Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Hasterliks: Six Brothers and Whiskey Galore

There were six Hasterlik brothers,  all of whom spent some time in the liquor business in Chicago.  Their principal company, Hasterlik Bros., had a thirty-five year run and over time merchandised dozens of whiskey and other spirits brands.

The brothers were all born in Slatina, Bohemia, the sons of Joseph and Esther Hasterlik. In 1874, Ignatz at the age of 16, with his younger brother, Charles, only 14, with a third brother, Adolph,  emigrated to the United States heading straight for Chicago.  There they joined another brother, Simon, who had preceded them and was living with an aunt, Katherine Steiner.  Katherine’s husband appears already to have been in the liquor business and had taken Simon as a partner.

Not long after their arrival, Ignatz and Charles, shown here in maturity, pooled their meager capital and started their own small liquor store.   The business grew rapidly and as it did other members of the Hasterlik family over time arrived in Chicago.  They included Henry, who was blind, Samuel, the youngest,  a sister Babette, and last the parents, Joseph and Esther.

By 1886,  Ignatz and Charles had expanded their trade to wholesale liquors and wines, and advertised themselves as importers and wholesale dealers in bottlers supplies, manufacturers of cased liquors,  distiller/rectifiers of cordials and whiskeys and brewers of lagered beers.  As shown on a letterhead from that era, their address was a large building at 216 and 218 Randolph Street, Chicago.   Of this facility, the Chicago Times in 1892 reported:  This is among the leading houses in its line in the West. It carries the largest stock of the finest goods, at all times, the stock on hand seldom, if ever, falling below $400,000 in value, while the sales reach $1,500,000 a year. It occupies the entire five floors, 40 x 200 feet each, in the great building where their offices are located.

The Times noted that the Hasterliks' brewery, known as the Best Brewing Company of Chicago, was located at the corner of Hendron and Fletcher Streets and covered grounds 135 by 250 feet.  The brewery was under the direct management of Charles Hasterlik.  Brothers Simon and Adolph joined Hasterlik Bros. but eventually left the company,  apparently under good terms.  Simon continued in the liquor business on his own from 1892 until 1918.  Adolph appeared in Chicago directory listings running a saloon and alcohol retail sales but later left the whiskey trade to become an insurance agent.  In 1889 the youngest Hasterlik, Samuel, was made a partner in the liquor firm.

Hasterlik Brothers over time advertised some eighty brands of spirits.  Those included “German Nordhausen Kornschnapps,”  “Old Shamrock Irish Whiskey,” and “Thistle Dew Old Scotch Whiskey.”   The partners also featured a menu of tonic drinks. “Brazilian Quinine Bitters” would cure indigestion, dyspepsia and nervous debility.   “Balsam Tolu”  was good for such ailments as bronchitis, asthma and even tuberculosis.   Each of these remedies had a strong alcoholic content.

The flagship whiskey brand was “Daniel Brady Rye and Bourbon.”  Company advertising showed that  Daniel Brady whiskey and rye bottlings came from the Old Times Distillery (Kentucky) and the Penwick distillery (Pennsylvania), respectively.  Shown here is a saloon sign that portrays a Wild West scene, illustrating cowboys chasing one of their kind who is holding up a bottle of whiskey. The caption says:  “The Demand.” The next picture shows the cowboys enjoying a drink as of one their number slugs down booze straight from the bottle.  The sign also advertises other Hasterlik brands:  “Physicians and Surgeons Medical Rye,”  “Lakeside Club Rye & Bourbons,”  “Paul Revere Rye & Bourbon,”

A second giveaway sign to saloons advertised two additional Hasterlik brands, ”Queensbury Rye” and “Crab Blossom Rye.  Like the earlier advertisement this display featured men on horseback, but this time at a race track, and the drinks were being poured, not on the prairie, but in the judges’ stand.  Interestingly, the Hasterliks do not seem to have registered the trademark any one of their brands.

Meanwhile the Ignatz and Charles were having personal lives.  Ignatz, now in his forties was found by the 1900 census unmarried and living with his blind brother, Henry.  They each gave their occupation as “liquor wholesale.”   In 1906, at age 48, Ignatz abandoned bachelorhood to marry Lillian, a woman twenty years younger.   She had been born in Chicago of immigrant parents from Austria.  Ignatz and Lillian had one child, Therese, born the same year as their marriage.  Younger brother Charles had married much earlier, about 1883. His bride was Louise.  Born in France and an immigrant to Chicago she was only three years his junior.  This couple had one child, Clara, born in 1884.  The 1900 census found a bachelor brother, Samuel, age 34, living with the couple.

By this time the Hasterliks clearly had a dynasty going.  A 1906 directory of Chicago directorships painted the picture:   Ignatz was president, treasurer and director of Hasterlik Brothers and a vice-president and director of Fairmont Brewing and a director of the Best Brewing Company. Charles was president, manager and director of Best Brewing Company, a director of Hasterlik Brothers, and a director of the Fairmont Brewing Company of Cincinnati and the Economical Beer Brewing Co. of Chicago.  Henry, despite his visual handicap, had been tapped as a director of Hasterlik Brothers and all three breweries.  Samuel was a vice president of Hasterlik Brothers and Fairmont Brewing and a director of Best Brewing.  Simon, the eldest who operated his own liquor store now was vice-president of a Chicago brewery called Crown.  The sister, Babette, had married Ignatz Neumann, who was listed as was secretary of the Hasterliks' Best Brewery. Only Adolph, now selling insurance, was omitted from the directory.

In 1894, the Hasterliks decided their quarters on Randolph Street were too cramped. That year they moved to 271-273 Franklin Street and when that structure eventually proved inadequate, moved again in 1909 to 407-415 Aberdeen Street.  That building, shown here, was three stories and a half-block long.  It was the company home when Prohibition shut down all the Hasterlik alcohol-related enterprises in 1919.

I have not tried to trace the Hasterliks into the post-1920 period.  Their company and brands, like most others, did not survive the 14 years until Prohibition was repealed and liquor once again was legal.  My guess is that all the brothers had built sufficient fortunes by that time to survive the shock of the Dry Era.


  1. My wife Susan is a direct descendant of the Chicago HASTERLIK family through Ignatz. Ignatz died in Red Lodge, Montana. My wife is the Granddaughter of James Albert Hasterlik of Great Falls who was the son of Ignatz.

    To my knowledge there is one male heir of this (or any?) Hasterlik clan in America and that would be Kade Hasterlik who was born in Missoula, Montana.

  2. Dear Greg: Thank you for the update on the Hasterlik family, one that I hold in high esteem. Their success obviously is important but I am continually impressed that Ignatz engaged a blind brother, Henry, in the brothers' operations. At the same time I am shocked that out of six brothers there is only one male descendant to carry on the name. Jack

  3. My uncle just found a bottle of Huntsman's Buchu Gin with the Hasterlik Bros. label. I am unable to find any mention of this specific brew by Hasterlik Bros. I have a photo of the front and back of the bottle. I would be willing to email the pictures in an effort to find out more information as to when this gin was produced. He found it in the rafters of his barn in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

  4. Dear Michele: That is quite a find. I have done an article on Buchu Gin but do not recall seeing anything about "Huntsman's." You can email me the images of the label at Am not such how much additional information I will be able to provide. By the way, as a Wisconsin transplant, I know Oconomowoc well. Great town. Great people.