Saturday, April 26, 2014

David Fluharty of Baltimore: Hiding in Plain Sight

 The name on the sign at the Baltimore building said “Lamdin, Thompson & Co., Importers and Jobbers,  Wines and Whiskies.” The name on the rye whiskey label read “Little Corporal,” advertised by a picture of Napoleon Bonaparte with the characteristic hand stuck in his vest. Lurking behind both names was a canny Maryland whiskey man named David Garrison Fluharty.  But few Baltimoreans ever knew.
They knew about Lamdin, Thompson & Co., of course.   Those names were prominent on the company’s letterhead, as “Importers and Jobbers”  of wines and whiskeys.  The firm had first appeared in local directories, located at 34 Pratt Street.   The Baltimore Sun told its readers about how the Great Fire of 1904 had destroyed that Lamdin, Thompson location and, later, how the liquor wholesaler had risen from the ashes only a year later, constructing and occupying a four-story building at Number 117 Light Street.  The drinking public also was aware of the two Lamdin, Thompson flagship brands,  “Albion Rye” and  “Little Corporal Rye.” Fluharty, however, remained out of public view.

He was born in Federalsburg, Caroline County, Maryland, in October 1857 and subsequently moved with his family to Dochester City.  According to the 1870 U.S. Census, his father, Samuel, was a carpenter and his mother, Mary Emily (nee Todd), a housewife.  Both were native Marylanders. The family was of Irish descent.  Their name was a variation of O’Flaherty and originated in Connemara, Country Galway. In the census David was recorded with three siblings,  Rachel, 10;  India, 7;  and William, 3.   His father’s brother also was living with the family.  It is unclear how much education the young David was given.  With the circumstances of the family it is likely that he early went to work,  probably in the liquor trade,  and eventually moved from Dorchester to Baltimore.

In 1884, at the age of 27, David married.  His bride was Georgianna Flint, age 23, and she like her husband was Maryland-born, as were her parents.  The 1900 Census found them living in Baltimore with two children,  William, 15, and Sadie, 14.  Fluharty’s occupation was given as  “Wholesale Liquor Dealer.”

By 1899, Fluharty had accrued sufficient reputation and financial resources to be included as a partner -- albeit a silent one -- in a new Baltimore liquor dealership organized by Abraham D. Lamdin and William A. Thompson.  Lamdin had run a similar business for several years in the 1890s, located at 707 East Baltimore. The new company was conducting a “rectifying operation,” that is, blending and compounding whiskeys and other ingredients to achieve smoothness and taste.

Lamdin, Thompson featured a number of brands.  Among them were “Collie Malt Whiskey,”  “Plymouth Rock,”  “Sussex Club,” “Swallow,” and “Village Choice.”  As noted earlier the firm’s flagship brands were Albion and Little Corporal,  both trademarked in 1905.  They were sold in glass containers of several sizes, including flasks in aqua and cobalt, as shown here. The company was merchandizing its products widely.   A contemporary report on Lamdin, Thompson declared:  “...The firm carries a full line of whiskeys and are direct importers of fine wines, gins, and brandies.  The facilities of this house for business are unsurpassed, and the territory which it covers is very extensive, having representatives throughout the country.”

Like many Baltimore whiskey wholesalers, Lamdin, Thompson provided an array of give away items to favored customers, particularly saloons stocking their goods.   Shot glasses were among them. Shown here are two glasses advertising Little Corporal Rye,  one in fancy lettering, the other plain.  A more expensive gift was a celluloid and metal match safe or “vesta,” that advertised Albion Maryland Whiskey on one side and The Little Corporal Whiskey on the other.

In 1906 Isaac Lamdin died and the firm reorganized but kept the same name. Although Fluharty’s name nowhere appeared in Lamdin, Thompson literature, he played a key role in the firm.  His signature appears on several items of business correspondences that recently have come to light.  Moreover, his response to the 1910 census indicated that he was  representing the company in sales efforts around the United States.  Yet Fluharty continued to avoid the limelight.  An exception was a story from The Baltimore Sun of March 28, 1904.  Fluharty was relaxing at his home, 1807 Guilford Avenue, on a Saturday night when he heard a noise and went to investigate.  It turned out to be a burglar.  The intruder threatened the Baltimore merchant with a knife and got away.   The headline read:  “Drew Weapon on D.G. Fluharty and Made His Escape.”

Residing with Fluharty at the Guilford Avenue address, according to the 1910 Census, was his wife, Geogianna, and both their children.  By this time their eldest, William, had married and was living there with his wife, Madelyn, and a son, David, obviously a namesake for his grandfather. 

Fluharty and his partners continued to pilot the Lamdin, Thompson firm through the early years of the 20th Century until closed down by Prohibition in 1919.  David Fluharty died in 1922, age 64.  He had been content with his role as the “silent partner” in a highly successful Baltimore liquor dealership, one with nationally recognized whiskey brands.  Although the firm is long gone,  the artifacts of those brands remain to remind us of  David Fluharty, the whiskey man who was able to hide in plain sight.


No comments:

Post a Comment