A brief History of the Royal Crown Cola Company

Royal Crown had its humble beginnings at the turn of the century as a ginger ale. Claude A Hatcher, a young pharmacist and his father owned the Hatcher Grocery Company in Columbus, Georgia. After a falling-out with a local soda bottler, Hatcher began bottling ginger ale which was followed by a line of flavors.


CHERO COLA

In 1905, due to strong sales of their newly created drinks, Hatcher and his father organized their bottling operation into the Union Bottling Works and added Chero-Cola to their line of soft drinks.

Chero-Cola was a sweet caramel colored soft drink developed by a pharmacist named Claude Hatcher in Columbus, Georgia in 1905.  From that time until 1912, an indeterminate number of circle-name, paper label bottles were distributed by the Union Bottling Works of Columbus, GA.

PRE 1912 Paper Labels on Union Bottle Works Bottles
1912 Embossed Bottle, Arc Script Name (N)
1913-1914 Embossed Bottle, Angled Script Name (N)
1915-1923 Embossed Bottle, Angled Block Name (N)
1923-1934 Embossed Bottle, Twist Design

1934-

A few Painted Label Chero-Cola bottles were issued after 1934, with a yellow label in the middle.

Chero-Cola bottles seemed to have evolved in two basic designs, the "angled" design, and the "twist" design. Two size variations have been noted, a 6-1/2 oz, and a 7 oz bottle. Three glass colors have been recorded, clear, aqua (light green), and green.

The arc script embossed bottle with the name placed in an arc on the neck and a paper label in the middle was considered the first franchise bottle.   

From 1913 to 1914, the bottles contained an angled script name on the bottle neck.  All bottles through 1914 were "Bimal" (two piece bottles with applied neck) bottles.

Beginning in 1915 all bottles were ABM or single unit construction bottles.  The angled-block letter design bottles, which are the most common of the bottle generations, appeared from 1915 to 1922.  These bottles also contained paper labels in the middle.

From 1923 until 1934 the twist design bottle was issued with the name embossed in the middle.  The twist design eliminated the need for a paper label with all of the needed information actually embossed on the face of the bottle. The earliest date found on this bottle design is 1923.

To follow is a list of city names found on Chero-Cola bottles:

BIRMINGHAM AL DECATUR AL FLORENCE AL GADSEN AL MOBILE AL
SELMA AL PINE BLUFF AR JACKSONVILLE FL PENSACOLA FL ATHENS GA
ATLANTA GA AUGUSTA GA CARTERSVILLE GA COLUMBUS GA CORDELE GA
COVINGTON GA GRIFFIN GA MACON GA ROME GA SPARTA GA
VALDOSTA GA WINDER GA FT WAYNE IN VINCENNES IN NEW ORLEANS LA
SHREVEPORT LA BALTIMORE MD BROOKHAVEN MS CLARKSDALE MS HATTIESBURG MS
JACKSON MS TUPELO MS VICKSBURG MS WEST POINT MS CHARLOTTE NC
GREENSBORO NC HICKORY NC KELFORD NC WINSTON-SALEM NC BARBERTON OH
FRANKLIN PA COLUMBIA SC LAURENT SC BRISTOL TN CHATTANOOGA TN
COLUMBIA TN KNOXVILLE TN MEMPHIS TN PULASKI TN BRISTOL VA
NEWPORT NEWS VA KEYSER WV      
Chero-Cola became such a success that in 1912, the company name was changed to the Chero-Cola Company, and Claud Hatcher became its first president. By 1925, the new company had 315 active franchises in fourteen southern states bottling Chero-Cola.  


NEHI COLA

NEHI, a product of Royal Crown Cola Co, had its debut in the early 1920's as part of the then Chero-Cola Company.  At the time, Chero-Cola was the feature soda line, and Nehi was introduced to provide a multi flavor drink. 

There are at least two stories circulating as to the origin of the name "Nehi". One story is that the company founder, Claude Hatcher, in the early 1920's sent one of his salesmen across the Chattahoochee River from Columbus to check out his competition in Alabama. The happy salesman returned to report that Alabama competition was only "knee-high".

The other recurring story concerns the checking of bottle samples that were being considered for the new flavor line. Most of the drinks of that era were of the 6 or 7 ounce sizes. When the tall 9 ounce Nehi sample was set beside the competitors brands, the comment was made that the smaller bottles looked "knee-high" beside their new container.

Whatever the source of the name, it and the drink bottled under that name became an immediate success and eventually far outsold Chero Cola. In 1928, the company changed its name to the Nehi Corporation.

The first bottles were the paper label and embossed variety. 

"Rope Design" Nehi embossed soda bottles have been cataloged from a time period spanning 1924 to 1955, long after the more eye-catching painted label bottles emerged on the scene.

There are two bottles sizes, a 7 oz and a 9 oz, with identical embossing. The brand name with "beverages" under it is located in the middle of the bottle, and the bottler's city name is at the base.

To follow is a list of cities found on Rope Design Nehi Cola bottles:

FLORENCE AL WINSLOW AZ SACRAMENTO CA  SAN LUIS OBISCO CA WASHINGTON DC
COLUMBUS GA SAVANNAH GA  EAST CHICAGO IN FT SCOTT KS KANSAS CITY KS
 LOUISVILLE KY  PADUCAH KY NAPOLEANVILLE LA NEW ORLEANS LA   WESTMINSTER MD
DETROIT MI  BILLINGS MT  ST LOUIS MO GRAND ISLAND NE PORTSMOUTH OH
VAN WERT OH KEYSER WV      

The first painted label bottles were introduced in the early 1940's.

Two distinctive label variations have been cataloged which have specific cities and states listed on the bottles.

The oldest painted label bottle has a red brand name on a yellow background. 7, 9, 10, and 12 ounce sizes have been noted. One generation of this bottle grouping has the name on the middle only, and the other has the name in the middle plus on the neck of the bottle. Dates from base markings range from 1940 to 1956.

The other bottle series has a white brand name on a red background. 9, 10, and 12 ounce bottles have been found in this grouping. Only two bottles from this series have cities listed. Like the oldest bottle, the brand name is in the middle only or middle and neck. Dates range from 1956 to 1965.

Values of these bottles should range from $4.00 to $8.00 to brand or cities collectors. To general collectors, the bottles have little value because of the large quantities produced.

contributed by D Hanson 10'07 regarding Billings Mt bottle

According to a friend of mine in the soda business, the Royal Crown Bottling Company in Billings was operated by a family named "Goan", I believe he said, from 1939 to 1960 approximately. When the Coca Bottling Co went out of business in Billings, the family bought the Coca Cola franchise for Billings and stopped bottling RC Cola. All the left over RC bottles and items were then shipped out of town. 
His family (Dimich) has owned the Pepsi Bottling Co in Billings, MT for many years.
 

ROYAL CROWN COLA

In 1933, Claude Hatcher, still president, died and H.R. Mott who had been with the company for thirteen years took over as chief executive. One of the first tasks that Mott undertook was the development of a new cola drink. Rufus Kamm, chief chemist, developed the syrup for what was to be called Royal Crown Cola, named after Hatchers original ginger ale.

During the dark days of the depression Royal Crown Cola, shortened by the consumer to RC Cola was selling in the 12 ounce bottle for just 5c a bottle. In 1940, Mott moved to Chairman of the Board and the title of President was passed to C.C. Colbert.

For the collector of Royal Crown cities bottles, two basic label variations are noted.

The first variation is the "pyramid" bottle, one of the most dynamic and colorful bottle labels. This label was produced from the mid 1930's to the mid 1950's. All bottles contained 12 ounces and were either aqua or clear glass. The value range for cities collectors is from $12.00 to $18.00.  

The second group of bottles has the same red/yellow color combination but without the pyramids. All of these bottles were produced from the early to late 1950's. The size range was 8, 10, and 12 ounces, and only aqua glass color has been noted. The value range is from $4.00 to $8.00 to brand and cities collectors.

Cobert retained the presidency until 1955 and directed the company through a period of rapid growth. By the end of 1940, the company's products were marketed in 47 states, and nationwide advertising campaigns featured many of the Hollywood celebrities.

CLICK HERE to see Royal Crown Cola ads in our Ad Art Gallery

Back in 1976 there was a contest that RC Cola held for the funniest picture
taken with RC cans showing.  My sister's, brother and cousin all posed for this picture in hopes of winning the contest. I thought also you would like a good laugh at the things people did back in the 70's.

Contributed by S. Smith 8'06

RC Picture Party Refund ad from 1981

Nice pictures of cans 1960

 

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