Monday, June 15, 2015

Stone Fizz for the Prosecution

In July 1925 one of the most famous “trials of the century” took place in the small mining town of Dayton, Tennessee situated several miles north of Chattanooga. I am referring to the “Scopes Monkey Trial” where a teacher was brought up on charges for teaching Evolution in that town in direct violation of a law that had been passed in January of the same year. Appearing for the prosecution was William Jennings Bryan, Ex-Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson, former Congressman, and three time presidential candidate. His opposition was a famous lawyer by the name of Clarence Darrow. The Monkey Trial was a purposely created media extravaganza incorporating all of the most modern methods of communication which helped promote the little mountain town.

Every circus wouldn’t be complete without soft drinks, and after refusing a case of grape juice which was sent via airplane, Bryan tried a soft drink out of Chattanooga going by the name Stone Fizz. The famous prosecutor was so taken by Stone Fizz that he had the company’s representative, who was in the town taking advantage of the attention around the trial, to make him up a special case of the soft drink. He received his case express from Chattanooga the very next day along with several cases offered to his opponent and his associates by the company. The Stone Fizz Company of America was incorporated in late 1919 as a corporation of Delaware even though they were actually located in the Volunteer State Life Building in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

It appears that Stone Fizz was an import from Australia having been bottled there along with its sister drink Stone Shandy for many years prior to its introduction in America. A traditional Shandy is beer mixed with carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, or ginger ale. The non-alcoholic version is called a Rock Shandy, which doesn’t roll off the tongue very well, so they obviously changed the name to Stone Shandy. In reality the Shandy is consumed in many different countries; however, with many different names. The Club soft drink brand of Ireland actually produces a Rock Shandy, which is a mix of Orange and Lemon flavors, today.

The First Vice President of the company was a man named Arthur J. Knowles, an Australian citizen living in Chattanooga, who also designed Stone Fizz’s “frozen bottle” in September 1920. The president of the corporation was Jacob Walter Bishop, and in the office of Second Vice President was the much better known Charles Reif. Charles Reif was well known in Chattanooga business circles having owned the Chattanooga Bottle & Glass Company from its founding until 1920. He is much better known to beer bottle collectors for being the owner of the Chattanooga Brewing Company prior to prohibition, after which changing its name to the Purity Extract & Tonic Company.

In the late teens Purity Extract was distributing a soft drink known as Grape Fizz along with a non-alcoholic cereal beverage known as Reif’s Special. The soft drinks offered by the company were Shandy which was to be priced as five cents, Stone Fizz for ten cents, and Clover Fizz which was to be sold for the whopping price of fifty cents. All of these drinks were to be produced on new machinery that was installed in the plant of the Purity Extract & Tonic Company. Reif also had plans to introduce a chocolate milk drink known as Chocolac after the formula was modified to allow for the product to be preserved after bottling. The trademark for Stone Fizz was filed in December 1920 with a first use in commerce date of July 21, 1920. The flavor is described on the labels as “A wonderful combination of Lime, Ginger, Lemon, and other flavors” and appears to have been green in color. Aside from the 6oz glass paper labeled “Frozen bottle” there are also 10oz stoneware bottles which may have been used to distribute concentrated Stone Fizz syrup. 

The Stone Fizz Company underwent reorganization in August of 1921 in anticipation of franchising Stone Fizz nationwide. They already had contracts with two hundred bottling plants, mostly in the south, eastern, and central states, and a national advertising campaign arranged. Part of the increase of stock that was included in the reorganization would allow them to establish sales agencies in an effort to start working on the western part of the county. By 1925 the brand is no longer being produced out of the Purity Extract & Tonic Company plant, but by its own bottling company being operated by the partnership of Murkin & Miller at 1107 Chestnut Street in Chattanooga. This would have been the bottling plant that produced Bryan’s special case of Stone Fizz for the Monkey Trial.

The attention that Bryan’s endorsement brought to Stone Fizz paid off during that hot week of July 1925. Many visiting newspaper men attending the Monkey Trial were able to try Stone Fizz at not only the Robinson Drug Store in Dayton, where the plan for the show trial was hammered out by local officials, but at every place where soft drinks were sold. A very nice piece of promotion all around; however, Scopes was found guilty and charged with a fine of one hundred dollars which he appealed finally winning on a technicality in the Tennessee Supreme Court. Bryan died just five days after the trial as a result of diabetes and fatigue. Maybe he should have avoided the Stone Fizz after all. The Monkey Trial has lived on in the public conciseness inspiring the play and eventual movie named “Inherit the Wind” in 1960; however, Stone Fizz didn’t survive the 1920’s. That is the story of “The Champagne of Soft Drinks” Stone Fizz.

June 1921 ad

The "frozen" bottle

"Frozen" bottle patent

Stone Fizz bottle label

10oz Stone Fizz stoneware bottle

Stone Fizz sign