Monday, April 3, 2017

Samuel Hollander: “By His Jugs Shall Ye Know Him”

 Although he called his Paterson, New Jersey, liquor house “Hollander Bros.”  Samuel Hollander was the founder and boss.  Somehow he escaped the notoriety — or even public attention —that often attended other whiskey men so that details on his life are scanty.  Throughout his career wholesaling spirits, however, he packaged them in stoneware jugs that continue to be worthy of attention. 

From census data, we know that Hollander was born in Germany about 1873 and immigrated to the United States in 1877 as an infant, almost certainly in the company of his parents and siblings. The family settled in Paterson, New Jersey, where Hollander grew up speaking Yiddish.  He first shows up in the 1900 census as the 27-year-old husband of Rose (“Rosie”) Hollander, 23, also an immigrant from Germany. Married for six years, the Hollanders already had three children,  Bertha, 5; Louis, 3, and Laura, 1.  Samuel was not listed as having an occupation but already was a liquor dealer, operating at 3 Temple Street in Paterson.

Indicating a need for larger quarters, by 1901 Hollander had moved to 1 - 3 Main Street, a major Paterson commercial area.  The following year his brother Albert joined him in the business and the firm became Hollander Bros., the name it kept throughout its existence.  Later expanding into an adjoining storefront, the company advertised itself as “Direct Importers and Wholesale Dealers in Fine Wines, Liquors and Cordials” and noted that it carried a wide stock of bottled beers.  In addition to its delivery and carry-out sales, the store may also have contained a saloon.  In the 1910 federal census, Samuel described himself as a “saloon keeper.”

This enterprise would have attracted little attention at the time and subsequently were it not for the attention Hollander gave to the packaging of his wholesale spirits in a series of attractive jugs.  These would have held whiskey he had received by the barrel and then decanted into the ceramics.  After delivery to a saloon or restaurant a bartender likely would have poured the contents into other, containers, likely glass, from which to pour shots or make mixed drinks.

My guess is that the earliest of these jugs are the ones with the labels done in cobalt script, all of them at least gallon jugs and “hand thrown.”  My research has failed to identify the manufacturer of these jugs but likely a New Jersey pottery was responsible.  

The first example shown above left is explicit that the jug, after being emptied was to be returned to Hollander Bros.  It is similar to the example at the right, but now the “registered” notice is at the base and also in script.  Below, a somewhat different shape and a “1,” indicating a gallon capacity and an example where the cobalt lettering has run.  It is paired with a jug that had become misshapen in the kiln.
While the jugs shown above were done “free hand” by pottery workers so that each one is slightly different from the others, a more advanced — and less costly — way of printing a label on a jug was the use of stencils.  These were laid over the face of the vessel and the ink applied with a brush.  Shown here is an attractive Hollander Bros. container done in a cursive style.
In time, the bee-hive shaped jugs were replaced by most ceramic factories with what some call “shoulder” jugs because of the rim around the cylindrical body.  This shape was adopted across the industry because of greater ease in stacking the jugs in the firing kiln.  Consequently they cost less to the whisky wholesaler and likely did not require being returned.  As demonstrated by two shown above, these frequently had a white Bristol glaze on the body and a medium or dark brown Albany slip on the neck. 

The two final examples shown here indicate the variety of stenciled letters that were available to Samuel Hollander as he may have looked for ways to make his containers distinctive.  Although the one on the left above is fairly plain, the one one right expresses a sense of style in design.  The use of the yellow bands, emphasizing the company name, and the yellow shoulders marks this example as unusual.  It should be noted that for his retail trade Hollander provided half pint and pint flasks in glass.

By the time of the 1910 census, Samuel had three more little mouths to feed.  Now there was Eva, 8, Florence, 6 and Paul, 2.  There also was a live-in servant girl.  After about 20 years in business, he was forced to shut the doors on Hollander Bros. with the advent of National Prohibition.   In the 1920 federal census he gave his occupation as “silk manufacturer.”  He and Rose were living with their family, one that now included seven-year-old Marion, at 222 30th Street in Paterson’s 11th Ward.
At the age of 59 Rose died first and was buried in the Hebrew cemetery of Oheb Shalom in Hillside, Union County, New Jersey.  Samuel joined her there twelve years later in 1947, age 72.  His gravestone, shown here, is inscribed “Dear Husband and Father.”  Although no evidence exists that he opened his doors after the end of the “dry” era, Samuel Hollander left his mark on the liquor trade by the many and varied whiskey jugs that bear the name of his firm, avidly collected in our own time.

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