Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Vickburg’s C. J. Miller Knew a Lot about Mississippi Mud

                      

When the sun goes down, the tide goes out,
The people gather round and they all begin to shout,
Hey, hey, Uncle Dud, it’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud,
It’s a treat to beat your feet on the Mississippi mud.

Older folks may remember “Mississippi Mud,”  very popular song from the 1920s and ‘30s.  For Charles Miller of Vicksburg, the lyrics would have had a special meaning.  He knew Mississippi mud intimately, both as the owner of a fleet of river boats, including the one shown above, and as a dealer in whiskey whose jugs were fashioned from Mississippi clay.

Miller’s acquaintance with Mississippi mud was lifelong.  He was born in Vicksburg in 1861 of German immigrant parents and although too young to remember the Civil War siege of the town, grew up along the banks of the great river. He was educated in the schools of Vicksburg and at an early age entered into the local workforce.

Miller married in 1883. His bride was Josephine Moguin (sometimes given as McGuin), who had been born in Illinois.  According to the Mississippi Marriage Book, they were wed, with the Rev. H. A. Pichart presiding, in St. Paul’s Catholic Church.  Both were 22 years old.  They would have two children, George W. and Alice.  Miller’s obituary described him as “quiet and unassuming” and “a kind husband, a loving father.…”

At the time of his marriage Charles was working for other people, presumably in the mercantile trades.  About four years after his marriage,  having accumulated sufficient resources, he ventured out on his own in 1887, creating the C. J. Miller Company and began selling liquor.  It was a smart move.  In the period from 1880 to 1910, Vicksburg experienced tremendous growth. As one history puts it:  “It was the heyday of the steamboat, the completion of railroad construction, and the establishment of a comprehensive local streetcar system.”  The town was booming.

His local customers could reach Miller’s store by rail and he could ship his whiskey both west across the Mississippi and east by railroad as well as up and down river and tributaries by boat.  The 1900 census found him and his family living in the Second Ward of Vicksburg, his occupation given as a liquor dealer.  
Miller’s success can be measured by the plethora of whiskey jugs bearing his name. They were fashioned out of Mississippi mud, soil that contained clay elements suited for manufacturing salt-glazed stoneware. Vicksburg boasted several potteries.  Miller apparently liked variety in his containers.  Shown here are seven different whiskey jugs he produced.  Most are covered with cream Bristol glaze, with an occasion example bearing a brown Albany slip top.  Some have his label printed over the glaze, some under.  Miller must have fancied bailed handled jugs, as shown in three examples here.

Whiskey proved to be very profitable.  About 1900 Miller was able to move his family to a large home in a fashionable neighborhood at 2300 Drummond Street.  The house, shown below, is on the National Register of Historic Places in Vicksburg as a classic Queen Anne style structure.  The the house, shown here, is a two story frame building with a steeply hipped roof with lower gables and a tower placed at the side of the front facade.  The porch is two-tiered with considerable decorated detailing.

The Miller home became a excellent residence for the couple’s expanding community involvement.  Both Charles and Josephine were devout members of St. Paul’s Church, where they had been married.  Miller also was a member of the Vicksburg Lodge 95 of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks and cultivated many friendships through active participation in the Goose Lake Hunting Club. 
Miller’s prosperity was also helping him finance other investments.  He bought some rich Mississippi bottom land around an area known as Spanish Fort south of Vicksburg and operated large a plantation there.  He also helped establish a Vicksburg bank called the American Bank & Trust Company and became a director. With the advent of motorized transport, Charles founded and was president of the Miller-Guchereau (his son-in-law) Motor Truck Company. Miller’s principal interest, however, was in plying the “Big Muddy” as the owner of the Mississippi River Ferry Company.

The importance of these outside businesses was made clear in 1907, when  the State of Mississippi voted dry — no alcohol could be sold in the state.  State prohibition may not have immediately caused Miller to shut down.  Neighboring Louisiana was still very, very “wet” and there was no obstacle to sending whiskey over the river.  Moreover, the availability of rail and water transport meant that Charles could ship his products to other states, even dry ones, since interstate traffic in liquor was not banned until 1913.  In the 1910 census, Miller still listed his occupation as owner of a wholesale liquor house. 

As the prohibition noose tightened over the next few years, however, Miller was forced to shut the doors on his liquor enterprise.  In the 1920 census he gave his occupation as "steamboat owner."  At that time he was operating a fleet of boats out of Vicksburg, principally running up into tributaries of the Mississippi, including the Yazoo and Sunflower Rivers — both famous for the mud they carried into the Mississippi.   One of his ferries, seen at the top of this post, he named for himself: “The Charles J. Miller.” That picture, by the way, was taken by the famous WPA photographer Walker Evans.  Another boat was named for his son, George W. Miller.

In February 1926 Charles Miller died in his home at the age of 65.  According to his obituary in the Vicksburg Evening Post, “The end came peacefully…after a prolonged illness, during which time everything known to medical science was done in order that the life of this good man might be spared.” His funeral was held at St. Paul’s Church with his wife, children and two brothers mourning by the casket.  Pallbearers included many of Vicksburg’s leading citizens.  Miller was interred in Vicksburg’s Cedar Grove Cemetery.
A final word on this Mississippi whiskey man was written in the Vicksburg Evening Post obituary. It opined:  “Mr. Miller stood at all times for what was right and just, and was always willing to cooperate and do his part in any undertaking that was for the betterment and advancement of Vicksburg.”  To which I would add:  “This would include making the most out of Mississippi mud.”

Note:  Much of the information for this post was obtained from a short article by Bobbie Beyers Ferguson that appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of Mississippi River Routes, the quarterly journal of the Vicksburg Genealogical Society.  Ms. Ferguson replicated in full the local newspaper obituary of Charles Miller.  The photos were derived from a variety of other sources.





















Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who the Heck Was Pappy Van Winkle?


                 
A friend calls me weekly to tell me about his efforts to see, buy and ultimately to taste Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey.  The apparent limited supplies of this bourbon, some of it shown above, has occasioned what some journalists have called a “craze” to own a bottle.   The hubbub is all very well but it has raised in my mind the question:  “Who the heck was Pappy Van Winkle?”  So I found out.
Born in the town of Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky in 1874, Pappy, shown above, was christened Julian Procter Van Winkle.  His was a distinguished family. Originating in Holland, the Van Winkles had come to the New World with Peter Stuyvesant in 1647.  A relatively common name in New York State, theirs was used by Author Washington Irving as the title of a short story published in 1819 as well as the name of the chief character, Rip Van Winkle.  

Following the movement of Americans ever westward, Pappy’s grandfather, Abraham Van Winkle, moved to Kentucky during the late 18th Century.  His son was Miciah Van Winkle who married a woman named Mary Phillips.  Among their children was Pappy’s father, John S. Winkle, and an uncle, Ephraim.  Both of those Van Winkles would come into prominence in Kentucky.  Although Miciah was a farmer, he apparently was a successful and prosperous one, able to exempt two sons from working the land and help provide them with advanced education.  

After receiving primary and secondary schooling in Monticello, Kentucky, John Van Winkle began working as a salesman in a local store.  Then, with brother Ephraim, he studied law, graduating from the Law Department of the University of Louisville.  In 1854 he was admitted to the Kentucky bar.  John practiced in Wayne County and was elected to the state legislature in 1861.  Meanwhile Ephraim Van Winkle, shown here,  was rising in the political and legal circles of the Blue Grass State,  culminating in his being appointed Secretary of State in 1863.  Despite being a Democrat in politics, Ephraim was a staunch emancipationist, quoted as “believing that the institution of slavery was a blot on the Nation.”  John Van Winkle, it can be assumed, had similar views.  When Ephraim died in office after the end of the Civil War, the governor appointed John to serve out the term.

In January 1858 John had married Mary Buster of Wayne County.  With her death several years later — and no children — he married Louise Dillion in January 1867.  From an old and well known Kentucky family, she was 11 years his junior.  The couple would produce seven children, six sons and one daughter.  Among the Van Winkle sons was Julian Procter.  The 1880 census found the family living in Danville.  The future “Pappy” was six years old and at school.  As a lawyer with considerable assets,  John Van Winkle may not have pleased with Julian’s decision, as the boy matured, to eschew the legal profession and about the age of 19 to become a “commercial traveler.”

Julian/Pappy may have sensed that his home town was on a downward spiral.  After its establishment in 1783,  Danville had assumed a place of importance in Kentucky.  Centrally located in the state, between 1784 and 1792 it hard been the scene of ten conventions to petition for better governance and ultimately to secure independence from Virginia.  After a state constitution was adopted and separation occurred, as one history put it: “The town ceased to be of statewide importance and its leading citizens moved elsewhere.”  In Pappy’s case the move was 80 miles north and west to Louisville, a booming town, a whiskey town.

In 1893 he sought work as a salesman from William Weller, who at the time was at the helm of a company called William L. Weller & Sons.  Weller was a liquor wholesaler, purchasing whiskey on the open market and contracting for large lots from distillers, principally the Stitzel Brothers Distillery in Louisville. Pappy’s job was to travel around the state by horse and buggy peddling Weller’s liquor to saloons and other retail outlets.  Pappy later recounted that Weller once gave him some “on the road advice” about not drinking with customers:  “If you want a drink, you’ve got samples in your bag and you can drink in your room.”

After Weller died, his sons continued to manage the business until 1909 when they sold out to their star salesman, Pappy Van Winkle, and another employee, Alex F. Farnsley.  In order to insure a more secure supply of raw whiskey, the partners saw the need to own at least a part interest in a distillery and invested in the Stitzel plant. Initially Van Winkle was president of W.L. Weller and Sons and secretary/treasurer of Stitzel Distillery.  Stitzel was the president of the distillery and secretary/treasurer of W. L. Weller and Sons, and Farnsley was the vice president of both companies.  Eventually the firms were consolidated and incorporated under the name, Stitzel-Weller Distillery, with Pappy as the head man.



Shown above is a letterhead that demonstrated that management structure and carried a picture of the plant in Louisville.  The ability of Pappy and his partners to receive a regular supply of whiskey from that facility permitted the company to merchandise a number of brands.  Those included nationally recognized names such as “Old Fitzgerald,” “Cabin Still,” and “Old Elk.”  Lesser known were “Old Mock,” “Belle of Bourbon,” “Old W.L. Weller, “Mammoth Cave,” “Old Rip Van Winkle,” and “Billie Burke,” the latter named for a well-known actress of the time.  Many of these whiskeys were bottled with well-designed and attractive labels.  Shown here are examples of containers for Old Mock, Old Elk and Mammoth Cave, the last a colorful back of the bar bottle.
Meanwhile Pappy was becoming family man.  About 1904 at age 29 he had married a woman he called Katie, who like himself was Kentucky born. Of Katie a  descendent later commented:  “My grandmother was a strong woman and kept Pappy reined in pretty well….” The 1910 census found the couple, married six years and still with no children, living in Louisville’s Seven Ward.  Pappy’s occupation was given as “wholesale whiskey — employer.”  A daughter, Mary, would be born two years later, and two years after that a son, Julian Procter Jr.

The coming of National Prohibition in 1920 did not strike Pappy and his partners as hard as other distiller/wholesalers.  The Stitzel-Weller firm was licensed by the Federal Government to produce whiskey for “medicinal purposes” and during the 13 “dry” years kept busy providing product to satisfy the skyrocketing number of prescriptions written by the medical fraternity.  Pappy, however, cannily gave his occupation to the 1930 census taker as “real estate.”

Despite the passage of time, Pappy was still a whiskey man. When Repeal came, at age 61 in 1935 he quickly opened a new Stitzel-Weller distillery in South Louisville on Derby Day.  As Julian Proctor Jr. matured he was taken into the company, along with Pappy’s son-in-law, King McClure.  Shown here is Pappy in a family photo with his son and grandson, Julian Proctor Van Winkle III.  The young heir apparently is sticking his tongue out at the camera.
This grandson in maturity was interviewed and asked to talk about what Pappy had been like.  Julian III’s memory was hazy but he recalled that his grandfather even at an advanced age was often absorbed in the work of running his whiskey empire:  “He was the oldest active distiller, so he was serious about his business and then, you know, turn that off and be a great grandfather when we’d be together.”   Pappy also apparently had time for recreation.  Shown here is a photo of the elderly Van Winkle playing golf.  He had rigged up his dog to be the caddy, harnessed to the golf bag.  Presumably no squirrels were on the course.
Although Pappy had a reputation as a story teller, Julian III also was vague about specifics.  He helpfully noted, however, that during the 1950s Pappy regularly had written an advertising column in Time magazine.  In that forum, Julian III said, his grandfather would recount a lot of his old stories and relate them to selling bourbon.  Re-publication of those columns for the benefit of Van Winkle bourbon fans might be a worthy project.

Directing the fortunes of his whiskey empire until almost the very end, Pappy Van Winkle died in February 1965 and was buried in Section 30, Plot 5, of Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery, the graveyard where rest so many Kentucky whiskey greats. He was joined there by Katie three years later.  Their gravesite is marked by a simple cross and at the base “Van Winkle.”

Son Julian took over the distillery operations until he was forced to sell by stockholders in 1972.  The rights to all the Van Winkle brands were either sold with the distillery or to other distillers.  But the family kept the rights to one brand name, Old Rip Van Winkle.  Like Washington Irving’s fictional character, the Old Rip label arose from a slumber — this time of a half century — to become the vehicle for Julian Jr. and Julian III to continue Pappy’s tradition of making fine bourbon.  Family members currently are in a joint venture with the Buffalo Trace Distillery that produces all Van Winkle brands in limited amounts under their guidelines.
A great-grandson (Preston, not another Julian) joined the firm in 2001 and Van Winkles are expected to carry on the family tradition for generations to come. Pappy will be ever present.  Not only in his recipe for making fine wheat bourbon but in the cigar-smoking portrait that graces many bottles of his highly sought after whiskey.  


































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. He appears to have located in Ogden where he opened a branch of a Chicago liquor dealership called Rubel & Penglase.  By 1889, he and his growing family were back in Chicago.  Subsequently 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 “mrbottles.com” website which has many excellent photos of Wisconsin vintage whiskeys.