Thursday, November 30, 2017

Whiskey “Bad Boys” and Women

              
Foreword:  Continuing the series of posts that assemble whiskey men into groups that have had similar characteristics or experiences in their lives, it seems appropriate in this current climate of “Me Too!” to describe whiskey men who during their careers have had relationships with women that thrust them into the public eye, often with unexpected outcomes.

We begin with WilliamBillie” Bott.  Bott, shown left, and his brother, Joseph, were well known in Columbus, Ohio, as proprietors of the city's most prosperous saloon and liquor dealership, as well as the city’s largest and most elegant billiard parlor, the interior shown below.  Then Billie found himself “behind the eight ball” at the center of a well publicized sex scandal. 


A recognized socialite and lady’s man, Bott, when in his late ‘30s, had struck up an affair with a young woman named Mary Sells, married to a rich older man who was frequently absent from their mansion home. Restless, Mary accepted male visitors when her husband was away, of whom Billie was accounted the first.

In January of 1900 the cuckolded Mr. Sells filed suit against Bott, alleging he had “alienated his wife’s affections” and sought damages. A private detective hired by the husband to watch the house during his absence testified that he had seen Bott ride up on a bicycle and leave it in an archway when he entered the Sells mansion.  The detective stole the bike that night — apparently leaving Billie to walk home after his assignation — and stowed it in his attic as evidence.  When the detective wheeled the incriminating cycle into the courtroom, the sight is said to have been met “with considerable excitement” among spectators.  To many it seemed that Billie Bott, the Columbus billiard baron and pool “shark” now was firmly “behind the eight ball.” 

The trial lasted five titillating weeks with headlines most days in the Columbus press. Testimony that Mary Sells had entertained multiple lovers put the spotlight on her, however, and not her suitors.  The court found Mary guilty of “gross neglect of duty” to her husband.  This verdict absolved Bott of blame for alienation.  He walked away without paying a cent.  The aggrieved  husband, by contrast, had spent $12,000 on the trial. He was granted a divorce decree in which alimony for Mary was involved.  Although the amount of the settlement was kept secret by the court, the local press reported it at $30,000 (equivalent to $750,000 today).  Mary soon left Columbus for parts unknown. 

Meanwhile Billie Bott apparently emerged from the trial relative unscathed. His business and personal life went on as if nothing had happened.  The blame widely fell on Mary Sell.  One newspaper summed up the verdict by opining: "When a woman is a devil, she is the whole thing.”   Before very long, Billie married, his wife a prim and proper Irish widow.  

Alfred F. “Alf” Reed called his drinking establishment “The Bachelor” saloon.”  If the name suggested to the townsfolk of Portland, Oregon, a somewhat disreputable and rowdy lifestyle, the proprietor likely didn’t object.  A bachelor himself while running this drinking establishment, Reed, shown left, lived large “on the wild side.”

That is the conclusion to be drawn from a suit filed against Reed in Portland’s Circuit Court in March 1890 by a man named George Hanlon.  A local bartender, Hanlon sought a judgment of $10,000 against the saloonkeeper — equivalent to $250,000 today — for “alienation of affections.”  Hanlon charged that Reed had plied his wife, Eva Hanlon, with strong drink at the Bachelor Saloon, promised her “costly dresses and other articles of finery,” and she had transferred her affections to the saloonkeeper.


In court documents, Hanlon described his life with Eva in glowing terms.  They had been married in Vancouver, Washington, in October 1901.  His wife had made his home “a little heaven” for seven years, he contended, until November 1908 when she had fallen under the spell of Alfred Reed and had gone to live with him at his Portland home  According to an account of the charges in the Daily Oregonian“The willful seduction which is charged against Reed has caused Hanlon great disgrace and distress of body and mind, he says, which he thinks is worth $10,000.”  George apparently preferred cash to getting Eva back.

I can find no indication of how this suit was settled, but it must have been an irritant to Reed who had opened the Bachelor Saloon only the prior year.  Dealing with the “alienation of affections” suit over the wayward Eva Hanlon was only one of Reed’s problems.  Much more concerning to him was a November 1, 1909, police gambling raid on The Bachelor, an event that once more put Reed in the headlines.  

Although heavily fined, Reed continued to operate the The Bachelor Saloon for the next several years.  Eva seems to have exited the scene.  Alf, however, was about to give up his bachelor’s life.  Circa 1911, he married a woman named Marie and she moved into his Portland home. It may have been Marie’s influence that caused Reed the following year, after about 24 years in business, to shut down The Bachelor Saloon.

Yes, Eugene Belt was a Baltimore liquor dealer, but his “blue ribbon” background makes him seem like an unlikely centerpiece in an 1880’s scandal that commanded newspaper headlines from coast to coast for two years and involved beautiful women, two U.S. Congressmen, a messy divorce, perjured testimony, and dramatic acts by a former Confederate general.  You can’t make up stuff like this. Enter the “shame and scandal.” In 1884, now 54 years old and quite rich,  Belt was vacationing at a seaside resort when he encountered a considerably younger and very attractive blonde widow.  Her name was Mrs. Mary Alice Godfrey.   Later Belt told the press that he had met her “among people of character and respectability and never imagined that she was other than a pure and virtuous woman.” 

Moreover,  he probably was impressed that she was the sister of Mrs. Benjamin Willis of New York City, the wife of a prominent U.S. congressmen.  Both sisters were beauties.  One commentator claimed that they had become the “rage” of the Washington society.   Belt fell in love with Mary Alice, quickly proposed marriage and they were wed in October, 1884, in Morristown, Pennsylvania.  They may have chosen a remote location because of apparent opposition to the nuptials from Eugene’s sisters and other female friends. 


Soon enough Belt came to regret his decision and, by his own admission, left his wife the following January.  Mary Alice filed for divorce in May 1885.  Belt told the press that he had discovered that she had lived “a life of infamy” and that he had been a victim of an abandoned woman.   He had found out to his horror that Mary Alice had been connected with a famous Washington, D.C., scandal known as the Congressman Acklen Affair.  Newspapers from coast to coast had a field day.  

Joseph Hayes Acklen, a wealthy sugar plantation owner and a congressman from Louisiana, had courted Mrs. Godfrey, who was living in Arlington with her sister and congressman husband.  One evening at Washington’s prestigious Welcker’s hotel, Acklen, shown left, reputedly forced himself on her.  The cries of Mary Alice were heard in the next room by a former highly decorated Confederate cavalry general named Thomas Rosser.  Rosser rushed to the damsel’s rescue but when the story got out, the D.C. and national press had a field day of speculation.  Acklen later apologized to Mrs. Godfrey and proposed marriage.  She declined. 

As for Belt’s other allegations that his wife had been a “loose woman” even before this incident, charges he made part of divorce proceedings, it subsequently was revealed that those giving damaging testimony had perjured themselves.  Who was behind these lies, Belt himself, family members or others? That was never revealed.  Once more General Rosser, shown right, came to the rescue, proving in criminal court of the District  of Columbia that a witness had perjured himself in the divorce suit brought by Belt.  The witness was convicted and Mary Alice exonerated.   Throughout the entire affair Eugene Belt’s name was bruited nationwide by the press.

When the dust cleared, a divorced Belt went back to his usual pursuits, running the Baltimore whiskey business.  The 1900 census found him at age 70, unmarried, and identified as a “liquor merchant.”   He was living with two of his spinster sisters in a large Baltimore house with four live-in servants.   I wonder if Belt ever thought about those weeks of marriage to the beautiful Mary Alice -- and regretted what he had done.

Note:  For a fuller biography of these three “bad boys,” on this website, see Bott, Oct 23, 2014;  Reed, January 19, 2016; Belt, August 18, 2013.
























  


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Wolfe Londoner Lived a Novel Life

               
In 1899 liquor dealer Wolfe Londoner, with the help of two Western desperadoes, won the mayoralty race in Denver by a narrow margin.  How this Manhattan-born son of Jewish immigrants got to this place and what happened afterwards is the stuff of fictional characters in novels. 

Born in 1839, Londoner was the son of a wealthy New York merchant who gave him the educational and other advantages of money.  Of a “restless an adventurous disposition,” however, Wolfe left home before reaching 15 years and boarding a California-bound steamship chanced the “round the Horn” voyage to the Pacific Coast, disembarking at San Francisco.

There Londoner found a job working in a hotel for $125 month and board—San Francisco inflation wages. Perhaps more important, soon afterward he was hired by a auctioneer to sell goods from a platform three hours every evening.  Though still a youngster his glib auction patter soon earned him another $200 a month and boosted his confidence about making it in the adult world.  Saving his money, he opened a grocery with liquor a prime commodity.  Londoner was not yet 17.

Meanwhile, back in New York, his father saw more opportunity west and moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where he opened a large store. He called Wolfe to Iowa from San Francisco to help him.  They did a prosperous business there until the Panic (Depression) of 1857-1858 shattered their fortunes and sent the father, with the remnant of their goods, scrambling to St. Louis, hoping for better times. 

Wolfe was left in charge of seven remaining family members awaiting enough money from the father to book passage for them to New Orleans and up to St. Louis.  After receiving only an insufficient $20, Wolfe became impatient and using his gift of gab convinced a steamboat captain to take his family on board for $25.  Recognizing Wolfe was a very young man, the officer was surprised when a mother and six  children boarded.  “I married a widow,” the youth fibbed.  The captain was sympathetic and let them go.

Restless in St. Louis, in 1860 Londoner decided to join a wagon train going to Denver with a cargo of goods to sell.  When he tried to claim one of the paying seats, he was ordered by the wagon master to walk behind.  As a result he walked most of the way from St. Louis to Denver —more than 800 miles.  A fertile story-teller, Londoner later related that his boots began to hurt his feet:  “The nails tortured me so I walked barefoot one hundred miles.  We met some Indians and I traded my shoes for several pairs of moccasins.”  Wearing them he walked the rest of the way. 

Upon reaching Colorado, he delivered his goods and was put in charge of a West Denver store and subsequently sent out to manage stores elsewhere in Colorado, including at a mining camp called “Calfornia Gulch” that later became Leadville.  A photo of his Leadville store is shown here.  Only about 21 when he arrived there, Londoner began his political career in Leadville.  A gifted orator and wit, he spent four years variously as the elected county clerk and recorder, county treasurer and county commissioner.  Wolfe’s political success came despite his being only five feet, three and one-half inches tall.

Having saved his money, in 1865 Londoner returned to Denver and opened his own store at 15th and Blake. Still politically active, he became a friend to many local journalists, including the Eugene Field, the noted American poet and author who then was editor of of the Denver Tribune.  This is the way Londoner told of their jokes upon the other:

“Gene Field wrote an article, saying that I would present every color voter who called at my store with a watermelon.  They came in droves, all clamoring for melons.  Fortunately, I found a wagon of Georgia melons on Market Street and I passed them out.  The next day I put an ad in the News that Gene Field wanted a watchdog, and set a time for owners to bring dogs to his office.  At the appointed time there was yelping and fighting and scrambling of dogs in Gene’s office.  He climbed on a table and screamed for help, while the owners of the dogs fought lustily with each other.”


Requiring larger quarters by 1887, Londoner constructed his own four-story building at 1630 Arapahoe Street, shown right.  The bottom floor held his grocery and liquor store.  Shown below in a photo, it was a large establishment with well stocked shelves and what appears to a whiskey-tasting bar at the right.  The upper floors were for storage and also allowed him to mix up his own liquor.  Using stocks received from Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Maryland, Londoner was creating his own brands of whiskey, bottling and labeling it, and selling at retail.


Collectors long have sought out his jugs and bottles as Western rarities.  Shown above are two ceramics that held Londoner’s liquor.  The one at right is a Albany slip-covered jug with his name in raised letters. It likely held a quart of whiskey.  The item at left is a mini-jug with his name scratched under the glaze.  Shown above is a rare glass quart embossed with Londoner.  Below are two decorative decanters that would have been given to saloons, hotels and restaurants carrying his liquor.  Note that one is dated 1885.


Meanwhile, Londoner was having a personal life. In 1879, he married Francis, called “Frannie,” Anthony, a women 21 years his junior.  Like him, she had been born in New York of native New Yorkers.  In time they would have five children, three girls and two boys.  One boy, Herman, brought sorrow when he died at age nine.  In time as he became wealthy, Londoner built his family a mansion that became a Denver showpiece, illustrated below.


As recorded in Vicker, “History of the City of Denver, Arapahoe Country and Colorado,” Londoner’s trade soon extended far beyond the city of Denver, encompassing all of Colorado and into Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming, amounting annually to $1 million (equivalent to $25 million today). Wrote Vickers:  “He is a hard-working man, giving his constant attention to even the smallest details of his  immense business.”

Londoner was also public spirited.  In 1883 the geographic boundaries of Arapahoe County were changed and the existing courthouse was rendered obsolete.  During ensuing years city planners, architects, mayors and struggled with where and how to build a new one — until Wolf stepped in.  In 1893, he volunteered to chair the building committee for the erection of a new courthouse and for the time it took to get the project off the ground, he gave his business over to other managers and devoted himself full-time to the task.  



Londoner was described by one author as “faithful and conscientious….He was proud that not a penny’s worth of graft occurred in the construction….”  The building, shown here, became the pride of Denver.   For the manner in which he had discharged his trust, city officials, as Londoner put it, “drew up a resolution which was good enough to put on my grave when I die.”

Throughout his years in Denver, Londoner continued to be involved in politics, being elected to local offices.  With his stock high after completion of the courthouse he decided to run for mayor.  Wolfe was a Republican in a city that tended Democrat over the free silver issue.  As friends and supporters, however, he could count on the local saloon and gambling bosses, who wielded political power in Denver.  They provided him with volunteers that included notorious Western gunslingers Bat Masterson and Soapy Smith.

Led by those “bad boys,”  Londoner’s friends stuffed ballot boxes and traded drinks for votes at local saloons on election day.  Londoner became Denver’s 20th mayor by a whopping 77 votes.  Even before he could take office, opponents were filing charges against him.  It took a while before the legal challenges could make their way through the courts and while they were, Londoner served more than a year as mayor, until forced by court orders to resign.  He was Denver’s first Jewish mayor and the only mayor ever removed from office.

Londoner seems not to have been daunted by his fall from power and devoted himself subsequently to the Denver Press Club, which had been founded years earlier at his store.  He also achieved a local reputation as a writer.  According to Vickers, his articles in local newspapers exhibited “the same happy vein of genial humor that is apparent in all his intercourse with his fellow-men.”  His Arapahoe Building featured what Londoner called his “cyclone cellar” where he was noted for entertaining local and visiting newsmen.  “It was no misnomer,” Wolfe wrote, “many met with a cyclone at home because of a visit to that cellar.”  Shown right is a photo of Wolfe and Fannie — she towers over him — in his later years.

In 1912, at the age of 70, Wolfe Londoner died, up to the endinvolved in his grocery and liquor business.  The cause of death was given as “apoplexy,” in other words, a cerebral hemorrhage.  With his family and army of friends looking on, he was buried in Denver’s Fairmount Cemetery.  Londoner’s gravestone is shown here.  A half century earlier when Wolfe Londoner first came to Denver he had $1.50 in his pocket and knew not a soul.  When he took his leave he was extravagantly wealthy and known by virtually everyone.   Of such men as Wolfe Londoner are novels written.  

Notes:  A principal source for this post was the previously cited Vickers history that contained a long biography.   Other sources were “Colorado Pioneers in Picture and Story,” by Alice Polk Hill and an article in the winter 2003 issues of Bottles and Extras by John M. Eatwell.  Photos of Londoner jugs and bottles also are from Eatwell’s piece.




























Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ferdinand Lutz — Master Maltster of Louisville


Malt is an essential ingredient for both brewing and distilling.  Because many distillers did not have the capacity to undertake the malting process, they purchased it from “malt houses” whose primary purpose was to turn a grain, usually barley, into malt.  As one pre-Prohibition writer observed, “Malting is the task of maltsters, and its technology is now far advanced.”  As a master maltster, Louisville’s Ferdinand F. Lutz, was well aware of that.

Lutz was born in Louisville in August, 1856, and may have lost his father at a young age.  The 1860 census found him at four years living with his sister and mother who was described as a “yeast maker.”   He was educated in local schools and apparently served an apprenticeship with one or more of the many whiskey-related enterprises located in the city, likely working in the malting process.

He became skilled in producing barley malt, the most common, where the barley grain is put in an warm and damp environment in order to make it germinate. The inevitable happens: The grain activates the solar energy it has accumulated on the field and converts the starch into sugar. The barley grain is like a small factory and wants to convert the sugar into cellulose in order to grow roots and a germ with leaves.


However, after the starch is converted into sugar the process is interrupted. The malt is dried, and the malt sugar (maltose) is used to produce a sweet liquid called wort. The malt is ground to a coarse consistency, then the sugar is dissolved with hot water, and the results left to ferment by adding yeast. After that, it’s time for distillation.

By the age of 23, Lutz had mastered the art and science of making excellent malt and determined to strike out on his own.  He opening a modest malting operation in Louisville that soon gained a reputation for quality and allowed him greatly to expand.

By 1891 Lutz was operating three malt houses:  The City Malt House at Monroe and 12th Street with a capacity of 250,000 bushels, shown here; the Louisville Malt House, corner of Franklin and Wenzel Streets with 150,000 bushels capacity; and another in Versailles, Kentucky, of 100,000 bushels.  Those facilities would have incorporated drying floors and kilns similar to those shown above. An illustration of the City Malt House is shown below.



In addition to manufacturing various types of barley, rye and corn malt, Lutz was dealing in brewery and distillery supplies, and filling orders for yeast malt.  Accounted one of the largest manufacturers of malt in the South, Lutz in an 1893 ad suggested “Give Me a Trial.”  Many brewers and distillers obliged and his trade was reported to extend throughout Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia.  He also was selling locally, providing product to many of the whiskey and beer makers of Louisville and its suburbs.  His business was grossing $350,000 a year (equivalent to more than $7 million today), hailed by one writer as “striking proof of Mr. Lutz’s enterprise and skill.” 


Lutz also was a whiskey man, advertising his F. F. Lutz & Co. dealership in “high grade” bourbon malt and rye whiskeys.  A specialty, as his1893 ad states here, was “fine bar and medicinal whiskeys.”  His proprietary brands were “Lutz’s Famous Old Malt Whiskey” and “My Own Favorite Sour Mash.”  Although he said both labels were copyrighted, I can find a 1890 trademark registration only for the latter.  Lutz’s liquor house and store room were located at 1120-1214 Rowan Street, apart from his malting operations.

Even at the age of 35 — the vintage of his picture above — Lutz had made his mark on in the Louisville business community.  He was a member of the Commercial Club and of the Louisville Board of Trade, was a major investor in the Belt Line Railroad Company, a stockholder in the South Park Brewing Company and the Shaefer-Meyer Brewing Company.  He also was a member of the Brewers and Maltsters Protective Association and active in the St. Joseph’s Orphan Society, perhaps further indication that he himself had lost a parent.

Although continually extolled for the hours and energy he put into his malting enterprises, Ferdinand also found time for family life.  In the late 1870s, while still in his early twenties, he married Anna Mary Wunsch, Kentucky-born of German immigrant parents.  He became a father at the age of 23 when a son, baptized Ferdinand Louis Lutz, was born in 1879.  The boy was followed by a daughter, Isabelle C., in 1886 and a second son, Arthur C., in 1890.

Lutz also drew attention because of his writing ability, contributing regularly to monthly trade publications, including Bonfort’s Wine Spirit Circular Journal and the Wine and Spirits Journal.  Those writings allowed him to advertise his wares as well as, upon occasion, voice his concern about encroaching competition.  Bonforts reported that “notwithstanding the big competition of this season,” Lutz had shown a satisfactory increase in sales because:  “His rye malt is somewhat of a specialty and many distillers will use no other.”

Eventually, competition caused Lutz to abandon directly manufacturing malt.  Citing the difficulty of getting barley in Kentucky because of a short growing season, his need to obtain expensive supplies in distant  Wisconsin and Minnesota, and burgeoning new technologies in malting, Lutz retired from making malt and went to work selling it as a representative of the Wm. Rahr Sons Co. of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  As Rahr Sons’ southwestern agent, he was joined by his two sons, Ferdinand L. and Arthur C. Lutz, the three covering a territory extending over the entire Midwest and South.  Shown here as he aged, the father continued to work virtually up until the day he died on August 12, 1915, felled by a cerebral hemorrhage.

Shown here as he aged, Lutz was a relatively young 56 when he passed.  His funeral services began with a viewing at his home on South Brook Street in Louisville, moving to a funeral Mass at St. Mary’s Church, the Catholic parish where he had been active.  Burial was in Louisville’s St. Louis Cemetery.  The Lutz monument is shown below.  His obituary noted that Lutz had been prominent in the malting business for more than forty years.  His sons carried on his enterprise renaming it F. F. Lutz Sons and operated until the advent of National Prohibition.

In both life and death, Ferdinand Lutz drew extravagant praise:  The Illustrated Louisville publication (1881) hailed him as “not only a whole-souled, clever gentleman, but also a liberal minded citizen, progressive, and always ready to do one a favor.”  Bonforts (1890) called him:  “a whole-souled, jovial fellow, and one who values a friend, and is valuable as a friend.”  His obituary in The Western Brewer (1915) stuck similar themes:  “His amiable disposition and polished manner won him a host of friends, not alone with the brewers and distillers, but with everyone with whom he came in contact.”   





















Saturday, November 18, 2017

James Maguire and Allies Snubbed the Whiskey Trust


In September 1892, the press reported that a group of major liquor dealers in Philadelphia had announced the purchase of 103 acres in Bucks County to build “an enormous distillery for the production of rye whiskey.”  A leader among them dealers was James Edward Maguire, an Irish immigrant whose Montezuma Rye was a nationally recognized brand.  Although denied, this project was a direct snub of the so-called “Whiskey Trust.”

Several year earlier a number of Midwest distillers had turned their plants over to a board of trustees who aimed to control the liquor trade through the kind of monopolistic cartel that had developed in oil and other American industries.  Officially named the “Distillers and Cattle Feeders Trust,” it was popularly known as "The Whiskey Trust.”  That organization, based in Peoria, Illinois, gathered in more than 80 distilleries, often using tactics like dynamite to convince holdouts.  Most of the plants the Trust procured were shut down. The idea was to control supplies and drive up whiskey prices.

For a time the Trust was successful, cornering, some said, ninety percent of the available liquor stocks.  The monopoly drove up prices for “raw” whiskey used by wholesalers, like Maguire and his allies, for blending (“rectifying”) their proprietary brands.  By creating their own source of supply these Philadelphia whiskey men were striking a blow to end their dependency on the Trust.

The new facility, organized with capital of $3 million (equivalent to $60 million today) was titled the Pennsylvania Pure Rye Whiskey Distilling Company.  “Nearly every large liquor dealer [in Philadelphia] holds stock in the company,” said one press account.  A prominent member of the venture noted:  “I suppose those 40 firms represent about $30,000,000.  All the subscriptions have been paid in.  The plant eventually had a capacity of 30,000 barrels a year. The site selected had a large frontage on the Delaware River and a wharf was constructed.  The Pennsylvania Railroad line was a mile from the distillery, necessitating the building of a branch spur to the site.

A spokesman for the group was quick to disavow any intent to be antagonistic to the Whiskey Trust.  The reasoning behind the new distillery was to established an industry close to home, he said, economizing on shipping and buying local grain.  He added:  “Then too, we are going to try some new experiments in the manufacture of whiskey which are entirely original, and which, if successful, will have a tendency to revolutionize things.”  Nonetheless, alarm bells must have gone off in the Trust’s Peoria headquarters.  Not only would they lose the Philadelphia houses as customers, members of the new distillery were being  encouraged to promote sales of excess whiskey stocks to dealers outside the membership.   According to the press account: “Each stockholder will virtually be an agent, and will use extra efforts to sell the whiskey, because he will reap a decided benefit from it.”   And the Trust would be the loser.


A year after it opened in 1893, the new Philadephia Pure Rye Distilling Company was surveyed by Ernest Hexamer, an insurance assessor based in Philadelphia.  There were two large stills, one wooden with a capacity of 16,840 gallons and a copper still holding 2,554 gallons.  A single bonded warehouse was constructed of brick, six stories tall, with a capacity to age 14,000 barrels.  At that time the distillery was employing six men.  Hexamer’s drawing is above.  Below is an artist’s representation of the distillery several years later at build-out. 



The important role played by James Maguire in organizing the distillery company was indicated by its board meeting at his headquarters at Third and Noble Streets to sign the original building contract.  Maguire had been elected by his colleagues as the treasurer of the new distilling company.   This represented recognition by his peers that this Irish immigrant had risen to the top ranks of Philadelphia whiskey men.

It had been a long road for Maquire, born in County Cavan, Ireland, in 1833 and coming to the United States as a young man.  His early years in this country have largely gone unrecorded, but a reasonable assumption is that he was working for one of the many liquor houses in Philadelphia, learning the trade.  He was also having a personal life, in the late 1850s marrying Rosalie Pauline Martin, also Irish-born.  They would have five children, three daughters and two sons.  Among them, born in 1864, was Thomas A. Maguire, who eventually would go to work for his father in the liquor house.

James had struck out on his own in 1872, opening a store at 472 North Third Street in Philadelphia and by 1874, a second outlet at Callowhill and North Fourth Street.  Eventually he expanded at the Third Street location, to encompass the store fronts on either side.  An important part of Maquire’s rise in Philadelphia was his success in making Montezuma Rye Whiskey a nationally recognized brand.  When he trademarked the label in 1894 he claimed that the name had been in use since 1875.

He was particularly intent on providing saloons, hotels and restaurants featuring the brand with attractive back of the bar bottles.  Of particular note was an elaborate metal overlay bottle used to dispense Montezuma Rye.  It stood just over eleven inches high, completely encased, as shown here, in a soft metal cage with a filigree vine and flower design. Plaques on the front contained a hammered and engraved text that read:  “Celebrated Montezuma Rye Whiskey, Jas. Maquire,” and his address.  Two variants are shown here.


Retail customers could buy Montezuma Rye in glass bottles, sized from quarts to flasks, or get their liquor in an attractive canteen sized metal bottle that carried a bronze plaque on each side, shown above.  McGuire also featured such giveaways as shot glasses and pocket mirrors.  Through the excellent color qualities of celluloid, the latter provided an effective merchandising tool when distributed among the public.  Shown below, he also handed out a “good luck” token to customers, one side advertising Montezuma Rye and the other side, Belle of Nelson, a brand from a Louisville distillery.


Throughout this period, the Philadelphia Pure Rye Whiskey distillery in Bucks County continued to prosper with liquor house owner, Angelo Meyers, as its chairman, and Maquire as treasurer.  The group succeeded in undercutting the Trust.  Noting this success, other whiskey men banded together to open distilling operations.   Similar steps were taken in New York under the leadership of Henry Naylon and in Indiana by John Beggs.

With those repeated blows, the power of the Trust ebbed.  Although the cartel survived until the advent of National Prohibition, it now controlled only a fraction of the Nation’s available whiskey supplies.  The Bucks County distillery, by contrast, continued to thrive, with multiple transactions recorded into 1920 when activity ceased.  By that time James Maguire had died.  He passed away on January 28, 1900, at 65 years of age.  His rites were held at Philadelphia’s Church of the Gesu.  He was buried in New Cathedral Cemetery, next to Rosalie who had preceded him two years earlier. Management of the Maguire liquor house fell to his 36-year-old son, Thomas.

Thomas, left, maintained his father’s name at the head of the firm, as shown in a 1909 letterhead, still located at the North Third Street address.  He successfully managed the liquor house for the next 18 years. 

Then tragedy struck the family. In October, 1918, Thomas fell victim to the deadly strain of flu virus sweeping the country, as did his 17-year-old son, Thomas A. Maguire Jr.  Both were buried the same day in Section R of New Cathedral Cemetery, adjacent to the Maquire monument marking the graves of James and Rosalie.  

Many U.S. whiskey men had publicly and vehemently opposed the Whiskey Trust but it likely was James Maquire and his allies, while denying any intention of doing it any harm, that struck the first important blow against the monopolist intentions of the Trust and in the process sent it into its descent into ineffectiveness.

Note:  This blog contains profiles of several of the whiskey men mentioned here, Angelo Meyers, December 2, 2011;  Henry Naylon, February 7, 2014, and John Beggs, October 25, 2017.  Much of the information about the formation of the Philadelphia Pure Rye Whiskey Distillery is from an article in the Pittsburgh Dispatch dated September 16, 1892.