Great Radium Spring Water Co. Bottles
The photo to the right shows an empty embossed glass bottle produced by the Great Radium Spring Water Co. (GRS) of Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The paper label that once identified the bottle’s contents is missing.
Size: 10" tall
Date: ca. 1916-1920
The first mention that I’ve found of the Great Radium Spring Water Company was in the 1914 Pittsfield City Directory. The latter gave the company’s address as 150 North Street along with a name: F. M. Osteyee. Later that year, or early 1915, the company address changed to 24 North Street, i.e., the Berkshire County Savings Bank Building (room 50).
Beginning in 1901 or so, Fred M Osteyee sold bottled water from Pittsfield’s Pine Crest Spring. Quoting a 1911 advertisement (Berkshire Eagle, April 15) that featured Osteyee’s name in big letters: “Drink For Your Health Means Drink Pure, Soft Spring Water from Pine Crest Spring”.
In 1914, Osteyee took advantage of the “radium craze” that was getting underway by changing his company name to Great Radium Spring Water Company.
Oddly enough, I haven’t located any literature indicating that the Great Radium Spring Water Company actually sold water. Given the company name and Osteyee’s earlier business selling water, you would think that they did, but this is by no means certain. If they sold water, it would have been early on, say 1914 to 1915. Later the company focused on flavored drinks (e.g., ginger ale).
To the best of my knowledge, the company didn’t say that their water came from a "Great Radium Spring." Instead, they stated that their drinks employed water from the “Famous Berkshire Hill Spring” or “Berkshire’s Famous Spring.” For all I know there might not have been a Great Radium Spring even though a few newspaper articles have mentioned it.
One such article (Berkshire Eagle, August 21, 2007) stated “Radium Springs, previously known as Pine Crest Spring.” Whatever its name, the spring was the source for Parker Brook that flows into Lake Onota. Water used by the Great Radium Spring Water Company might have come directly from the spring, or downstream along Parker Brook. Either way, the water was bottled in a barn (since demolished) near the north corner of Cascade Street and Churchill Street.
Osteyee’s Great Radium Spring Water Company incorporated May 1915 in Albany, New York. It was capitalized at $1,000,000, and according to the incorporation papers it had an office at in room 1230 at 346 Broadway in New York City. Some sources (e.g., 1916 New York City Directory) indicated that William Howard Hoople was the company President while Fred M Osteyee served as treasurer (presumably so Osteyee could control the money). Another reference (American Bottler, June 1915) indicated that Osteyee served as both President and Treasurer while Paul M Richards, a broker, served as vice-president. Osteyee owned most of the company stock while Richards was said to represent the remaining shareholders.
Incorporation seems to have produced the funding for an expansion of the company’s operations in both Pittsfield and New York City. Quoting the Berkshire Eagle (Dec. 16, 1916): “The people of Pittsfield are invited to inspect the new warehouse of the company on the tracks of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad company, near South street, a building 40 by 120 feet, now in the course of completion.” The New York operations were described thusly: “The extensive New York offices and depot of the company are located at 82 Bremen street, Brooklyn, N.Y.”
According to a copyright filing in 1917, the Great Radium Water Company introduced their Mayflower brand in September of 1916. The brand’s flagship drink was Mayflower Ginger Ale (photo to right). Other flavors included sarsaparilla, orange, birch beer, root beer and lemon soda. As best as I can determine, all the Mayflower brand drinks came in an embossed bottle with the flavor indicated on a paper label..
The brand’s logo was a drawing of the Mayflower as the ship battled stormy seas while bringing the pilgrims to Massachusetts.
To celebrate the new brand, “a beautiful electric sign is to be erected at one of the most prominent corners of North street, which will flash “Mayflower Beverages Bottled in the Berkshires” (Berkshire Eagle December 16, 1916).
While embossed glass bottles made by the Great Radium Spring Water Co are fairly common, stoneware bottles like that shown in the photo below left are much scarcer. Alas, the bottle’s original paper label, assuming there was one, is missing.
My guess is that these stoneware bottles were the same as those that Osteyee had been using prior to the formation of the Great Radium Spring Water Company. He probably continued using these bottles until sometime after incorporation (May 1915) when funds became available to produce the embossed glass bottles.
In the photo to the right, note the letters “G.R.S.” (i.e., Great Radium Spring) on the bottom of the bottle. In May of 1914, Osteyee had specified “G-R-S Ginger Ale” in a label registration (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents for the Year 1914. Registrants of Labels). Later, in December of that same year he registered “G-R-S Orange.” I believe that Osteyee continued to use “G.R.S.” as a company trademark until sometime in 1916 when the Mayflower brand was introduced. This would date the bottle to sometime between 1914 and 1916.
So when did the Great Radium Spring Water Company go under?
I suspect that they liquidated in 1920.
They were listed in the 1920 Pittsfield City directory, but I haven’t found anything published later than that to suggest that the company was still in operation. Ominously, one of the few references to the company that I found from 1920 was the notice of a stock auction in the Commercial & Financial Chronicle (Vol. 110, 1920).
Thanks go to Terry Palmiter who kindly provided the bottle of Mayfield Ginger Ale.