I look forward to writing more about the generous offices of Beverage World, the oldest continuous publication related to the bottling industry. Founded as the National Bottlers’ Gazette at the end of the 19th century, its creator was a charismatic and effusive writer, whose editorials are often a gas to read. However, neither the content of its editorials or the magazine ever referred to anyone by religion or race, at least not in the few decades of issues I thumbed through. That is, except for this editorial, published in July, 1903, which I learned of from a former Beverage World Executive Editor, Greg Prince (to whom I will now always be in debt).
Why this was written? What does it say about Jews and the seltzer business? How can we understand it in the context of the time? All of those questions and more will be answered when I unpack this in the book. But as I will not have space to run all of it, and it is such a gem, I am delighted to make the full text available below:
THE JEW IN THE BOTTLING BUSINESS
Lest (sic) we be misunderstood, in reference to the “Jews” in the bottling business, we desire to say that we use this term advisedly, as a descriptive appelation, to distinguish a certain class of industrious and energetic men, who are finding the business of bottling beverages an attractive vocation.
There can be no mistake in the statement when we say that the Jews are learning the business if large numbers and are growing in force and influence beyond all peradventure of a doubt. Staring, usually, in a small way, they soon acquire the rudiments of the business and fast develop into clever business men. The is not to be wondered at, considering that they are natural born traders, and thier thrift to be commended. the bottling of siphon waters, because that branch offers the least resistance, naturally attracts their first attention, and because, also, many of their compatriots first started that way.
We notice, however, that there is more or less antagonism as between the American born Jew and his foreign coreligionist. This is, perhaps, only natural, and candor compels us to say that a similar feeling or sentiment exists among others classes of the human race, although, maybe, not quite so pronounced or apparent. That feeling, however, soon wears away as the “foreigner” develops American habits and ideas, much as it wears away in all classes of immigrants.
It would be difficult, and perhaps to no purpose, to take a census of the Jews in the bottling business, but suffice it to say that they number a very respectable minority and are scattered all over the country. In New York City, Brooklyn, Newark, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago, they are quite numerous; so much so, in fact, that they have, in nearly all the cities mentioned, separate protective bottlers’ associations. This feature of their methods we do not commend–for their is usually only room for one such an association in a given city–and yet we must acknowledge that “racial” differences has no doubt driven the Jews to seek their own company and each other’s protection rather than force their rights and wants on or in a gentile association of bottlers. The mere matter of forming such bottlers’ associations is a very good sign, though, of rational business methods, and in this respect the Jews are far ahead, generally speaking, of any other nationality. The proof of this lies in the fact that there are a large number of good-sized cities where no association exists, although a large number of bottlers have been doing business in such localities for many years.
There is one lamentable feature about the Jews’ business methods, however, which we, and all others who are interested, feel that should not exist. We refer to the “cutting” of prices to obtain trade.It may be that the Jew thinks that he gets along on a less margin of profit–especially when he first enters the business, much like the Germans, the Irishman and some others–but he soon learns his mistake and consequently is not slow in “pegging” up his prices wherever it is possible or permissable.
In this respect and many others we commend the Jew bottler to his coreligionist in the bottlers’ supply business. It is only fair to say that in whatsoever branch of the supply business the Jew merchant, trader, or manufacturer finds himself, he soon adapts himself to his environment and lives up to the best ideals of a first-class business man.
These remarks and close observation leads us to say that the Jew is no doubt in the bottling trade–“for keeps.” That much is evident. It is to be hoped that he will not degenerate–rather than his evolution will be progressive, onward, upward.