Henkes stoneware ginger beer bottle


The Henkes & W. Kooiman factory is established in 1895 and is closely connected to the well-known distillery J.H. Henkes. The soft drinks factory is housed and has its office in the vast distillery complex, located at the Voorhaven in Delfshaven (a small seaport incorporated by Rotterdam in 1886). In the late nineteenth century the thriving family-owned Henkes distillery branches out into several other trades and industries. Members of the Henkes family own and employ several ships, a drainpipe factory in Halsteren (near Bergen op Zoom), plants for preserving fruits and vegetables in Halsteren and Princenhage (near Breda) and a printing business in Rotterdam. The soft drinks factory can be considered as another asset in an already diversified business portfolio.

The soft drinks factory is owned by two cousins who both go by the name of Johannes Hermanus Henkes and a third man named Willem Kooiman. The eldest one of the Henkes cousins is generally referred to as Jan Hzn. (1859-1931), while the younger one is known as Herman Jzn. (1870-1924). It seems likely that the Henkes cousins are providing the money and that Kooiman is in charge of the daily operations. One can only speculate about the reason why the Henkes family chooses to diversify into the soft drinks business. Jan Hzn. is married to a girl from Manchester, Sarah (Sallie) Radcliffe (1859-1939). As Jan Hzn. frequently visits the United Kingdom for business as well as family reasons, he must have been aware of the popularity that ginger beers enjoy in his wife’s mother country. It seems likely therefore that Jan Hzn. is the driving force behind the establishment of the soft drinks business in Rotterdam in 1895.

Due to a series of misfortunes in several of its subsidiary and sideline businesses, the Henkes distillery has to apply for a moratorium of payment in 1903. In 1904 the family firm is transformed into a limited company (N.V. J.H. Henkes’ Distillery) that is largely owned by the Wissel- en Effectenbank N.V. (Rotterdam). This merchant bank quickly disposes of all Henkes’ subsidiary and sideline businesses. The Henkes & W. Kooiman soft drinks factory is last mentioned in the Rotterdam municipal directory of 1905. It can therefore be assumed that the company is discontinued in 1904 or 1905.

I have no knowledge of any printed sources that can shed light on the question what kind of soft drinks were sold in these blob top stoneware bottles. If I am right in assuming that Jan Henkes’ familiarity with British ginger beers was the key factor in establishing a soft drinks factory in Rotterdam, it is not unlikely that these British bottles contained British style ginger beers.

© Peter Zwaal, 2010