Monday, August 27, 2012

Huey and Christ Made a Whiskey for All Seasons

When the Philadelphia liquor firm founded by William M. Huey and Amos H. Christ launched its flagship brand called Bailey’s Pure Rye, they touted it as a whiskey good for a lifetime and on all occasions.   Shown here is a large billboard for Bailey’s.  It recommends it as a spirit for “boylads,” and advises that these youths “take it in moderation and grow old gracefully.”

A similar note was struck on a paperweight issued by Huey & Christ.  It represents Bailey’s as good for social occasions, with friends gathered around the table, as well when one is hospitalized and being provided a snort by a uniformed nurse.  Illustrated with a “boylad” and a seated elderly gentleman, the message once again was to take Bailey’s Pure Rye in moderation and thereby grow old gracefully.  The firm’s advertising emphasized this theme over and over.

Although Huey and Christ both were born in Pennsylvania the same year, 1844, they came from different backgrounds.  Huey was the son of an immigrant to the U.S.  Christ’s parents were native born in Pennsylvania. They may have met as schoolmates, although their early years are not detailed.  Evidence is that Amos was in the Union Army during the Civil War since later he later was a member of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) organization.

Although the partners would later claim that their firm was founded in 1837, that was seven years before either of them was born. There is evidence Christ had previously been engaged as a liquor merchant. The company first shows up in Philadelphia directories in 1875, located at 121 North Third St.  The directory characterized Huey & Christ as:  “Manufacturers of Bailey Pure Rye Whiskey and Dr. Stoever’s Tonic Herb Bitters. Importer of wines, brandies and gins.”

At that point the partners may not have had the right to the Bailey Rye trademark.  For some years earlier that brand had been sold by Kryder & Company, another Philadelphia liquor dealer.  Huey & Christ bought the rights to the name and never looked back.  With the subseqent growth in business, the company was squeezed for space and moved in 1885 to a four-story building, shown here, located at 1207-1209 Market Street.  There they became known as wholesale liquor dealers and the sole proprietor of Bailey’s Pure Rye.  A close look at the first building shows displays of liquor in the storefront windows and a large roof sign advertising Bailey’s.

Meanwhile the partners were getting on with their personal lives.  The 1880 census found Christ, age 37, living with  his wife Lavinia in Philadelphia’s Ward Twelve.  They had married in 1868 and in 1880 had four minor children at home, all boys.   William Huey, according to one report,  married a woman named Annie Moore who had arrived in Philadelphia from Northern Ireland between 1869 and 1873.  They too would have a family.

With the expanded space on Market Street, Huey & Christ began a new venture, co-located at their Market Street address.  They called it the Florida Wine Company, Ltd.  Huey was listed as president and Christ as vice-president.  The manager was Amos M. Schultz.  This firm specialized, according to ads, in “pure orange wine,” -- appropriate to its Florida name.

Unlike other whiskey blenders, Huey & Christ featured just one brand, marketed very aggressively.  A 1900 company ad urged the use of Bailey’s Pure Rye in cases of typhoid fever.  It  stated:  “Convalescents are advised by eminent physicians, because of well-known general excellence, purity and medicinal properties, to use Bailey’s Pure Rye.”  In 1895 Huey & Christ bought an interest in a distillery, shown here, called the Philadelphia Rye Whiskey Distilling Company.  It was located at Eddington, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County.  C. T. Hanna was the manager.  Little else is known about this facility which was Registered Distillery #77, First District of Pennsylvania.

The partial ownership of a distillery gave Huey & Christ an assured supply of the raw product they need for their blending efforts. They sold their “pure rye” in kegs and in bottles,  the latter embossed with the Bailey’s name.  They also were known for their giveaway merchandising items, including tip trays and saloon signs.  Their merchandising always stressed the theme that Bailey’s Pure Rye was liquor for all seasons of life.

With their growing wealth,  the partners ventured into the Atlantic Ocean town of Cape May, New Jersey.   It appears both bought summer homes at this popular seaside resort.  Christ gained a reputation as a yachtsman, ultimately becoming the commodore of the Holly Beach Club in nearby Wildwood Crest.  It is shown here on a postcard. A 1908 New York Times article cites Amos as leading his club in a regatta and race for motorboats registered along the Jersey and Maryland shores.

The foundations of Huey & Christ were shaken in 1902 with the death of William Huey at the early age of 58.   His passing touched off a feud between Christ and the Huey family,  led by his widow and son, Arthur T. Huey, who was the administrator of his father’s estate.   The Hueys claimed that Christ owed them $19,604.40, much of it relating to the sale of the Market Street building in 1910 and a move to 1308 Arch Street.   Christ was able to convince the court of original jurisdiction that he already had paid much of what was owed and disputed the Huey’s other claims.  When the lower court found in his favor, the Hueys took the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  That court also found for Christ.

Still, this must have been a difficult time for Amos.  His wife of 41 years, Lavinia, had died in 1909.  The 1910 census found him living with an unmarried son.  His own health was declining and in 1913 he died.  Christ was buried next to Lavinia in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.   William Huey is buried nearby in the same graveyard.  Family members continued to pilot the firm until 1918 when Prohibition pressures shut it down and ended for all seasons the sale of Bailey’s Pure Rye.

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