Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Baugh Brothers: “Victorious in Vincennes”

 Born in Tennessee to a hard scrabble farmer and Confederate veteran, the Baugh brothers — John, Richard and Murphy — had little or no formal education and likely went to work as pre-teens.   None of this mattered when the trio fetched up in Vincennes, Indiana, and went on to own a half dozen thriving businesses there, including several in the whiskey trade.
Their father was John M. Baugh, born in Rutherford County, Tennessee, of transplanted parents, his father from North Carolina and mother from Virginia.   Many Carolinians had settled in central Tennessee, following the example of Griffith Rutherford, an American Revolutionary War general from North Carolina, an early settler who gave the county its name.

Rutherford County strongly supported the Confederacy during the Civil War and records indicate that John M. joined Tennessee’s 11th Confederate Cavalry organized at Murfreesboro, the county seat.  That unit fought in a half dozen battles, including Chicamauga, illustrated right, Resaca, and the defense of Atlanta.  Although the regiment lost 160 men before the 1865 surrender, John Baugh lived to return to Rutherford County and resume farming.

When he left for the war, John M. was married and the father of a son.  His wife was Miriah, born in Tennessee as were her parents.  Upon his return, the couple would produce at least six more children.  Among them were John B., born in 1870;  Richard , 1875; and Murphy G., 1877 — the trio that would become known as the Baugh Brothers.   Census records indicate that their education may have been truncated.  One brother was listed as a “farm worker” at age 11; another told a census taker that although he could read and write he had never been to school.
Just when when the brothers arrived in Vincennes — and, just as important, why — is not clear.  The brothers moved 235 miles almost directly north from Tennessee to a modest-sized Indiana town on the lower Wabash River.  Founded in 1732 by the French as a fort against Indian raids, although far from the centers of American power, Vincennes could boast itself as “America’s First Main Street,” a community that existed before the American Revolution.   The postcard view shown above from about 1900 shows it to have evolved a typical Midwest downtown. 

The Baughs established themselves there initially as druggists.  John gave his occupation in the census as “merchant - retail drugs.”  For a time Richard likely joined him in that pursuit.  Both men quickly became aware that liquor sales through the drugstore were a financial bonanza.  As a result, the brothers, with Richard taking the lead, moved into the whiskey trade.  The Baughs first venture was the Wabash Bank Saloon, a popular local drinking spot.  By 1902, the Baughs, now including their younger brother, Murphy, were selling liquor and beer, first at 19 North First Street.  Later they moved to 10 North First in a building that bore their name, shown left as it looked in later years.

The brothers described their company as a “distillery.”  In reality they were rectifying whiskey, that is, buying spirits from Pennsylvania or perhaps Kentucky distillers and blending it on their own premises to achieve particular taste and color.  They called their flagship brand, “Stoneheart Rye,”  advertising it as “rich and mellow” and “ripe with age.”  A second label was “Fort Harrison Pure Rye” after an Indiana U.S. Army post established in 1903 and named after Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President who hailed from Indiana.  Shown here are shot glasses advertising both brands that would have been given away to favored customers running saloons and restaurants that featured Baugh liquor. 

In the meantime, the brothers were having personal lives.   John appears to have married late; his wife Esther was born in Indiana and was 17 years his junior  The 1920 census found the couple in the Third Ward of Vincennes with two children, a girl three years old and an infant male.   Richard, running the saloon at age 26, initially lived in a Vincennes boarding house but in 1903 married  a woman named Myrtle and set up housekeeping with her.  They would have two children.  The youngest Baugh, Murphy, married about 1911.  His wife, a native of Illinois, was Katherine, called “Kate.”  They would have one daughter.

With the success of their liquor interests, the Baugh Brother expanded their fields of enterprise.  About 1908 Richard moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, 65 miles from Vincennes, to start another liquor store there.  Located first at 329 Ohio Street, by 1910 Richard had moved the business to 313 Wabash Avenue.  Back in Vincennes, the brothers opened a haberdasher shop at 231 Main Street, advertising themselves as dealers in hats and furnishing goods. In 1915 the Baughs announced to the public that they were  “arranging to install a modern and up-to-date drug store” at the corner of Main Street and the plaza for Vincennes City Hall.

Perhaps the Baughs’ most important announcement involved  the three-story Gimbel’s Building on Main Street,  shown here as it looked in later years.  The very first Gimbel's dry goods store was founded in Vincennes in 1842 by Adam Gimbel, a Jewish Bavarian immigrant who started out as a pack-peddler.  In 1887 Gimbel moved on to a larger market in Milwaukee.   In the 1890s his store expanded to Philadelphia and in the early 1900s to its famous location in New York City.  Concerned about the empty building in the center of town, the Baughs closed a deal to buy it and return the productivity of the space.  With their multiple enterprises, these Tennessee implants clearly had risen to the top of the business community of Central Indiana.

The Baughs were not fated to create a dynasty.  Following the lead of other Midwestern states, Indiana in 1918 voted a complete ban on sales of alcohol.   The Wabash Bank Saloon shut its swinging doors and the liquor outlets in Vincennes closed.  Their Terra Haute outlet had terminated by 1916.  Unlike other whiskey men, however, the brothers had their non-alcoholic enterprises to fall back on.  According to 1920 census data,  John continued to operate the family drug store.  Richard was recorded as operating a farm on his land near Terre Haute.  My guess is that Murphy, who gave his occupation as “merchant,” was running the haberdashery.
All the Baugh brothers lived long enough to see the repeal of Prohibition in 1934, but no evidence exists that they attempted to re-enter the liquor business.  Murphy was the first to die, passing in 1955 at 78, and John followed two years later, age 87.  Both men were buried in the Vincennes City Cemetery.   Richard, diagnosed with arteriosclerosis, died last in 1958 at age 83.  Buried in Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute, his gravestone is shown below.
During their extended lifetimes, the three Baugh brothers had overcome their disadvantaged origins and lack of formal schooling to shine as businessmen in one of America’s oldest cities.   In other words, they had emerged “victorious in Vincennes.”



















Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Minneapolis’ Kelly Took Whiskey to the Bank

In the days before Prohibition, selling whiskey was an extremely lucrative business.  Many a liquor dealer could be said to have smiled “all the way to the bank” as he deposited the week’s profits.  Patrick J. Kelly went one step further.   This Minneapolis whiskey man also operated the bank.
No one could have predicted Kelly’s business success.  He was born in Hannibal, Missouri, in 1868, just two years after his parents John and Mary (Canty) Kelly had left Ireland and come to America.  Patrick received his education in Hannibal schools, but left during his teens to work on the railroad.  He departed Hannibal in 1890 at the age of 22 for Sioux City, Iowa, soon leaving there for Mankato, Minnesota.  My surmise is that Kelly was engaged in some aspect of the liquor trade in  Mankato.   He also found time in 1904 to marry there.  His bride was Celia Morain, about ten years his junior and a native of Iowa.  They seemingly had no children.
Kelly arrived in Minneapolis in 1906, apparently primed to open his own liquor business.  In 1890 a local named J.C. Oswald had opened a wholesale/retail whiskey store at 17 Washington Avenue, North, shown above.  After Oswald died in 1906, Kelly, with a partner, took over the business renaming it The Kelly-Steinmetz Liquor Company but remaining at the same address for the next decade.

The company was not only selling liquor, it also was rectifying whiskey, that is, blending and compounding the raw products, bottling the results, and selling them under its own brand names.  They included: “Umpire,” “Tandem,” “Green Leaf,” and “KSL Co. Monogram.”  Those labels seem to have been successful.  In 1910 and 1911, Kelly took steps to trademark his brands, indicating a concern about infringements.  He also had his own brand of gin, called “Tanager” that he blended and bottled himself.

As shown here, and below, he also issued “back of the bar” bottles for several of them.  Those would have been given to favored customers such as saloonkeepers and bartenders.  Kelly also provided advertising shot glasses and saloon signs.  One sign for his Tandem Whiskey was particularly attractive, showing a Gibson Girl being driving by  two horses in a tandem hitch team.  The motto was “One Drink Followed by Another.”

Even as his liquor enterprise was flourishing, this enterprising Irishman could see Prohibitionary pressures reducing his markets.  In 1914, for example, the State of North Dakota, having gone “dry” deemed his shipments of Umpire Whiskey into the state as “in violation of the beverage law” and liable to prosecution.  As a result Kelly looked for other business opportunities.  One presented itself in the field of banking.  With others he organized the Gateway State Bank, formed in September 1915, soon after becoming its president and chief executive officer.  By 1923 it was capitalized at $100,000 ($2.5 million equivalent today) and had on hand cash of $50,000.  Gateway was described in the local press as “one of the substantial and growing banks of Minneapolis.”

Meanwhile Kelly was active in Democratic Party politics, he never ran for office. He also was involved in local social organizations, including the Minnesota Athletic Club, the Elks Club, and the Interlachen Country Club.   Closest to Kelly’s heart was his relationship to the Minneapolis Baseball Association and its often winning team, the Minneapolis Millers, where he was a director and treasurer. 

In 1916, with prohibitionary force gradually “drying up”  markets for his whiskey, Kelly moved to new and likely smaller quarters at 25-29 North Second Street.  By 1918 as National Prohibition threatened, he shut down his liquor business completely.  The firm became Kelly Brothers Company, a real estate development and investment enterprise.  Patrick also became a director of the Franklin Motor Car Company, a popular automobile at the time.
The 1920 U.S. census found him, age 51, at home with his wife, Celia.  Asked his occupation, he said “none,” likely still smarting over the end of the Kelly-Steinmetz Company and ignoring his other business activities.  Kelly was still living at the age of 71, still at the same West 22nd Street address in the 1940 census with Celia still by his side. This time he gave his occupation as “president-real estate company.”   I cannot find his date of death or place of interment.  
A final word on this remarkable whiskey man can be taken from in his biography in the 1923 volume, “History of Minneapolis, Gateway to the Northeast,” edited by Dr. Marion Shutter.  That publication asserted:  “Mr. Kelly…in all things he has undertaken has met with success, wisely and carefully directing his interests along the paths that led to prosperity.”   These words remind us that the main path Patrick Kelly trod regularly was from his liquor business, smiling all the way, to the bank -- his own bank.



















Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jacob Bloch and Louisiana Mail Order Liquor

As the 19th Century turned to the 20th, prohibition forces had resulted in many towns and counties voting themselves “dry” under local option laws.  In addition,  by 1908 most of thstates of the Deep South had voted to ban sales of alcoholic beverages.  Under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, however, mail order sales of liquor were still legal.  In Monroe, Louisiana, a canny businessman named Jacob Bloch saw an opportunity.  In a town well served by railroads traveling north, south, east and west, and by water transport through the Ouachita River shown below, Bloch was said to have launched the first mail order liquor dealership in Monroe.  His would be the first of many in town.
  
The Wine & Spirits Journal in 1916 reported a talk given by Kentucky Distiller R. E. Wathen to a convention of mail order whiskey men, a group that included dealers from Monroe, and likely among them, Bloch. The speech provided, as the publication said, “food for thought” when Wathan opined:  “At the present time — a chaotic period for the distiller, for the jobber and for the retailer — the mail order man has his great opportunity.  We are witnesses a great upheaval in the liquor industry.  A great change may permanently be made in the distribution end of the business.  As State after State votes the local retailer out, it would seem the door of opportunity is opening wider every day for the mail order man.”

Wathen warned, however, that mailed whiskey should be recognized brands:  “Your line of work is to carry to millions in local option territory through a perfectly legal channel a product that that they have a perfect legal right to have.  There is no reason to doubt that they want the same good quality of product that they purchased when they came face to face with the seller,” he said.

As early as 1893, Jacob Bloch recognized the opportunities involved in selling liquor by mail.  That was the year that the J.S. Bloch Building was erected in Monroe at 101 North Grand Street, corner of Desiard, to house his growing out-of-state sales.   Now on the National Register of Historic Places, shown left, this structure is physical proof that Bloch already had accumulated sufficient finances to construct an iconic headquarters and stock it with liquor.  His store and adjacent saloon featured cast iron Corinthian support columns and an elaborate cast iron shop front featuring a lace work of iron scrolls.  The second story facade showed pressed tin ornamentation with triangular pediments over the windows and triglyphs at either end of the parapet.  The interior had cast iron columns running the length of the first floor and an elaborate back staircase.  As shown below, there was a bar for over-the-counter sales and barrels of whiskey on the floor.
Heeding R.E.Wathen’s admonition to sell quality whiskey by mail order, Bloch advertised recognized brands like “High Sport” from the High Distillery of Cincinnati,  “Anderson County” marketed widely by the Kentucky “Whiskey Trust,” and “Shenandoah Rye,”  distributed by Simon Hasterlik Co. of Chicago. [See my post on Hasterlik, Feb. 2013.]  On the second floor,  Bloch was bottling his own whiskey, possibly after “rectifying” it, that is, blending it and adding ingredients to achieve taste and color.  He was selling it in ceramic jugs bearing his label.  Bloch’s mail order catalogues offered to sell liquor in both glass and ceramic, in sizes from a gallon to a pint.
The Monroe Star News said of Bloch’s enterprise:   “He operated an extensive retail and wholesale liquor business and is said to have been the one to originate the plan of mail order selling of his product. Others saw a new field for activity and in a short time, Monroe became known for its extensive mail order business in spiritous liquors.”  During this period Bloch also was an agent for Budweiser beer and sold cigars.

Although details of Bloch’s early life are sketchy, we know that he was born in Mississippi of German Jewish immigrants in July 1859. Later he told a census taker that although he could read and write, he had little or no formal education.  That did not deter him from migrating to Monroe as a youth.  There he met Lena Kuhn, born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1866, the daughter of Mrs. and Mrs. Samuel Kuhn.  Her parents had moved to Monroe when she was a small child.  That was where, about 1888, Jacob and Lena were wed.  He was 29 and she was 23.  They had one child who died in infancy.

Bloch’s success as a businessman was having effects in other areas of Monroe life.  He served several terms on the Monroe City Council under two mayors,  Alexander Jackson Herring and his successor, Dr. Andrew J. Forsythe.  Jacob also was a director of the Ouachita National Bank, a financial institution founded in 1907, housed in the columned building shown here.  The bank was notable for having issued more than $1.5 billion in national currency over its life span.  In addition, according to the local press, Bloch “was interested in many other local institutions.”   With his wife, he was active in the affairs of B’Nai Israel synagogue, including caring for the Jewish Cemetery.

Despite the encouraging words by Distiller R. E. Wathen to mail order whiskey men, Bloch may have sensed that prohibition forces were winning the battle.  In one ad he indicated that in addition to selling liquor, etc., he was dealing in hides, wool and fur.  One writer has suggested that Bloch shut down his whiskey trade as early as 1908.  My guess is that he stayed in business longer than that, terminating when Federal legislation curbed the mail order trade. Louisiana went “dry” only with National Prohibition in 1920.

The U.S. Census of that year found Jacob and Lena residing on Catalpa Street in Monroe.  Living with them were two of Lena’s brother and a sister-in-law.  Ask his occupation, Jacob was recorded telling the census taker that he was a “machinist.”  At the time of the 1930 census, Bloch and family had moved to 215 Hudson Lane in Monroe.  He was 70 years old and gave his occupation as “retired.”   In August of the following year he died and was interred in Monroe’s Jewish Cemetery. His gravestone is shown here.  A decade later his widow Lena followed him there.

After the closing of Bloch’s liquor business, the building that bore his name experienced a number of uses, including a cotton exchange, general store, cafeteria, book store — and some say “offices” on the second floor were used for a time as a brothel.  Today the building houses an upscale Monroe restaurant known as “Cotton” where the management has tried to maintain the space approximately as it looked in the early 1900’s.

In the midst of the Prohibition hurricane, one promising business avenue remained open for many whiskey men — mail order liquor sales.  Jacob Bloch early saw the opportunity, took advantage of it, and prospered in the relatively brief time the avenue remained open.  He thereby laid the foundation for others to emulate and initiated a thriving trade in Monroe and Louisiana.




























Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Edward Sheehan: Georgia’s Irish Lord of Bottles and Booze

      
Note:  The tall, distinguished-looking man above standing in front of his bar is Edward Sheehan, saloonkeeper, liquor and beer dealer and bottler of soft drinks in Augusta, Georgia.  Sheehan’s story is one of an enterprising  immigrant Irish boy who made good in America.  As in the past, when a valid account already exists of a notable whiskey man, I try to use it.  In this case a short biography was written several years ago by Sheehan’s great grandson, Atty. Chris Edwards of Jupiter, Florida,  With his kind permission it is reprinted here.

Edward Sheehan [also shown right] was born in Castlemagner, County Cork, Ireland, on June 24, 1849 (his birth name was “Edmond,” but he was known as “Ed” and upon immigrating to America, everyone assumed his name was “Edward,” so he adopted the name to avoid confusion.)  He was baptized in 1849 in Mallow Parish, County Cork, by the Reverend W. Hogan. Edward was the son of Edmond Sheehan and Catherine Ring. He spent his childhood on Bitter Hill Farm, where he helped his father try to make a living as a wheat farmer. 

In 1864, when the rent on the property became excessive, his father shipped him and his three elder siblings to America in the company of their cousin, James.   Edward was only fifteen years old at the time. They sailed from Cork in an overcrowded disease-ridden cargo vessel called a “coffin ship.” Their fare only included transportation so they had to bring all their own provisions for the journey.   They arrived in New York Harbor in early 1865, where James took up residence in Brooklyn, establishing a branch of the Sheehan family in the state of New York.

Edward and his siblings then traveled south to Savannah, and finally made their way to Augusta, Georgia, where they arrived on February 14, 1865. They were taken in by two Irish families, the Barretts and Harrises, who lived on Milledge Road.  Edward Sheehan soon found employment at a city bottling business, washing bottles by hand. He started work each morning after attending six o’clock mass, worked all day, and then went to the local night school under the instruction of Professor Pelot.  Four years later, in 1869, he and his family had saved enough money to send for their parents, Edmond and Catherine. 

On October 27, 1874, Edward Sheehan married Anna Catherine Hickey, the daughter of John A. Hickey and Mary Hallinan, who had immigrated from County Limerick, Ireland, in 1851 (Annie’s birth on June 20, 1851 was first noted in New York City, where she was baptized, however, she may have actually been born during the passage across the Atlantic Ocean.) Edward and Annie were married in Augusta, Georgia, by Father O’Riley in what was then called St. Patrick’s Church (now the Church of the Most Holy Trinity). His best man at the wedding was also his best friend and future business partner, James Doyle. 

Edward Sheehan and his new wife, Anna Hickey, moved to Savannah, where Edward worked at several places, including a grocery store. He was then taken under the wing of John Ryan at the John Ryan Excelsior Bottle Works on Bay Street near the Savannah River. In 1880, when yellow fever broke out in Savannah, Edward Sheehan sent his pregnant wife and two young children (John & Catherine) back to Augusta, Georgia.  Their son, Edward “Knockie” Sheehan, Jr., was born later that year on October 27, 1880. Edward and Anna eventually had thirteen children (three of whom died during infancy).

In 1882, after rejoining his family in Augusta, Edward started the Sheehan Excelsior Bottling Works with his old friend James Doyle. The company was originally located at 1025 Greene Street, but in the 1890’s was moved to the 1100 block of Broad Street, right next door to a bar. The company’s mainstay was the beer they bottled for another firm, but Edward also marketed his own soft drinks, including sarsaparilla, orange juice and lemon soda. 

Toward the end of the century, Edward and his family moved into a five-bedroom house at 1334 Broad Street. The house had a big front porch with a hallway running the length of the house from the entrance to the back porch. On the ground floor were a front parlor, sitting room, dining room, butler’s pantry and an enormous kitchen. The bedrooms were on the second floor along with one bathroom near the back porch.

The house was built next to the home of Mayor Walsh, who offered a small pecan tree to Edward as a housewarming gift. Edward declined the offer, explaining that the horses and wagons from his transfer company would surely trample over the small sprig if planted in his front yard. Mayor Walsh then planted the tree next to the fence that separated their two yards and invited the Sheehan children to gather as many of the pecans from the tree as they desired. The tree is still standing in the Curtis Baptist Church parking lot (Edward’s house was demolished in the 1950s to make room for the parking lot.)

Edward was a man of great stature, both physically and in character. He stood six feet two inches tall, but was known to be quite a gentle man, never raising his voice or using a word of profanity. He did not smoke or drink, and his whole life was centered around his family, church and business. When his brother, Michael, drowned in the Savannah River on November 4, 1896, Edward assumed financial responsibility for his wife and young children. Edward was also a devoted and generous member of the Sacred Heart Church, and he attended mass on a daily basis. He donated the “Marriage Feast of Cana” stained-glass window in the church in memory of his younger brother, Michael.
As the century turned, Edward shortened the name of his bottling company to Sheehan Bottling Works. During this period of time, he was also approached by representatives of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company concerning the possibility of operating a bottling franchise in the Augusta, Georgia area. Prior to 1899, Coke was a small business which only sold syrup to soda fountains, but that year they divided the country into territories and started selling the bottling rights to local entrepreneurs. 

Edward had an opportunity to become the first bottler of Coke in his area of Georgia and South Carolina. He declined the offer because he thought Coca-Cola was a fad, and he preferred the taste of his own sodas. By 1909, nearly 400 Coca-Cola bottling plants were operating, most of them family-owned businesses. Edward did, however, start to branch out into other businesses. He continued to operate his transfer company, and he also opened a grocery store, as well as several saloons and bars. In addition, he managed the Robert Portner Brewing Company. 

Edward’s wife, Annie Hickey, died on June 24, 1912, of cancer, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta, Georgia. Annie’s younger sister, Mary Hickey, was a Catholic nun who became Mother Superior of the Sacred Heart Convent in Augusta, Georgia. After the death of his wife, Edward Sheehan continued to operate his businesses, but also started to spend more time with his children and grandchildren. 

As a hobby, he raised “game” chickens in his back yard with his eldest son, Johnnie. These chickens were used for cockfighting, not eating. At any given time, Edward and his son would have hundreds of “biddies” in an incubator they kept near the chicken coop. Edward also took care of the family horse “Row Locks,” which he housed in the stable behind his home. 

When World War I broke out in 1916, Edward Sheehan started having difficulties replacing the bottles in his business. Unfortunately, there was no deposit system in place, and a bottle of soda only sold for five cents a piece. When prohibition was ratified in 1919, his business began to crumble. 

Edward Sheehan died in Augusta, Georgia, on December 26, 1922, his bottling business at an end. He was buried in Magnolia Cemetery next to his beloved wife, Annie. Prior to his death at the age of 72, he had the distinction of being the oldest living independent bottler in the nation. 
His youngest son, Aloysius “Bubba” Sheehan, died the following year. His eldest son, Johnnie, thrived during prohibition, both as a bar owner and bootlegger (although he claimed never to have consumed the whiskey he sold). Johnnie was arrested seven times during the years of prohibition and he and his employee (a black man named Will Davis) took turns going to jail. Their cell had rugs on the floor, curtains on the windows, and a door that was never locked.

Afterword:  Some of the images I have added to Chris Edward’s biography come from photos of a display created by Augusta bottle collector, Walter Smith, who graciously allowed me to take and use themOther assistance came from Bill Baab who has written a much more comprehensive account of Sheehan’s career in his informative book “Augusta on Glass.”  Bill added the following comment:  "Edward Sheehan established his Excelsior Bottling Works on his own in 1880, celebrating his independence by dating all of his bottles with that year. Doyle was employed by the Augusta Brewing Co., as a wagon driver. Sheehan was best man at Doyle’s wedding and vice versa. Sheehan & Doyle existed in business only one year – 1888. For reasons unknown to the family, the two separated in 1889, Doyle returning to the brewery, They may have been best of friends, but did not click as businessmen together."












Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jacksonville’s Charles Blum Was “Dialed in” for Success

Take a good look at the figure at right.  His name was Charles Blum, a German immigrant  whose career began as the manager of a run-down saloon in Jacksonville, Florida, and who graduated to being one of the city’s leading liquor dealers and later, cigar maker and bottler of soft drinks.  Note the instrument in his left hand.  Along the way Blum also founded a Jacksonville telephone company and earned this caricature in the book of prominent businessmen, “Floridians as the World Sees ‘Em.”
Blum was born in 1861 to German parents, immigrating to the United States in at the age of 17 in 1878, according to census data.  In the 1880 census, living in a Jacksonville boarding house, he gave his occupation as “baker.”   Local directories picked Blum up two years later working as a “clerk,” likely in the liquor business and learning the trade.  By 1887 he was listed as the manager of the Harry Mason Saloon and Restaurant on Bay Street. This must have been a real dive.  The following year a report to the chairman of the city’s Sanitary Commission examined the condition of the floors of every business on either side of Bay Street, show below, between Cedar and Washington Streets.   The report had this devastating comment:  “Mason’s saloon, in bad condition, with rotten floors and improper drainage.”
Whether this report was the reason for a change in employment or not, by 1891 Blum was working for the Henry Mason Company, a Jacksonville wholesale liquor, wine and cigar dealer first recorded in business in 1882 and located at 107-115 West Bay.  The relationship of this Mason to the saloon is unclear.  Blum was employed at the Mason firm for several years before striking out on his own.  A Jacksonville directory in 1895 first listed “Charles Blum & Company” as a wholesale/retail liquor dealer, located on Bay Street, shown above. 
The following year the company moved further down West Bay to larger quarters.  That location may also have contained a saloon.  Blum’s brother, Jacob, who was his partner in his enterprises was listed as a “bartender” in directories.  Those larger quarters would be home to Charles Blum & Co. for the next 24 years and provided sufficient space for “rectifying,” that is, mixing and blending whiskeys to achieve a particular color and taste.  Blum sold his products in ceramic jugs that requested that they be returned to his establishment.  His flagship brands were “Sylvan Glen” and “Blum’s Monogram.”  There is no evidence that he trademarked either.

Already with a reputation as a successful businessman, in 1892 Blum married.  His bride was Margaret E. Mahoney, known by her family as “Maggie.”  Shown here, she had been born in 1860 in Florida into a family of native Floridians.  Maggie appears to have had a prior marriage.  The 1900 census recorded that two Blum stepsons named Murray were living with the family.  Charles and Maggie would have four children of their own, Charles, born in 1883;  Jennie, 1885; Margaret, 1889, and Fred, 1902.   

About 1903, Blum built a mansion to house his growing brood.  It stood at the intersection of Main and Second Street in a neighborhood of large homes.  It was a large home featuring a hodgepodge of architectural styles, as was common then for such structures.  The Blum residence featured a series of doric columns, one set supporting a two story portico;  wrap-around porches on both the first and second stories; a “captain’s walk” on the top floor, and three large chimneys.  It was a house befitting an up-and-coming Jacksonville businessman.

Throughout this period, Blum was continuing to run a successful saloon and liquor dealership at  517 West Bay Street.  In 1900 directory listings indicate he additionally had opened a cigar manufacturing facility at 923 West Bay.   Throughout most of that decade Charles Blum & Co., with brother Jacob listed as co-owner, continued to be recorded as dealing in wholesale and retail liquors.  Like many whiskey men of his time, Blum was gifting giveaway items to favored saloons and restaurants carrying his liquors, in particular, shot glasses.  As shown below his offerings went from glasses etched with a simple recounting of the company name to more elaborate labels that cited the prices of Sylvan Glen and Blum’s Monogram.

Being a canny entrepreneur, Blum seems to have been increasingly aware that prohibitionary forces were gaining momentum in Florida as well as in the Nation.  In 1906 for the first time Blum advertised as a wholesale dealer for a non-alcoholic drink — Sheboygan (Wis.) Mineral Waters.  He also was moving into a completely new field — communications.  In 1913, Blum and other investors had organized the Jacksonville Home Telephone Company, “a corporation organized for the purpose of constructing and operating an automatic telephone system in Jacksonville.  Blum was elected president.

Despite competition from the Bell Company,  Blum in his first annual report to stockholders stated that the company had more than 3,000 telephones in use, 1,875 subscribers, and telephones being installed at the rate of 25 a day and facing a backlog of requests.  The payroll had been $100,000 the previous year.  In his statement Blum emphasized the home-grown nature of the company:   “There are over 400 local stockholders, and with the exception of only about 10 percent of the stock, all of the stock of your company is owned and held by Jacksonville people.”   As a result, he asserted, subscriber money would stay in Jacksonville, amounting to over $150,000 annually, to be reinvested in the city and paid to its people as dividends. 

Meanwhile changes were taking place in Blum’s liquor business.  About 1910 his brother Jacob died and a new group of executives assumed the positions of vice president and secretary/treasurer.  His son, Charles Junior, joined the firm as a clerk.  New outlets were opened.  A wholesale department was located first at 4 E. S.Viaduct and soon moved to 738-742 West Bay.  In addition to the original store, two new retail outlets were opened, one at 411-417 E. Bay and a second at 517-523 W. Bay.  

At the same time, however, it was becoming increasingly clear that Florida would be going dry.   With the same energies that had propelled him into the liquor and telephone businesses, Charles moved quickly into non-alcoholic beverages.  According to a notation attached to the caricature that opens this vignette, Blum was owner, president or founder of four soft drink companies:  Blum Beverage Co.; Charles Blum Beverage Co., Inc.;  Jacksonville Gay-Ola Bottling Co., and Tropical Manufacturing Co.

When Florida voted to ban completely sales of alcohol in 1918,  Blum closed up his liquor interests and moved entirely to making soft drinks.  In declining heath, he lived long enough to see the imposition of National Prohibition.  The  1920 census found him living at his mansion with Margaret and three of his now-grown children.   That same year in February at the age of 57,  Blum died and was buried in Jacksonville’s Evergreen Cemetery.   His widow would join him there twenty years later.  Their family monument and headstones are shown here.
From an unpromising start, arriving as a youthful German speaking little English and later managing a rundown Jacksonville saloon, Charles Blum had risen to the top echelons of Florida business circles, epitomized by the caricature in the volume, “Floridians as the World Sees ‘Em.”  Not only had he succeeded in establishing one of the city’s most successful liquor dealerships, he had founded a cigar manufacturer,  a telephone exchange, and as many as four soft drink companies.   This immigrant boy clearly had made his mark in his adopted city and state.  




















Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Twomey & Miholovich Saved Frisco’s Yellowstone Saloon

In January 1896, the San Francisco Call reported on a legal battle related to the economic viability of the Yellowstone Saloon at 22 Montgomery Street, the major commercial avenue shown below.   The original owners, brothers John H. and Harry Wise had sued James T. Murphy and F. Smalley for money owning them on a half interest they had sold the pair in the drinking establishment.  Murphy and Smalley countered by charging that the Wises had lied to them about the profitability of the Yellowstone.
They claimed the brothers had told them the saloon was worth $20,000, half a million in today’s dollar.  Moreover, it was put to them that Yellowstone took in $100 a day and that expenses were $35 a day.  As related by the newspaper:  “They say that these figures are all wrong and that, as a matter of fact, the saloon is not worth $10,000” — apparently the amount of their debt.

However the case was settled, two month later the Yellowstone was worth even less.  In March the place caught fire early one morning.  Although the fire patrol was commended for quick action the interior suffered damage, including some loss of stock and fixtures.
Enter James Twomey and Vincent Miholovich.  Sometime in the months following the fire, they entered on the scene and by 1898 their names appear as “proprietors” of the Yellowstone Saloon.  Twomey was 38, an immigrant from Ireland born in 1860.  Shown right, a dapper looking gent, he was unmarried, living at a rooming house on Geary Street.  Miholovich was two years older, an immigrant from Montenegro, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  He was married to a woman named Kristina and the couple had one daughter.

Together Twomey and Miholovich set out to build a new reputation for the Yellowstone Saloon.  One strategy was to emphasize their proximity to San Francisco’s grandest hotel, the Palace, shown below.  This hostelry had been opened in 1875 to great fanfare.  Under construction for four years, the Palace Hotel. below, was a stunning edifice.  The skylighted open center of the building featured a Grand Court overlooked by seven stories of white columned balconies.  It attracted the rich and famous alike.  The Yellowstone Saloon was only a half block away, an easy walk.
The partners tried to emulate “Palace” class in their advertising.  As in the ad shown above, they made a play for the college crowd, advertising regularly in Stanford University publications, like the “Sequoia,” a bi-weekly newsletter.  Other Twomey and Mihalovich ads exhibit the an “art nouveau” style and elegant restraint that can only be considered remarkable in the saloon trade. 
What first sparked my interest in the Yellowstone Saloon and the men who ran it was their choice of containers for the whiskey they were selling to retail customers.  They fancied pint sized jugs in white Albany slip with their label on the front.  The jug at right deserves special mention.  It advertises The Yellowstone C.P.S. (copper pot still) Bourbon in a distinctive container.  The design identifies it immediately as a product of White’s Pottery in Utica, New York — often referred to as “White’s Utica.”  The partners had reached more than 2,800 miles across the United States to commission this jug — an expensive effort but one that made their whiskey distinctive in San Francisco.

To these merchandising measures, Twomey & Miholovich added another attraction at the Yellowstone Saloon. It held, as one commentator noted:  “One of the most varied and interesting collections of minerals to be found in the state.”  The partners collected interesting rocks for years and displayed them in their drinking establishment.  Their assemblage included nuggets of gold, silver, copper, antimony, lead, tin, quicksilver, nickel and cobalt as well as “rare ores” such as covelite, shown left, and boleite, shown right.  The collection also featured semi-precious stones such as opals, agates, topaz in lava, and quartz. 

The Yellowstone Saloon minerals exhibit was reputed to be “a great attraction to visitors,” even those not interested in mining.  The proprietors welcomed questions about the items and, it was said, “all information is freely and cheerfully furnished.”  It probably did not hurt to buy a drink first at the Yellowstone bar.

Surviving the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906, the Yellowstone Saloon continued to prosper.  The Pacific Wine & Spirits Review reported to its readers that patrons of the “famous” Yellowstone Saloon need not fear “a possible dearth in their favorite resort.”  Twomey and Miholovich had the largest and best supplied cellars of all the retailers in San Francisco, the trade paper reported.  The partners apparently continued to operate their watering hole until the onset of National Prohibition.  I have been unable to find details of their later lives or what happened to their minerals collection.

It is sufficient to say that James Twomey and Vincent Miholovich had made a smashing success of the Yellowstone.  By dint of hard work and imagination they had resurrected a saloon that was “on the rocks,” and by featuring a roomful of rocks, made it one of San Francisco most notable.