Many pre-Prohibition liquor dealers never sought trademarks for their proprietary whiskeys, some bothered by the expense of registration and others skeptical of the protections afforded. A prominent exception were the Jones boys, Rollin and Westley, of Boston. Not only did they register multiple brands with the U.S. Patent Office, they widely publicized the existence of their trademarks.
The Jones boys’ Massachusetts wholesale liquor dealership was founded in 1851 by their father, William, who originally hailed from New Hampshire. Located at 159 Hanover Street, corner of Blackstone, he called the firm the W. H. Jones Company. The 1860 census found the Jones family living in Chelsea, Suffolk County. With William was his wife Martha (Smith) Jones and the two boys, Rollin, age 5, and Westley, age 2. William’s occupation was given as “liquor dealer” and his assets as recorded by the census indicate he was a successful one.
As the sons matured, their father took them into the business and eventually with his retirement they took over. The 1901 letterhead shown above lists them both along with a third executive, Harry L. Dane. They identified their enterprise as “Importers of Wines, Spirits and Cordials.” Their logo featured a trade mark of a bear rampant on a shield with an attached Latin motto reading “Satis Bonum Estoptimum.” For those whose Latin is rusty, the word were translated on a company shot glass as: “The Best is Good Enough.”
The Jones boys also advertised themselves as the owners of the Elm Hill Distilling Company. Although it is not altogether clear what their ownership share might have been, they were claiming proprietorship of a facility that over time would be known by more than 40 names, prominent among them the Elk Run Distillery, named for the stream that ran near the property outside Louisville, Kentucky. Shown below, the plant is recorded as having been founded as the Pee Dee a.k.a. Ross P. Pepper Distillery. An 1892 insurance underwriter recorded that there were five warehouses, three of them adjoining but separated by firewalls. Additional buildings included a cattle barn, a mill and grain elevator and an aging room. The distillery itself had been fitted with a sprinkler system, fire being an ever present problem in making whiskey.
In effect, the Jones boys were claiming to own a major Kentucky whiskey producer. But liquor dealers elsewhere were making the same claim on the Elk Run Distillery. The Boston dealers likely were obtaining all or most of their raw whiskey stocks from this Louisville operation, but did not own it. The Joneses were self admitted “rectifiers,” that is, blending and compounding whiskeys and selling them under proprietary names. One ad boldly asserted: “We are Rectifiers, Blenders or Compounders, as you please. Choose your own name for that department in our line of business that so many people foolishly jeer at, so is your Apothecary, your Confectioner and your Cook. How often do you receive one cow’s milk?”
As they successfully pursued the business they had inherited from their father, the Jones boys also managed to have personal lives. Rollin was the first to marry, his bride Annie G. Sprague. They wed in Boston in October 1877 and are recorded as having two children, a boy and a girl. The family appears in a 1905 directory living on Beacon Street in Brookline. The son, also named Rollin, was working in the W. H. Jones Co. offices. Westley Jones followed the matrimonial route five years later, marrying Cora C. Stuart in June 1883, again in Boston. They would have a family of five, three boys and two girls.
For their wholesale customers, the Jones boys provided their products in stoneware jugs bearing the company name. Shown here are several of them, including a two gallon salt glazed crock that likely dates from the mid-to late 1800s. Note the incised label identifying it as from W. H. Jones & Co. Later containers were Bristol glazed with the labels printed under a second clear glaze. The jugs appear to have been dated for the year of their origins. One marked “1903,” and the other, “1906.” Retail customers could buy their liquor in smaller quantities. Like the whiskey quart shown here, most Jones bottles had paper labels bearing the company trademark. Underneath the labels was an elaborately embossed glass container, as shown here.
What sets the Jones boys apart from their colleagues, however, was their emphasis on their trademarks. Their labels included “Bigwood,” “Blackstone,” "Blue Jay,” ”Bob Ton,” “Brookhouse,” “Brushwood,” “Buckmont,” “Butternut,” "Cobweb Club,” "Elm Hill,” ”Hanover,” “Haymarket,” “Hermitage Rye,” ”Holiday Rye,” "Jupiter Gin,” “Kingswood,” "Old Gold,” "Old Northbridge,” “Rainbow,” “Ruthven,” and "White Clover Gin."
In the late 1800s and early 1900s many distillers and rectifiers were disdaining to register their brands on the grounds that the expense of registration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was not compensated by any real protection of proprietary rights by state and local courts. The Jones boys did not agree. Beginning in 1892 when they registered Blackstone, Elm Hill and Holiday Rye, they trademarked a few brands up and through 1897. When the laws were strengthened by Congress in 1905, Rollin and Westley took the step of registering seven more brands among those listed above. In 1906 they re-registered under the new statues four brands they had previously trademarked. The Joneses usually protected only a name but occasionally they also registered a design. For example, the 1905 registration for their White Clover Gin included the illustration of a clover stem, head and leaves.
The Jones boys did not stop with registration. They broadly publicized their trademarks. Each of their bill forms and other company documents carried a list of their trademarked brands, each given with its five digit Patent Office number. Their advertising shot glasses carried a notation on when a brand had been granted a trademark. Shown here are Old Gold Bourbon and Holiday Rye shots, both recorded on the glass as federally approved on January 12, 1892.
The precautions taken by the Jones boys apparently were effective. I can find no court cases in which one of their trademarks was an issue. No protections, however, existed against the rising tide of National Prohibition. Mail order trade was the backbone of the Joneses enterprise. They advertised that: “On receipt of your order with $6.00 we will ship 6 full quarts, assorted to suit, transportation charges prepaid, to any railroad point in the United States where the charges for transportation do not exceed $2.00.” As new federal and state laws were enacted, however, mail order liquor sales dwindled sharply.
By 1918, W. H. Jones & Co., a liquor dealership that had operated for 66 years at the same location in Boston, shut its doors, its customer base eroded and National Prohibition on the horizon. Neither brother lived long enough to see Repeal. Westley, although the younger, died first in March 1926 at the age of 68. He was followed in death by Rollin, who passed in August 1929. He was 74. Today we remember the Jones boys by the jugs, bottles and shot glasses they left behind — and the trademarks they so clearly cherished.