Former Bludwine Bottling Plant
Bludwine, an Athens based soft drink similar to Cheerwine, was invented and bottled here in Athens. This location (277 Oconee Street) was where it was bottled. It was invented in 1906 by H. C. Anderson. A teetotaler, Anderson created Bludwine as a way to provide people with an alternative to alcohol. Georgia had just gone dry, which means drinking or selling alcoholic beverages was illegal. Athens and Clarke County, however, had been completely dry for over a decade. At its peak, the original company Bludwine grew to a size that rivaled both Coke and Pepsi with a hundred bottling plants across the United States as far flung as California. It produced 16,000 gallons of syrup a day. In 1921, the FDA sued Bludwine to force them to change their company name as doctors began prescribing it as a blood tonic. This caused the soda brand to assume its more commonly known name of Budwine. (SSUSH16 18th Amendment)
Backstory and Context
The temperance movement had swept the nation towards the latter half of the 19th century and Athens was no exception. One of the main arguments made in favor of this movement was that it would keep poor whites and former slaves from drinking and protect society from their supposedly drunken antics. In 1885, Clarke County had banned the private sale of alcohol and created a government run dispensary to help lessen the temptation to oversell alcohol and curb moonshining. As the pressure from the public mounted to further restrict alcohol sales, Athens had another vote to determine whether or not it would go completely dry in 1891. Newspapers reported large numbers of white and black people coming together to vote for and against these new restrictions. The vote passed causing Athens and Clarke County to be dry . The entire state of Georgia would follow in 1906, the year Bludwine was created.
The prohibition movement led many people to try and replace alcoholic beverages with sodas as a way of protecting the health of the common man who spent much of his free time drinking. Keeping in mind that at this point the detrimental effects of sugary drinks had yet to be discovered, this seemed like a great option. Hundreds of soft drink brands were created. Bludwine was seen as an invigorating drink to restore the energy of people who had become tired after work and wanted to conform to the growing pressure to refrain from consuming alcohol. A healthy energy drink apparently appealed to many people. Selling for five cents a bottle, Bludwine became popular. However, marketing the soda as a health drink got Bludwine into trouble with the FDA after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. People had assumed Bludwine was a medicine for blood health and doctors began prescribing it. In 1921, Bludwine became Budwine to circumvent this issue. The company also found itself in trouble for using wine in the name after the Pure Food and Drug Act was passed; however, this was quickly resolved with no repercussions to the company.
After its production peaked around World War I, Bludwine began to decline and in 1930 its creator, Anderson, ended up selling the company to an Athens ice cream shop owner, Joe Costa. At this point the hundred former bottlers had been reduced to only 25 spread across the Southeast. The Great Depression was not kind to the struggling Budwine brand. Costa decided to create a cheap soda that was called the Three Centa as it only cost three cents, compared to the usual five cent Budwine. This new soda, however, did not save the company because at this point Coke had a very strong grip on the Atlanta area, which made it difficult for Budwine to sell their drink to any large population centers. After World War II the once world renown company only had two remaining bottlers, one in Athens and one in Augusta. This decline continued throughout the rest of the mid-20th century. By 1969, the Pepsi plant on Prince Avenue that had been bottling Budwine changed owners. The new owners were forced to sign an exclusivity contract with Pepsi and thus stopped bottling Budwine. Still the company held on for dear life with Costa producing the syrup for the Athens Dairy Queen (his last customer) in his garage.
Joe Costa’s son Bill took the reins of his father’s failing business after graduating from the University of Georgia in 1974. He began ramping up production of the syrup and began searching for new customers. The drink made a resurgence and got its first exclusive bottler in decades. The drink began selling well across northeast Georgia, but it was nearly impossible for any sizeable market to be obtained due to Coke’s stranglehold on Atlanta’s soft drink market. Costa spent much of the rest of his time searching for places that would be willing to sell Budwine. This pursuit of markets continued until Bill sold the rights to Budwine to recoup the losses of his failed business. The Budwine name and line of soda came to an end in the mid-1990s when the man who purchased the rights sold them to Anheuser Busch. The beer company sought to take every other product named “Bud” off of the market so Budwine was finally relegated to the history books.
Smith, Ron, and Mary O. Boyle. Prohibition in Atlanta Temperance, Tiger Kings & White Lightning. United States: The History Press, 2015.
Strahan, Charles Morton. Clarke County, Georgia and the City of Athens. Whitefish, Mont.?: Kessinger Pub., 2009.
"ATHENS GOES DRY: THE PROHIBITIONS WIN THE FIGHT IN THE CLASSIC CITY BY A MAJORITY OF ONLY FOURTEEN." The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Jul 03, 1891. http://proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu:80/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/docview/193680128?accountid=14537.
“BUDWINE SOFT DRINK, INC. - GeorgiaCorporates – Company Profiles of Georgia.” GeorgiaCorporates Company Profiles of Georgia
RSS. Accessed October 20, 2019. http://www.georgiacorporates.com/corp/637027.html
"Display Ad 7 -- no Title."The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Oct 07, 1909. http://proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu:80/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/docview/496263679?accountid=14537.
Easom, Maxine P, and Patsy H Arnold. Across the RIver. Chelsea, MI: Sheridan, 2019.
"JUDGE GEORGE L. BELL WILL HEAR CASES TODAY." The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945), Nov 11,
King, Bill. 2016. “ADVENTURES IN FOOD: Legend of Athens’ Budwine Lives on: Cheerwine? It Doesn’tCompare to Bygone Cherry Soft Drink.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA) Aug 18, 2016. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgin&AN=edsgcl.461206025&site=eds-live.
King, Bill. "Athens' Own Soft Drink may make A Comeback." The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984), Feb 24, 1978. http://proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu:80/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy-remote.galib.uga.edu/docview/1619723811?accountid=14537.