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."


  1. I have acquired a piece of stoneware this past summer & cannot find any information in it, if you could be of any assistance please contact me. It's a mini jug with a paper label that reads "Merry Christmas & Happy New Year J.J. Stump . It also has a picture on the label and some other writing. Please contact me or provide me your email so we can discuss. Thanks!

  2. John: Good to hear from you. I do keep a file on JJ Stump of Cumberland MD and would be glad to see an image of the jug. Stump put out a number of jugs that are not found in my post about him, but I do not recall a Christmas version -- but perfectly likely. My email is