Digging for facts... A history of the Barq Bottling Works

by DOUGLAS BREMENKAMP

Enclosed you will find an article I've written, an account of the history of the Barq's Root Beer Co. which was submitted by me as a requirement of my Mississippi history class at the University of Southern Mississippi. By the way, I did get an "A" on the paper and presentation.

Following the report, I've included an account of a dig that Chic Jordan and myself went on at the old Barq Plant.

Chic is presently a member of the Biloxi Police Department and is an investigator, while I'm a social studies teacher and varsity basketball coach at St. John High School in Gulfport, Miss. We've both been digging for years and have recently become real active excavating on the Gulf Coast. We're both members of the South Mississippi Historical Bottle Association and New Orleans Antique Bottle Club.

We both enjoy your magazine very much and just thought we'd like to contribute a little something back to it and to our hobby.

 

The story of Barq's begins in the 1880s. Edward Barq Sr. is in Paris and enrolled in a university, studying chemistry. While it is not actually known when Barq immigrated to the United States and to Biloxi, Miss., it was sometime in the mid‑1890s. This was a flush time for small businesses and enterprising young men. Edward Barq settled on a bottling works as the business enterprise he wanted to undertake.

In 1898 the business he founded was known as the Biloxi Artesian Bottling Works. This was embossed on his bottles as well as "E. Barq, Prop." and "Biloxi, Miss."

Business was good in Biloxi as there were no competitors in this coastal town. It is interesting to note that in future expansion moves, he chose to move to the west, towards Gulfport, never east toward Pascagoula, Mr. Jagel and Mr. Hudson and in Scanton, Mr. Valverde.

Barq's bottling works began bottling fruit drinks and soda. Recent advertising claims for the Barq's root beer product state that the present day root beer was first bottled in 1898. This, however, is not the case. Barq did not actually start bottling root beer until he was joined in business by a Mr. Court in either 1900 or 1901.

The reason why this is unclear is the fact that Barq did not speak much English and could not write it, so what records there were, were in French.

Shortly after Court joined the company, the root beer formula was developed. They marketed this product and it became very successful in Ocean Springs, Biloxi, and Gulfport.

It was so successful, in fact, that the company was able to expand from its plant on Keller Avenue in Biloxi to another plant in Gulfport in April, 1902. These bottles can be identified by the embossing of "Barq's Bottling Works, E. Barq, Gulfport, Miss."

The business thrived for a while and Barq was joined in partnership about 1907 by a Mr. Hartner. Bottles of this period have both Barq and Hartner embossed on them. Something went wrong, and

about 1910 Barq had control of the company again; however, he was forced to close down the operation in Gulfport and bottle his product out of his Biloxi plant.

Ifis business went along steadily until about the mid‑20s. Edward Barq had a man working for him by the name of Jamison. Jamison had been with Barq from the beginning of the plant in Biloxi. Jamison moved to New Orleans in the late 1920s to go into the bottling business for himself. Barq gave Jamison verbal permission to bottle a drink with the Barq name as the logo. This arrangement worked out fine.

When Barq died in the late 1940s, control of the company was passed to his two sons. They ran the plant operation from Biloxi until the 1970s. It was then purchased by the sons of a couple oil men from Oklahoma. They had plans to go national with the product, but have hit a stumbling block. It seems that

the descendants of Jamison also have the same idea. They claim that they can bottle the same drink with the same name and in fact are the legitimate Barq's Co, so in fact now there are two Barq's: Barq's of Biloxi and Barq's of Louisiana.

The legal fight for control of the Barq's logo is presently being waged in the court system. The outcome will be interesting to see which company is the legitimate Barq's and has the rights to manufacture and distribute the product that so many people know today.