Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cincinnati’s Rheinstrom Bros.— A Blizzard of Brands

Most pre-Prohibition liquor wholesalers featured a few proprietary brands of whiskey in their product lines, usually with one or two flagship labels that they featured in their advertising.  A handful of proprietors, however, thought there was profit in featuring a wide ranging list of whiskeys.  Among that group, Abraham and Isaac, the Rheinstrom brothers, seem to have been champions.  They featured 51 of their own brands and issued shot glasses advertising many of them.

The Rheinstroms were immigrants from Bavaria, Abraham born in 1845 and Isaac two years later.  Abraham listed his immigration year as 1859 when he would have been about 14;  Isaac likely came later.  Both fetched up in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city with a heavy German population.  Although I have been unable to locate photos of the two, passport applications provide descriptions. Both men were approximately five feet, eight inches tall, with similarly configured faces, except that Abraham was recorded with a broad chin and Isaac’s was given as  “small.”  Abraham’s eyes were gray;  Isaac’s were hazel. 

Where the brothers spent their early years in the U.S. has gone undocumented.  They first appear in the public record in 1970 when the federal census found them living with Joseph Freiburg, a partner in the well-known Cincinnati liquor house of J. & A Frieburg.  The brothers were working for him, Abraham as bookkeeper and Isaac as a clerk.  The Freiburg firm was noted for its proliferation of brands, counting twenty-nine proprietary varieties of whiskey in their inventory.

By 1876, the Rheinstroms had left the Freiburgs and had established a liquor outlet at 24 Sycamore Street in Cincinnati.  For whatever the reason, over the next few years they more than trumped the number of brands issued by their former employer, marketing at least 50 different labels over the 41 years they were in business.  

Among them were:  “Aetna," “Antioch,” "Beacon Light O.F.,” "Breckenridge Club,” "Capital Club,” "Cotton Bale Rye,” "Dave Copperfield,” "Del Monte.” "Delta Club,” "Derby Club,” "Dragon Gin,” ”Dunlap Malt,” "Eagle Malt,”Eagle Planet Gin,” "Eagle's Pride,” "East Port,” "Elk Club Rye,” “Fleetwood,” "General Arthur,” “Georgia,” "Golden Key,” "Golden Seal,” 

"Good As Gold,””Hazel Dell White Rye,” "Home Guard,” "Jed Clayton,” "Kriskringle Rye,” “Lewisdale,” “Millville,” "National League,” "Novena Old Rye,” "Old Home Still,” "Old Jed Russell,” Old Reserve Rye,” “Padlock,” “Patriot,” "Santa Claus,” “Security,” "Seward Rye,” “Souvenir,” “Sydenham,” "Talisman Rye,” "Ten Broeck,”  "Tom Howe O.P.S.,” "U. S. Mail Box Rye,” "Uncle John,” "Uncle Josh,” "Windsor Club,” and "Ye Olden Times.”

Rheinstrom Bros. trademarked only three labels — Aetna in 1876, Padlock in 1894 and Jed Clayton in 1908.  A few brands had been trademarked by other whiskey houses, namely Capitol Club by Bowlin of Minneapolis,  Elk Club by Meyer & Co. of Pennsylvania, and Fleetwood by Guggenheim of Cincinnati. Moreover, some of these brand names are very close to those of whiskeys from other Cincinnati wholesalers and a question arises if they were intended to confuse buyers.  Yet I find no trademark infringement actions against the brothers.

To advertise this blizzard of brands, Abraham and Isaac issued a large number of shot glasses, some them scattered through out this post.  These would have been given to saloons, restaurants and bars that featured the company whiskeys and other liquor.   To the extent there was a flagship brand it was Jed Clayton Rye, marketed through newspaper ads, in colorful saloon signs, and the metal match holder that opens this article.
In addition to massing numbers of brands, Rheinstrom Bros. made an extraordinary number of moves over its business life, likely needing more and more room as its business expanded.  After one year on Sycamore, the liquor house moved to 57 East Second Street and two years later to 56-58 East Third.  By 1883 the Rheinstroms were back at 57 East Second, two years later moving across the street to 54-64 East Second, then back to East Third.  


By 1893, the company had a Martin Street address, a facility shown above. It also was home to the “Eagle Liqueur Distilleries,” a wholly owned Rheinstrom subsidiary.  From the drawing above it appears to have been a major “rectifying” operation, blending whiskeys for wholesale.  With the acquisition by 1897 of a Front Street plant, shown below, the Rheinstroms seemingly also were doing their own distilling.

Meanwhile each brother was having a family life.  In 1875 Isaac at the age of 28 had married Augusta Goldsmith, ten years his junior, a woman born in Kentucky  of German immigrant parents.  The couple would have two sons, Maurice born in 1877 and Robert in 1882.  Abraham was a bachelor of 36 when he finally took the plunge, wedding Minna Wise, a native of Chicago and 17 years younger than he.  They would go on to have a family of three daughters and two sons, both of whom, Harry and James, would later join the liquor house.

Followng 33 years at the helm of Rheinstrom Bros., Abraham, while on a trip to Maine, died, age 64.  After his brother’s death Isaac, possibly to compensate Abraham’s family, appears to have given over management and possibly partial ownership of the liquor house to other interests.  Although James Rheinstrom continued to be identified with the company until its forced closing after Ohio voted for statewide prohibition.

Meanwhile, Isaac and his sons moved in a different direction, founding the I. Rheinstrom & Sons Company and the I. Rheinstrom Engineering Company.  The former manufactured bottling and conveying machinery; the latter was engaged in fruit canning.  Both companies were run out of the same offices, with a factory in Ludlow, Kentucky.  Isaac was president of both, son Maurice vice president and son Robert secretary and treasurer.  

Isaac lived eleven years after Abraham’s death, passing in February 1920 at the age of 73, having seen prohibitionary forces triumph not only in Ohio but throughout the Nation.  He was buried in Section 4, Lot No. 164 of the Walnut Hills United Jewish Cemetery outside Cincinnati, not far from the grave site of his brother Abraham.   
























Friday, June 23, 2017

Franklin O. Day and the Art of Whiskey


It was not uncommon for the proprietors of successful liquor houses to accumulate considerable wealth that they eventually invested in real estate development, banking institutions or new technologies like the automobile.  A handful, however, made a reputation for having lavished their excess cash on fine art.  Among them was Franklin O. Day, shown right, whose collection was accounted among the most notable of St. Louis, Missouri.

How Day became a connoisseur of fine art is not entirely clear.   He was born in Burlington, Vermont, in October 1816 of native Vermonters Polly Mary and Alfred Day, a merchant whose ancestors came to America in 1634.  The Days believed their family originated in Wales, not Ireland where the name is common, it originally having been written “Dee” but pronounced “Day.”

Day received a public school education but left off formal learning in mid-teens to work in his father’s dry good store.  Apparently looking for larger opportunities at the age of 17 he went off to New York City where he found similar employment.  The sudden death of his father in 1835 when Franklin was 19 called him back home to settle his father’s estate and run the business.  When an business venture in a nearby town failed, Day reputedly with only $200 in his pocket headed West, settling in St. Louis.

Arriving in the Missouri town about 1842 or 1843, he soon found employment with T. S. Rutherford, a wholesale dry goods merchant.  Within several years Day had so impressed his employer that he made him a junior partner.  Within four years, Day had “so distinguished himself for efficiency” that he was made a full partner and the company name changed to Rutherford & Day.

Now an established St. Louis businessman, in 1849 Day found time to wed.  His bride was Lavinia M. Aull, who had been born in Lexington, Missouri.  In quick succession they had two sons, Frank P. and Harry. In succeeding years they would have two more children, Annie and Laurence. 


Still restless at 38 years old, the excitement of the California Gold Rush (1848-1855) captured family man Day’s imagination.  St. Louis was the starting point of many of the expeditions west and fortunes were being made herding livestock west across the plains to mining sites and boomtowns.  Dissolving his partnership with Rutherford and kissing his family goodbye, in 1853 Day left on a cattle drive to California, a wearisome journey of almost six months, only to arrive “too late to reap the expected profit,” according to a biographer.  
The returns were sufficient, however, for him to return with some money to St. Louis.  There in 1855 he joined in a wholesale liquor business with Charles Derby, who earlier had established the enterprise at an address on the North Levee along the Mississippi, the area shown above as it looked at the time. 

The company was called Derby & Day and featured several proprietary brands, including “Derby and Day Whiskey, “Superior Rectified,” and “Sunny South.”  The latter was the firm’s flagship brand, sold in ceramic jugs and clear glass bottles.  The company in 1873 trademarked both Sunny South and Derby and Day.

Epitomized by the elaborate bank check shown below, the Derby & Day firm was highly lucrative.  Said a biographer:  “This enterprise…prospered, and from quite a moderate beginning grew to be one of the largest interests in the city, its name being a synonym for careful, judicious management and honorable dealing.”  It also was making Day richThe 1870 census found the Day family at home, the four children apparently in school, and five servants in the house.  They included a seamstress, a cook, two house maids, and a carriage driver.

Increasingly Day was associating himself with St. Louis business leaders in such projects as the St. Louis bridge, shown right, and investing in the Merchants’ National Bank, Franklin Savings Bank, and Boatmen’s Insurance Company.  At the same time he also was alert to a trend among leading wealthy St. Louisans  to spend their excess riches by investing in works of art. 

A 1911 History of St. Louis, described this phenomenon:  “…The collection that came to be formed, as a result of the newly-awakened interest, gave by reflex influence a strong stimulus to that interest.  The earliest of these collection worthy of mention began to be formed in the years immediately succeeding the close of the [Civil] war.   A number of these have come to include not merely an extended array of pictures for which large sums of money have been paid, but pictures which, with very few exceptions, are genuine works of art of a high order of merit.”

That depends.  Although the Impressionist movement was in its initial stages, few if any St. Louis collectors were interested in anything earlier than the 1930-1870 French Barbizon School.  As for Franklin Day, his taste was clearly toward the traditionalist French and English salon and genre paintings.  His reputation as a collector rested primarily on his purchase of a single painting for $10,000 — roughly equivalent today to $250,000.  Painted by a Scottish artist, Erskine Nicol (1825-1905), shown here, the work was called “Paying the Rent,” one of the artist’s depictions of Scotch and Irish peasant life. 

Called “clever” by critics, the painting has been described as being…”Laid in the library of the agent of a estate, the tenant farmers are settling their rent with faces in which dissatisfaction is the chief expression.”  The oil was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1866 and again at the Paris Exposition in 1867.  Despite its reputation as one of Nicol’s most famous works, I have been unable to find an image of the painting and have here added a similar Nicol genre piece to illustrate Day’s taste in art.

Likely because of the price paid, Day’s purchase made headlines in St. Louis newspapers and led to his collection being identified among those which… “contain good and important examples of the work of nearly two hundred of the most celebrated of modern painters.”   The whiskey man eventually seems to have tired of Nicol’s work and later sold it to Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping baron, who displayed it prominently in his New York City museum.  I can find no mention of the sale price. 

Day was at the helm of the St. Louis liquor house for 29 years.  As his sons Frank P. and Laurence matured, he brought them into the employ of Derby & Day, respectively as bookkeeper and clerk.   With advancing age, his health declined but he continue to take an active role in running the firm and said to have come to the office a week before his death in February, 1884.   He was 66 years old.  Day was buried Bellefontaine Cemetery of St. Louis, Block 55, Lot 1414.  Shown here, a large marble monument crowned by three statues of toga-covered figures marks his grave, an arresting work of art on its own.  Franklin would be joined there two years later by his widow, Lavinia.

The last entry for Derby & Day Co. in local directories appears to be 1890, two years after Franklin’s death.  Later directories show Frank P. and Laurence working at other occupations. The fate of Day’s art collection so far has escaped my research.  I find no indication of a museum collection.  Most likely it was sold at auction by his heirs and the individual works scattered widely.

Note:  The details of Franklin Day’s life were contained in the History of Saint Louis City and County: From the Earliest Periods, Volume 2, by John Thomas Scharf published in 1883.  A lengthy article in that book made special mention of the whiskey man’s interest in fine art.  























Monday, June 19, 2017

Five Women Found Success in Whiskey


Foreword:  The history of the liquor industry in the United States traditionally has been dominated by men, particularly in the era before National Prohibition was imposed in 1920.  Over time as I have profiled more than five hundred “pre-pro” distillers, whiskey wholesalers and saloonkeepers, I have found five women whose careers in whiskey were truly outstanding and deserve special recognition.  In keeping with my effort to bring a more analytic perspective to groups in the whiskey trade, I present these women:

Mary Dowling from Anderson County, Kentucky, not only owned and ran major distillery, shown here, she found a way to stay in the liquor business after 1920 and, in effect, thumbed her nose at Prohibition.  Kentucky-born to Irish immigrant parents, at seventeen she married a distiller at least 17 years her senior who saw her intelligence and brought her into the business.  When he died, she inherited his interest in the Waterfill & Frazier distillery, bought out his partners, and ran it successful for two decades.

Her success, however, came to screeching halt with the imposition of National Prohibition.   Federal records shown her withdrawing large quantities of whiskey from her bonded warehouse in the run up to the ban on alcohol.   Some of this whiskey she is reported to have sold to those Kentucky distillers fortunate enough to be licensed to sell liquor for “medicinal purposes.”   Other stocks, she successfully “bootlegged” for four years until Federal agents arrested her. 

After authorities were unable to convict her, Mary Dowling hatched a new -- and more successful -- business plan.  About 1926 she hired Joseph Beam, one of Kentucky’s premier distillers but now out of work, to dismantle the distillery, transport the pieces to Juarez, Mexico, reassemble it there, and resume making whiskey.  Mexico had no prohibition so the liquor production was completely legal.  Using several strategies to get her whiskey legally over the border to American consumers, she continued to operate until she died, four years short of Repeal.

Mary Jane Blair also was a Kentuckian who in 1907 inherited her late husband’s share of a distillery, this one in Marion County, shown below. She promptly bought out his partners and changed the name to the “Mary Jane Blair Distillery.”  Although the greater part of her life had been spent in the Blair home as housewife and mother, evidence is that she took an active role as president of the company, one that distilled about five months in the year.   Limited production was not unusual in the Kentucky whiskey industry,  some distillers believing that fermentation was done best only in certain months.  As the distiller Mrs. Blair hired W. P. Norris, a well known Marion County whiskey man.

For the next seven years, with the help of a son, Mary Jane Blair operated the distillery, considerably expanding its capacity.  By 1912  the plant had the mashing capacity of 118 bushels per day and four warehouses able to hold 9,000 barrels.  The Blairs produced whiskey sold under several labels; the flagship was “Old Saxon,”  as illustrated here by a back-of-the-bar bottle.  About 1914 the family sold the facility.  Mary Jane Blair died in 1922 at the age of 76.

Lovisa McCullough was a strong women’s rights advocate who successfully ran a liquor wholesale business in Pittsburgh following the death of her husband, John.  A 1888 Pittsburgh directory under the heading “Liquors, Wholesale,” lists forty-nine such establishments in the city.  All of them save one are readily identifiable as male-run companies.  The exception is “McCullough, Louisa C., 523 Liberty Av.”    That same year Lovisa became a delegate from Pittsburgh to the historic founding meeting of the International Council of Women (ICW) devoted to women’s suffrage.  It is a safe bet that she was the only liquor dealer at the convention. 

Obviously a woman of great energy, Lovisa McCullough threw herself into other causes.  A lover of animals, she was a longtime member of the Humane Society and served on the board of the Pittsburgh chapter.  She also was among women who worked toward buying up and preserving the grounds and structures at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where Gen. George Washington and his troops passed the winter.  A true “Daughter of the American Revolution,”  Lovisa’s grandfather may have been among those soldiers.

In 1893, after more than a half century of operation, the McCullough liquor dealership disappeared from Pittsburgh business directories.  Its demise cannot be explained by National Prohibition that still was years away and Pennsylvania was “wet” until the end.  Lovisa may have found her passion for feminist and other causes eclipsed her ardor for keeping alive the liquor enterprise.  Or it may have been advancing age.  Lovisa died in 1917, about 82 years old, and was buried beside her late husband in Allegheny Cemetery.  
Mary Moll, living in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, earned this tribute from a local newspaper: Mrs. Moll, when she took possession of the business, had many obstacles to overcome but, being a woman of wonderful business tact, she bravely fought the many unpleasant features connected with the business and successfully built up a trade far superior to any in this country.”  

Like the other women here, after her husband died in 1891 Mary inherited his wholesale whiskey trade but also his three daughters from a prior marriage.  They are shown at the family home, Mary at far right.  Rejecting advice by friends to sell the business, she set out not only to run the liquor dealership, but also to expand it.  Her first instinct was to go on the road as a “drummer,”  and give customers and potential customers her personal attention to make sales.  The strategy worked and she was credited with ultimately tripling the business.   After three years, however, Mary tired of traveling.  Looking at the costs-benefits she concluded she could build her trade more effectively by staying home and working to keep prices low.

Eventually,  Mary Moll was selling three hundred barrels of whiskey a year.  Although not a rectifier, that is a dealer mixing and blending her own brands, she was decanting the barrels into her own embossed glass containers, shown left.  Those barrels would have resulted in her selling 53,400 quarts of whiskey, an impressive number for any liquor house.  Mary Moll died in 1910 while still running her business. She was 64.

When her husband died in 1912, Catherine Klausman was left with five minor children, a saloon, a liquor store, and a small hotel, together known as “The German House,”  shown here.  She hesitated not a moment in taking over their management.  As a result, “Mrs. Klausman” as she was respectfully known in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, put her mark on selling whiskey.  With the help of her bartender, Mrs. Klausman not only kept all the businesses open, she prospered by selling both at wholesale and retail her own brands of whiskey.   

Taking a leaf from the liquor wholesalers and rectifiers of the time, she bought whiskey from both Pennsylvania and Kentucky, sometimes blending the spirits, bottling them and then applying her own labels.   My favorite is Mrs. Klausman’s “Corn Whiskey,” with its predominantly yellow label showing a rural distillery and a shock of corn, a design worthy of one of the big liquor outfits.

In 1920, however, National Prohibition brought a close to the thriving business she was doing in whiskey sales.  Moreover, the hotel bar no longer could serve alcohol.  Regardless of these setback, she persevered in running the German House through the 1930s.  No evidence exists that after repeal of National Prohibition in 1934, she went back to liquor sales.  When Catherine died in 1963, at the age of 88, she was buried next to her late husband in the St. Marys Cemetery.  The German House remains standing today as part of the town’s historic district on Railroad Street. 

These five women helped pave the way for the many women who have engaged in  the whiskey trade since Prohibition and today fill some of the top spots in the Nation’s liquor industry.  

Note:  Author Fred Minnick has written an interesting book on “Whiskey Women,” detailing the effects that women, past and present, have had on the American distilled spirits business.  It was through his writing that I came upon Mary Jane Blair.  Minnick failed, however, to pick up on his radar the other four.  I am hopeful that this piece will bring these other outstanding “whiskey women” the attention they also justly deserve.   For those interested in reading my fuller biographies of each woman, they are:   Blair, June 2, 2014;  Dowling, January 22, 2014; Klausman, Dec. 12, 2015;  McCulloch, Jan. 14, 2017; and Moll, Oct 28, 2015




  













  







Thursday, June 15, 2017

Henry Sturm Faced Down Trouble in Dodge


 Known as among the wildest of Wild West communities, Dodge City, Kansas, had a reputation for frequent murders and casual justice.  Neither seemed to deter Henry Sturm, a immigrant saloon keeper and liquor dealer, who faced off in Dodge against two formidable opponents —  a gun-toting gang led by Bat Masterson and later fanatic prohibitionists in the sway of hatch-swinging Carrie Nation.

Sturm was born in Germany in 1837 and received his early education in local German schools.  At the age of 14 he left home and set out for the United States.  Fourteen was the youngest an unaccompanied youth could book such a passage, indicating Henry’s strong desire to settle in the New World.  The next twenty years of his life are unrecorded but my speculation is that he was working in the mercantile trades, including sales of alcohol.  According to a biographer, in the mid-1870s Sturm settled in Junction City, Kansas Territory, in government employment, possibly as a storekeeper.

He first came to Dodge City about 1876 when he was 39 years old, a distance of about 210 miles, to establish a wholesale and retail liquor store.   In some ways Dodge offered better opportunities than Junction City.  Buffalo hunters and traders made it a frequent destination.  More important, the town was a stop on the Santa Fe trail.  According to one observer, "If you stood on the hill above Dodge City, there was traffic as far as you could see, 24-hours a day, seven days a week on the Santa Fe Trail.”  When the railroad arrived in 1872, Dodge’s commercial base became firm, as indicated by a photo of downtown by 1880.

On the negative side, in 1876 here were nineteen places licensed to sell liquor in Dodge City, then a town of only twelve hundred residents.   Shown here is the interior of a typical Dodge City saloon.  During summer months when transients poured through town business was brisk.  For the rest of the year saloons and restaurants depended on the inhabitants — one watering hole for 60 people.  The residents did their part — one year the local press reported 300 whiskey barrels had been emptied.

Such reports did little to raise the reputation of the town.  A Kansas newspaper in the 1870s reported: “Kansas has but one Dodge City, with a broad expanse of territory sufficiently vast for an empire; we have only room for one Dodge City; Dodge, a synonym for all that is wild, reckless, and violent; Hell on the Plains."

Despite these challenges, Sturm prospered.  A year after his arrival he bought the Occidental Saloon from Moses Waters and James Hanrahan. It is shown here as reconstructed as part of the “Old Dodge” exhibit.  Sturm advertised…”a pint, a keg, or barrel of the very best, old Irish, hot Scotch, six year old hand made sour mash Kentucky copper distilled bourbon or old Holland gin.”  

Sturm also became the agent for Schlitz beer out of Milwaukee.   With the coming of the railroad, it became possible to fresh shipments of brew regularly. According to accounts, Sturm once unloaded an entire boxcar of Schlitz into his ice house and sold it to a horde of cowboys, resulting in a epidemic of drunkenness in Dodge.

Now firmly established in business, in 1878 Sturm took a bride.  She was Regina Berg, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, where Henry may have worked for a time, and of German immigrant parents.  The difference in their ages was notable. He was 42, she was 18.  They would have a family of three girls.  In the meantime, Henry was gaining a local reputation for fair dealing and probity that saw him elected twice as Dodge City’s treasurer and at least once as councilman. “Mr. Sturm is a fair, square and honorable man,” opined the Dodge City Times in 1883.

His civic work brought him increasingly into efforts to tame Dodge City’s image as a lawless Wild West frontier town.  It violence was brought home to him in early September, 1879, when, following an altercation, a tailor shop owner sitting on a bench next door to Sturm’s saloon was brained with a rifle by a drunken antagonist.  

Sturm’s sternest test came during what was known as “The Saloon War of 1883.”  The conflict began when authorities arrested three women singers at Luke Short’s Long Branch Saloon. When things escalated, Short was banished from Dodge.   Himself quick with a gun, Short was backed by gunslingers like Bat Masterson, shown here, described at the time as “one of the most dangerous men in the West.”  Repairing to Topeka, Kansas, Short and Masterson assembled a gang of gunslingers with the purpose of returning to Dodge and getting revenge.

Sturm put himself on the line, signing an anti-gang telegram on May 13, 1883, to a reluctant Kansas governor, George Washington Glick, asking for state troops.  He also signed an anti-gang article sent to the Topeka Daily Capital newspaper.  When Masterson and Short threatened to bring their rowdies to Dodge by train, the local sheriff enlisted local guns.  High tension gripped the town for days.  In the end, the issues were negotiated and no shots fired.  Masterson returned to Dodge a year later where he opened a short-lived newspaper, principally it seems to justify his position.

Meanwhile another even more serious challenge had arisen for Sturm.  Kansas always had harbored a prohibition-leaning population, individuals who saw in liquor the cause of the unrest and violence that marked the state’s history.  In 1881, those forces pushed through a relatively weak “temperance” law.  It did virtually nothing to curb the sale of alcohol through store or saloons.  Proprietors like Sturm annually paid a small fine and kept the doors open.  The meantime the German immigrant was pursuing other avenues.  He built a bottling plant where he manufactured a range of soft drinks, including soda, mineral waters and cider.  He owned two ice houses, respectively 20 by 230 feet and 30 by 50 feet and regularly stored 400 tons of ice to supply the city

In 1885, however, a new law, one with real force, was enacted by the State Legislature.  Sturm and his colleagues had no choice but to shut down their watering holes.  He advertised the sale of eighty barrels of four-year-old whiskey and other liquor.  He even sold the bar fixtures.  The law, however, still allowed the sale of alcohol for “medicinal, mechanical, and scientific purposes.”  Henry Sturm became a “druggist” with permission to sell alcohol for those purposes, locating the new enterprise just down the street from his old saloon. His druggist’s permit, recently donated to a Dodge City museum, was dated Nov. 30, 1885.

One author has described this blatant effort to circumvent the prohibition laws:“…Druggists equipped their shops with a rude plank or bar, set up whiskey barrels to accommodate the legions of suffering who daily arrived for medical aid.  
….The most preposterous device of the time, not uncommon, was the ‘refillable prescription for chronic alcoholism.’”  While Sturm also served his brands of soft drinks in his drug store, liquor was its mainstay — as it was for hundreds of similar enterprises throughout Kansas.

Carry Nation, the crusading prohibitionist, had recently moved back into Kansas and led the campaign to close those establishments, wielding a hatchet as she went from town to town, shouting at proprietors, “Stand aside, you felonious purveyor of bottled drugs from Hell!”   Although no evidence exists that she ever visited Dodge City, her rampages made news throughout America. Sturm could never be sure she would not show up at his front door someday, swinging her hatchet.

This possibility may have been part of his motivation for helping to build an church in Dodge City.   With beer shipments no longer arriving regularly, one of his ice houses became superfluous.  He had it torn down and donated the stone to build St. Cornelius Episcopal Church, completed in 1898.  Shown here, the small edifice has been described as a “little gem — the most artistic building in Dodge City.”  Still standing, the church architecture has been compared the chapels of rural England.

In middle age Sturm developed health problems.  In March 1886 Denver newspapers noted his arrival, “a prominent merchant from Dodge City” for unspecified medical treatment.  In 1897 at the age of 60, he died and was buried in Dodge City’s Maple Grove Cemetery, Section 3. Regina would join him there 50 years later.   Shown here is their joint tombstone.
In a town filled with colorful and flamboyant characters,  Henry Sturm stands out as the kind of solid citizen that help build respectability for Western towns.  The statement he signed onto about the Luke Short and Bat Masterson gang set the tone:  “The occasion or what the press have called trouble is…a clearing out of an element composed of bold daring men of illegal profession who, from toleration from the respectable portion of the community, are allowed to gain a prestige found difficult to unseat.  This element has to be banished….”



















Sunday, June 11, 2017

How Fortune Chevalier Found His in California


Looking out from Belle Isle, France, where he had been born in 1815, Fortune Chevalier dreamed of striking gold in California only to find out that a better path to the yellow stuff was in coins earned by selling spirits and wine to tens of thousands of thirsty miners and other West Coast denizens. In the process he became one of the wealthiest men in San Francisco.

Chevalier originated on a small island off the coast of Brittany where many residents were involved in growing grapes and making wine.  Lacking family connections to that trade, however, Fortune was apprenticed as stained glass craftsman.  His employment took him throughout France with teams that worked to restore the windows of churches, castles and mansion houses.  With the discovery of gold near Sutter’s Creek in California in 1849, the young man’s attention turned to the New World.

According to accounts, Chevalier hatched a plan to get to California on the pretext of providing window glass for buildings for the boomtowns springing up on the West Coast.  He recruited a team of fellow craftsmen, bought a large stock of window panes, and in 1852 took the long sea voyage across the Atlantic, through the wild seas off the southern tip of South America, and then north in the Pacific to San Francisco.  He apparently hoped that while his companions were occupied in hanging windows, he could sneak off and pan for gold in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  It didn’t work.  Upon arrival his men had the same idea, abandoned Chevalier and the glass, and headed for the gold fields themselves.

The next few months must have been lean ones for Chevalier.  If he tried panning or mining for gold, he apparently was soon discouraged.  In the mid-1850s, the Frenchman surfaced in Placerville, California.  The central hub of the Mother Lode region mining operations, that town had grown to the state’s third largest and boasted hotels, banks, and retail establishments.  A photo from that time shows buildings built right out to Placerville’s muddy street.  There in 1857 Fortune went into the liquor trade as the F. Cavalier Company.
After a short time in Placerville, Cavalier apparently recognized that this boom town, only tenuously connected to the outside world by a railroad spur line, was too small to contain his ambitions.  He moved his liquor house to Sacramento, a more likely market.  That town was a commercial and agricultural center, and a terminus for wagon trains, stagecoaches, riverboats, the Pony Express, and the first transcontinental railroad.  Chevalier carried on business there at 56-58 and 44 K Street for more than a decade. Among featured brands were “Chevalier Ginger Brandy", “Hebe,” "Old Emmet” and “Relief."

In the meantime Fortune was enjoying a family life.  About 1851 he married Adelia, an immigrant from France and a woman 14 years his junior.  Their first child, Albert, was born in 1852, followed by Morris in 1857 and George in 1863.
The 1870 federal census found the family living with Adelia’s mother and three servants, the latter including a Chinese cook named “Ah Fi.”

That same year apparently because of the expanding nature of his business over  much of the West Coast, Chevalier made a final move to San Francisco.  With his brother, Albert, he set up a wholesale liquor house at 614 Front Street.  After several years, needing more space, the business moved to 520 Washington St.  Fortune also bought an interest in the Castle Distillery in Kentucky and established the firm as the sole West Coast agents for “Old Castle” a brand name that Chevalier later bought outright.  He registered the name in 1872 and again in 1905 after Congress strengthened the trademark laws.

Shown above, Chevalier’s Old Castle Whiskey bore a paper label that depicted the image of a castle standing in defiant isolation on a rock.  Originally the label covered a clear glass bottle with little to recommend it.  Later his containers became some of the most interesting of all the West Coast “picture whiskeys.”  As shown here, they date from about 1890 to 1919, a span of almost 20 years and are eagerly sought by collectors.  The bottles replicate in their embossing the castle on the paper label and come in several shapes and varying shades of amber.  

Those bottles with the maker’s mark “PCGW” on the base, as shown here, were manufactured by the Pacific Coast Glass Works, that began production in 1902 and closed in 1910.  Similar to the embossing is the etching on an Old Castle Whiskey shot glass that   Chevalier issued.

As many in the liquor trade, F. Chevalier Co. also sold a line of highly alcoholic “medicinal” bitters, called “Crown Stomach Bitters,” as sole agents on the Pacific Coast of H. Delaney, the manufacturer in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Fortune packaged this product in a square amber bottle, above, that also is considered rare by West Coast collectors.

In 1875 for several years, Chevalier took on a partner who was experienced in the wine business and the company name became Chevalier and Compte.  By 1880 a scarcity of wines due to the phylloxera epidemic in France and other parts of Europe caused a boom in Napa Valley wine production. Chevalier bought a vineyard near St. Helens, California, in the foothills of Napa County.  There he built an imposing barn and a chateau, shown here, to rival those of his competitors in the neighborhood.  According to accounts Chevalier’s land was 40 acres of which about 25 were “under vine.”  His private roads were lined with olive trees and extensive gardens with winding paths along terraces, pools, and stone stairways.  There Fortune produced his Chateau Chevalier wines, according to one account “well known and appreciated locally as well as in the eastern states.”

As he aged, Chevalier continued to provide direction to his firm, bringing his youngest son, George, into the business and gradually entrusting him with management responsibilities.  Fortune died in 1899 at the age of 84.  At that point George Chevalier was fully capable of running the major enterprise his father had built.  In 1888 F. Chevalier & Co. opened an adjunct office at #209 of the Commercial Block in Portland, Oregon. The company also maintained traveling agents covering the entire Pacific Coast and a cadre of resident agents in the East. Once again needing more business space George made another move, this time to 9 - 15 Beale Street.  This allowed him to oversee the manufacture of a a line of cordials, liquors, cremes, syrups, and fruit juices.  Despite these product lines, F. Chevalier Co., remained first and foremost, according to a 1905 account, “primarily whiskey merchants.”

Although the F. Chevalier Co. continued to be listed in San Francisco directories until 1919 and the advent of National Prohibition, George appears to have sold at least part of the business, including the vineyards, as early as 1918.  Even so, the firm drew an accolade in a history of California:  “The F. Chevalier Company, of San Francisco, which is now one of the most complete wholesale liquor houses in the west, is likewise one of the oldest firms of the kind on the Pacific coast, and it has a history of as long-continued and successful existence as can be instanced by almost any commercial enterprise in California.”  

Fortune Chevalier went almost halfway around the earth seeking his fortune in the gold fields but instead found it — as noted on his letterhead above — in the “U.S. gold coins” he extracted from those who purchased his “fine wines, cognacs and liquors.”  In that gold Fortune found his fortune.

Note:  Much of the information for this post and photos of the labeled bottles came from an article by Ben Kutzkey of Bishop, California, that ran in Bottles and Extras, the magazine of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC) in March-April 2008.   Color photos of bottles and the sign are from the Peach Ridge website of Ferdinand Meyer V, president of the FOHBC.