One of the first things I found during our archaeological survey of Driftwood the summer before last was this nifty bottle with an interesting embossed pattern that I had never seen before. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but CGCAS member Dave Burns said it was probably from a Nehi bottle. After doing some research I was able to figure out that the bottle we found was made from around 1929 to the early 1950s, the early days of the Driftwood neighborhood at Big Bayou.
(Left) A 1925 design patent for the famous “silk stocking” Nehi bottle. (Above) As you can see in this early Nehi ad, the silk stockings design gave the company an excuse to showcase women’s legs in their ads.
Nehi soda became was introduced in 1924 by a Georgia grocer who had started his own beverage business. Like many of the popular sodas of the time, for example the iconic “hobble skirt” Coca Cola bottle, Nehi had its own proprietary design made up of small diagonal dashes laid out in a rope design all over the bottle. Collectors today call this the “silk stocking” design. While few people from my generation have heard of this soda, in its day Nehi was very famous and garnered celebrity endorsements from the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Joan Crawford. It even inspired the infamous Leg Lamp from “A Christmas Story”.
(Above) Some of the Nehi flavors I’ve been able to try, grape is good (also the favorite flavor of Radar from M*A*S*H!) but I think the peach is amazing!
Probably due to the fact that I am now aware of its existence, I feel like I see Nehi sodas all over the place now. I love trying old sodas, and while I have found all the Nehi flavors to be delicious some historic sodas prove that tastes have changed over the decades… a lot….. anyone who has had the (dis)pleasure of trying moxie will know what I’m talking about.
Actually, those changing tastes are one of the things that make sodas so interesting to archaeologists. Just like many other consumer goods, different sodas were often marketed to different groups (for example, starting in the late 1940s and going into the 50s Pepsi began to target their marketing toward African American communities in order to reach an untapped market and gain ground on Coca Cola). Not only can soda bottles tell archaeologists about when a site was occupied, they can also tell us a little bit about the people who were drinking from them in the past! Sometimes one person’s trash is another archaeologist’s important diagnostic artifact!
So, are there any now defunct sodas from your childhood that you wish you could find again?
Although I can’t promise to talk about old sodas, if you are interested in learning more about what we found during our survey of Driftwood come out to the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center this Thursday, September 15th at 7:00 PM to hear me give a talk about all of our exciting discoveries!
2010 Bottles on the Border: The History and Bottles of the Soft Drink Industry in El Paso, Texas. Link Here