Wednesday, February 7, 2018

More Exploding Pop Bottles ! - Alb Nunke, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

It is reasonable to assume that Albert Nunke learned everything he knew about the soda pop business from Matt Johannes.  I see young Albert as a promising young employee, one so favored that when he started to make eyes at the boss's daughter that the match was deemed suitable.  

At about the time that Johannes was exiting the soda pop business Nunke married Miss Johannes, moved to nearby Chippewa Falls and started his own bottling works.  Likely he used machinery from the Johannes plant.  There was certainly a bit of overlap, Johannes was still in business past 1885, while a mention of Nunke putting new and improved machinery into his plant appears in 1884.

Some of Nunke's bottles evidently exploded too, but he can't really be blamed for that.  More in a bit.

Albert Nunke was born in Prussia in 1853, immigrating to the US in 1867.  In 1874 he joined the Army and was sent west to duty on the frontier.  His obituary suggests he was involved in several Indian skirmishes and served for a time under "Buffalo Bill" Cody before being discharged in 1879.  This last bit appears to not fit, Mr. Cody having ended his military career and become a buckskin clad showman by late 1872.

That would still give young Albert enough time to move to the Chippewa Valley, learn the soda trade and win the heart of Elizabeth Johannes.  

Frankly his life after that seems pretty boring.  He was a city councilman and the surviving documentation of his life involves a lot of voting on resolutions and inspecting city water pipes.

It is known that Nunke sold the business to a man from Iowa named Kleis around 1914. Albert died in 1920 and his soda works burned down sometime in that decade.  His wife lived on until 1943.  An old patient of mine remembers her as a very stern woman indeed.

Oh, and the exploding bottles.  Well we must once again assume that if an area has only one dominant bottler that any untoward events involving bottles must be with that company's product.  So, consider this item reported in the Chippewa Falls Herald of October 20, 1893.

"Complaint is made that the fish in the lakes in Chippewa County are being killed unlawfully.  The plan used is a new one to this section and shows how much thought and ingenuity is expended in efforts to evade the law.  No dynamite or giant powder is used.  Unslaked lime is thrown into the fish hole and the gasses generated smother the fish.  Another plan is to put lime in a pop-bottle, and a little water, wire a cork in tightly and throw the bottle among the fish.  The resulting explosion is almost as loud as giant powder and fully as fatal."

This is a Nunke bottle of the appropriate vintage.  As this is a quart size an even more impressive detonation could be expected.


Steph said...

This is interesting! My uncle has two Nunke pop bottles! Our last name is Nuenke, instead of Nunke. Wondering if you know any other information about the Nunkes or Nuenkes?

Tacitus said...


I sent you an email.

Yes, there is a bit more out there but Alb was a pretty solid citizen and what turns up in researching him is fairly mundane.
His house still stands though...