Saturday, March 10, 2012

Levy & Glosking of Delaware: Targeted by Temperance

Market Street, Dover Delaware

For Conrad Glosking and Jacob Levy, one of German Catholic background, the other of German Jewish ancestry, involvement in the liquor trade was an unashamed part of their heritages. Together they forged a wholesale liquor and distilling company that was unsurpassed in the State of Delaware. Unfortunately, it also made Levy & Glosking a tempting target for the forces of Prohibition and ultimately they struck.

Conrad Glosking was born in 1865 in Philadelphia into a family of German immigrants from Rhineland-Palatinate in Western Germany. His father, Henry nee Heinrich, ran a wine house in the City of Brotherly Love, providing a living for his wife, Elizabeth, and five children. The 1880 census found all of them at home, with everyone but the youngest out of school and working. Conrad, then age 15, listed his occupation as “segar maker.”

Jacob Levy shows up 1900 census, living with his wife and children in the Slaughter Subdivision of Dover, Delaware. In a local survey Levy was represented as “Euro-American of Prussian descent.” He owned a distillery on N. Front Street in Dover in a neighborhood described as largely Afro-American.

How Gosking and Levy connected is not clear. By the late 1890s Glosking had left off making “segars” in Philadelphia and had joined Levy in a Wilmington, Delaware, wholesale liquor business with a store on Market Street, shown above as it looked in the 1890s. They called their company Levy & Glosking. State tax records show that the company paid $100 in 1905 for a license to produce alcoholic beverages. 

They also were listed as owners of a distillery on North Street in Dover, 47 miles from Wilmington, probably the same facility that Levy had begun some years earlier.  According to a 1906 government survey, Levy & Glosking's Dover complex consisted of the distillery, two warehouses, an office building , a storage facility and four out-buildings. 

The company prospered, issuing whiskey containers that variously cite each city. Of particular interest are the firm’s stoneware jugs, shown here, all with a Dover address. They bear differences in shape, color and, albeit slightly, in fancy calligraphy. Years later the Wilmington Museum would feature Levy & Glosking jugs in an exhibit.

The Wilmington address appears on the label of the Levy & 
Glosking flagship brand, Diamond State Rye Whiskey, named after Delaware’s state sobriquet. That whiskey was sold in flask size and, as shown here, in quarts. The company also issued shot glasses that advertised the brand. With passage of the Bottle-in-Bond Act by Congress, the partners joined up and put their warehouses under government control, as reflected by the label on Diamond State Rye. Federal records show five bonded warehouse transactions by the partners from 1898 to 1914.

Meanwhile, the forces of Prohibition were closely watching Levy & Glosking’s success in Delaware. A group of Temperance advocates in nearby Philadelphia had formed an organization called the “Law and Order Society.” Composed of clergy and others dedicated to a “dry” America they had succeed in getting laws passed in Pennsylvania and Delaware that decreed that no one under the age of 21 could work in a saloon or barroom. Because much of the help for such establishments came from youth under 21, the laws severely constricted the labor pool for drinking establishments.

In 1914 Levy & Glosking reapplied for their usual state license. It allowed the company to compound and rectify as well as sell intoxicating liquors to be drunk off premises, in any quality not less than one-half gallon. To their surprise and consternation, the issuance of the license was challenged in court by the Law and Order Society. It alleged that the partners employed a minor in and about their store to handle liquor, contrary to law, and that the youth transferred whiskey from barrels to bottles on premises. As a result, the Society contended, the liquor was unsealed and the opportunity given to minors to imbibe.  In effect, Levy & Glosking were being accused of running the equivalent of a saloon. The lawyer for the Society was Caleb E. Burchenal, who also was the attorney for the Delaware Anti-Saloon League.

Daniel O. Hastings
If the Delaware license had been denied, Levy & Glosking were finished. The partners fought back by hiring perhaps the most potent lawyer available in Delaware. He was Daniel O. Hastings, shown here. Hastings had served as Deputy Attorney General of Delaware from 1904 until 1909, Secretary of State from January 1909 to June 1909. He then resigned to accept an appointment as Associate Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and served there until resigning in January 1911. He also had been Special Counsel for the Delaware General Assembly in 1911 and City Solicitor of Wilmington. Later Hastings would be elected to the United States Senate from Delaware. Without a a doubt Levy & Glosking had hired a Delaware legal powerhouse.

Hastings effectively made the case that Levy & Glosking were not, in fact, a saloon and that the law on minors had no application to them. Burchenal had no real answer. The judge agreed with Hastings and dismissed the argument of the Temperance forces. At the same time, however, no doubt feeling political heat from that cause, the judge suggested that the “spirit of the law” if not its letter militated against minors working anywhere liquor was involved. The judge concluded: “And we now caution against the employment of minors for such purpose,” hinting that in the future such a practice might result in refusing a license. Then he decreed that a license be granted once again to Levy & Glosking.

The victory was not to be long lasting for the co-owners. As National Prohibition was voted, Levy & Glosking were forced to terminate business in 1919. Almost immediately the Dover distillery premises was occupied by the Harrington & Bailey Apple Products Company, later to become an ice plant and cold storage warehouse. All the other buildings on the property were demolished by 1929.

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