Sunday, October 4, 2015

“Mannie" Doran Literally Came Up “By the Bootstraps”

It is common for observers of a young man who rises in wealth and esteem from a modest beginning to be said to have “come up by the bootstraps,”  that is, by his own strenuous effort.  Maurice J. “Mannie” Doran of Rochester, New York, did that literally.  Beginning as a shoemaker and intimately familiar with bootstraps,  Doran, shown right, according to a biographer, “…determined to exert himself in a different direction.  He accordingly became a wholesale liquor dealer and has shown remarkable business ability, transacting a large and lucrative business and maintaining a high class of trade.”

Born in Rochester in 1862, Mannie was the son of Edward and Margaret Doran and the eldest of seven children.   His father was born in Dublin, Ireland, and brought to the United States by his family at the age of six. Shown left in his uniform of a Union soldier, Edward joined Company E of the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry in August 1862.  Edward’s wartime service was short-lived, however, and he was discharged four months later, the reason being “disability prior to enlistment” and he was not eligible for a pension. For most of his life the father made his living as a “molder,” that is, working in a factory creating mechanical parts from a mold.

Known as Mannie to friends and family, Doran received his early education in the public schools then was sent to a Catholic secondary school until he was 17.  He left off education to learn the cobbler’s trade, working with several local shoemakers.  The 1880 census found him living at home with his parents and siblings, his occupation given as “works in shoe shop.”

When Doran founded his liquor business is unclear, but he likely was given an impetus for abandoning the shoe trade by the demands of a growing family.  In 1889, Mannie at age 36 married Anna Loretta Corcoran, a woman five years his junior and like himself the offspring of Irish immigrants.   They subsequently had five children, four sons and one daughter:  Edward, who died in infancy, Maurice Jr.,  Henry, Anna, and Theobold.  
By 1895 Doran was advertising in local media for his liquor business,  offering a quart of Kentucky whiskey for 50 cents and a gallon of California wine for $1.00.  The dollar included the jug, the container, as the one shown here, that he used for wholesale amounts of his wine and whiskey.   For the retail trade he issued his whiskey in quarts and pint sized flasks.  Shown here are a labeled flask for his Kentucky Rye Whiskey and an embossed bottle that Doran “warranted” to hold a quart of liquor.   

Doran was a “rectifier”  that is, blending whiskey received from multiple sources in order to achieve a particular taste and color.  After the mixing process, he would bottle the results and provide proprietary labels for their marketing.  Among his house brands were “Myrtle Valley,"   "Kentucky," “Diploma," and "Lynbrook,"  all rye whiskeys.

Like many liquor wholesalers, Doran saw the wisdom of providing his customers with giveaway items.  He appears to have concentrated on mini-jugs, each with a swallow or two of liquid.   So far I have identified three of these, each distinctive.  One was a square jug with a pouring lip, a second presented an Bristol glaze round body with a Albany slip top, and a third, advertised Lynbrook Whiskey and featured a cobalt blue label on a cream body.

Over the life of his liquor business, Doran moved several times.  An early address was 354 State Street in Rochester.   Several years later, in 1898, his company moved to 92 West Front Street.  His next and likely final location was 128 West Main Street.  Doran was there in 1909 when he petitioned the Common Council of the City of Rochester to allow him to dig out beneath the public sidewalk to construct an “areaway and cellar” there, expanding his store.  The structure was approximately 20 feet in length and 17 in width.  Because it was below a public walkway the construction was ordered to be supervised by the Commissioner of Public Works.  Doran also was required to post bond with that office of $5,000 (equivalent to $125,000 today) to indemnify the city against any damage claims. 

Throughout this period, Doran was keeping socially active.  An independent in politics, he was a member of the Elks lodge and an active parishioner in Immaculate Conception Church.  Although his father had been a staunch Democrat,  Maurice claimed to be independent in politics.  Like several other whiskey men profiled in this blog,  Doran also was an inventor.  Patented in October 1898, one invention was for  a “chainless bicycle.”  With the mechanism illustrated here, Doran aimed at improving the propelling gear. Bicycle parts were arranged to bring the pedals directly below the seat post and saddle, reputedly to avoid lost motion and “enable the rider to apply power directly to the cranks and to the best advantage.”  There is no evidence that  Doran’s improvements were ever put into production. The chain seemingly has remained an integral part of the bicycle. 

Although New York never enacted a state prohibition law, Doran would have been forced to shut down his prosperous liquor business in 1919 with the imposition of National Prohibition.  The 1920 U.S. Census found him living on Atkinson Street in Rochester as a 56-year-old widower with three adult children, Henry, Anna, and Theobald.   None of the family was recorded with having an occupation.  Doran’s wife, Anna, had died the year before.   Maurice/Mannie would live another twenty years, seeing the 1934 end of Prohibition.   At the age of 78, he died in 1940 and was interred next to his wife in Section SO-2, Lot 9, Grave 5W-N of Rochester’s Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.  Shown here is the Doran monument.
For a last word on a man who literally came up by his bootstraps, I leave it to his 1908 biographer who defined Maurice Duran’s character by offering this observation:  “Personally he is sociable, ever willing to accord to anyone his courtesy and his time.”

Note:  The biographical sketch on Doran was published in the “History of Rochester and Monroe County New York From the Earliest Historic Times to the Beginning of 1907” by William F. Peck, Pioneer Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1908.
























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