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Bottles of Marin

August 10, 2022 6:15 AM | Lori Deibel (Administrator)

San Rafael’s tradition of bottling sparkling elixirs is nearly as long as its township. The waters of San Rafael Creek, which flow beneath the city’s downtown and residential neighborhoods, inspired one of San Rafael’s first successful bottling enterprises, Marin Soda Works. Proprietor Martin Petersen, a German immigrant, started the company in 1886 on the southwest corner of First and D Streets, where he produced 17 different syrup-infused “temperance drinks,” including the minty “Hoarhound, Honey and Lime-juice.” Petersen sold his company to two other German immigrants, Eugene Klammer and Emil Malz, in 1900, forming Klammer & Malz’s Marin Soda and Bottling Works.

“Georgia Green” glass Coca-Cola bottle from the San Rafael Coca-Cola bottling plant, c. 1950s. Marin History Museum Collection.

Buffalo Soda Works, later purchased by the Borello Bros. Company, and San Anselmo Bottling Works, also operated within the borders of San Rafael during the late 1800s and early 1900s. After immigrating from Italy to bring soda water to the San Joaquin Valley, brother Andrew Borello settled in San Rafael, drilled a 25-foot well in the basement of their building at First and Hayes Streets, and advertised carbonated beverages made from the “famous Tamalpais Natural Mineral Springs.” San Anselmo Bottling Works, located in 1907 on D Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets, advertised its products as “the best for the money.”

Emil Malz, who operated Marin Bottling Works solo after the 1906 quake, eventually sold the business to Edmund Meyer of the Meyer Bottling Company. Meyer, who sold drinks such as “Meyer’s Vitamin B Sparkling Water,” established San Rafael’s Coca-Cola bottling and distribution plant about 1950 on Second and Irwin Streets. Coca-Cola’s iconic, patented and later trademarked bottle shape, designed in 1915, grew from the company’s desire to unite the bottling community behind a single, distinctive package. Once the design was chosen, the names of the cities placing glass orders would be embossed on the bottom of each bottle, entertaining consumers for decades.


Coca-Cola bottling plant located at Second and Irwin Streets, c. 1950s.
Marin History Museum Collection.​

MHM currently houses seven San Rafael Coca-Cola bottles. We are planning an exhibit showcasing our bottle collection for 2023. Do you have an antique or vintage Marin County bottle you’d like to donate to the collection? If so, please contact Heather Powell, Curator of Collections at heather@marinhistory.org. Thank you!

Sources: San Rafael Patch: “Early Soda Works Tapped Mt. Tamalpais Spring Water” by Marilyn Geary, www.coca-colacompany.com, Marin History Museum.

If you are interested in volunteering with the collection, please contact Heather Powell, MHM Collections Manager, at heather@marinhistory.org.


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