Bridge company benefit

Decorated with everything from clowns and snowmen to horseshoes and covered wagons, hundreds of unique glass soda bottles with brightly painted labels are set to be auctioned off Sunday to raise money for the Historic Harmar Bridge Company.

The unique collection, donated to the nonprofit group by a benefactor who wished to remain anonymous, consists of nearly 800 glass soda bottles from various bottling companies across the country, said Chuck Swaney, a member of the bridge company.

The painted label style hearkens back to the 1920s when soda companies realized they could save money and have more liberty with designs if they affixed their name and logo to bottles via a painted image, somewhat like a lithograph, rather than embossing the information, said Swaney.

“It became a very popular style on soda bottles in particular because …it allowed for a lot of advertising on the bottle,” he said.

The collection being auctioned off Sunday features bottles of well-known sodas, such as the classic white, red, and blue color scheme on a bottle of “Sparkling” Pepsi-Cola. But many of the peppy bottles to be auctioned belong to beverage companies that have long since put a cork in their bottling days.

These bottles tell an interesting historical tale, said Fred Curtis, a member of the Findlay Antique Bottle Club.

As soda became popular around the early 1900s, it was extremely common for even very small towns to have their own soda bottling company, said Curtis.

“All these towns around used to have their own sodas before Pepsi and Coke came around and ate them up,” he said.

Curtis said he has a special interest in bottles that come from his area. Findlay’s soda bottling days stretch back quite a ways, he said.

There will be a lot of regional gems at the auction Sunday, said Swaney.

For example, a clear Hub City Beverages bottle featuring the words “Hub City” encircling a white tire was bottled in Belen, New Mexico, which often goes by its nickname-Hub City.

The bottles’ interesting historical ties and colorful beauty make them a popular collectors’ item. The Findlay Antique Bottle Club boasts around two dozen members interested in the collection and history of antique bottles and holds an annual show in October featuring dozens of vendors, said Curtis. Several other annual bottle shows are held across the state every year, he added.

While the auction will be held at noon at the Knights of Columbus on Franklin Street, absentee and phone bids will be accepted, said Swaney.

It is hard to tell how much the bottles will sell for, he said. Online, such bottles can range in price from $1 to upwards of $100 for a single bottle.

All the bottles can be seen online at by entering Marietta’s zip code and then clicking on the day of the auction.

The auction will be a fundraiser for the Historic Harmer Bridge Company which formed more than 25 years ago with the goals of preserving the bridge and spreading awareness of the bridge’s historic importance and usefulness as a link between downtown Marietta and Harmar.

In addition to the bridge itself, which the nonprofit purchased from CSX Railroad, the group owns and maintains some surrounding Harmar properties such as some railroad cars near the bridge and the Harmar Post Office.

Maintaining these properties is an ongoing expense for the organization. For example, they might spend around $1,500 for a season of mowing services, said Swaney.

Ultimately, the bridge company hopes to help facilitate the bridge’s use as an extension of the River Trail walking and biking path, said Swaney.

“That bridge is just sitting there rusting away, and we really don’t want that to happen,” he said.

The bridge’s inclusion on the River Trail would solidify its longterm preservation, he added.

For more information on the auction, visit or contact Williams Auction Service at 516-0620.