Monday, February 8, 2016

Stulz Brothers of Kansas City Were “German to the Core”

Although many of our Nation’s early whiskey men were immigrants from Germany, most of them after arriving were quick to “Americanize” their approach to marketing their liquor.  The Stulz Brothers of Kansas City were notable exceptions.  Shown above on their letterhead, the Stulzes — Emil Arnold  (E.A.) left, and Sigmund Carl (S.C.) — energetically pitched their merchandising to a German-speaking populace, estimated at 95% of their customer base.

The brothers were born in Wittich, in Prussian Germany, of into a Jewish that had come to the area from Klattau, southwest of Prague.  Sigmund was born in 1860;  Emil was five years younger.  The Stulz Brothers immigrated to the United States in 1886, settling in Kansas City in 1887, a city with a strong German population.   In 1893, Sigmund married Kathryn Stein,  woman eleven years his junior.  They would have a family of two boys and two girls.  In 1900 Emil married Else Marchand.  They would have one daughter.

In 1893 the Sigmund and Emil opened Stulz Brothers Liquor Company at 605 West Fifth Street in Kansas City.   Their enterprise seems to have met with quick success.   By 1898 they had outgrown that address and moved to 1416 Main Street.  In time their business outgrew that store and the brothers moved to 616-620 SW Boulevard.  These impressive quarters, shown here, boasted four stories and long frontage on a major street.  As shown below, the building was large enough to hold large vats for whiskey and wine that were decanted into barrels to be sold at wholesale.  The brothers claimed that their storage casks in total held 375,000 gallons.
The Stulz Brothers offered a blizzard of brands to their a claimed continent-wide clientele, “from Maine to California, from Texas to Minnesota, from Florida to British Colombia.”   They included many of the best known American brands and their own proprietary labels for whiskey they were blending and mixing on premise.  Those included: “Peacock Rye,” “Mocking Bird Whiskey,” ”S. B. Monogram,” "S. B. Our Own Sour Mash,” "S. S. B. B. Double Copper Distilled.” “Stulz Brothers Autograph,” seen here in a 1919 ad came in straight rye, straight bourbon and a blend, both in quart and gallon sizes.  The brothers packaged it in both ceramic and glass bottles.
Like other major whiskey wholesalers, Stulz Brothers provided a range of giveaway items to favored customers, including saloonkeepers, bartenders and even faithful retail customers.  Among them were a variety of shot glasses carrying the Stulz advertising.  Other more expensive items were a match case advertising Mocking Bird Whiskey and their house brand beer, “Gutschluck.”  They advertised:  “Whoever brings us a new customer will always receive a lovely gift.”  

In order to handle the immense amount of business their liquor trade was generating Stulz Brothers was obliged to have a large employee force.  Many of them seem to have been young women.  The photo below shows no fewer than twenty-nine damsels, all chastely dressed in high-buttoned blouses and shirts, who are said to have been employed in Stulzes Kansas City offices.  The German text accompanying this photo said: “…We offer a picture of a few of the pretty gals in our office. These aren’t all of them, as a few were too bashful to appear in the picture.”
Although all of the labels and ads shown heretofore were in English, Stulz Brothers were more comfortable addressing their customers in German.  As an example, about 1913 they self-published a 240-page book of German songs under the title “Neuestes Deutsches Liederbuch” (New German Songbook).  Professor Kevin Kurdylo, an expert on German language and literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has translated much of the book.  In it the Stulz Brothers claim that 95 percent of their customers are good Germans who  have been buying their liquor and wines for twenty years.  According to Kurdylo, the book was aimed at preserving the German language and culture in America.  

He notes about the Stulz brothers:  “This book, they believe, will help the children of German-speaking immigrants appreciate the language of their fathers; singing these songs will make them proud to be and to remain German. The brothers ask, ‘Are there any more beautiful, more graceful, more euphonic melodies, than the German?’  By having your children sing these German songs, they insist, you not only help preserve the German language, but you make them aware that  ‘the blood of the heroes of Germany’ flows in their veins.”

“The brothers are confident that these songs will help to instill and sustain such German traits as loyalty, honesty, sincerity, brotherly love, and gratitude (particularly toward their parents) in the young generation, making them “gute und brauchbare amerikanische Bürger” (good and useful American citizens) imbued with German virtues and a German conscience.”
The Stulzes also used the songbook to take a swipe at the movement to monopolies in the American whiskey industry, often identified as the “Whiskey Trust.”  Kurdylo translates:  “‘Die Trusts bedrücken die Farmer, den Geschäftsmann, den Handwerker, Ar- beiter, wir haben nichts mit den Trusts zu thun” (Monopolies oppress farmers, merchants, craftsmen, and workers—we have nothing to do with monopolies).”
The German songbook was not the only item published by Stulz Brothers to celebrate their native language and beloved culture.  Shown here is book entitled “Zum Mohlsein!,” translated from the German it means “For Well-Being.”  Despite the American eagle and Old Glory on the cover, it is a 64-page booklet of German toasts.  This publication likely was a “nice gift” the Stulz’s gave customers.
Not all the Stulz’s printed materials were in German.  Although made in Germany, the children’s book below was written in English.   Carrying advertising as did all Stulz publications, this one was a child’s “play” book.  The images inside were printed in two colors and done in such a way that the first image presented a scene and text.  For example:  “Where are the fish?” — had a picture of a fisherman.  When a red plastic sheet included with “Wonderpictures” was placed over the image, the original scene vanished and a new one appeared of a fish swimming in a stream.
During their period of success in Kansas City, each brother returned to Germany from time to time.  A city directory indicates that Emil may have been residing there in 1912.  By 1915 he had returned to Kansas City, however, where in 1917, at the untimely age of 52, he died.  Surrounded by friends and family, he was interred in Elmwood Cemetery.   Meanwhile, Sigmund pressed forward with business, ever conscious of the advances that anti-alcohol forces were making in state after state.  Stulz whiskey had been confiscated in Oklahoma in 1909, but the brother won in court and got it back.  The brothers were not above heaping derision on the prohibitionists.  Kurdylo’s loose translation of a poem in the Stulz songbook seems illustrative of their feelings:
Schnadahupferl aus Drytown
Water does not whet my whistle,
But here we can’t get wine,
Because the Prohibition thistle
He has smothered the good vine.
But soon I’ll have my druthers,
I write Stulz’s for a little wine
And then those Temperance Brothers
Can slide off my behind!

Sigmund Stulz continued to pursue the interests of Stulz Brothers after his brother’s death, although closing the brewery in 1916 and moving to smaller quarters at 2043 Main Street.  The last directory listing for the firm was 1918.  Sigmund did not live long enough to see Repeal, dying in 1928.  He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Kansas City.  Ironically, this Stulz's death preceded by only a few years the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany when those “German traits” the brothers extolled so highly led to the Jewish Holocaust.
Note:  Most of the quoted sentences above are from an article by Prof. Kurdylo entitled “Stulz Brothers, a German-American Business in Kansas City,” Winter 2011, publication unknown.  The article can be found in its entirety on the Internet.

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