
The temperance movement had and continued to strive to combat the effects of alcohol abuse within depressed populaces. Water quality, waste water and sewage disposal were ambitiously being addressed despite being impeded by ignorance and clinging to old ways. The death of Queen Victoria in 1901 brought the Victorian era to a close and began a new period, the Edwardian era, and improved conditions. In the upper classes fashions rapidly changed, sports and travel were on the rise. Climbing disposable incomes and increased mechanization meant new products, communication systems, and an expansion of the new phenomenon called advertising.
Among the oldest American advertising I could find which referenced Sparklets, in the book “Public Opinion”, a compilation of the publication "Public Opinion", authored by William A. Blade, shows a Sparklets classified style advertisement in the May 30, 1901 issue; stating “Soda Water in Your Own Home At One Cent a Glass” with an introductory $3.00 offer, a “trifling expense” ($5.00 regular price) for the first 100,000 orders. At that price shipping was included “east of the Rockies”, “west of these” meant an additional 50 cent shipping charge.
Dateline October 3, 2014 Edited to Add:
For collectors of Sparklets syphon bottles I'm including a link to a recent EBay auction where a very early (probably one of the first) syphons was auctioned and sold for $250.00 USD. EBay seller was Norma Garcia, EBay seller name "mrventas", located and sold from Mexico and here's the description:
"THIS AUCTION IS FOR A VERY RARE METAL BOTTLE ABOUT 8.5 INCHES HIGH
AND 3 INCHES WIDE WE GUEST BELIVE ITS A SYPHON TRAVEL TYPE OR CAR TYPE
BOTTLE AND IS WELL MARKED AERATOR LTD MAKERS LONDON IN OUR GUEST
THEY WERE THE PREMANUFACTURERS OF THE SPARKLETS SYPHONS BRAND.
IN VERY GOOD TO EXCELLENT CONDITION, NO DINGS OR MARKS NOR DAMAGES
EXCEPT FOR THE BOTTOM OF THE CUP OR VASE WICH IS VERY MINOR DAMAGE
AND NOT SEEING WHILE BOTTLE IS SATAND. BELIVE AS INDUSTRIAL ART
1890 1910 SHOWS EXCELLENT PATINA, VERY VERY RARE ALMOST UNIQUE
IMPOSIBLE TO FIND BOTTLE. WE SERCH THE WEB LOOKING FOR INFO,
IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING, PLEASE ADD IT OR LET US KNOW. THANKS FOR LOOKING
MY AUCTION. NORMA GARCIA ALL SALES ARE FINAL PAYPAL ONLY
SHIPPING AND HANDLING USD 60 SIGNED TO USA BY WWW.ESTAFETA.COM"
Here's the link to the EBay auction: http://www.ebay.com/itm/RARE-BOTTLE-SYPHON-MARKED-AERATOR-LTD-MAKERS-LONDON-SPARKLETS-C-1890-1900S-/281411312944?fe_1_6=&nma=true&si=qidXuSNApgVuOupyzXc%252BadZWyeI%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
The images contained within this blog are either mine, used with permission or under the fair use doctrine.