Saturday, June 28, 2014

Aaron Blade Swapped Bingen on the Rhine for Milwaukee on the Lake

"I saw the blue Rhine sweep along,— I heard, or seemed to hear,
The German songs we used to sing, in chorus sweet and clear;
And down the pleasant river, and up the slanting hill,
The echoing chorus sounded, through the evening calm and still;
And her glad blue eyes were on me, as we passed, with friendly talk,
Down many a path beloved of yore, and well-remembered walk!
And her little hand lay lightly, confidently, in mine,—
But we'll meet no more at Bingen,— loved Bingen on the Rhine."

The picture above is of the German town called Bingen on the Rhine.  That is also the name of the poem of which one stanza appears here.  Bingen is a picturesque town of 25,000 sited at the point where the River Nahe empties into the Rhine Gorge. It is surrounded by low forested mountains.  Aaron Blade left Bingen as a youth to emigrate to the United States and thence to Milwaukee where he operated a successful liquor dealership a few blocks from Lake Michigan.

Aaron Blade, shown here in maturity, was born in Bingen of German Jewish parents in December 1828 and was educated in the local schools.  At the age of 20 in 1848 he left mother and father to travel to America.  For all the beauty of its setting and the Germanic romanticism connected with Bingen, over the years the town had proved inhospitable to Jews.  During the 13th Century  religious officials there are said to have regularly extorted sums from Jewish moneylenders.  Jews were expelled from Bingen in 1507 and did not return until the second half of the 16th Century.   Strong evidence exists of a persistent anti-Semitism in Bingen and possibly one of the reasons Blade left.

The Wisconsin city in which he settled bore some resemblance to his homeland.  Milwaukee was a German town.  The population at that time was predominantly of German ancestry.  German commonly was spoken on the street and in homes.  There were German schools, German churches, German newspapers and German social and sports clubs.  The city had also attracted a number of German brewers and the sweet smell of mashed barley permeated the air.  Milwaukee was “Beertown.”

Aaron Blade, however, was selling whiskey.  In 1860, after serving an apprenticeship working for other merchants,  he founded his own wholesale liquor house on Milwaukee’s Water Street, shown below.  It was an avenue that held a number of liquor dealerships, both wholesale and retail, as well as a proliferation of saloons.   Although beer was the predominant booze passed over the bar,  whiskey made serious headway among the Milwaukee drinking public during the latter half of the 1800s. 

The man from Bingen was credited with helping to change tastes.  A book called “Milwaukee - A Half Century,” published in 1896  suggested that in the past whiskey sold in Milwaukee had fallen short of being “harmless and healthful.” The author indicated Aaron Blade was altering attitudes with his flagship label, called “Old Dave Jones,” asserting:  “This is a matchless brand of whiskey which has achieved a popularity second to none in the market, and whether for social indulgence or medicinal use it has few equals and no superiors.”   In addition to this proprietary offering,  Blade also was handling as a specialty “Springside” fire copper whiskey from Nelson County, Kentucky, and was sole agent for the “P. B. Kavanaugh” brand.

About the time Blade had established his business in Milwaukee he also had married.  His wife, Emma, was a immigrant from France.  Aaron and Emma would have two children, Alexander born in 1862 and Bertha born in 1869.   As Alexander came to manhood, his father in 1882 made him a partner in his liquor house.  He followed by admitting his nephew, Max C. Blade, into a management role. Incorporated in 1896, the firm was known as A. Blade & Son Company: Importers and Jobbers of Fine Kentucky Whiskies, Wines and Liquors.

The Blades’ business occupied an entire four-story building at 281 East Water Street.  Containing a basement and more than 25,000 square feet, it was constructed entirely of brick and, it was said, “perfect in convenience of arrangement for storage, inspection and sale.”  Presumably the structure also had space for the blending and compounding operations that resulted in Old Dave Jones Whiskey.  This headquarters also supported the vigorous sales efforts that took company representatives, including Aaron himself, throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa.  Additionally, Blade advertised in newspapers as far away as the West Coast.  He also gave away etched shot glasses bearing the ad logo illustrated here.

As the liquor business grew, the firm moved into even larger quarters.  Its new building, shown at left in an illustration, had been constructed in 1876 at 241-243 East Water Street.  Known then as the Blade & Son Building,  it still stands in Milwaukee and is on the National Register of Historical Places.  The new address was reflected in a trade card from A. Blade, Son & Co. who now designated themselves as “distillers.”  There is unconfirmed evidence that the company may have invested in one or more Kentucky distillery.

Then tragedy struck.  On December 15, 1903, Blade’s son and heir apparent, Alexander, checked into in Milwaukee’s premier hotel, the Pfister, shown right, went to his room and killed himself.  He was 40 years, 5 months and 11 days old, and left a wife, Sarah, and a young son.  His suicide, for whatever reason, must have been a severe blow to Aaron Blade and his wife, now both advanced in age.   The father continued to manage the company and even went “on the road” personally selling his liquor.  The Milwaukee Sentinel of Dec. 22, 1912, ran a story whose lead read:  “With no thought of retirement and still active in spite of his age of 84, Aaron Blade...continues to make his weekly trips through northern Wisconsin, the territory he has covered for years.”

But time takes its toll.  In 1918 his wife Emma died, apparently in an accident, the cause of her death given as “fractured neck.”  In January of the following year Aaron Blade died at age 90.  The cause given was “senility.”  He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, a predominantly Jewish burial ground located on Milwaukee’s South Side.  Nearby is his wife and both his children.   It appears from Milwaukee directories that Blade’s liquor business had shut down about a year earlier.

What Aaron Blade found in Milwaukee was real opportunity to make a success through intelligence and hard work.   In Bingen it was a different story for the Jewish population.  When Hitler came to power in Germany in the early 1930s,  the number of Jews in the town was 465.  By 1939 as the result of flight and emigration only about half remained.  Those who were left became victims of the Holocaust.  After the war only four Jews returned.  They found that their synagogue had been destroyed in 1945.  To paraphrase the poem that opened this post:  “They met no more in Bingen, Bingen on the Rhine.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

“North to Alaska!” with Albert Reinert

Skagway.  The very name conjures up the early “hurly-burly” days of Alaska as tens of thousands of prospectors headed north seeking their fortunes in the late 1800s.   Albert Reinert knew Skagway well and ran the most successful saloon in town.  So noted was Reinert’s watering hole that today it is the center of a National Park Service site dedicated to the Klondike Gold Rush.

Shown left, Reinert was born in Germany in 1864 and as a youth emigrated to the United States, settling in Seattle, Washington.  He eventually opened a restaurant and became a citizen in 1885.  In 1899 with the hordes heading to the Yukon, many of them through Skagway, described as “one of the roughest places in the world,”  he joined them, not to moil for gold,  but to slake the thirst of the miners.   He found a partner in Charles Sacke, a former Seattle brewer and owner of the  Skagway City Brewery.   They made an opportunity out of a new law requiring Skagway saloons to obtain a $1,500 license (equivalent to $35,000 today) in order to stay in business.  Of the 80 saloons operating in town, only a dozen managed to stay open.

Reinert and Sacke could afford the license fee and bought the newly defunct “Mascotte” Saloon, which had been constructed the previous year at the southeast corner of Broadway and Third Avenue.  In addition to purchasing the building and fixtures, they remodel the interior.  The first floor became all saloon and more tables were added.  A cigar stand and a “club room,” (i.e. gambling den) were added and Reinert moved into an upstairs apartment.  Now called simply “The Mascot,” the saloon facade is shown here in an illustration.

The Mascot proved to be very lucrative for the partners.  A railroad known as the White Pass and Yukon Railroad Road had begun construction during the Klondike Gold Rush.  It linked Skagway with Whitehorse, the Canadian capital of the Yukon.  A single track isolated system the line had no connection with any other railroad.  Equipment, freight and passengers were ferried by ship to the Port of Skagway and then by train inland to stops along the route.  Shown below is a photo of Skagway with the railway running down middle of the Broadway, the main drag.

Thousands of prospectors poured through the streets of Skagway, the vast majority men and thirsty. The Mascot was a favored stop.  During the Gold Rush days, weary prospectors could flop their bedrolls down on the floor and sleep there before setting out on the trail.  Albert Reinert proved to be a congenial host.  His free lunches could include clam chowder or spare ribs, German sauerkraut or Mexican enchiladas.  Sacke supplied the Mascot with locally brewed pilsener beer; five cents bought a schooner. During the Gold Rush the drink of choice, however, was whiskey, decanted into glasses or sold by the bottle. Reinert’s bartenders, men like Ham Grease Jimmy and future mayor Chris Shea, were well-known local characters.   Ladies of uncertain virtue also were present on premises.  Although the Mascot was prospering, by 1901 things were not going well between Reinert and Sacke.  They decided to sell the saloon rather than to continue the partnership.  On May 23, 1901, the City Marshall rolled a beer barrel out front and auctioned it off.  The highest bidder was Albert Reinert who plunked $6,025 on the barrel head.

He then began an extensive remodeling and enlarging of the premises.  According to the National Park Service history:  "The east wall was removed and the building was doubled in length. A new plate glass fa├žade went in. Telegraph wires were installed, a possible move to get direct reports on sporting events."  Shown above is a photo of the Mascot when it reopened, sporting the fanciest bar in town. No barstools were provided. Patrons stood to drink and socialize. A bar rail, brass spittoons, and bar towels were provided for customers use. The proud proprietor, Reinert himself, stood front and center, a foaming beer in his hand.  During the Gold Rush days, weary prospectors could "flop" their bedroll down on the floor and sleep before setting out on the trail.  Not even a flood that struck Skagway in 1902, as shown here, could shut down the Mascot.
As the Gold Rush petered out and prospectors returned home, the saloon’s customer base began to erode.   Perhaps as a counter, in 1903 Reinert brought in a Victor Talking Machine and spun records every night,  advertising it as an “electric  concert.”  He also  imported a premier Pennsylvania rye whiskey from the John Gibson’s Son & Co., likely bringing it by the barrel from the Continental U.S. and bottling it himself.   The label carried his name in large letters and assured that his bottling was in compliance with the Food and Drug Act of 1906, something of a stretch since the Act did not specifically deal with whiskey.  Like other saloon keepers, he also issued bar tokens to his customers.   The one shown here was good for 12 1/2 cents.  Two would get you a shot of Gibson Rye.

Reinert also was branching out.  The Idaho Saloon, also known as the Idaho Liquor House, was located catty-corner from the Mascot, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Third Avenue. Its owners had a falling out and sold.  Reinert bought it in 1906 and changed the name to the Horseshoe Saloon.  He ran it in conjunction with the Mascot for several years and eventually closed it down.

Located on "Steamboat Row" (named for the numerous steamship companies' offices in the area), the Mascot continued to be popular. When the Gold Rush ebbed and the disappointed miners went home, however, Skagway’s economy suffered.  By sifting through the bottles, bones, and other debris on the Mascot site, archeologists have been able to determine that  as money grew tighter,  more beer and less whiskey was drunk and the quality of the free lunch declined.  Moreover, serving liquor to longshoremen and other hardened Alaskans could spell trouble for Reinert.  Fighting, pulling pistols, or throwing stones through the plate glass windows were some of the incidents reported from his saloon in the local press.  By that time the Mascot was a “men only” establishment, Alaska law having banned women from socializing at bars. 

Moreover, anti-alcohol sentiments were growing ever stronger in the Alaska Territory.  In 1903 saloons were forced to close on Sunday.   Perhaps as a means of staving off the “Drys” or suspicions about his loyalties, the German-born Reinert announced during World War One that he would donate 10% of his profits to the Red Cross.  It made no difference to the prohibitionists.  In 1916 Skagway banned all alcohol sales except for medicinal use. A Skagway marshal went from saloon to saloon, shutting them down.  Although the Mascot was not spared, it has been accounted the only Skagway drinking establishment to survive under one ownership from the Gold Rush to 1916.
After the ban on alcohol,  Reinert first rented the building and then sold it in 1918 as premises for a druggist.  Meanwhile he was having a personal life.  While in his forties,  he married a woman named Agnes who had been born in 1887 in Canada to Irish immigrant parents.   She had been brought to Alaska as a child of five and when they married she was 23 years younger than Albert.  The 1920 U.S. Census found them living in Skagway with no children.   Reinert’s occupation was given as “merchant.”

After years serving numerous uses, the Mascot Saloon, shown right as it looked before restoration, came into the possession of the Nation Park Service as the centerpiece of the Klondike Gold Rush National Park.  The saloon and adjacent structures were restored to their 1905-1916 appearance in 1990 at a cost of $1.2 million.   Today the building serves as a museum with exhibits depicting life in Skagway during the Gold Rush, including a reconstruction of the Mascot bar complete with mannequin customers.  As a result, Albert Reinert, the German immigrant who went “North to Alaska,” and found gold in selling liquor, continues to be well remembered in Skagway.

Note:  Much of the information in this post comes from National Park Service documents related to the Klondike Gold Rush National Park in Skagway.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Down the Mississippi with Pere Marquette and F. P. Gluck

This year is the 375th anniversary of the birth of Pere (Father) Jacque Marquette, the French Jesuit priest, shown here, who with Louis Joliet in 1673  discovered the Mississippi River and traveled south on the waterway past the confluence with the Ohio River.  Over two centuries later a liquor dealer named F. P. Gluck took a similar route south from Minneapolis stopping at Cincinnati.  He celebrated his move by naming his flagship whiskey “Father Marquette 1866 Pure Rye.”

F. P. (Frank) Gluck was born in 1847 in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  When he was 14, likely with other family members, he emigrated to the United States.  He apparently spent some of his early years in Pennsylvania, likely learning the whiskey trade there.  He married a woman named Celia in 1875 and their first son, George, was born in Pennsylvania the next year.  A decade later, he moved to Minnesota and about 1886 opened a wholesale liquor house, located on Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Gluck stayed distinctly local in labeling his whiskey.  He featured proprietary brands,  Flour City Club Pure Rye,"
“Minnetonka Rye,” and “St. Anthony Falls” whiskey.  Each name referenced Minnesota.  Minneapolis was known as the Flour City.  Minnetonka was an area near Minneapolis sold by the Dakotah Indians to the United States in 1851.  The name meant “water big” to the Dakotah.  St. Anthony Falls was the only natural major waterfall on the Upper Mississippi River.  The falls were located northeast of downtown Minneapolis.  Gluck featured the Minnetonka name on giveaway shot glasses, along with a Maryland rye, “Old Wilson.”

Gluck’s business history in Minnesota seems to have been a rocky one.  In 1891 the State’s Attorney General took him into court charging him with violating liquor laws.   After a lower court found in his favor, the government appealed to the State Supreme Court which reversed the lower court and found him guilty.   In 1897 Gluck was back in court again in a complicated bankruptcy case, being sued by a Minneapolis bank for the equivalent of $52,000 in current' dollars.   Once again the courts ruled against him and he had to pay up.

It was not long after this setback that Gluck pulled up stakes in Minneapolis, packed up his small family and followed the Mississippi south to the Ohio River, terminating his journey in Cincinnati.  Father Marquette had been guided by Indians who told him of the great river and triggered his pioneering explorations.  Although he may have had an adventurous spirit, Gluck more likely was attracted by the possibility of better business opportunities in Cincinnati.  At that time the Ohio city was a major center of the U.S. liquor industry, receiving whiskey from Kentucky distillers, often “rectifying” it by blending and compounding, and selling it through hundreds of proprietary brands.

After opening his doors at 11 Pearl Street,  Gluck joined his fellow whiskey men wholeheartedly.  He featured a blizzard of labels, including:  “Aurora Rye,”  “Barclay,” “Belle of Mt. Vernon, "Flour City Club Pure Rye,” "Kentucky Nabob,” "Lonsdale,” "Old Hermit,” "Old Westminster Pure Rye 1886,” "Old Willford,” "Pennfield,” "Rocky Side,” and "Sandy Brook.”  Although he trademarked Barclay Whiskey twice,  in 1898 and again in 1905, he does not seem to have registered the other names.

Gluck’s flagship label was the one he named for the Jesuit explorer whose path south apparently had proven to be an inspiration to him.  He called it “Father Marquette 1866 Rye,”  the date being a possible reference to the year when he first established his liquor business.  Like many other Cincinnati liquor wholesalers,  Gluck issued gift items to favored customers.  Among his were two varieties of mini-jug,  each holding a swallow or two of Father Marquette whiskey.  He also gave away shot glasses bearing the etched visage of Marquette and a corkscrew bearing the priest’s name.  For saloons featuring Gluck brands he provided back of the bar bottles, such as the one that advertised his Westminster Rye brand.  Note the elaborate stopper and the gold lettering.   Such items were expensive but seen as an important way to impress the faces along the bar to purchase Gluck’s whiskey.

As his business was prospering in Cincinnati,  Gluck was comfortably residing  in Ward 2 of Cincinnati where the U.S.  Census found him in 1910 at age 63, living with Celia and one servant.  His occupation was given as “Manufacturer - Whiskey.”   His son George had left home and married a woman named Helen Epstein several years earlier.  From this union Gluck could claim a three-year-old granddaughter.  He also had taken George into the business.  The same census shows his son as a liquor salesman and treasurer of the firm.

Similar to his experience in Minneapolis,  Gluck found it difficult to keep out of legal troubles in Ohio.  The Cincinnati Enquirer of June 7, 1911,  reported that a judgment had been issued against his firm after a compliant was received from another whiskey firm that Gluck had poached its brand names.  He was “perpetually enjoined” by the court from infringing on the plaintiff’s brands and trademarks.  Upon a report by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, filed in the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio, the company was hauled into court again in 1914, accused of adulterating and misbranding a quantity of apple brandy sent to Montana,  a violation of the Food and Drugs Act.   The indictment stated:  “...A mixture of apple brandy and neutral spirits had been substituted wholly or in part for a type of apple brandy which the article purported to be.”   When tested the product was shown to be largely neutral spirits.  What may particularly have offended Federal Authorities was a statement on the label of the brandy that stated:  “This article is guaranteed under the National Pure Food Law not to be adulterated or misbranded.”   The F. P. Gluck Company quickly pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $15 and court costs.

By this time F. P. Gluck may have died or otherwise had exited his management role.   Only a year after this incident,  the Wine & Spirits Journal told its readers:  “An important deal by which two well-known local whiskey houses will combine their business was announced yesterday.”   The Gluck Company was being absorbed by the Gill-Herman Company, another Cincinnati whiskey house.  It had been incorporated in 1903 with capital of $50,000.   Gill-Herman took over the company accounts and brands.  Gluck’s rectifying plant was shut down and business conducted entirely from the Gill-Herman offices.  George Gluck was hired as a sales manager and five Gluck Company salesmen were retained bringing the total Gill-Herman sales force to twenty.

The Gill-Herman outfit was forced to close down when Ohio went dry in 1916.  George Gluck lost his job. The 1920 census found him still living in Cincinnati with his wife and daughter.  His occupation was given as “Salesman-Beverage.”   The beverage he was selling clearly was not Father Marquette Rye.  The explorer who helped open up much of the North America continent and so evidently inspired F. P. Gluck has continued to be remembered for his explorations down to this his 375th anniversary but the Jesuit priest no longer is memorialized by whiskey. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Dennehy Cocktail Added Dashes of Politics and Puffery

Attempting to assess the Dennehy family character from the ad above one might assume that the family were patricians, producing a high flown whiskey for the “carriage trade.”   As will be seen, however, in politics Charles Dennehy was just the opposite.  In advertising and publicity for their liquor, however, his son, Thomas, would try several avenues.

The senior Dennehy was born in County Kerry, Ireland, in 1834 and emigrated to the United States in 1851 when he was 17 years old.  Three years later, about 1854, he came to Chicago and apparently served an apprenticeship in the liquor industry of that Illinois clity.  In about 1855 he married Annie Mead Coogan, herself Irish-born in County Wicklow.  They were wed in Chicago.

In 1870 having saved sufficiently to begin his own whiskey business, Charles Dennehy joined a partner named Weadley and they opened their doors at 15 Dearborn Street.  That same year the U.S. census taker found Dennehy living with his wife  in Ward 18 of Chicago.  With them in their home were four children,  Eleanor, 13; Thomas, 11; Anna, 9, and James, 9, and Charles’ 78-year-old mother.  Three years later, in 1873, Weadley & Dennehy took a third partner named Cleary.  Subsequently the company, now named Weadley, Dennehy & Cleary, moved to several addresses on South Water Street. 

In the meantime Dennehy was carving out a political career in Chicago.  As recounted in a 1874 book by M. L. Ahern entitled, “The Great Revolution,” the Irish immigrant was cited as a prominent force in the formation of the People’ s Party of Cook County.  This organization was assembled with purpose of defeating  ‘”starched collar” Republicans.  At least for a brief period the People’s Party was able to unite politically groups that rarely got along,  including native-born liberals, Irish, and Germans.  One unifying factor was the growing Prohibitionist factor among the GOP.  The Drys moved to ban the sale of liquor on Sunday in Chicago. They were characterized by Dennehy and his cohorts as “Puritan rule.”

Charles was among the candidates placed on the ballot in 1873 by the new political entity.  Proposed for City Assessor, he ran strongly and was elected along with the entire Peoples Party ticket.   In his book Ahern commented about Dennehy:  “...No better selection could have been made for the discharge of the important duties of the office to which he has been elected....His knowledge of real estate and his unblemished character preeminently qualify him for the very responsible position to which he has been so handsomely elected by the people.”   There is no record of Dennehy being elected to a second term as his party eventually dissolved.

In 1881, Dennehy and his partners split.  Weadley and Cleary moved to River Street and continued in business.  Dennehy, now on his own, stayed on South Water with a liquor dealership he called Charles Dennehy & Co.  The reason for the break-up may have been Charles’ interest in bringing his son Thomas into the business.   Thomas quickly became an officer in the newly formed company.

As blenders and compounders of whiskey as well as a wholesaler, the Dennehys featured a number of house brands, including "1901,” "Cherry Lane,” "Clear Spring,”  "Jefferson Club,” "Old Carlton,” "Old Potter, " and "Pebble - Ford."  In 1906 they trademarked Cherry Lane,  Jefferson Club, Old Potter, and Pebble-Ford.   Far and away the Dennehy flagship brand was “Old Underoof,” trademarked in 1905.  The firm packaged that whiskey in both flask and quart sizes, usually in amber bottles bearing several label varieties.   Frequently, as shown here, the bottles were embossed with his company name.

Widely acclaimed for his honesty, industry, business tact and for having accumulated a “liberal fortune” in the whiskey trade,  Charles died in 1892.  At that point Thomas Dennehy, without changing the company name, took over its full management.  He proved to have a flair for advertising and its attendant puffery.  An example is a booklet issued by the younger Dennehy that was printed on paper made to look like birch bark and held together by a leather thong.  This city of Chicago-made whiskey was identified with an Indian chief, indicated as Old Un-Der-Oof, whose visage appeared on the cover along with a list of advantages the chief claimed for Dennehy whiskey.  A newsletter of the advertising trade in 1901 hailed the publication as “a wonderful little book” and extolled it highly:  “The lettering and the pictures have a decidedly aboriginal air -- tepees, wampum belts, tomahawks, moccasins, mustangs and campfire being depicted on the leaves of bark with the hot point of an old hunting knife....”

This Dennehy does not seem to have camped on Indian ground very long.  By 1907 he was advertising in newspapers as far away as Spokane Washington using colonial American figures -- the people who drove out the Indians.  Now Old Underoof Rye was “a particular whiskey for particular people.”  Some ads claimed the whiskey was “almost entirely free” of fusel oil and tanic (sic) acid.   Fusel oil should not be confused with fuel oil.  It is not oil but an alcohol and a byproduct of making whiskey.   It was believed to contribute to hangovers and distillers of good liquor tried to eliminate it.

Thomas Dennehy hit his stride several years later.  He conceived of a series of ads in Chicago newspapers keyed to what was happening with the Chicago Cubs baseball team.   Although Cubs fans have not had much to cheer about for almost a century since,  the club was in its heyday in 1910.  It had won the World Series in 1907 and 1908 and although coming in second in 1909 had compiled a record of 104 wins against only 49 losses.   When the team sparkled in 1910 and gained the World Series again, Dennehy hired local cartoonists to craft ads that discussed the contests.

One cartoon, entitled “Still in the Game,” showed a bear holding an elephant gun with four spent shells on the ground.  They represented the four pitchers who had given up 13 runs in the two previous Series games to the Philadelphia Athletics.   The Cubs lost a third game, occasioning a cartoon entitled,  “No They Are Not Dead.”  The Chicagoans won the fourth game by one run in extra innings and then lost the next and the Series.  Undaunted for opening day 1911,  Old Underoof was back and optimistic about the season.  It would be 108 years, however, until the Cubs would win their next World Series in 2016.

Although not a politician like his father,  Thomas Dennehy was an active member of liquor industry organizations both in Chicago and nationally.  He became an elected board member of the National Wholesale Liquor Dealers Association.   Perhaps emboldened by his prominence in the trade,  in 1898 he challenged the powerful Distilling & Cattle Feeding Company, better known as the “Whiskey Trust.”   Rectifiers were dependent on supplies of spirits from distillers, many of whom had been bought up by the Trust who then jacked up prices to wholesale dealers and rectifiers like Dennehy.   Resentment ran high.

When an Illinois court decision in 1898 branded the Distilling & Cattlefeeding Co. as “an unjust monopoly” and determined that its business practices were illegal  Thomas Dennehy saw an opportunity to retaliate.   He refused to pay the Trust for more than $5,000 worth of whiskey for which he had contracted on the grounds that the organization was illegal, charged highly inflated costs and averred that it was “impractical and detrimental” to his business to buy liquors elsewhere.  The Trust hauled Dennehy into Federal District Court in Chicago and won a judgment.  Thomas persisted, appealing the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.   That body found that even if the Trust was an unjust monopoly, other sources of liquor were independent and accessible to Dennehy and ordered him to pay up.  He did.

In the end, none of these vagaries of the liquor business proved important compared to the onslaught of Prohibition forces.   Neither the politics of the father, Charles, nor the puffery of the son, Thomas, was a sufficient barrier to the moralistic crusade that swept all in the distilled spirits industry before it.  By now located on Chicago’s West Randolph Street,  Charles Dennehy  & Co. was forced to shut its doors after 1918,  never to reopen.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Did John Stump Sell Bigotry with His Booze?

 John J. Stump, a wholesale liquor dealer of Cumberland, Maryland, probably had a certificate like the one shown here.   It was issued by the Patriotic Order Sons of America, an organization that had a reputation, deserved or otherwise, of being anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant.   Stump was an elected national officer of the P.O.S of A., in a position called the “guard,” likely the sergeant-at-arms.   His prominence is all the more startling for living in Maryland, a state founded by and welcoming to Catholic immigrants and known for its tolerance.

Stump’s “Patriotic Order” was formed in Philadelphia in 1847, and subsequently became the youth wing of the Order of United Americans, a secret organization that was reacting negatively to the large immigration of Irish and German Catholics  and other foreigners to the United States that began in the 1830s. Merging with other similar organizations, the United Americans eventually became a part of the semi-secret “Know Nothing” Party whose agenda was to exclude Catholics, Chinese and other immigrants.  When a member was asked about party activities,  he was instructed to reply, “ I know nothing.”

With the outbreak of the Civil War, the Know Nothing Party collapsed and with it the Patriotic Sons of America.  Following the war, the organization was revived.  Its constitution now allowed membership to males in the U.S. over the age of sixteen providing that 1) they were born in the United States and had not emigrated here, and 2) “opposed to any union of Church and State, and to the interference of any foreign power, directly or indirectly, with the Government.”   By inference, no Catholics need apply.

John Stump was a native-born American, coming into life in Maryland in 1874 to parents both of whom had been born in that state.  He appears to have entered the liquor trade at an early age.   His home town, Cumberland, shown above in the early 1900s, was a major stop on the way West.  The so-called National Road ran through the town to a gap in the Appalachian mountains and on into the Ohio.   Saloons were by far the most numerous businesses in Cumberland as recorded in the 1895 local directory.   Seventy-nine were listed.

That same directory listed the 21 year old Stump as a saloon keeper who also sold wines and liquors.  His establishment was located at 22 Bedford Street, an address that also doubled as his residence.   Working for him was a William J. Stump, obviously a relative, who was listed as a clerk.  By 1900,  according to census data,  Stump had disposed of the saloon and was concentrating his energies on being a wholesale liquor dealer.  That year also found him marrying.  His bride was Anna Genevieve, a woman seven years his junior.  They  would  have two sons,  John,  born in 1902, and Charles, 1908.

As a wholesaler,  Stump provided his liquor in large ceramic jugs to his customers.  He appears to have used a variety of containers.  They included a crude stoneware with a cobalt stenciled lettering and a more finished jug with a Albany slip top and handle and a Bristol glaze base and under glaze lettering.    Like other liquor dealers trying to keep ahead of the competition, Stump also featured a number of giveaway items to favored customers.
Among them were small jugs holding a few swallows of whiskey.  Bearing the label “Compliments of John J. Stump & Co.,” they clearly were meant to be gifted.

For his wholesale clients,  largely saloons,  he provided the bartenders with fancy etched shot glasses.  The two shown here appear to be the work of George Troug, acknowledged as the outstanding shot glass etcher in American history.  Troug was the proprietor of the Maryland Glass Etching Works in Cumberland from 1893 until 1911.  Stump’s glasses bear the unmistakable artistry of this Italian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. in 1883.

Although Stump apparently did not mind ordering his shot glasses from an immigrant,  it is not clear the extent to which he adhered to the “nativist” sentiments of the Patriotic Sons.  Moreover, the organization,  like the “Know Nothings” had strong prohibitionist leanings, as did the Republican Party of Maryland.   Many of those with anti-immigrant and Catholic dispositions believed that because Irish, German and other nationalities had no religious scruples against strong drink and even embraced it,  alcoholic beverages should be banned.  As a liquor dealer in this crowd, Stump probably suffered snide comments from both “wets” and “drys.”

Despite the contradictions in his life, Stump had a very active political career as a Republican in Cumberland.  He appears to have begun this career as a volunteer fireman. Because of the many frame buildings in town and the presence of a number of glass factories,  fires were common.  Stump had become the acting chief of the Cumberland volunteers when a major fire threatened downtown nearby Frostberg, Maryland.  He sent his fire fighters to help extinguished the blaze, gaining praise from the local press.  Subsequently he was elected president of the Allegany-Garrett Counties Volunteer & Rescue Association. Stump also was a member of the Firemen’s Association of Maryland, becoming its state president in 1898.   He then parlayed this into election to the Maryland House of Delegates from Allegany County, serving from 1904 to 1906.

Despite his Republican connections, National Prohibition came down just as hard on him as on Democrats.  Stump was forced to close up his prosperous liquor business in 1919.  The 1920 Census found him with no occupation listed.  He subsequently turned from alcohol to annuities and by 1930 was operating his own insurance business in Cumberland.  He also served terms as both the town’s finance commissioner and its street and sewer commissioner.   In 1940 the census found Stump at age 66 living with wife Anna Genevieve residing in Cumberland. There the trail ends in the internet record.

Was Stump’s membership in the Patriotic Sons a sign of anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant  bigotry?  Or was his membership just part of his social and political trajectory to local prominence?  Without further documentary evidence of Stump’s attitudes toward Catholics and immigrants, it has proved impossible to answer the question that opens this post.

Note: The Patriotic Order Sons of America once had several hundred camps (lodges) with several thousand members in the U.S. and its territories, but chapters now are found only in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey and Louisiana. The motto of the organization is "God, Our Country and Our Order."