Tag Archives: box cars

Delicious Coffee by the Box Car.

Par and Bliss Coffee, what’s in a name?


I love stories from our family history. They connect me to my history and family I never knew. As I find inventory for the store, I sometimes happen upon a piece that wakes a memory. And that’s what happened recently. I came across a couple of Bliss and Par coffee tins.

Here’s a story of a little coffee tin…

My great-grandfather was in the wholesale grocery trade in the early 1900’s. He began his grocery career as a district salesman for the J.M. Anderson Groc. Co. Wholesale Grocers in St. Louis. Then in 1906, he opened his own business. He eventually had three warehouses: one in Aurora, one in Springfield and one in Bolivar. He supplied little neighborhood grocery stores with inventory. Back then, there weren’t mega-stores but instead, small stores on the corner where you could pick up some staples, or bread, or eggs. J.L. Robertson located his warehouses near the railroad tracks, so he could purchase box car loads direct from the various food manufacturers. Then the small grocers would order their inventory and supplies and he would have them delivered to the small stores. One of the companies he regularly stocked was General Foods. When the box cars from General Foods would arrive, he could split the box car order three ways and restock his warehouses.

You may think coffee is a hit now with a Starbucks on every corner, but coffee was a big seller back then as well. General Foods national brands included Maxwell House, Regular and Drip; and Sanka, the decaf! In addition to the national labels, General Foods would authorize regional grocery warehouses to be the selected dealer for a special premium house brand, only available in a geographic area. Robertson Grocer Company was allotted the Par private label house brand and the Aurora Grocer Company had the Bliss private label house brand. Both the national brands and the special premium house brands would ship together in the box car. Both were packaged in enameled tin boxes or glass jars. Both were the same thing!!

According to great-grandfather, the special label house brands were just a marketing ploy to tempt buyers to pay a premium for the “special” brands.  The house brands almost always sold at a premium price to the consumers. It was a way for the food company to offer a selection and to diversify their product line. However, the premium-ness of the house brand was just for show.

Bliss Coffee Tin from Aurora Grocer Company-front view

Bliss Coffee Tin from Aurora Grocer Company-back view

Par Coffee Tin from Robertson Grocer Company-front view

 What part of your family history inspires you collect?

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Filed under Knowledge/History of Antique Item