Thursday, September 4, 2014

Paul Jones Yearned for “The Old South”


                                
It should come as no surprise that Paul Jones (Jr.) one of America’s most famous whiskey men,  should be buried in a large mausoleum, pictured above, fashioned after a Southern pre-Civil War mansion in Louisville’s historic Cave Cemetery.  A former Confederate soldier, Jones and the liquor business he founded constantly looked backward with deep nostalgia for “The Old South” of memory.

Born in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1840, into a affluent family, Jones, depicted here in middle age, knew the easy and bucolic life of Southern living as he was growing up, when plantation owners and their families were buffered from back-breaking toil and many tasks of everyday life by the existence of slavery.  Below is an illustration taken from an advertising booklet issued by the liquor firm he founded.  The caption reads “—When Paul Jones was young.”  It shows an elderly black man, certainly a slave, making his way up a road past slave shacks.  The picture creates a tranquil, nostalgic, antebellum mood.
However realistic the image, tranquility would be a thing of the past for Paul Jones at age 21 with the outbreak of the Civil War.  His older brother, Warner, had helped form a Confederate company of infantry from Western Tennessee and was elected a captain in what became the 33rd Tennessee Regiment.  Paul Jones joined a Virginia regiment and received the rank of lieutenant. When General Sherman threatened Atlanta,  both Jones brothers’ units were ordered by General Lee to defend the Georgia city.  In the ensuing battle Warner was killed.

After the Southern surrender,  Paul Jones, according to one account,  “returned home to find his home in ruins and the family destitute.  His family’s wealth which before the war had been considerable had been invested in Confederate bonds and was gone.”  Paul Jr., joined by his father, subsequently relocated to Atlanta.  There the histories differ.  Some say the Joneses began producing whiskey and cigars; others that Paul Jr. went to work as a salesman for Rufus Rose, a Georgia distiller.  (See my post on Rose, September 30, 2011.)

This divergence is part of an ongoing and unresolved controversy about how the famous “Four Roses” brand got its name.  Seagram’s, the current owner of the label, has perpetuated myths by spinning a tale of Deep South romance:   “It began when Paul Jones, Jr., the founder of Four Roses Bourbon, became smitten by the beauty of a Southern belle. It is said that he sent a proposal to her, and she replied that if her answer were ‘Yes,’ she would wear a corsage of roses on her gown to the upcoming grand ball.  Paul Jones waited for her answer excitedly on that night of the grand ball…when she arrived in her beautiful gown, she wore a corsage of four red roses. He later named his Bourbon ‘Four Roses’ as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle….”
This is pure romantic nonsense.  Paul Jones remained a bachelor for all of his days.  What can be documented is that Jones was successful in the liquor trade in Georgia and that when its state legislature passed a law banning alcohol sales, he relocated about 1884 to Louisville, Kentucky.  He quickly was able to obtain a prime location on Louisville’s “Whiskey Row” on Main Street where he began “rectifying” whiskey and selling at wholesale.  With the “Whiskey Trust” controlling the price of whiskey stocks, Jones soon looked for a distillery of his own.  The opportunity came when the J. G. Mattingly distillery ran into financial difficulties. This facility had been built by the Mattingly family in Louisville in 1874, located between High and Rudd Avenues and 39th and 40th Streets, and run successfully by them until 1889.  In September of that year they ceased operation and the distillery went up for auction.  Jones bought it for $125,000 — equivalent to about $3 million today.

For his money, according to insurance records, Jones obtained a mill and fermenting house, a boiler house, a distillery spirits building and a cattle barn.  The property also held five warehouses, all of them brick with slate or metal roofs.  With an assumed supply of whiskey the Paul Jones Company was on its way to becoming one of America’s largest distilling organizations.  It used the brand names, “Paul Jones,” ”Four Roses,” "Jones Four Star,” "Old Cabinet,” "Old Cabinet Rye,” "Small Grain,” "West End,” and “Swastika,”  In those pre-Nazi days the swastika was an Native American good luck sign.   
Jones advertised from coast to coast including a giant lighted sign in New York’s Madison Square.  The Paul Jones brand quickly found a national audience, packaged in glass bottles from quarts down to mini size.  He often merchandised with “Old South” themes, including  images he put on saloon signs and bar trays.  Conjuring up a number of stereotypes about African-Americans, one showed a black mammy with a slice of watermelon and a black man with a bottle of Paul Jones whiskey.  In the center is a boy torn between the two treats.  It is entitled “The Temptation of St. Anthony,”  a reference to a Medieval saint who was tempted by demons in the desert.  Another rural image  used in merchandising Paul Jones whiskey was of a grinning farmer pouring himself a glass. Used on saloon signs, it also graced shot glasses and back-of-the-bar bottles.
Throughout this period Jones was expanding his operations, taking over an adjacent building in which paper labels for bottles were stocked and stored. Curiously,  Sanborn insurance maps show no areas set aside for offices in either structure.  It has been suggested that Jones, living a presumably Spartan bachelor life, conducted all his business in the hotel room in which he resided for years.  It was at the Galt House, shown below, just down the street from the Paul Jones Company.

As his business thrived, Jones made investments in Louisville, becoming a director and vice president of the American National Bank and president of the Louisville Fair and Driving Association.  Throughout the early 1900s Jones suffered from a kidney ailment known as “Bright’s Disease” and died of its complications in 1905.  He left money in his will for the building of the Southern mansion mausoleum shown at the top of this post.

After Paul’s death, Warner Jones’ son with other family members carried on the company.  During National Prohibition in 1922 they bought the Frankfort Distillery, one of the few outfits that had been granted the right to sell “medicinal” whiskey during the dry period.  That purchase kept their brands alive and when Repeal came the family added a third Louisville based distillery to supply them with spirits.  The Joneses continuing fixation with the Old South was evident in a brochure they issued in 1934 that talks lovingly about “…The plunk of the banjo and the melancholy throatiness of some Afric chant drifting from a whitewashed log-cabin across damasked tobacco-patch….”  Accompanying illustrations carried the same theme of black slaves happy to be serving white men.
In 1943, the family sold its liquor interests to Seagrams, a Canadian company that maintained the nostalgic (and sometimes racist) images that had characterized Paul Jones advertising for generations.  Note the ad below with the happy black waiter and his fractured English.  The Paul Jones brand eventually disappeared from liquor store shelves, although Four Roses has survived.  Meanwhile, the original Paul Jones lies alone in his massive mausoleum, possibly dreaming still of his Old South.







  


















18 comments:

  1. Hey Jack! Love your blog. Keep it up. Where did you find the quote about when Paul Jones “returned home to find his home in ruins..." ? I'd appreciate it!

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  2. Bourbon Scout: Thank you for your kind comments about my blog. Will continue as long as there are good stories to tell. As for the quote about Paul Jones it comes from a 50 plus page booklet called "Irwin S. Cobb's Own Recipe Book." Cobb was a well known newspaper columnist and movie actor at the time and when Prohibition was repealed, the Jones whiskey people paid him to do the pamphlet. In addition to recipes, Cobb wrote a brief biography of Paul Jones. It opens with the lines quoted above.

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  3. Hey Jack- thanks again for pointing me to Cobb's Own Cookbook. Do you happen to know of any photographs of Paul L. Jones, Jr.?

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  4. Dear Bourbon Scout: Sorry no photos of Jones Jr. Hope you got a copy of Cobb's recipe book. I have it. Find the illustrations interesting.

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    1. Hey Jack- was able to find a buy a copy of Cobb's recipe book. Very cool little piece of history. Cobb got some details about Jones' military service wrong, which is funny considering it was apparently a Frankfort Distillery marketing effort, but I'm glad I found it. What's the source of the depiction of Jones above?

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    2. Hi, If you know that there are details of Cobbs military history that are wrong, why do you not share what you know as to enlighten us. Please provide your source. We are all trying to get the best picture of Paul Jones and if you know something...Give It Up!!

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  5. I see it on the fourroses.com/history page but am curious if there's a story behind it (or another image that served as the source of that "drawing"). Thanks!

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    1. Bourbon Scout: Have found no photo of Jones but it would appear that the illustration was taken from one.

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  6. Below is an illustration taken from an advertising booklet issued by the liquor firm he founded. Glass bottles Suppliers

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  7. Dear Jack: My family has inherited an original Temptation of St. Anthony Paul Jones metal painted saloon sign depicted here in your piece. We are looking for an appraisal of the piece - do you know of any appraisers or collectors of this nostalgic advertising who might be interested in speaking with us? Lorraine in Boston.

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  8. Dear LRabb: If the sign is in good condition, it should be worth quite a bit. The two I have seen have not been and, I believe, sold well. As for an appraisal, I would be in touch with Jim Hagenbuch at Glassworks Auction in Greenville PA (215) 679-5849. He has sold many things for me and I believe him to be "straight up." You can use my name, if you chose, in being in touch with him.

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  9. Dear Jack: Thank you for your response! We appreciate the referral. LRabb

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  10. So i have an unopened mini bottle(1/10 pint) of Paul Jones, I was kinda wondering about its history. It says "sold by Frankfort Distillers Corporation. New York N.Y.
    Underneath that it says
    "Blended and Bottled by Paul Jones and company. Baltimore M.D.
    Now from what i have read in the above article tells me that its from 1943 or earlier? If an interested party would like a picture of it send me an email(Standarsh101@gmail.com). I would like to know what year it is approximately from. And if you care to know my intentions, Im gonna drink it!

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  11. Dear Unknown: From your description I think your assessment of the age of the whiskey is about right. It should be OK to drink if it has been in glass the whole time. Whiskey does not really deteriorate but can evaporate if not tightly bottled. Drinking is a good idea because if you wanted to sell the bottle it would be best to do so with it drained. It should not be sent through the mail with whiskey in it.

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    1. I found an interesting vintage Paul jones whiskey bottle lamp in my dad's attick very ill mint condition. Still works. I can't find anything like it online but would like to get it appraised. Have picture . You able to lead me in right direction. I can send pics. It's something else and definitely not home made.
      Brian

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  12. Dear Unknown: Thanks for being in touch. I would be happy to see a picture of the lamp and help you get an appraisal. You can send the image to me at jack.sullivan9@verizon.net.

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