By Dorri Partain
By today’s soft drink consumption standards, would a family size bottle only contain 24 ounces?
As produced in the mid-20th century, this embossed and printed bottle from Vess Beverages would also indicate that the quantity provided was suitable for a party or celebration. Founded in St. Louis, Mo., by Sylvester (Vess) Jones in 1916, the first flavor available was Whistle Orange, which used the slogan “Thirsty? Just Whistle.”
By 1925, other fruit flavors were being produced under the Vess brand and salesman Leroy O. Schneeberger (1898-1995) joined the company, then bought the brand as sole owner in 1929. Schneeberger’s son Donald (1930-2019) joined the company at an early age and had served as vice president until 1966, when the elder Schneeberger sold the brand then known as the “Billion Bubble Beverage”.
After working in different segments of the bottling industry, Donald Schneeberger bought the brand in 1975. While keeping the Vess brand name, he created a new flavor named in homage to his family name. “Dr. Schnee” was similar in taste to Dr. Pepper and first appeared on store shelves in 1981.
In addition to Orange Whistle, Vess also bottled root beer, cream soda, lemon-lime, grape, strawberry, and cola. Schneeberger sold the brand to Cott Beverages in 1994, which was acquired by international bottling company Refresco in 2017.
While no longer bottled in St. Louis, the world’s largest Vess bottle still stands at the corner of Sixth and O’Fallon streets in downtown St. Louis. At 25.5 feet tall, the bottle sign was first installed in the early 1950’s and decorated to resemble the lemon-lime flavor, with neon tubing to outline the logo. The sign rotates three times a minute and weighs 2,000 lbs. It was designated City Landmark #120 in 1990.