Orange Crush was invented in Chicago in 1906 and founded as Ward’s Orange Crush in 1916, the brainchild of a California chemist named Neil Ward and entrepreneur Clayton Howell, who had already tried to make a go of it in the orange-soda business with Howell’s Orange Julep.
Early Ward’s Orange Crush fountain dispensers are especially prized by soda collectors since they are shaped like oranges, while people who collect advertising clocks look for the Ward’s Orange Crush Clock made before 1920 by Seth Thomas. In addition to Orange Crush, the Ward name preceded Lemon Crush and Lime Crush on all sorts of advertising.
The earliest Ward’s Orange Crush bottles were clear, with diamond-shaped paper labels on their fronts. Clear bottles with horizontal embossed ridges, known among collectors as “krinklies,” followed. These bottles also had diamond labels, only they were embossed rather than applied. Krinkly bottles with the Ward’s name were produced until around 1920, when the name was dropped.
From about 1920 until the mid-1960s, clear krinkly bottles were produced by Orange Crush bottlers across the United States. In the 1920s, new flavors such as Grape and Chocolate Crush were also introduced. Then, from the end of World War II until the mid-1970s, Orange Crush was sold in a new amber-colored krinkly bottle, whose dark glass was advertised in an ACL (applied color label) on the bottle’s back as being able to “protect the fresh fruit flavor from the harmful effects of light.”
The diamond, draped, or Mae West bottles, as they are variously called, appeared in the 1950s and were produced until the late 1960s. The shape of these bottles, which resemble the profile of a full-figured woman such as Mae West, was used on embossed-tin and lithographed-cardboard signs. As with advertising for other soda companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the shapes of these bottles also lent themselves to advertising thermometers.
Naturally, pretty redheads were used on a lot of Orange Crush advertisements to help sell the ginger-hued beverage. Less intuitive is the use of a character named Crushy, whose orange-shaped head was usually printed in blue on signs, and who resembled either an ancient hieroglyphic or contemporary emoticon when printed in white on bottles. In some print ads, Crushy is riding a scooter, while on some signs and fountain dispensers from the 1940s, the hieroglyphic version of the mascot, whose arms form a circular halo around his head, is depicted squeezing the juice out of an orange.