Skip to content

Nanaimo’s soda pop history will be uncapped at historical society meeting

Author Dalys Barney presenting her booklet ‘Message on a Bottle’ on March 9
Dalys Barney poses with her new booklet “Message on a Bottle: Nanaimo’s Soda History. Photo provided by Bill Wilson

Dalys Barney, a Nanaimo-based author, will pop the cap off of Nanaimo’s soda history.

Barney is presenting her new booklet about the history of Nanaimo soda bottles, Message on a Bottle: Nanaimo’s Soda History at the Nanaimo Historical Society’s meeting Thursday, March 9.

Barney was first introduced to the history of Nanaimo’s soda industry at a young age, as her father was a bottle collector.

“It’s like finding treasure,” she described. “Seeing these historical bottles with imagery of Nanaimo allows us to make sense of the past.”

Barney minored in history at VIU and has a blog which focuses on the history of Vancouver Island. She started writing the booklet after her husband happened to find a bottle on a construction site, which piqued her interest.

READ MORE: Awards recognize efforts to spotlight Ladysmith’s heritage and culture

“Soda bottles are something we can all relate to, and it’s something that people could relate to a hundred years ago,” she said.

Interest in Nanaimo’s soda bottles isn’t unique – Bill Wilson has been collecting bottles for 50 years and has more than 200 of them, ranging back to the late 1800s. He started collecting bottles in landfills in the early 1970s.

“I saw this guy digging, next thing I know I’m digging with him,” he said.

According to Wilson, the local community of bottle collectors is diminishing.

“With the internet now, younger people are less likely to want to go out and hunt these artifacts,” he said.

Some of Wilson’s friends he grew up “bottle hunting” with are no longer able to continue the hobby, and some are selling their bottles. A 1910 W.E Rumming bottle, for example, can sell for as much as $1,500 at auction.

Wilson is happy to see a younger generation is still interested in the “long, complex history,” despite the shrinking popularity of bottle collecting.

“I read old stories and think, who are these people?” Wilson said. “Books like [Barney’s] are important because they give context to history.”

The presentation happens March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Bowen Park activity centre. Barney’s booklet is available for $10 for those who live in Nanaimo district and $12 via mail. Anyone interested can reach her at

READ ALSO: Early breweries quenched Nanaimo’s thirst


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Bailey Seymour

About the Author: Bailey Seymour

After graduating from SAIT and stint with the Calgary Herald, I ended up at the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Ladysmith Chronicle in March 2023
Read more