Vintage Orange Crush Soda Bottles Take a Ribbing

I grew up drinking Orange Crush and hearing my mom tell stories of how it used to come in brown bottles, supposedly to protect the flavor. But by the time I was a kid, those days were long gone, and Crush’s bottles were clear. I was also aware that Orange Crush was made in my hometown, Evanston, Illinois—or at least it had a plant in town.


One day when I was about 12 years old, I was riding my Schwinn Sting-Ray down Asbury Avenue, and I noticed that a house in the neighborhood was being demolished. I pulled over by the garage (which looked like it was about to fall over on its own) and looked through one of the windows. There was no car and nothing much interesting to look at, except for four or five open cardboard boxes. I walked in to get a better look. The boxes were filled with pop bottles, and my first thought was to take them to the grocery store for the two-cent deposits. But as I looked closer, I noticed that these bottles didn’t look like the ones I was used to seeing. Here were brown Orange Crush bottles just like my mom had told me about. These were old! I had  leafed through enough old issues of Life and The Saturday Evening Post to know that the majority of the bottles appeared to be from the 1930s and ’40s. I asked one of the guys responsible for the demolition if I could have the bottles. “If you can cart ’em outta there, you can have ’em,” he told me. “We were gonna dump’em.” (Lot’s of em’s.) Besides the Crush bottles, there were Royal Crown Cola, Nesbitt, 7Up, Pepsi, Squirt, Nehi, Vernor’s, Hires, Green River, Canada Dry, Dr. Pepper, and, of course, Coke.

This piece concentrates specifically on the Orange Crush bottles. The first 11 bottles in the photos below came from the garage. The others I’ve picked up through the years.

Like many early soft-drink beverages, Orange Crush was created by a chemist, Neil C. Ward, and was originally called “Ward’s Orange Crush”. When Ward cofounded the company in 1911 with Clayton J. Howell, actual orange pulp was part of the original formula. (It was used through to 1930 but eventually dropped from the mixture.) The Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group now owns the Crush line of beverages.

A 1917 carbon copy (ever wonder what "cc" stands for ?) letter from Clayton Howell on Crush stationery with the names of the founders included on the masthead.

A 1925 publicity photograph showing an Orange Crush delivery truck

Evanston, Illinois, served as one of Crush International’s headquarters in the 1960s. I often rode my bike past the building, which was in the west of the city, in an industrial area on Main Street. One day I decided to go inside. The first thing I saw was a couple of vintage advertisements on the wall. I took a closer look and realized that they were original illustrations done in an orange-black, two-tone technique. I recognized the artist’s name immediately—Norman Rockwell. They were from the same period as his early Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations. I’ve often wondered who was lucky enough to take possession of those after the company relocated. Evidently, the Crush work (there were flavors in addition to orange) was the only advertising commission that Rockwell ever signed a contract for.

1960-80s Crush International building at 2201 Main Street, in Evanston, Illinois.

A 1921 Norman Rockwell Crush advertisement for Orange/Lemon Crush.

Here are the bottles. . .

This bottle starts the "ribbed" series design. Marked "PAT'D JULY 20, 1920 ORANGE CRUSH CO BOTTLE 6 FL.OZ.," this basic design (in multiple colors) would continue with various labels until 1955.

This bottle replaces the words "Orange Crush" with "OC".

Same as above in green glass.

"Orange Crush" lettering in distictive font.

Brown glass bottle with embossed lettering and "Crushy" character.

Early brown bottle with ACL—Applied Color Label—and original Crushy character design.

Simplified label now with with white text.

Redesigned Crushy character.

This 1940s bottle has Crushy taking a more prominent role.

Where's Crushy?

First (1955) of the newly designed "Mae West" bottles and still retaining the brown glass.

Trademark bottle from 1955 to the 1990s.

A 1990's reprise of the original 1920s bottle design.

Old meets new meets old.

Close-up of the message included on all bottles, beginning with the brown embossed glass version.

A 1929 black glass bottle with paper labels.

Close-up of label from above bottle.

A recent (1990's) "rogue" bottle. . .


My next post will be a piece on the other bottles I discovered in the Evanston garage cache, and the influence this collection has had on my interest in design evolution.

21 thoughts on “Vintage Orange Crush Soda Bottles Take a Ribbing

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    My brother was digging on our grandma’s frontyard. Just under an old stairs. I never meet her when i born she pass away already and im 43 so you can imagine how old is the house. And he found there an old clear bottle of Orange crush of pr. Its just perfecto and pretty heavy.

  4. kenny

    i found a orange crush bottle it say old colony beverages co.chicago 10 fl.ozs. bottle by orange-crush bottling co andalusia ala. can anyone tell me about this bottle

  5. steve & angela

    We were wondering the value of the old AMBER Orange Crush bottle from the 1950`s would be? We found one yesterday at my husband`s jobsite in Helen,. Ga. We have started collecting old bottles because of their beauty. Great story by the way, and hope to hear from you soon.

  6. Mark Goodman

    I worked part time at the Evanston facility when I was a junior at Northwestern in 67-68. In the ad room, when did that building close? Is it still standing?

  7. greg Wilson

    Today I found a clear plain 8 fl oz. Orange Crush pop bottle it was preety dirty with a paper label yellow/red border/blue oval with O.C Root Beer saing it is bottled in 3 sizes containg 8,12 & 26 oz. only the purest ingrediants combined with artesian well water used, ORANGE CRUSH OF TRURO LIMITED Truro Nova Scotia Greg

  8. Lori

    Hello……would appreciate it if you could forward my contact info to “Mike” who wrote the book on Orange Crush. I have at least 1,000 vintage bottles in wooden cases from Pittsburgh Coca Cola Bottling Co from a building I purchased. Also have unused Crush bottle caps. Thanks.

  9. J.J. Sedelmaier

    The comment above translates (loosely) as: My father, Manoel Adamuz Filho was Director of the Crush factory in the city of Bauru (SP), Brazil, between the years of 1954 to 1970. He won 1st place prize of Crush International, having sold 500,000 boxes and was awarded the championship sales among all manufacturers Crush in Brasil. In the year 1971 he was Director of the Crush plant in the city of ​​Araponga (PR) where he worked until the year 1977. Crush has been a big part of Minho life, and all the Minh family ! Good luck!!! ; Atenciosamente Fernando Adamuz – Araponga – Parana – Brazil.

  10. fernando adamuz

    Meu pai , Manoel Adamuz Filho foi diretor da fábrica da Crush na cidade de Bauru,(SP),Brasil, entre os anos de 1954 até 1970. Nessa época ele ganhou um prêmio de 1º lugar da Crush Internacional ,por ter vendido 500.000 caixas num campeonato de vendas entre todos fabricantes de Crush no Brasil.No ano de 1971 ele foi dirigir a fábrica da Crush na cidade de Arapongas (PR) onde a dirigiu até o ano de 1977 .A crush faz parte da minha vida,e de toda minha família ,um abraço a todos vocês e boa sorte !!!    Atenciosamente Fernando Adamuz –  Arapongas – Paraná – Brasil .

  11. Mike

    Hi – very interesting display. Have written the only book on Orange Crush bottles and am 
    interested in what bottles you may have that I have not seen and described in the book. Would appreciate a contact.

  12. Tracey Donahue

    This is a really great story.  I have learned so much about these bottles.  My husband does construction work and came across an Orange Crush bottle from 1920 like the one in your first picture.  We only have this one bottle and really do not have a need for it.  If you would be interested in adding another bottle to your collection please let us know.  Thanks for sharing. 

  13. Barbara Kagan

    Wonderful piece! I am reminded of the wooden cases of coke in green glass bottles my dad brought home regularly from the vending machine at his gas station. This was in the late 50s-early 60s…before anyone cared about recycling. I distinctly remember reading the strange words “no depo, no retu” on every bottle. Drinking out of the bottle was a much more satisfying way to quench your thirst!

  14. Tim Blake

    I’m jealous. What a great collection. Unfortunately, generations to come won’t be able to make such great discoveries. Today’s plastic pakaging just doesn’t have the same tactile appeal or staying power — unless it’s in a landfill. 

  15. Howie Green

    I remember going to work with my dad who drove a home delivery bakery truck and stopping at a gas station on his route every day and getting Orange Crush from the soda machine. This was in the mid 50s and it still had bits of orange floating in it. Yum!

  16. J. J. Sedelmaier

    Monica – I’m with you when it comes to the “glass-bottle” thing ! Especially an 8 oz. size. Fits perfect in the hand and I feel like a GI in WWII. Also, because the glass is so thick, if you drop the thing you worry more about the surface you’ve dropped it on than bottle itself !

  17. Monica Deitell

    Great story JJ. I’ve got a big ol’ plastic bottle of diet Orange Crush on my desk.  I have a “thing” about drinking out of glass bottles (hmmmm, veddy interesting) Sometimes buy cream soda just so I drink out of the cold glass bottle. (I guess I could have that experience if i liked beer).  I can just see you whizzing on your sting-ray down Asbury!  Great pictures of great bottles.  That “crushy” guy from the black bottle is fascinating.  Sort of a progenitor of RCrumms Angelfood’s father?

  18. Bryan Eggers

    I remember buying lots of Orange Crush from a machine at the Sinclair gas station at the corner of 22nd St and Clinton Avenue in Berwyn, Illinois back in the fifties. I specifically remember the ribbed bottles, too.  They had one of the old cooler machines that you’d put the money in and then drag the bottle horizontally through a channel to the left, then you’d pull it straight up through the mechanism and the ribbing caused it to make a loud noise. In those days Orange Crush was my favorite drink but I haven’t had one in decades. Thanks for the memories!