Monday, November 17, 2014

Boston’s Jones Boys Celebrated the Marks of Their Trade


Many pre-Prohibition liquor dealers never sought trademarks for their proprietary whiskeys, some bothered by the expense of registration and others skeptical of the protections afforded.  A prominent exception were the Jones boys, Rollin and Westley, of Boston.  Not only did they register multiple brands with the U.S. Patent Office, they widely publicized the existence of their trademarks.

The Jones boys’ Massachusetts wholesale liquor dealership was founded in 1851 by their father, William, who originally hailed from New Hampshire.  Located at 159 Hanover Street, corner of Blackstone, he called the firm the W. H. Jones Company.  The 1860 census found the Jones family living in Chelsea, Suffolk County.  With William was his wife Martha (Smith) Jones and the two boys, Rollin, age 5, and Westley, age 2.  William’s occupation was given as  “liquor dealer” and his assets as recorded by the census indicate he was a successful one.

As the sons matured, their father took them into the business and eventually with his retirement they took over.  The 1901 letterhead shown above lists them both along with a third executive, Harry L. Dane.  They identified their enterprise as “Importers of Wines, Spirits and Cordials.”  Their logo featured a trade mark of a bear rampant on a shield with an attached Latin motto reading “Satis Bonum Estoptimum.”  For those whose Latin is rusty, the word were translated on a company shot glass as:  “The Best is Good Enough.”

The Jones boys also advertised themselves as the owners of the Elm Hill Distilling Company.  Although it is not altogether clear what their ownership share might have been, they were claiming proprietorship of a facility that over time would be known by more than 40 names, prominent among them the Elk Run Distillery, named for the stream that ran near the property outside Louisville, Kentucky.  Shown below, the plant is recorded as having been founded as the Pee Dee a.k.a. Ross P. Pepper Distillery.   An 1892 insurance underwriter recorded that there were five warehouses, three of them adjoining but separated by firewalls.  Additional buildings included a cattle barn, a mill and grain elevator and an aging room. The distillery itself had been fitted with a sprinkler system, fire being an ever present problem in making whiskey.
In effect, the Jones boys were claiming to own a major Kentucky whiskey producer.   But liquor dealers elsewhere were making the same claim on the Elk Run Distillery.  The Boston dealers likely were obtaining all or most of their raw whiskey stocks from this Louisville operation, but did not own it.  The Joneses were self admitted “rectifiers,” that is, blending and compounding whiskeys and selling them under proprietary names. One ad boldly asserted:  “We are Rectifiers, Blenders or Compounders, as you please.  Choose your own name for that department in our line of business that so many people foolishly jeer at, so is your Apothecary, your Confectioner and your Cook.  How often do you receive one cow’s milk?”
As they successfully pursued the business they had inherited from their father,  the Jones boys also managed to have personal lives.  Rollin was the first to marry, his bride Annie G. Sprague.  They wed in Boston in October 1877 and are recorded as having two children, a boy and a girl.  The family appears in a 1905 directory living on Beacon Street in Brookline.  The son, also named Rollin, was working in the W. H. Jones Co. offices.  Westley Jones followed the matrimonial route five years later, marrying Cora C. Stuart in June 1883, again in Boston.  They would have a family of five, three boys and two girls. 

For their wholesale customers, the Jones boys provided their products in stoneware jugs bearing the company name.  Shown here are several of them, including a two gallon salt glazed crock that likely dates from the mid-to late 1800s.  Note the incised label identifying it as from W. H. Jones & Co.  Later containers were Bristol glazed with the labels printed under a second clear glaze.  The jugs appear to have been dated for the year of their origins.  One marked “1903,” and the other, “1906.”  Retail customers could buy their liquor in smaller quantities.  Like the whiskey quart shown here, most Jones bottles had paper labels bearing the company trademark.  Underneath the labels was an elaborately embossed glass container, as shown here.

What sets the Jones boys apart from their colleagues, however, was their emphasis on their trademarks. Their labels included “Bigwood,” “Blackstone,” "Blue Jay,” ”Bob Ton,” “Brookhouse,” “Brushwood,” “Buckmont,” “Butternut,” "Cobweb Club,”  "Elm Hill,” ”Hanover,” “Haymarket,” “Hermitage Rye,” ”Holiday Rye,” "Jupiter Gin,” “Kingswood,”  "Old Gold,” "Old Northbridge,” “Rainbow,” “Ruthven,” and "White Clover Gin."  

In the late 1800s and early 1900s many distillers and rectifiers were disdaining to register their brands on the grounds that the expense of registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was not compensated by any real protection of proprietary rights by state and local courts.  The Jones boys did not agree.  Beginning in 1892 when they registered Blackstone, Elm Hill and Holiday Rye, they trademarked a few brands up and through 1897. When the laws were strengthened by Congress in 1905, Rollin and Westley took the step of registering seven more brands among those listed above. In 1906 they re-registered under the new statues four brands they had previously trademarked.  The Joneses usually protected only a name but occasionally they also registered a design.  For example, the 1905 registration for their White Clover Gin included the illustration of a clover stem, head and leaves.

The Jones boys did not stop with registration.  They broadly publicized their trademarks.  Each of their bill forms and other company documents carried a list of their trademarked brands, each given with its five digit Patent Office number.  Their advertising shot glasses carried a notation on when a brand had been granted a trademark.  Shown here are Old Gold Bourbon and Holiday Rye shots, both recorded on the glass as federally approved on January 12, 1892. 

The precautions taken by the Jones boys apparently were effective.  I can find no court cases in which one of their trademarks was an issue.  No protections, however, existed against the rising tide of National Prohibition.   Mail order trade was the backbone of the Joneses enterprise.  They advertised that:  “On receipt of your order with $6.00 we will ship 6 full quarts, assorted to suit, transportation charges prepaid, to any railroad point in the United States where the charges for transportation do not exceed $2.00.”   As new federal and state laws were enacted, however, mail order liquor sales dwindled sharply. 

By 1918, W. H. Jones & Co., a liquor dealership that had operated for 66 years at the same location in Boston, shut its doors, its customer base eroded and National Prohibition on the horizon.   Neither brother lived long enough to see Repeal.  Westley, although the younger, died first in March 1926 at the age of 68.  He was followed in death by Rollin, who passed in August 1929.  He was 74.  Today we remember the Jones boys by the jugs, bottles and shot glasses they left behind — and the trademarks they so clearly cherished.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Rubel and Lilienfeld Went from Dry Goods to Wet

Rubel-Lilienfeld Company was a well-known Chicago liquor wholesaler, with a customer base over many states.  Two of the principals, Theodore Lilienfeld and Simon Rubel, had come to this occupation not only as immigrants, but also after a period of working in dry goods, clothing and acccessories.  The process of their transition makes this story.

We begin with Lilienfeld.  He was born in Germany in 1842 of German Jewish parentage.  At the age of 18, perhaps to avoid service in the Prussian Army where almost 50% of inductees died during basic training,  he came to the U.S. and settled in Michigan.  He apparently was able to avoid military service in the U.S. Civil War, a conflict that began shortly after his arrival.  After 10 years of working in the U.S., apparently in mercantile trades, he married.  His wife, Anna, was also a German immigrant and eight years his junior.

The 1880 census found them living in Saginaw, Michigan, a city on the Saginaw River that was a thriving lumber town in the 1800s and became an important industrial center during much of the 1900s.   The couple by that time had three children, Harry born in 1872,  Meta in 1877, and Ella in 1879.  Theodore’s occupation was listed as “dry goods merchant,” in the census, apparently running his own clothing store.

Meanwhile, Simon Rubel also was establishing himself in the United States.  He too had been born in Germany in 1852, his birthplace recorded as Steinbach Am Donnerberg.   He came to America with an older brother, Isaac, in July, 1869.  They came on the ship “Deutschland,” a vessel constructed as an emigrant passenger vessel.  Just six years later after Rubel’s voyage the ship was wrecked off the coast of England with significant loss of life. Upon arriving in Chicago,  Rubel’s first job was listed in the 1870 census as working in a dry goods store.  The following year a Chicago directory listed him employed by “Rubel Bros., a cigar and tobacco firm run by his relatives, Max and Ferdinand Rubel.  During this period Simon found a wife in Emily Jonas, a native of Detroit who was 12 years his junior.  

Not long after his marriage, during the mid-1800s Simon, seeking greener pastures in the West, took Emily to Utah where two of their daughters were born.  What occupation he pursued there is unclear but it apparently it was not the opportunity he was seeking.  By 1889, he and his growing family were back in Chicago.  There two more children were born, including a son, Stanley.  Another son died at birth.
Then, by some alchemy, Theodore Lilienfeld and Simon Rubel, both formerly engaged in dry goods, discovered that “wet goods” held more promise and collaborated in business. With Isaac joining in as a partner, they formed Rubel-Lilienfeld Company.  My hunch is that the three men were related but have found no evidence of that.  Nonetheless in 1896, the first entry appeared in Chicago directories of their business, listing them as wholesale liquor dealers.   Rubel-Lilienfeld was located in the Market Street district of the Windy City, shown here.  Their address was 96 Market, changing to 14 North Market as the result of street renumbering in 1911.  The company trade card read:  “Jobbers and Importers of Wines and Liquors and Blenders of High Grade Whiskies and Brandies.”

By announcing themselves as “blenders,” the partners openly were admitting that they were producing their own “rectified” brands, that is, mixing and compounding raw whiskeys and bottling them as proprietary brands.  Their two principal labels were “Hatchwood” and “Randolph Club.”  The company registered both brands in 1905, the point in time when the laws had been strengthened by Congress and gave confidence that trademarks would be enforced.
Shown here is a label and a flask of Hatchwood Bourbon, indicating its origin at “Forks of Elkhorn, Kentucky.”  This was a place where the North and South Forks of Elkhorn Creek meet before flowing into the Kentucky River, not far from the eastern edge of Frankfort.  There George Baker ran a distillery and provided the Chicago firm with whiskey they could blend and compound.  Shown here, Baker’s plant was Distillery No. 33 of the 7th District.  Baker was recorded as having made bonded warehouse transactions at the site from 1903 until 1920.  His was the major source of whiskey for Rubel-Lilienfeld and often credited on their labels.

Chicago was a hotbed of wholesale liquor dealers.  The competition among them was keen for markets not only in Illinois but in states to the west.  It appears from records that Simon Rubel, with his experience in the frontier West, frequently was gone on sales trips, often as far as the State of Washington.  For sales in and around Chicago, it was necessary to have items to gift saloonkeepers and bartenders stocking the partners’ liquor.   Shown here are two versions of Hatchwood back of the bar bottles.  They were meant to catch the eye of the customer who might decide to try their whiskeys.  Another favorite giveaway was shot glasses.  Two versions of the Randolph Club glass from Rubel-Lilienfeld are shown here.

Among the more unusual items to be provided to customers, including possibly retail customers, was a calendar plate, shown below, advertising Randolph Club Whiskey.  Although not unknown in the trade, such plates were relatively expensive.  This one features a color lithographic picture of a four leaf clover with the months scattered on its lobes.  Unfortunately I have not been able to read the year.

As time progressed, Rubel-Lilienthal’s business prospered as their brands found a national customer base.  The 1910 U.S. Census found Simon Rubel living in Ward Six of Chicago.  With him was his wife, Amalia, their two older daughters, Amy and Elsa, and young Stanley.   Simon gave his occupation as “merchant (wine)”  although he was still an officer of the Rubel-Lilienthal Co.  The same census revealed a less happy story for the Lilienfeld family, although Theodore had made the Chicago “Blue Book,” living at 4344 St. Lawrence Avenue.  Two of his and Anna’s children, Harry and Ella, had died.  The couple was living with another daughter, Meta, and her husband, Sidney Pollack, and their two children.  Pollack had been taken into the business as a vice president and director. 
Prohibition was closing in on the liquor industry.  In 1916 the Baker Distillery closed even though its warehouses remained open for several years for extractions of aged whiskey.  By 1919, the entire Rubel-Lilienfeld Co. was closed down, its interstate sales curtailed by the passage by Congress of the Webb-Kenyon Act that forbid interstate transit of liquor to dry areas.  Simon Rubel never saw the end of National Prohibition, dying in September 1924 in Chicago.  I have been unable to find the date and place of Lilienfeld’s demise.

What can be said of Simon Rubel and Theodore Lilienfeld?  Immigrants to the United States they both began their careers selling shirts and pants, blouses and skirts, but determined before long that there was much more prosperity in selling whiskey.  Thus wet goods replaced dry for both men — but Prohibition put an end to all prospects for that more profitable trade.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Milwaukee’s Peter Barth: 94 Years in Service and Whiskey

Beginning with his service as a Union soldier in the Civil War, to his elected service as an alderman and his participation in Milwaukee philanthropic organizations into his 90s,  Peter Barth clearly understood the meaning of the word “service.”  Barth also understood whiskey and its marketing, and flourished there.  He deserves to be remembered for a long life well spent.
During his formative years Barth’s prospects for a long life during were not promising.  He was born in 1839 in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, the son of John and Frederica Barth, the sixth of nine children.  While he was still a youngster in 1847 his father uprooted the family and headed to Wisconsin, taking them on what often was a perilous sea voyage, subject to disastrous storms and disease.  The Barths made it safely and settled onto a farm in Lake Township, an agricultural area just south of Milwaukee.  

From the safety of the farm, on a 1962 visit to Minnesota, Peter, now 23, took a step that put his life in frequent danger.  He enlisted in the Minnesota Fifth Voluntary Infantry serving as a private in Company E, donning the feathered hat sported by its men, shown above.  His regiment was involved in more than 25 scenes of combat, including such bloody battles as those in Iuka, Mississippi, and the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi.  
Perhaps the most serious battle in which he was engaged was the May 22, 1862, attack on the Confederate works at Vicksburg.  Fortunately for him the Fifth Minnesota was in the rear of the attacking column;  his regiment did not suffer the high casualties of the leading units. A monument, as shown here, stands at Vicksburg in tribute to his unit.   By the time Barth was mustered out in September 1865, his regiment had suffered four officers and 86 enlisted me killed in action or who later died of wounds.  Another 179 had died of disease.

Spared in that bloody war, Barth returned to Milwaukee and almost immediately opened a liquor dealership.  Characterized as “a small beginning,”  the former infantryman soon demonstrated a knack for the trade.  His first address was 137 Reed, the choice of a location indicating his business sense.  His store was adjacent  to one of Milwaukee’s busiest places, the Reed Street Railroad Station, then the city’s railway center, with a depot for all incoming and outgoing trains.  Barth watched as Civil War heroes like Generals Grant and Sherman arrived for the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) National Encampment in 1880.  Barth himself served for a time as the Commander of a Milwaukee G.A.R. post.
By 1897 his business had grown large that he needed larger quarters and moved down Reed Street to No. 251, his address for the rest of the existence of the Peter Barth Company.  Above is a photo of the store.  That may be Peter with the long beard on the steps.   The building was three stories with full basement and covered an area 26 by 112 feet.  
The facility allowed Barth not only to sell liquor but to “refine and blend” his own proprietary whiskey.  Among his house labels were “Barth,” “Beaver,” “Patrick Henry Whiskey,” “Waldron,” and the unusually named, “Bung Hole.” He does not appear to have trademarked any of his brands.  Barth has endeared himself to collectors, however, by the fine colors of his embossed bottles.  From his half pints to quarts, some shown here, Barth put his name on glass that ranged from yellow amber to dark red.  Many of those containers bore the mark of the Chase Valley Glass Company, a Milwaukee glass plant founded in 1880. Like many other Milwaukee liquor dealers Barth also issued a number of advertising shot glasses.

In 1967, not long after Peter had returned from the Civil War, he married a woman       named Emma, 17, who like him had emigrated from Germany.  We are fortunate that the couple and their family were recorded in the U.S. censuses of 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1930.  At the time of the 1870 census the Barths had only one child, Robert, a baby of nine months.  During the ensuing decade, the family added five other siblings, two boys and three girls, ages 8 to 3.  As he matured, Robert was taken into the liquor firm as a clerk about 1901 and eventually made a partner.

In 1985, Barth incorporated his firm under Wisconsin laws with a paid up capital of $100,000 (equivalent to $2.5 million today).  Robert, described by a contemporary as “a young man of unimpeachable probity,”  became secretary and treasurer.  By this time the sales of the Peter Barth Company had placed it among Milwaukee’s largest liquor wholesalers.  It covered not only all of Wisconsin but also Minnesota and Michigan.  Including its sales force, it employed eight people.
Nor was Barth neglecting his service to the community.  He was an active member on the Board of Trade and the Milwaukee Merchant Trader’s Association where he was said by a biographer to be “always…among the first in promoting the city’s best interests.”  His interests extended to the political field.  A Republican in a largely Democratic city, he was elected as an alderman from Milwaukee then Fifth Ward, serving from 1878 to 1882 until being defeated by a Democrat.  

He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and the Oddfellows, all of them fraternal and service organizations, devoted to philanthropic work.  The Oddfellows seemed closest to Peter Barth’s heart, which he joined in 1883.  It was British-founded and known particularly for its charitable work, conducting fundraisers for both local and national charities.  At the age of 91, Barth was still attending meetings of the Milwaukee Oddfellows, recorded in press accounts as its oldest active member. 

As his father aged, Robert increasing took over the management of the firm.  In 1910 at age 71, however, Peter was still listed by the census as “liquor dealer.”  He was living at 302 19th Street, then a mansion-filled fashionable area of Milwaukee.  With him was his wife, Emma, and a grown bachelor son, George, who was a well-known Milwaukee physician. Although the Barths had amassed their fortunes by 1919, it must have been a blow to them when National Prohibition was enacted.  The business that Peter had founded and fostered for 53 years was forced to shut its doors. 

During the ensuing years Barth continued to be active in Milwaukee’s civic and social life.  For the last six months of life he was invalided, living just long enough to see Prohibition being repealed in 1934.  When he died at the age of 94, he was buried in Milwaukee County’s Forest Lawn, a cemetery not far from where he had been born.  Two years later Emma joined him.  Buried nearby are other members of the family, including both Robert and George Barth.
Note:  A chief source of information for this article and the picture of the Barth Company building are from the 1896 book, “Milwaukee— A Half Century’s Progress.”  Census data also was particularly useful.  The bottle pictures are from the “” website which has many excellent photos of Wisconsin vintage whiskeys.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bachtold & Achermann: Swiss on Watch in Walla Walla

Both Alfred Bachtold and Charles Achermann hailed originally from the German-speaking part of Switzerland.  Emigrating as youths to the United States, both found occupations in other states until joining forces in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1897 to create a major West Coast wholesale liquor firm. These Swiss watched their sales grow yearly and also were on the watch for conflagrations as volunteers on the Walla Walla Fire Department. 

Alfred Bachtold came first.  Born in 1870, when twelve years old he accompanied his older brother, John, to America.  The brothers located initially in South Dakota where they found employment as farm workers.   After a number of years in the fields the brothers went their separate ways. John traveled west to the State of Washington where he clerked in a hotel, managed another, and in 1890 came to Walla Walla where he opened a saloon.  Meanwhile Alfred went to Wisconsin where he was a plumber until 1891 when he too headed west, stopping in the Dakotas and Portland, Oregon, before rejoining John in Walla Walla in 1892.

That is where Charles Achermann found them.  Born in 1870, he had left Switzerland for France where he lived for 11 years.  He likely learned the wine trade there before leaving for America in 1893.  After brief sojourn in Alabama, he went to the Napa Valley of California where for three and a half years he was engaged in the manufacture of wines.  About 1897 Achermann relocated to Walla Walla, his first lodging there being with John Bachtold.
Shortly after arriving, he and Alfred Bachtold teamed up to open a wholesale wine and liquor business.  My conclusion is that Achermann was the partner knowledgeable in the trade.  Up to that time Alfred had been engaged in manufacturing wire fencing.  It may have been Bachtold financing, however, that fueled the enterprise.  An early ad from the firm indicates a modest beginning with the company having offices and its cellars in the basement of the Dusenbery Building, located between 2nd and 3rd Streets in Walla Walla.
Over the next three years the Bachtold & Achermann firm clearly prospered. Their business had moved from the basement and they now had a ground level office and cellars, shown here, at 15 West Main, a major Walla Walla commercial street, shown above as it looked in 1901. The company was an agent for Sutter Home Wines,  Olympia Beer, Jesse Moore Whiskey and Lash’s Bitters.  Beyond that the partners were blending and compounding their own whiskeys.  Among their house brands were “Kentucky Blue Stem Whiskey,” sporting a label that pictured a farmhand, perhaps harking back to Bachtold’s agricultural beginnings in America.  Other house brands were “White Cloud,” and “B & A,”  the latter seen here advertised on an elaborately etched and decorative shot glass.  In 1906 Bachtold & Achermann trademarked both the Blue Stem and White Cloud brands.

The partners expanded sales rapidly to other cities of the West Coast, including Seattle, Astoria and smaller Washington towns, as well as Portland, Oregon.  Up-to-the-Times Magazine of December 1912 said of Bachtold & Achermann that they “are practically the only wholesale liquor dealers doing business in the Inland Empire country between Portland and Spokane.

Meanwhile the partners were having personal lives. Albert Bachtold was married in Walla Walla in 1897 to Mary Ganswig.  They had two children, one of whom died in childhood.  In 1902, Charles Achermann wed a German-born woman named Carrie,  I can find no record of children from this marriage.  Additionally the partners participated actively in the city’s social life.  They both were members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and theRed Men, Alfred a former “sachem” (chief). Other activities had an ethnic slant.  They were members of the Sons of Herman, an organization formed in 1840 as a mutual protection society for German immigrants and to promote the preservation of German language and traditions.  In addition,  Charles was a member of Maennerchor, literally translated into English as “men’s chorus.”  Founded in the 1850s, this organization was a German social club with an emphasis on music and singing.   

But their major passion appears to have been their service on the Walla Walla fire department.  John Bachtold was the the fire chief and both Alfred Bachtold and Charles Achermann were volunteer members of the force.  They must have been husky men:  The department did not have horse drawn pumpers until somewhat later and fire fighters rolled out hoses by hand, as shown here in a Walla Walla photo from 1901.   Horses could be dangerous, as the Swiss partners found out in 1905 when their horse-drawn delivery wagon struck a nine year old boy who was crossing the street in a small wagon, fracturing his skull and badly bruising his body.  He later died.

This tragedy may have been on their mind when Bachtold and Achermann were among the first businessmen in Walla Walla to convert to motorized transport.  The local press carried a picture of their primitive looking vehicle, boasting thirty horse power, and characterized by the local newspaper as a “rapid truck.”  The news article marveled that it could do the work of three horse teams:  “It has a capacity of a ton and a half and a top speed of twenty miles an hour.  The firm does all its draying and delivering about the city with it….right in advance of the times.”
However ahead of the times Bachtold & Achermann might have been, they could not out pace the prohibitionary forces that rapidly were gaining strength in the State of Washington.  On November 3, 1914, after an all-out Anti-Saloon League lobbying effort, Washington voters approved an initiative by some 18,000 votes to prohibit the manufacture and sale — but not consumption — of liquor.  Cities in Washington, including Walla Walla, voted against the measure but small town and rural folks carried the day.  After 17 successful years in business Bachtold-Achermann were forced to shut their doors.

Before Washington went dry,  Alfred Bachtold had expanded his interests to real estate development, engaging in construction projects in Walla Walla.  In 1909, for example, he was recorded obtaining a building permit to erect a two story brick building downtown at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets.  Even with income from his whiskey trade ended, he had his investments for income generation.  Unfortunately, Alfred did not have long to live, dying in October 1919 at the age of 49.  With his grieving widow, Mary, and only surviving child at the graveside, Alfred was buried in Walla Walla’s Mountain View Cemetery.  His gravestone is shown below.  Mary subsequently moved to Los Angeles where she died.  Her body was returned to Walla Walla where she lies beside Alfred.
Meanwhile, Charles Achermann had moved back to Napa Valley, California, which was still “wet.”  With his continuing connections to the wine industry there, my guess is that Charles found work in the vintner trade until  the imposition of National Prohibition in 1920.  He also made California his permanent home.  The 1940 census found him, age 70, with wife, Carrie, living in St. Helena in the heart of the Napa Valley.  He died in March 1954 at the advanced age of 84 and is buried in St. Helena.

Please excuse the “Swiss watch” pun that opens this vignette.  It is clear that Bachtold and Achermann are worthy of notice on several counts.  Not only were they among the very few immigrants from Switzerland to engage in the American liquor trade, they were important in the economic, social, and public safety development of their chosen city.  As the 1901 History of Walla Walla County expressed it, the both men in their careers were “energetic and progressive.”    Well-deserved praise for these immigrant, pioneering whiskey men.

Note:  The History of Walla Walla County cited above contains short biographies of both Charles Achermann and Alfred Bachtold, as well as one of John Bachtold.  Much of the information in this post came from that source as well as census data and newspaper articles.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Baltimore Walters: From The Art of Whiskey to Whiskey and Art

   The Walters Art Museum of Baltimore recently ran a newspaper ad headlined:  “From Rye to Raphael:  The Walters Story,”  highlighting the fact that its founder, William Thompson Walters, shown here, initially made his fortune selling quality whiskey, using the proceeds lavishly to buy fine art and antiquities.  Although William eventually left the liquor trade for other enterprises, his brother, Edwin, carried on with his own “artful” whiskey.  
The Walters brothers came from Liverpool, Pennsylvania, a small mining town about 23 miles from Harrisburg.  Born in 1819, William was the eldest of eight children.  Edwin was 14 years younger.  Both were brought up with little education and had limited chances for financial success in Liverpool.  Recognizing those limitations early,  William by age 21 had decamped for Baltimore, a city that was booming economically.  There he was able to apprentice with a civil engineer and work in the grain trade.  Dealing in grain apparently was a short move to selling Baltimore rye whiskey.   By 1847, age 28, Walters was able to open his own liquor company.

Shown here in an 1855 advertisement is his impressive five story building at 68 Exchange Place in Baltimore.  By this time, younger brother Edwin had joined him as an employee in the enterprise.  In the meantime, at age 26, William married Ellen Harper.  The couple had three children, William Jr., who died in childhood, Henry born in 1848 and Jennie born in 1853.  As his family and prosperity grew, William moved his family from quarters in downtown Baltimore to a mansion in the fashionable, suburban-like setting of 65 Mount Vernon Avenue (now 5 West Mount Vernon Place).   A stereopticon view of the house shows it boasting a four story “Chinese” looking architecture.  That may be Ellen Walters on the front porch in a white dress.

The Civil War brought a dilemma for William.  Like many Marylanders, he was torn in his loyalties.  Some of his friends had gone south to join the Confederates.  Others had stayed and joined the Union Army.   His distilling colleague, Outerbridge Horsey, had decamped for Europe.  Packing up his family, William did the same, arriving in Paris in the summer of 1861.  Meanwhile  the William T. Walters Company continued generating profits, probably under the watchful eye of Edwin.  Almost immediately the Walters began collecting European works of art, scouring the Continent from England to Italy for paintings, sculptures, ceramics and other object d’art.  They and their money were eagerly welcome by a host of arts, dealers and exhibitors.

Then tragedy struck.  While on a trip to London in November 1862, Ellen contracted pneumonia and with antibiotics still unknown, died quickly.   She was only 40 and left two minor children.  Even her death could not prompt William to return to the United States.  Instead — it has been suggested to console himself — he threw his energies even more fervently into  collecting.  Only at the end of the Civil War in 1865 did Walters return to the U.S. with his children.
With characteristic vigor Walters returned to everyday management of his liquor business.  He was not a distiller but “rectifying,” that is blending and compounding whiskeys purchased from Pennsylvania and Maryland distillers, using an upper floor of his Exchange Place building. Rectifying is an art and William and Edwin had mastered it.   Among the firm’s proprietary brands were "Imperial Monongahela Rye,” "J. Martin Old Rye,” Superior Old Monongahela Rye,” "Superior Rose Gin,” "Tuscaloosa Monongahela Rye,” and "Very Fine Old Monongahela Rye.”  Walters packaged many of these products in glass bottles bearing two slim panels and two larger panels.  Embossed on one slim panel is “Walters & Co.”  On the other, “Baltimore,” as shown here.  In olive green, the bottles have been blown in a mold with a separately applied mouth, and much coveted by collectors for their rarity. 
Not satisfied with collecting for his own pleasure, Walters wanted to bring art to the Baltimore public, at the time virtually bereft of viewing opportunities.  Beginning in 1874,  he opened his house every Wednesday in April and May, charging the public 50 cents admission, the proceeds donated to charity.  These openings became an annual event.  Meanwhile, William was turning his attention to other investments.   Early on he had put money into East Coast railroads and subsequently was involved in the coal and iron industries.   Walters managed a smelting operation in Pennsylvania said to have produced the first iron manufactured from mineral coal in the United States.   He also had maritime interests.  As these other activities took his attention, in 1882 William Walters dissolved his liquor company.  In 1889, a city directory listed him under the heading “capitalist.”
Enter Edwin Walters.  After spending years as William’s employee in 1870 he stepped out on his own as a whiskey dealer.  Likely with some family financial backing, he created the Edwin Walters Company, with offices at 35 South Gay Street.  Likely in an effort to insure his own supply of whiskey Edwin bought the Maitland & Bryan’s Canton Distillery, claimed to be the largest of Baltimore’s three or four working distilleries.  It was located in the Canton neighborhood in the southeastern section of the city at Smith’s Wharf.   Edwin renamed the facility the “Orient Distilleries.”  A photo exists of the Orient workforce, some sitting on barrels marked with the name.  It is not clear if Edwin is among them.
Among brands Edwin Walters was selling were “Baker’s,”  “Mountain Pure Rye,”  “Walter’s Private Stock.”  The flagship label was “Orient Rye.”  Because the distillery had its own dock, barrels could easily be loaded and from the Port of Baltimore shipped to other parts of the country.  According to Jim Bready, the guru of Baltimore whiskey, Orient Rye eventually was being sold in San Francisco and other points West.  Edwin obviously had mastered the “art” of making whiskey. 

When William Walters died in 1894, his passing was marked with long newspaper obituaries that discussed his career in railroads and other industries.   Almost nothing was said about the 35 years he had owned one of the largest and most successful liquor concerns in Baltimore.  At his death he bequeathed his entire collection to his son Henry, who also added to the artworks.  The assemblage came to include everything from European master paintings and decorative arts to Greek and Roman antiquities and Far Eastern ceramics — a total of nearly 22,000 works of art.   Henry Walters, true to his father’s interest in opening the collection to the public, created an art gallery on Charles Street at the edge of downtown Baltimore.  The original gallery interior is shown here.

The whiskey business bearing the Walters name has long been gone, distillery and office shut down by National Prohibition.   At his death in 1931,  Henry Walters gave his gallery building and its contents to the City of Baltimore where it has become the Walters Art Museum.  On October 26, 2014, that institution opened a special exhibit dedicated to its founders.  Hence the headline:  “From Rye to Raphael.”   Walter’s beginnings in whiskey are belatedly being acknowledged -- as they should be.

Note:  Information for this post was obtained from multiple sources, principal among them the Walters Art Museum website and Ferdinand Meyer’s “Peachridge” site.  Several illustrations also are from those sources.