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Token of the Month #8 -
The Bludwine Bottling Company Token of Columbia, South Carolina

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Each month there is a special South Carolina token or medal that is highlighted as the Token or Medal of the Month. For this month, the honor goes to a very interesting soft drink token from Columbia.

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Pictured above is one of four different Bludwine Bottling Company tokens from South Carolina. The token is made of aluminum and is quite small. At only 16mm, it is one of the smallest tokens to have been issued within the Palmetto State. The obverse features the company's name and address: BLUDWINE / BOTTLING / CO. / COLUMBIA / S.C. And the reverse features the following: GOOD FOR / A / BOTTLE / OF / "HAVA-KOLA".

The history of the Bludwine Bottling Company is quite interesting. In 1894, Henry C. Anderson of Watkinsville, Georgia began working on the formula for a cherry-flavored soft drink that he hoped would be good enough to lure people away from alcohol. Anderson teamed up with a German chemist from nearby Elberton, and together they perfected the blend of fruit and grain extracts that would later be marketed under the name "Bludwine," the name being derived from the German word for blood - blut.

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A portion of a Bludwine Bottling Company billhead, circa 1915.

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Bottling of the wine-colored beverage began in 1906, and in 1910 the Bludwine Bottling Company was incorporated with stock valued at $100,000. The main Bludwine plant was located in Athens, Georgia, but by 1916 the soft drink was being bottled by local distributors in 27 states, as far away as California. During the mid-teens, Bludwine was actually more popular than Coca-Cola, outselling the famous brand from nearby Atlanta for a couple of years.

Bludwine was touted as "an elixir for the blood" and as "an aid to digestion." The slogan "For your health's sake" was featured prominently in many of the company's advertisements and some physicians were prescribing the soft drink as a blood tonic. These unsubstantiated health claims drew the attention of the federal government and in 1921 the Food and Drug Administration forced the company to change the drink's name from Bludwine to Budwine, deleting any reference to blood. The company was also forced to remove any health claims from its advertisements and decided to change the drink's slogan to "Makes you glad you're thirsty."

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A Bludwine Company advertisement, circa 1915. Note the slogan "For Your Health's Sake."

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The change of the product's name, coupled with the loss of the aforementioned marketing strategy, caused a steady decline in Bludwine sales. Local distributors went out of business or switched to bottling more popular brands. By the 1940s, only the main bottling plant at Athens was still in operation.

The Bludwine Bottling Company of Columbia, SC, the local bottler which issued this month's token, was listed in the mercantile directories from 1910 to 1923. Evidently, the business was in operation as early as the fall of 1908, as an ad in a local newspaper advertised "$75.00 in Gold Free to those who drink the Best of Beverages..." The ad offered cash rewards in gold coin to those who brought in the most bottle caps before October 31st, 1908. (See below.) The company also bottled a soft drink called "Hava-Kola," which is mentioned on the reverse of this month's token. Not much is known about this brand of soft drink, other than the fact that it was headquartered in Suffolk, Virginia.

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A 1908 newspaper advertisement offering $75.00 in Gold to those who bring in the most Bludwine bottle caps to the Columbia, SC bottling plant.

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As mentioned previously, the token of the month is one of four different Bludwine tokens from South Carolina. Tokens are also known from Bludwine bottlers in Anderson, Greenville, and Westminster. Each of these additional three tokens are "good for 5 at," and each one is also made of aluminum. All four tokens, including the token of the month, measure 16mm. There are two other Bludwine tokens known from outside the state, one from the main bottling plant at Athens, Georgia, and one from Mobile, Alabama. The Mobile token also hosts the "good for 5 at" reverse, but the Athens reverse reads "good for reward." All Bludwine tokens are extremely rare, with only one or two specimens known of each type.

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Three more Bludwine tokens from South Carolina. One is from Anderson, one is from Greenville, and one is from Westminster. Note the Bludwine logo on the reverse of the Westminster token.

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The interesting thing about all six tokens is that they are identical in size and fabric. Each one is made of aluminum and measures 16mm, which is small for a token, especially one which was undoubtedly issued with advertising in mind. Most advertising tokens range in diameter from 24mm on up to 38mm, or even larger. And not only are the Bludwine tokens small in diameter, they are also very thin, less than 1mm in thickness. The small size of this group of tokens then raises the following question - if most advertising tokens are much larger, what is the reason that these tokens are so small?

One possible answer to that question is total speculation on my part, but may possibly be the reason for the diminutive size of the Bludwine tokens. I have long entertained the idea that the small diameter and exceptional thinness of the tokens were to allow them to be distributed underneath the cork of the bottle cap. I have absolutely no evidence to back up this supposition, but it could be the explanation for their small size. We have already seen that the Bludwine Company was engaged in special bottle cap promotions, and it would not be such a large leap to suppose that the tokens were also used in some other bottle cap promotion. Perhaps, buried in an attic somewhere, is a newspaper advertisement directing all readers to check underneath their Bludwine bottle caps for special tokens!

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A Bludwine ink blotter, circa 1915.

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A Bludwine Bottling Company billhead, circa 1915.

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An advertisement in the National Bottlers Gazette outlining all the reasons why a bottler would want to bottle Bludwine, circa 1915.

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Copyright 2000 by Tony Chibbaro.

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If you collect or have a casual interest in South Carolina tokens or tokens issued by cotton mills, lumber companies, or other types of businesses, you may want to purchase my book, South Carolina Tokens and its two supplements. To read a description of these standard references, please click on this link: Books.

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Email: chibbaro@mindspring.com