Sher-A-Coca Company of American was established around 1914 in Lexington to franchise bottlers of Sher-A-Coca cola brand. The company was headquartered on Merino Street, at the northeast corner of Vine Street. Garrett D. Wilson was President, Garrett Watts was Vice President, W. V. McFerrin was Secretary and C. Yancey Freeman was Treasurer. The company operated for several years.[i] Wilson was a wealthy horseman and Vice President of the Kentucky Association. McFerran and Watts were also horsemen. Freeman was the Cashier of the Phoenix & Third National Bank.
It appears that the company established at least three franchise bottlers, other than the one in Lexington. These included Charleston, South Carolina, Crestview, Florida and Hamilton, Ohio.[ii]
The Hamilton bottlers also distributed Pabst Beer. In Hamilton, they advertised that this “firm also the bottler of the famous Sher-A-Coca” and that Sher-A-Coca was “recommended for indigestion and other gastric derangements, rheumatism, gout and liver complaints.”
To finance operations, the company in 1914 borrowed $3,300 from F. G. Stilz and pledged its assets as collateral.[iii]
The Sher-A-Coca Bottling Company of Lexington was incorporated on January 6, 1915. The company’s charter authorized the “manufacturing of soft drinks . . . act as distributing agent for the Sher-A-Coca Company of America.” The stockholders were John M. Kelly (36%), J. D. Yarrington (21%), J. D. Kiser (14%), J. F. Howard (14%), Henry T. Duncan (7%), C. Yancey Freeman (4%) and Phil Straus (4%). Initially, the company raised $1,400 in capital - one hundred forty shares issued at $10 per share.[iv] Kelly was the owner of J. M. Kelly Company, Merchants Transfer Company, Kelly Storage & Distributing Company and Central Construction Company.
The company officers were John M. Kelly (President), J. D. Yarrington (Vice President) and C. Yancey Freeman (Treasurer). Its operations were located at 226 Main Street.[v]
On February 3, 1915, the company purchased from the Liquid Carbonic Company of Chicago mixing equipment for $938.55. This equipment included a Carbonator ($500), conveyors and rinser ($200), Liquid Gas Apparatus ($20), cooling tank ($25), Monitor Filler ($50), Percolator ($14.50), storage tank ($7.50) and supplies ($163.55). Payment was made one-third at shipment, one-third at installation and one-third over twelve months.[vi]
On February 17, 1915, the company purchased from the 20th Century Machinery Company of Milwaukee bottling equipment for $655.00. The equipment included a Simplex Soaker and Rinser ($500), gas heater ($45) and superstructure ($110). Payment was made one-third at shipment, one-third at installation and one-third over three months.[vii]
During the summer of 1915, the company began distributing Sher-A-Coca to local soda fountains, drugs stores, hotels, restaurants and grocery stores. The price was five cents per serving or bottle or $1.10 per case. In June 1916, they introduced Sher-A-Coca Punch. They advertised that:
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On April 11, 1916, the company registered with the Fayette County Clerk their bottles, indicating that they were not for sale and remained the property of the bottler.[viii]
During 1917, the company introduced Blue Bell Ginger Ale and Quench-O. In July 1917, the company conducted a taste test at J. D. Purchell Department Store. The company ceased operations during late 1917 due in part to sugar rationing and shortages caused by World War One.
The Quencho Bottling & Syrup Company was incorporated on May 14, 1918, by Harry T. Kelly (John M. Kelly’s son). The charter authorized the “manufacturing, bottling, buying and selling and distributing soft drinks of all kinds, wholesale and retail . . . . soft drink known as ‘Quencho’ . . . . ice cream, candies and similar commodities.” The company was capitalized at $13,000 – thirteen hundred shares at $10 per share. Harry Kelly owned the majority (99.8%), with J. F. Wilson and H. P. Downing jointly owning fifteen shares to qualify as directors.
On May 22, 1918, the assets of the old Sher-A-Coca Bottling Company (owned by John M. Kelly) was transferred to the Quencho Bottling & Syrup Company. These assets included machinery (Liquid Carbonator, Monitor Fillers, Cooling Tank, Foot Power Crowning Machine, Simplex Soaker, Miller Conveyor, Hot Water Stove, Soaking Tank and Seltzer Filing Machine), Syrup Equipment (Thirty Gallon Crocks, Five Gallon Syrup Crocks and Laboratory Equipment), Syrup Concentrate (twelve hundred gallons), Crowns (two hundred fifty gross) and assorted bottles. [ix]
The company closed during 1919 due to the surge in sugar prices, during the First World War.
Sher-A-Coca, crown top, circa 1916
Quench-O Opener, circa 1918
PREST–O–LITE Key - In addition to opening bottles, many early openers included a diamond cutout to operate the valve on “Prest–O–Lite” headlights. Prior to the sealed beam, electric headlight most automobiles used acetylene gas headlamps.
Advertisements - June 1915-1916
[i] Lexington City Directory for 1916/17.
[ii] Okaloosa News, Crestview, Florida, January 21, 1916 and February 25, 1916.
[iii] Mortgage Book 115, page 87, Fayette County Clerk’s Office.
[iv] Corporate Record Book 6, page 340, Fayette County Clerk’s Office.
[v] Lexington City Directory for 1916/17.
[vi] Mortgage Book 111, page 436 – 8, Fayette County Clerk’s Office.
[vii] Mortgage Book 110, page 311 - 13, Fayette County Clerk’s Office.
[viii] Miscellaneous Book 10, page 104, Fayette County Clerk’s Office.
[ix] Lexington City Directory for 1919.