Saturday, September 29, 2012

For Frank Detrick the Motto was the Message

J. (for Jacob) Frank Detrick, the founder of the Detrick Distilling Company of Dayton, Ohio,  clearly was interested in providing advice both about life and about drinking.  Detrick began his business about 1885 grinding wheat and corn under the name Detrick Milling Company. It was located in Tippacanoe City (now Tipp City), a town of about 6,000 a few miles north of Dayton.   With excess grain able to be fermented, it was almost a natural move to distilling and by 1897, the company was renamed the Detrick Milling and Distilling Co. 

Frank the founder showed a real genius for marketing --  with mottos always in the fore. He put them on his jugs,  postcards and brochures.  Detrick’s  pre-Pro distillery issued a dozen different motto jugs.  They are almost uniformly four 1/2 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.   The containers are heavy stoneware with Albany slip tops and Bristol white glaze bottoms. No mark identifies the pottery.  As shown here,  they come in two styles.   Both say “motto jug” but the older has larger type, often in uneven lines.  The new style keep things within a rectangular label.   They are part of a set of 11,  which can be divided into three categories:  downright philosophical,  pep talks, and slogans keyed to the whiskey contents.

In his promotional literature, Detrick gave each different jug a number.  By his own ordering system,  they are:
1.  “As I go up the hill of prosperity, may I never meet a friend.”
2.  “Eat, drink and be merry”  (Fig. 8)
3.  “While we live, let us live” (Fig. 9)
4.   “May fortune forever smile on you.”
5.   “To err is human, to forgive divine” (Fig. 10)
6.   “There is always more where I come from”
(Fig. 11)
7.   “I am always welcome wherever I go”
8.   “A friend in need is a friend indeed”
9.   “When you see me you will always smile” (Fig. 12)
10.  “If you try me once, you will try me again”
11.  “Drink, weary pilgrim,  for tomorrow you die”
12.   “Rye on toast (Try it -Its on the inside of our toast jug)”


“Toast jug” was another name Frank Detrick gave to his small ceramics.  In an era before the idea of “collectibles” was invented,  he was promoting these jugs as souvenirs.  In a company brochure he described them this way:  “They make very acceptable ornaments for your library,  den or dining room.  Besides each jug is filled with the celebrated Detrick’s Special Selected Whiskey -- enough for five or six good drinks.” (Author’s note -- not really.) Detrick provided these stoneware containers to mail order customers for buying full-sized bottles of his whiskey,  rock and rye, brandy and other alcoholic products.   If a customer ordered one gallon of liquor he received one motto jug as a bonus;  three gallons and he could choose four.

Detrick used other media for getting his message across. Shown here is a Detrick marketing postcard showing a camel carrying a bottle of whiskey and carrying this message:  “A camel can go seven days without a drink....But who wants to be a camel?”  A 1909 Detrick ad states:  “Quality not quantity our motto.”  Another slogan was “Fine old whiskey for medicinal use.”  Detrick’s love of snappy sayings was also evident in a booklet he issued to advertise his products.  Under the heading,  “toasts worth knowing,”  he served up,  among others, the following:

    “Here’s to our wives and sweethearts!  May they never meet!”
    “Here’s to the happiest hours of my life.  Spent in the arms of another man’s wife.   My mother!”
    “He who loves not wine, women and song, remains a fool his whole life long.”
    “Let’s have wine and women, mirth and laughter;  sermons and soda water the day after.”


Most of Detrick’s business was done through mail orders not only in Ohio but throughout the United States.  Detrick also gave away other merchandise to favored customers including a series of shot glasses and as a sales gimmick distributed an “introductory sale certificate” worth fifty cents in merchandise.   He signed it “J. F. Detrick, President and Gen’l Mgr.”

The Detrick Distilling Co. retail store and mail order department was located at 313-315 East First Street,  shown here. By 1908, he was shipping from 35 S. Ludlow Street. The company also had a branch in Chattanooga, Tennessee, listed in the 1912 and 1913 directories at 225 East Eleventh Street under the (misspelled) name "Detrick."  With the onset of Prohibition, Detrick returned to milling under the name of the Detrick Grain and Mercantile Company.

As for Detrick’s personal life, from U.S. Census data it appears that he was born in Ohio about 1856.   In 1885 at the age of 29 he married a woman named Mary (also recorded as Marietta), who like Frank was a native of Ohio.  The 1900 census found them living in Tipp City, without any children present.  Frank gave his occupation simply as “grain dealer,” with no mention of whiskey.  The 1920 census found the family in Miami, Ohio.  Frank, then 64, was listed as a “retired grain dealer.” 











Saturday, September 22, 2012

James E. Pepper: Was His Whiskey Revolutionary?


James Pepper of Lexington, Kentucky, claimed that his whiskey could be dated to the year 1780,  smack in the midst of the American Revolutionary War.   His grandfather, Elijah Pepper, sometimes was credited with beginning the first distillery in Kentucky,  a claim that might have been disputed by others but never by his grandson.   As a result, as shown below,  Pepper’s merchandising, including signs, trays and tokens, that stress the Nation’s first war.  As will be explained later, however, the real revolution for his whiskey may have occurred after his death.

The story of Pepper whiskey and his Henry Clay distillery has been told well by William Ambrose in his 2002 book “Bottled in Bond.”  In keeping with my policy of not repeating  material that has been well done previously,  I will quote Ambrose for the bulk of this vignette but first set the scene:  Pepper who had already run a Kentucky distillery owned by his late father, Oscar, sold it,  went East to learn the wholesale liquor trade, returned to Kentucky in 1878, and teamed up with a  wealthy Kentucky businessman named George Starkweather.  Starkweather recently had bought the defunct Henry Clay distillery located in Fayette County, Kentucky.  Ambrose picks up the story in 1880:

Starkweather then established a partnership with Colonel James. E. Pepper and the pair reestablished a distillery on the site. Pepper designed the distillery and the layout of equipment and he hired local architect John McMurty to translate these ideas into plans and specifications.

The grounds contained 48-1/2 acres. The distillery was constructed of brick and enclosed a floor space of 40,000 sq. ft. The plant had 20 fermentation tubs of 6,500 gallons and 700 mash tubs of 72 gallons. The three-chambered beer still held 2,500 gallons and the doubler, 1,200 gallons. Both were made of copper.

Pepper installed four steam boilers to provide heat to the mash tubs and stills at a time when many distilleries were still using open flames for heat. In addition, he installed two steam engines of 125 hp each to supply power. The engines drove a series of shafts throughout the plant and these powered the machinery through a series of pulleys and belts. He purchased a six roller mill, also powered by belts, to grind his grains into uniform consistency. He designed rows of windows on two sides of his plant to allow ventilation and lighting. These designs, while not revolutionary, allowed the distillery to operate with higher efficient, improved yields and uniform quality. Moreover, it allowed him to distill a consistent, higher grade whiskey that was his hallmark.


The plant was finished in April with a capacity of 28 barrels (roughly 300 bu) per day. They produced "Old Pepper Whiskey" and "Old Henry Clay", a Rye whiskey.

In September 1880 the company let bids for the construction of two bonded warehouses. Both warehouses were roughly 9,000 sq. ft, four stories high and projected to hold 10,000 barrels of whiskey. The foundations were of stone, walls of brick and roof of iron clad. The first warehouse was finished in late 1880 and the second finished in early 1881.

Over the next twenty years, Pepper constructed four additional warehouses - giving the distillery bonded storage of 60,000 barrels. These warehouses were:
Warehouse "A" -- 10,000 barrels, built in 1880
Warehouse "B" -- 8,500 barrels, 1881
Warehouse "C" -- 6,000 barrels, 1890
Warehouse "D" -- 5,000 barrels, 1897
Warehouse "E" -- 8,500 barrels, 1897
Warehouse "F" -- 11,000 barrels, 1901

Water for the distillery was supplied from the farm of Colonel Wilson - with a basin of 75 feet square - and conveyed to the plant by a 5" pipeline. Two pumps supplied 1,000,000 gallons per day. The plant also maintained 500 head of cattle fed from the sillage.

The Louisville, Cincinnati and Lexington Railroad (later Louisville & Nashville Railroad) had tracks on both sides of the plant, with a siding into the distillery on the Frankfort Pike side.

1882: The plant's capacity had increased to 50 barrels per day, 10,000 barrels per year (value $300,000), operating 10 months of the year with 40 hands paid an average of $1.75 per day. They purchased oak barrels from the Bauer Cooperage
Company for $2.50 each. The distillery was valued $125,000 and at the time was the largest distillery in the world.

In February, fire destroyed the cattle sheds and pens with a net loss of $4,000 to $5,000. The incident was fully covered by the Western Insurance Company.

1883: Starkweather died in December and Pepper acquired his interest for $70,000. He then sold half his stake in the company to Colonel William S Barnes of Lexington, Kentucky. Both Colonels Pepper and Barnes traveled around the United States promoting "Old Pepper" whiskey. Colonel Pepper concentrated on the East Coast, especially New York, and Colonel Barnes promoted in the North and West, especially in the Chicago area.
1886: The company began bottling "Old Pepper" whiskey in quarts and pint flasks. The entry into the bottling business was to counter the rectifiers that blended whiskey with cheaper substitutes and sold the product under the Pepper name.
1889: The bottling trade was so successful that the company faced a shortage of aged whiskey. They purchased 1,000 barrels from the Wm. Tarr & Co.'s Ashland Distillery and 500 barrels elsewhere. This was blended under Colonel Pepper's supervision with the existing stock of "Old Pepper" whiskey.

1891: In July, Pepper brought out Barnes for $100,000 in cash and brood mares. Over the ten years, Colonel Barnes had taken out $250,000 in profits; receiving $25,000 to $30,000 annually from his interest.

1892: In January, Pepper closed out all of bottling contracts with independent brokers. The following
 year, Krauss, Hart, Felbel & Company became the exclusive dealer in bottled "Old Pepper Whiskey" nationwide, except for California . The contract specified that they would purchase 30,000 cases of bourbon, 1,000 barrels of bourbon and 200 barrels of rye whiskey each year.

Insurance underwriter records from 1892 describe the distillery as being brick with a frame addition and with a metal or slate roof. The property included five warehouses:
Warehouse A -- brick with a metal or slate roof, located 275 ft SE of the still.
Warehouse B -- brick with a metal or slate roof, located 225 ft SE of the still. Part of this warehouse was Free.
Warehouse C -- ironclad with a metal or slate roof, located 475 ft SE of the still.
Warehouse D -- iron clad with a metal or slate roof, located 600 ft SE of the still. Warehouses "C" and "D" were adjoining.
Warehouse E -- ironclad with a metal or slate roof, located 600 ft SE of the still and 36 ft north of "C".

At that time, it was being operated by Jas. E Pepper & Co.

On September 12, the cattle pens were again destroyed by fire. The distillery had ceased production the previous month and arson was suspected because of several small fires around the distillery over the past few months. Damages were limited to several thousand dollars.

1893: An economic depression began that lasted five years and caused Pepper's thoroughbred investments and the value of whiskey stocks to fall dramatically. As a result, the company was placed in receivership (April 15, 1896).

1896: On September 19, the distillery was sold at public auction to Mrs. James E. Pepper for $43,142.69. She paid for it in cash from the prize purses of her thoroughbred stable.


In December, Jas. E. Pepper & Co. was organized, with $150,000 in capital. Colonel Pepper owned 2,994 shares, John G. Offutt (his bother-in-law) and Charles O. Johnson (bookkeeper) owned three shares each. These allowed them to quality as directors under the laws of the time. The company was authorized to "engage in the manufacturing, handling, selling and dealing in distilled spirits at the old distillery, formerly run by James E. Pepper, and in buying, feeding and selling of cattle and hogs".

1897: On February 9, Mrs. Pepper transferred the plant, equipment, stock and other assets purchased at auction to the new concern. The company issued $150,000 in bonds that matured in five years at 6% interest, payable in gold coins and secured with a first mortgage on the company assets. The assets included the Old Pepper Distillery and the trademarks of "Genuine Old Pepper", "Henry Clay" and script signature Jas. E. Pepper & Co. The financing allowed the resumption of operations and the next day the company resumed distilling bourbon. The officers at this time were James E. Pepper (President), A. G. Kinsley (Vice President) and James G. Hubbell (General Manager and Secretary & Treasurer). Mr. Kinsley represented the Harrisburg Trust (who issued the bonds) and the bank placed Mr. Hubbell at the distillery to oversee the financial side of the operations.


1898: Over the next year, Colonel Pepper had constant disagreements with his "overseers" from the trust company. In October Hubbell attempted to take control of the distillery by securing the bonds, but in November 1898, Mrs. Pepper purchased a majority of the bonds, again using winning purses from her thoroughbred stable. Hubbell made one more attempt to secure control of the distillery, by having the Harrisburg Trust declare the bonds in default and have a receiver (Mr. Hubbell) appointed. In February 1899 the court refused to appoint a receiver and sided with Mrs. Pepper in replacing the Harrisburg Trust as Trustee.

1899: In February, Warner S. Kinkead was hired as the distillery's Vice President. Mr. Kinkead was an attorney and assumed the business affairs of the company. He was former U. S. Consul to the UK and was married to Mrs. Pepper's sister. Eventually he would become the General Manager of the distillery.

Pepper continued to operate the distillery until his death in December 1906.


This ends the excerpt from Ambrose.  The following year a group of Chicago investors acquired the distillery from the Pepper estate,  improved the distillery and bottling operations.   It was their marketing that coined the slogan, “Born with the Revolution.” After the United States entered the First World War, the Federal government rationed barley grains stocks. The Pepper plant distilled for the last time on November 11, 1918, when the wartime restrictions on grain forced production to stop.  Under different ownerships the James E. Pepper brand continued after Prohibition until phased out in the 1960s.

To me the real James Pepper revolution was in a different realm.  It occurred four years after the death of the founder.  Note here an ad in which the African-American waiter is shown in a typical position of servitude.   Compare it with the last image shown here.  It is a Pepper whiskey publicity shot of Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. In 1910 the former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries came out of retirement as “the Great White Hope” to challenge Johnson. It was called the “Fight of the Century.”  Johnson beat Jeffries handily.   The Pepper advertising clearly was making Johnson a hero at the height of the Jim Crow era.  That, indeed, was truly revolutionary.













Monday, September 17, 2012

Albert Dallemand’s “Gold Rush” to Chicago

His parents were early immigrants to California, perhaps drawn by the prospect of gold or other possibilities for prosperity in America’s Far West.  In maturity, however, Albert Dallemand decided that his path to great fortune led, not in the West, but back East.  Thereupon this whiskey man from San Francisco made his own highly successful gold rush to Chicago.

Dallemand is a Scotch or Irish name and Albert’s parents were from Austria, an indication that they had changed their name or had it changed for them upon entry.  That was the family name by the time Albert was born in 1838.  He apparently showed an early aptitude for business and seems to have been engaged as a youth in learning the liquor trade.  In 1872, having accumulated sufficient capital at the age of 34,  Dallemand and two partners bought out an existing San Francisco wholesale liquor house opened in 1865 by two brothers named Wormser.  It was located on the southwest corner of California and Front Streets.

The new partners called their operation Frank, Dallemand & Company, working out of the same address.   Ever ambitious, Albert bought out his partners in 1875 and shortly after reconstituted the company with a new partner,  a Californian named H.C. Bothin.  Operating as Bothin, Dallemand & Co., the firm showed up in San Francisco directories with locations at 305 Front Street and subsequently at  215 California.   Dallemand added two new partners, Tobias and Max Oberdorfer.  They may have been relatives of his wife, Elise, herself the offspring of Austrian immigrants.


Dallemand became increasingly restive about the limited market and perhaps stiff competition he faced in San Francisco.  In 1885 he opened a branch in Chicago at 192 Jackson Street.   Apparently tiring of the cross-country commute involved, probably a three day train ride each way,  he wrung an agreement from Bothin to dissolve their firm by mutual consent.  Bothin retired and the company became Dallemand & Co.  Albert and Elise moved to Chicago and an agent was selected to distribute the firm’s liquors in California.

By 1887 Dallemand’s Chicago business was moving rapidly toward a national market.  He was advertising heavily in newspapers across the United States.  His flagship brand, blended in his own facilities, was “Cream Pure Rye.”  Although his ads described its “delicious flavor,” he also sold it for medicinal use, claiming that physicians were recommending it “to sufferers from lung diseases, heart failure and weakness succeeding La Grippe.”   He issued it in a distinctive proprietary bottle  embossed with the name.  This and other bottles also had Dallemand’s name embossed at the base.  Other Dallemand house brands were “D & Co.,” Old Joe Murphy,” and “Standard Time.”

At a time when wholesalers and “rectifiers” competed by issuing giveaway items,  both to retail customers and to the establishments featuring their liquor,  Dallemand was in the forefront.  The man on the bar  stool might get a Dallemand token that touted Cream Pure Rye as “rich and mellow” on the reverse, or perhaps a pocket mirror with a similar message.  To the saloonkeeper,  a Dallemand match safe for Cream Pure Rye was presented. The safe issued a challenge:  “Match It If You Can.”   There also were shot glasses and, perhaps most important,  saloon signs.  While some whiskey merchants tended to female nudity in their offerings -- only men were allowed in most drinking establishments--Dallemand’s ladies were generally dressed.

With his growing business,  Dallemand moved to 51 Lake Street where he bottled his wines and liquors for sale. This was a five story building with a basement.   According to records, the washing and filling of bottles from barrels was done in the basement, as shown  on a Dallemand trade card.  The first and second floors were devoted to sales.  The third floor  contained cases of bottles,  also shown on a trade card.  The fourth floor was devoted to containers of unblended whiskey that had been delivered to Dallemand from distillers in Kentucky and elsewhere.  The top floor stored empty bottles, ready for filling.  From top to bottom the floors were connected by an elevator--and there lay a problem.   According to court records, the elevator was operated in a shaft “without any doors or protection whatsoever.”   Nor was there a trained operator.  Both were violations of Chicago’s safety laws.


On August 20, 1894, David Saalfeldt, apparently a new employee, was told by his boss to go to the fifth floor to fetch bottles and take them back to the basement.  Saalfeldt, unfamiliar with the workings of the lift,  fell down the shaft and was killed.  The young man’s father sued Dallemand for negligence in causing David’s death.  The court agreed and levied a judgment, amount undisclosed, against the whiskey man.   Dallemand appealed the verdict to the Appellate Court of Illinois.   After hearing the evidence, the three judge panel upheld the lower court in 1897,  citing Dallemand for negligence and stating:  “...The evidence is conclusive that there was no compliance...with the city ordinance....”

During this court battle over Saalfeldt’s death,  Dallemand suffered another blow when his wife Elise died in 1896, only 45 years old.  There was no indication of surviving children. Her body was taken from the couple’s 2211 Buchanan Street home and by train transported back to San Francisco.  She was buried in the Home of Peace Cemetery in San Mateo, California.  Shortly after these events Dallemand moved his operation down the street to 81 Lake.  He would remain there until 1906.  Subsequently Dallemand & Co. moved frequently to locations on West Monroe, Lasalle Avenue, and finally, its last address, to Dearborn and West Madison.  In 1918, as Prohibition approached,  the company terminated.

Dallemand himself remained in the Windy City, possibly looking after other business interests.  In 1920 after an illness he died there in Michael Reese Hospital.  He was 70 years old and, according to the 1920 census, boarding in The Pines Hotel.  He continued to list his occupation as president of a liquor company. Services were held in a local funeral home and his body transported by rail back to California.  He was interred next to Elise in Home of Peace Cemetery,  not far from the grave of his mother, Caroline.  Having gone East for the action, Albert Dallemand had come back West to a place of rest.











Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Magullions: Up from Shanty Irish

 Brothers Frank and John R. Magullion, noted Boston whiskey dealers, epitomized the upward mobility that the Irish achieved in America in the mid-19th Century.  Their parents, Patrick and Ann, were immigrants from Ireland in the 1840s,  probably from County Leitrim where Magullion is a familiar name. Their father, who may have been illiterate, was a laborer.  The family would have been considered “Shanty Irish” by the Boston Brahmins.

Neither Frank, born in 1850 in the Roxbury district of Boston, nor John, born in 1853, received more than a rudimentary education.   In his obituary, Frank was described as having attended elementary school but having quit school at an early age to go to work.  John was termed after his death as “a man of little education.”

Frank, while still in his teens left working in a sewing machine factory to become a watchmaker.  After four years at that trade, he had save enough money to open a liquor store.  This was circa 1870 when he would have been about 20 years old. His first location was on Washington Street in Boston.  As the enterprise proved successful he moved his company to one of the city’s more fashionable avenues, Tremont Street, shown here.  This location at 496-498 Tremont, corner of Dover Street, would be the home of the Magullion liquor enterprises for decades.

The 1880 census found both Frank, 30, and John, 27, living at home with their widowed mother, Ann Magullion,  and other siblings.  Also in the household was Hannah Magee,  a spinster who likely was a sister of their mother.  John was working in the liquor store with his older brother. Although Frank remained a bachelor all his life,  John was married early in the 1880s to Catherine, like himself of Irish descent. Their first child, a girl, was born in 1884, the first of five daughters, and in 1891 at last, a son.

Meanwhile Frank was rising rapidly in the liquor trade and Boston business circles.  His wholesale and retail liquor trade was conducted, his obituary stated, “on a large scale.” He also had been instrumental in forming the American Brewing Company, a Boston brewery whose original buildings are shown here, and had served as its president since its organization.  Frank Magullion was cited as a honored member of the Charitable Irish Society, the Boston Lodge of the Elks, the Wholesale Liquor Dealers Assn. and past president of the Boston Highland Mutual Relief Society.

While still in his early 40’s,  Frank’s health began to fail and although he made a trip to the American West in an effort to restore it, he continued to be ill.   He returned to attend to his business interests, but took a turn for the worse in the autumn of 1894 and died.  At the time he was living on Dudley Street with the elderly Hannah Magee.  Frank was buried from St. Joseph’s Church and interred in “Old” Calvary Cemetery in Boston.

As Frank faltered, John, who also had achieved a reputation as a Boston businessman,  increasingly was involved in managing the liquor business.  Upon Frank’s death, he took it over and the John R. Magullion firm that same year made its appearance in Boston business directories, located at the Tremont Street address.  The new owner was described as “a man of many friends”  who “devoted his time and efforts to procuring patronage and customers for the business.” 

Under John’s leadership the firm issued several popular whiskeys,  blends probably mixed up on his own premises. They were “Winner Rye,” and “Old Ironsides Rye,” the latter celebrating the U.S.S. Constitution, docked in Boston Harbor.  Magullion sold those brands in embossed bottles, including one showing a second address for his firm at Columbus and Massachusetts Streets in Boston.  Many of his liquors were sold in stoppered bottles, also heavily embossed.  The ceramic stoppers displayed Magullion’s colorful logo. He also showed imagination in issuing giveaway shot glasses.  They included etched images of a horse and rider jumping over a fence for Winner Rye and a three-masted ship for Old Ironsides Rye.

Meanwhile in the early 1890s,  John’s wife, Catherine died, leaving him with a family of six young children to raise.  He soon found a new wife, a woman named Mary some 12 years his junior.   She would bear him another daughter.  John left raising the children to Mary and concentrated on business.  In 1905  Boston records show that the City Council allowed him to erect an illuminated sign at his Columbus Street outlet.  In 1908 the State of Massachusetts agricultural officials accused him of watering down his whiskey.  He was convicted and paid a fine.

Lacking a male heir old enough to assist him in the Magullion Co., John turned to John E.F. Magee,  likely his cousin, a man 18 years younger.  He made Magee a partner, with the responsibilities of a business manager.  The younger man apparently had some training in accounting, something John lacked.  It was Magee who filed for trademark protection for Magullion’s “Old Ironsides” brand of whiskey in 1907.  The arrangement  apparently worked quite well while both men were living.  Upon John’s death about 1916, however, a family feud erupted.

Mary Magullion, the grieving widow, with a second trustee of Magullion’s estate, sued Magee in 1917. They claimed that, without her husband’s knowledge, Magee had purchased a building adjoining the Tremont office at 6 Dover Street and leased it back to the company.  They claimed that Magee had full control of the Magullion Company finances and had bought the building with company money.  The trustees asked that a half interest in the Dover street building be conveyed to them.   A judge in the Superior Court of Suffolk County believed Magee’s defense that Magullion knew about the building purchase and agreed with the lease arrangement.  Unsatisfied, Mary and the estate took the case to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.  After a brief trial the lower court verdict was affirmed.

In rejecting the widow’s complaint, the judge opined of Magullion that despite his lack of education, he appeared to be “well fitted” for the liquor business. That would be a fitting epitaph for both John and Frank, Irish-Americans with whiskey as their trade who had risen from the shanty to the ranks of leading Boston businessmen.


  








Saturday, September 8, 2012

Morris Salzman and “Purity Above All”

Shown here is a clearly affluent family,  presided over by a stern but clearly proud “pater familias.”  His name was Morris Salzman and he made a fortune in the liquor trade in Brooklyn, New York, with the slogan:  “Purity Above All.”

Salzman did not begin life rich.  Born in Austria in 1870,  he emigrated to the United States about 1886 at the age of 16.  He came alone with little money and no ability to speak English,  settling into the Jewish section of New York’s Lower East Side.   He proved to be a quick learner and early on, we can presume, worked in the city’s liquor trade.   By 1892 he was affluent enough to woo and win as his bride,  Rose,  an immigrant herself from Austria who was about five years younger.  Their first child,  Beatrice, was born a year later.  She was followed by Samuel in 1896 and Mamie in 1898.
        
At the turn of the 20th Century,  Salzman teamed with another New Yorker to form their own wholesale and retail liquor operation in Brooklyn, located at 417 6th Avenue. Salzman & Siegelman became known for issuing their whiskey and wines in ceramic jugs.  After several years in business,  for reasons unknown,  Siegelman left the partnership and set up his own business.  Shortly thereafter Salzman himself created a new enterprise called M. Salzman & Co.  It was located in Brooklyn at 248 Third Avenue until Prohibition. The interior is shown here.

As Morris was striking out on his own, the United States was embarked on a major effort to clean up the food and drug industries.  Powerful newspaper and magazine exposes had brought to the fore the amount of adulteration that was occurring daily in products being ingested by the public.   What became known as the “Pure Food and Drug Act” was passed in 1906 after much discussion and publicity.  Some whiskey men were quick to seize on the purity angle in their merchandising,  but none with more emphasis and tenacity than Morris Salzman.

“PURITY ABOVE ALL”  was a slogan to be found on everything that flowed from the Salzman establishment.   He frequently packaged his whiskey in ceramic jugs, ranging in size from quarts to five gallons.  On each one was his name and a banner proclaiming his motto.   On his quart and smaller  glass whiskeys,  the mantra was inscribed in the embossing.   It appeared on his labeled whiskeys, giveaway items and in every advertisement.  If you saw the name Salzman you also saw “PURITY ABOVE ALL.”

Salzman featured a number of brands without signaling a flagship.  They included: "Old Webster Pure Rye,”  "Sycamore Pure Rye," "Adirondack Pure Rye,” "Bellwood Bourbon," "Empire Pure Rye," "Old Doctrine Club,"  "Pure Old Rye,”  and always "Purity Above All." Clearly in competition with dozens of myriad New York whiskey merchants, including his former partner, Morris issued several giveaway shot glasses,  one suggesting drinking his whiskey in the morning, the other at bedtime.

With his success in Brooklyn,  Salzman expanded his operation to Buffalo, New York, with a store at 246 Main Street.   He also incorporated this company with a registered capitalization of $300,000.   Buy 1910,  according to his great grandson,  Morris had amassed a small fortune.   The riches allowed him to take regular trips back to Austria in order to visit a brother and other relatives.   It was on one of those trips in 1906 where the family photograph above was taken.  It shows, from left, Samuel, age 10;  Morris, 46; Mamie, 8;  Rose, 41;  and Beatrice,13.

Morris also used his money for public purposes. Salzman’s great grandson says of him during this period:  “I have seen a newspaper article saying he stood in the back of a crowded Brooklyn, NY theater where people were buying War Bonds (WW1). People were buying small lots....10's and hundreds of $. He stood and purchased $1,000,000 in US Government War bonds...the crowd gasped in astonishment. That sum was unheard of in that day.”

Although Prohibition shut down his whiskey enterprise,  Morris had sufficient wealth to weather the storm.  The 1920 Census finds him living with Rose and the two younger children with a gardener, chauffeur and three maid servants.   He gave no occupation but clearly was contemplating his next move.   Shortly thereafter he joined the Greenpoint National Bank where he may have had a relative in management.  After learning something of banking Morris struck out on his own in 1821, starting a company called Colonial Discount.  It was a move into a new industry providing automobile loans.

The Colonial Discount Co. frequently was in court, attempting to collect on loans gone bad. In once instance an illegal still in a Brooklyn garage exploded. That same night a police officer spotted a Chevrolet  truck parked immediately in front of the building. The truck was found to contain sixty-five full 5-gallon cans of alcohol and ten 50-gallon empty drums.  Under Federal law, Prohibition officials sought to seize the vehicle.  Salzman’s firm, however, had the mortgage on the truck and also claimed it. A judge gave the truck to the Feds. 

After nine years as president of Colonial Discount, Morris died at the age of 61, much mourned by his family.  Unlike other whiskey men who had tooted a horn about “purity,” he seems never to have been cited by state or national authorities for adulterating his whiskey or wines.  When Morris Salzman said it, it seems, he really meant PURITY ABOVE ALL.