Friday, March 30, 2018

Whiskey Men Fighting for the South, Part 2

Foreword:  The Civil War that raged between 1861 and 1865 was a defining event in American history.  An increase in alcoholic consumption among the public during and after the conflict has been attributed to it.  The war also has been credited with spurring the temperance movement in the country that ultimately led to National Prohibition in 1920.  Many who fought on both sides had an interest in the liquor trade.  Often their stories are compelling.  This is the second post on Confederates and features three men who in the post-war period ventured North to find success in selling whiskey.  This article will be followed shortly by one on Northern combatants. 

Born in 1843, George Shawhan joined the Confederate army in Kentucky in 1862 at the age of 19.  He stood six feet five inches tall and weighed 250 pounds — a giant of those times.  In late July, 1863, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan brought the Civil War north to Indiana and Ohio. Morgan and his men on horseback pillaged and terrorized dozens of hamlets and towns, moving east from Indiana.  A contemporary lithograph from Harper’s Magazine, shown here, depicted the attack by Morgan’s Raiders on Washington Court House, Ohio. With them was Shawhan.  Captured with Morgan trying to cross the Ohio River into West Virginia, he spent the rest of the war in a Yankee prison. 

After the war, George returned to Kentucky, got married, tried farming and quickly decided that making whiskey was a better way of life. It was an easy choice since his family had been involved in distilling for three generations.  In 1872 he transplanted his family and mother to a town in Missouri called Lone Jack.  There Shawhan’s strength became legendary. He was said to be able to raise a 400 pound barrel of whiskey, hold it by the rim, and drink from the bung hole. On one occasion, the story goes, the tailgate of his wagon holding full whiskey barrels opened, spilling the cargo onto the street. Working alone, Shawhan corralled the big kegs and heaved them back onto the wagon.  He also built a successful distillery in Lone Jack, shown here. 


When it burned in 1900 he moved to Weston, Missouri, and bought a distillery there.  It was located near a pure limestone spring and the quality of the water caused Shawhan to enthuse that with his whiskey formula he could “beat those Bourbon County fellows all hollow.”  His flagship label was Shawhan whiskey and bore his likeness.  In 1908 Shawhan sold his Weston distillery and the brand name to the Singer family who operated the distillery until Prohibition. Shawhan continued to be involved in aspects of the whiskey business until his death in 1912 at the age of 69.  He is buried near Kansas City in Lee’s Summit Cemetery, a fitting resting place for an old Confederate.

Shown here in uniform, Frank Hume led a life that included service as a Confederate spy, later becoming the largest grocer and purveyor of liquor in Washington, D.C., and ending as a well-known philanthropist whose name continues to be memorialized in his native Virginia. Collectors also note the elaborately embossed bottles of his whiskeys.

Born in Culpeper County, Virginia, in 1843, Hume at the age of 18 enlisted in the Confederate Army, serving as a signal scout with General J.E.B. Stuart. He participated in eleven major battles, receiving a serious wound at Gettysburg. Part of his service was reputed to have been as a spy sneaking Northern battle plans from D.C. to Gen. Robert E. Lee. It was during this escapade that he apparently stopped in Alexandria long enough to have his picture taken.

After the war Hume entered the grocery trade, in 1871 opening his own store on Pennsylvania Avenue. The grocery prospered, with the sale of “wet goods” -- liquor -- being an important part of his merchandise. Among Hume’s brands was “Old Stag, sold in an elaborately embossed bottle.  Hume is shown here in 1892 perusing a ledger.  At that time Hume was enjoying life at his newly acquired mansion called Warwick Estate.  It served as his summer home, positioned on a hill overlooking Alexandria, Virginia.  


Hume also gained a reputation as a philanthropist.  In 1891 he donated the land for a school in Arlington, Virginia, along with an adjacent area for a playground.  In a more controversial act of generosity, Hume provided food for Coxey’s Army. That was a protest march by unemployed American workers, led by the populist Jacob Coxey.  They marched on Washington D.C. in 1894, the second year of a four-year economic depression that to that time was the worst in U.S. history.  After a lifetime of achievement, in 1906 at the age of 63 Frank Hume died.  

Morris Ullman was born in 1835 in Baden-Wurtemberg, Germany, and emigrated to the United States in 1851 at the age of 16. According to newspaper accounts, he first settled in Alabama and then moved to Guilford County, North Carolina, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1857.  In 1861, like hundreds of thousands other Southern boys, he joined the Confederate Army and served for the duration of the Civil War.  The role of Jewish soldiers in the Confederate Army generally has been overlooked by historians. Shown here is a caricature of one from Jewish magazine More than 10,000 fought for the South.  Gen. Robert E. Lee allowed his Jewish soldiers to observe all holy days. Northern generals, including William Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant, by contrast, issued orders making Hebrew observance difficult.  


Morris came North after Lee’s surrender and after 1866 moved to Cleveland. There, assisted by his brother, he founded a liquor house.  After the untimely death of his brother in 1881, Morris as managing partner joined with other relatives to create Ullman-Einstein & Co.  Almost immediately the company began to merchandise Black Cat Whiskey throughout Northern Ohio and beyond.  

The company also featured the cat on a range of giveaway items, including back of the bar bottles and shot glasses. With its distinctive whiskers and eyes, it projected real personality. The feline was also featured on a giveaway inlaid cloisonné porcelain watch fob that also depicted the Cleveland municipal flag.   

While Morris and his partners continued to pilot the liquor business successfully into the 20th Century the end was near. Unlike those felines said to have nine lives, the Black Cat had only one. Prohibition in Ohio and in the Nation dealt the kitty a death blow. Ullman-Einstein went out of business in 1919, taking with it the Black Cat brand.  Nevertheless, in his own way, the Confederate soldier who ventured to Yankee-land had been victorious. 

Note:  This post of three former Confederate soldiers who found success in the liquor trade are taken from longer posts  on each man on this blog.  They are:  George Shawhan, May 11, 2011;  Frank Hume, February 24, 2012;  and Morris Ullman, February 5, 2012. 


















Monday, March 26, 2018

N. C. Cannon: Black Whiskey Man in a “Jim Crow” State

Known as “Jim Crow” laws, Mississippi began to roll back the anti-racist laws of post-Civil War Reconstruction in 1880, just as Nathan C. Cannon, an African-American, was growing into manhood and a career as a liquor dealer in Vicksburg.  Despite the imposition of segregation, Cannon managed to prosper until his untimely early death cast his wife and son to fend for themselves.

Vicksburg in the 1870s
In order to insure his election, President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 promised Southern white politicians to end Reconstruction that had seen blacks participating in political life and repealing pre-conflict racist laws. It did not take
Mississippi long to respond.  By the time Cannon reached 12 in 1878 it had become against the law to teach white and black children in the same school.  In 1880, marriage between the race was banned.  That was followed by enforced segregation on streetcars and railroads and at hospitals, waiting rooms, and public lavatories.

Although details of Cannon’s early life are sketchy, census records indicate that he was born in Georgia and migrated to Vicksburg at an early age.  He showed up first in city directories in 1906, running a saloon at 309 Washington Street, a major Vicksburg commercial avenue, shown above.  By this time Nathan, by now in his thirties, was married.  His wife was Minnie, a native Mississippian who was about nineteen when they wed in 1902.  Their union produced one son, born in 1903.  They named him Nathan Jr.

A 1906 Vicksburg street directory seems to indicate the irony that although blacks were being discriminated against in public facilities, the private business sector still permitted Negro-owned enterprises in predominantly white commercial blocks.  Cannon’s Washington Street address put him between Harry Speyerer’s meat market and Barkin Bros. shoe store, both apparently owned by whites.  Moreover, the saloon was located immediately across the street from C. J. Miller’s saloon, also white.  [See my post of November 26, 2014, on Miller].

Like Miller, Cannon also was selling his liquor at retail from his saloon, using pottery jugs made in the vicinity of the city.   Shown throughout this post, the ceramics were somewhat crudely made.   In sizes from quarts to half-gallons and gallons, they featured a “beehive” design with an Bristol glaze body and an Albany slip top and handle.  Cannon’s name and address appears on them all.
He advertised “Jug trade a specialty.”

Circumstantial evidence exists that Cannon was selling whiskey to whites as well as blacks.  The advertising notebook shown right provides the clue.  Note that the cover states: “We have a reputation for prompt attention to mail orders”…and…”Send us your Mail Orders.”  The notebook contains the jottings of Mary Ratliff, the young daughter of a white farmer in Smedes, Mississippi, a hamlet about 30 miles north of Vicksburg.  Since Mary was too young to order whiskey, we can assume Cannon sent the item to her father as part of a mail order liquor shipment. 

The notebook contains a page that lists Cannon’s liquor offerings.  They included at least two proprietary brands, “Cannon’s Favorite” at $2.00 a gallon and “Cannon’s Select Rye.”  This suggests that he was buying product from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere by the barrel and then decanting it into his own labeled containers.  He also featured nationally known brands including “O.F.C. Taylor,” “Anderson Rye,” and “Nelson County.”

Cannon’s success in the liquor trade did not go unnoticed in Vicksburg’s black community.  Although he was not involved in Republican politics like his fellow black saloonkeeper,  Jere Blowe [see my post on Blowe, April 6, 2013],  he was active in community affairs. One of Cannon’s efforts was the formation of a local chapter of a black insurance cooperative known as the “Benevolent Industrial Assn.”  One of 75 chapters in Mississippi, the Vicksburg unit claimed 4,800 members.  Cannon was elected as treasurer of the organization.

Within three years, whatever death insurance Cannon had, his wife was collecting.  At the untimely age of 40, he died in 1909, leaving Minnie with a thirteen-year -old girl named Etta that the couple had adopted, and their son, Nathan Jr., now seven.  Ten months after Cannon’s death, the State of Mississippi went “dry,” banning completely the manufacture or sale of alcoholic drink.  It rendered worthless the liquor business Nathan had left behind.  Fortunately Minnie had sufficient education to find employment as a teacher in a black Vicksburg public school, a profession she pursued for many years.


Minnie Cannon lived 34 years as a widow before dying in 1943.  She was buried with Nathan in Division D, a black section of Vicksburg’s Cedar Hill Cemetery.  Their gravestones, shown here, lie next to each other.  For me the couple symbolize Mississippians who saw their civic rights whittled away one by one and yet persevered in the Jim Crow era to build a family and a business, both seemingly successful.   Moreover, we have the whiskey jugs as a continual reminder of their indomitable spirit.








Thursday, March 22, 2018

Thirteen Was Louis Rosenzweig’s Lucky Number


In an era when most liquor dealers were content to operate one or two stores,  Louis Rosenzweig could not have enough of them in Chicago.  Starting with one in 1902, by 1916 he was running thirteen around the city.  Moreover, he was recording their individual addresses on the ceramic jugs in which he sold his “Old Rose” whiskey.  As a result it is possible to track the rise of his retail whiskey empire.

Rosenzweig’s 1902 liquor store, according to Chicago business directories, was located at 256-258 State Street.  It must have been profitable because he began opening other stores in ensuing years.  As time progressed, Rosenzweig added outlets on W. North Avenue and Commercial Avenue.   By the mid-decade that number, as shown here on a jug, had climbed to nine.  He had added two locations on Cottage Grove Avenue, two on South Halsted Street, two on South Ashland Avenue, and one on North Clark Street. 

Within a short time, the number of Rosenzweig’s liquor stores climbed to ten — shown on the jug here — as he added a new outlet at 3418 Sheffield Avenue.  He began to advertise:  “…That our stores are so scattered in Chicago that we can deliver goods to any part of the city the same day the order is given.”  A single telephone number for customers came to the company headquarters at 3557-59 South Halsted that also served as the central warehouse.  Clerks there dispatched orders to the nearest stores and monitored stock control.

An eleventh store was added at 3169 Lincoln Avenue.  A jug shown here recorded that growth.  These addresses also were appearing in ads Rosenzweig was running every Saturday in local newspapers that proclaimed:  “Among other things to be remembered about us is that we have the largest assortment of Wines and Liquors in the city and sell them at bargain prices.”  In addition to Old Rose, Rosenzweig’s house brands included “Tam O’Shanter” and “Golden Drop.”  Apparently too busy building his empire, he failed to trademark any of those labels.

By 1910 Rosenzweig was advertising thirteen stores, his high water mark.  As shown here on a jug, he had added a second location on Ashland Avenue and one at 771 Milwaukee Avenue.  The earlier W. North Avenue address had been replaced by one at 550 North Avenue.  The horses from his delivery wagons had been retired and he was delivering liquor by automobile.  From time to time an address would be dropped from the thirteen and another added, including one on N. Lake Shore Drive.  

Rosenzweig also had ventured outside Chicago, opening a liquor store at 211 Jefferson Street in Joliet, the fourth largest city in Illinois, 45 miles from Chicago.  He called this outlet the Joliet Wine & Liquor Company and issued a souvenir Limoge China calendar plate for 1910 that also lists his Chicago locations.  In ads now calling his company the “Old Rose Distilling Co.,”  Rosenzweig boasted:  “Thirteen large stores under one management.”  His.

Meanwhile Louis Rosenzweig was having a personal life.  He was born in 1865 in a part of Eastern Europe that through the years was variously part of Poland, Russia and Germany.   He came to America as a youth, apparently with his family, the date of their arrival given between 1880 and 1885.  Louis soon found his way to Chicago.

There he met Rose Frank who had been born of German immigrant parents.  They were wed in Chicago on November 17, 1889.  If census data is to be believed, he was 19 and she was 16.  They began a family almost immediate when a daughter, Lillian, was born nine months later.  Just as Rosenzweig steadily added liquor stores, he added seven sons — Maurice Lester, Harry, Bernard A., Joseph, Jarvis, Geoffrey, and Norman — all born between 1892 and 1901.

Rosenzweig’s career began by managing Chicago saloons.  Along the way he apparently decided that it was more profitable to sell liquor at retail than just by the drink over the bar.  In order to build his organization, Rosenzweig leased retail space at carefully selected locations around Chicago.  His business plan was revealed in part during a lawsuit he brought against an erstwhile manager of one of his liquor stores.  In each outlet Louis installed managers all of whom signed a five-year contract that called for $150 per month (equiv. today of $3,750) and an increase if business was satisfactory.  In return a manager pledged to give his entire time to his employment and not to engage in the liquor business in the vicinity of the store for three years after leaving Rosenzweig’s employ.  In this way Louis hoped to limit future competition. 

Harry Feuer, a manager at 6310 Cottage Grove Avenue, decided to test Rosenzweig and the validity of the contract.  On April 5, 1916, Feuer quit his job but returned  less than two weeks later to open a liquor business in a building literally next door.  Rosenzeig reacted strongly to Feuer’s defiance and hauled him into Circuit Court in Chicago.  When that judge ruled in the owner’s favor, Feuer took his case to the Appellate Court of llinois.  After hearing the appeal, Judge Jesse Baldwin affirmed the earlier decision.  Rosenzweig won and Feuer left the neighborhood.

Yet another reason for Rosenzweig’s success was his emphasis on giveaways.  He gifted the traditional shot glasses, with a difference:  often he listed the addresses of each of his liquor stores, adding locations on the glass as the numbers grew.  Shown here is a shot with 13 addresses crammed on the surface.  Others simply declared the number of stores and provided the telephone.   He also gifted an attractive watch fob featuring a red rose that advertised his “Old Rose” brand.


By far Rosenzweig’s most interesting giveaways were his carnival glass dishes and plates.  These were made by a company founded by Harry Northwood, a British immigrant who came to America in 1880.  In 1902, just as Rosenzweig was beginning to build his empire, Northwood opened a factory in Wheeling, West Virginia.  There he developed his formula for carnival glass.  Rosenzweig issued several such items, among them a rose-colored glass dish decorated with roses.  Another was a glass plate with a grape and grape leaf pattern with characteristic carnival iridescence.  The base identified “Old Rose Distillery, Wines and Liquors, Chicago.”


Unlike other parts of America, the Windy City stayed “wet” until the imposition of National Prohibition.  The time allowed Louis to bring several of his sons into the business with him.  The 1910 census records that Maurice L. Rosenzweig at 18 years old was working as a bookkeeper for the company.  The 1920 census found son Harry, 26, as an office worker in the headquarters and son Jarvis, 21, as a clerk.

Nonetheless, as 1920 approached, the numbers of Rosenzeig liquor stores dropped from 13 to 11 and then there were none.  Still only 56 years old and continuing to be energetic, according to the 1930 census, Louis moved into the real estate market, owning and managing his own mortgage company.  With him in this enterprise was son Maurice.  Rosenzweig had only four more years of life, dying at about 69 on April 22, 1934.  By that time he had seen the country’s “great experiment” on banning alcohol all but come to and end.

To my knowledge no other whiskey man has ever done what Louis Rosenzweig accomplished in Chicago — sustaining at one time as many as thirteen individual liquor outlets, some of them also containing saloons.   The management skills required to make a success suggest that Louis Rosenzweig might have been just as competent as the president of General Motors or Microsoft.  













  






















Sunday, March 18, 2018

John Kelly and His Iconic Portland Bar


Kelly’s Olympian, the Portland, Oregon, bar shown above, regularly is featured in local media that trumpet its more than a century in existence.   Nothing, however, is revealed about John E. Kelly, the man who gave his name to the establishment during a lengthy career running Portland saloons and selling whiskey.  This vignette is aimed at remedying that omission by telling Kelly’s story.

John Kelly was born in New York in December of 1865 of immigrant Irish parentage.  While in his late teens, he migrated to Portland, Oregon, possibly because of promised employment with relatives running saloons in the city. He first surfaced in Portland business directories in 1888, at the age of 23 as the co-owner of a saloon located at 147 1/2 Third Street.  His partner was a fellow Irishman, James R. Foley.

By this time Kelly was married and had started a family.  At the age of 21 in 1886 he wed a young woman named Mary Emma, born in Washington State, the daughter of parents originally from the Midwest.  A year later they had an infant son, Francis, called “Frank.”  The 1890 census found the family living in Portland’s Fourth Ward.

Kelly’s partnership with Foley was relatively short-lived.  By 1891, Foley had departed and Kelly had renamed his Third Street drinking establishment the “Elite Saloon.”  About 1900 he had relocated his drinking establishment to 341 Morrison Street and had taken a new partner, a former bartender named D. John Caswell.  Caswell & Kelly became a popular Portland watering hole but by 1909 Kelly had decided that selling liquor as package goods was more lucrative than just by the drink over the bar.

In 1909, without Caswell, he moved down the street to 354 Morrison Street and opened “The Family Liquor Store.”  The establishment also included a bar.  One of his first hires was a Matthew Kelly, a relative and bartender.  Several years later his son, Frank, was hired, initially working as a clerk.  The proprietor issued etched shot glasses, given to favored customers.


Meanwhile, at 127 Sixth Street, another liquor purveyor named Morris Nelson was running The Lotus Buffet and Billiard Parlor, a step up from the usual Portland saloon as indicated by its exterior and internal bar, both shown here. Nelson became known for his giveaway items, that included ceramic “nip” bottles in the shape of an elk’s tooth that celebrating the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks fraternity.  He also offered carnival glass pin trays, as well as less costly items like matches and bar tokens, shown here.




Whether it was Nelson’s generosity or the advent of a statewide ban on making or selling alcohol, the Lotus was thrust into bankruptcy with the Scandinavian Bank of Portland as the principal debt holder.  Having been forced to shut down his Family Liquor Store as a result of Oregon’s ban on alcohol sales, Kelly saw an opportunity.  Working with the bank he became the manager of the Lotus.  Both Matthew and Frank were employed there.  Although he could not sell booze at the Lotus, Kelly apparently found he liked the restaurant business.  When an opportunity came to own one himself, he took it.

The Olympian had been founded in 1902 as a saloon “tied” to the newly founded Olympia Brewing Company, a practice common in pre-Prohibition days.  The only brews served there were Olympia beers.  Hired by the brewery to manage the establishment was Albert H. Greenberg who made a success of the saloon. It has been described this way:  “It is truly a colorful part of Portland’s history.  In the early days it was a popular gathering spot for locals as well as visiting timber men, sailors, shipyard workers, longshoremen and others passing through.”

In 1916, however, both Olympia Brewery and the Olympian were forced to shut down by the state law.  Anxious to unload the property, the owners were happy to sell it to Kelly.  He incorporated, naming himself as president.  Matthew became vice-president and Frank, secretary-treasurer.   The Olympian Company, as it was now designated, advertised its cigars and tobacco, soft drinks and restaurant food.  Before long, the name was altered to Kelly’s Olympian.

Some speculate that Kelly was not just purveying soft drinks.  The Olympian sits above the Old Portland Underground, better known locally as the “Shanghai Tunnels,” a complex of passages that connected the basements of saloons and hotels to the waterfront.   One tunnel is said to have had an outlet in Kelly’s basement.  More recently it has been discovered that one section of that basement contains a peculiar patching of a wall and remnants of an old tile floor, possibly the remains of a speakasy that existed during the “dry” years.”

Was John Kelly involved?  Both his moves to the Lotus and then to the Olympian suggest to me that he had not given up the liquor trade just because it had been outlawed by Oregon lawmakers.  Having spent much of his life purveying alcolhol, Kelly — I believe — likely had something in mind outside the law.  The answer is unknown as Kelly went to his grave in 1925, age seventy, without an arrest or public confession.  He was buried in Section A, Lot 61, Space 2 of Portland’s Calvary Cemetery.  His wife, Mary Emma, later would join him in Space 1.  His grave is shown here.


About a century after Kelly owned and re-named the saloon, the establishment is still extant, offering whiskey and other liquor as he might have, reckoned the third oldest watering hole in Portland.  Shown above, the place definitely is worth a visit when in the city.  If you go, be sure to lift a glass to John Kelly, a whiskey man worth remembering.  

















Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Whiskey Men Who Fought for the South, Part 1


Foreword:  The Civil War that raged between 1861 and 1865 was a defining event in American history.  An increase in alcoholic consumption among the public during and after the conflict has been attributed to it.  The war also has been credited with spurring the temperance movement in the country that ultimately led to National Prohibition in 1920.  Many who fought on both sides had an interest in the liquor trade.  Often their stories are compelling.  In this post and two to follow, brief profiles will be drawn of whiskey men who fought in that war, beginning with combatants for the Confederacy.

One of the last Confederates to leave the field after the defeat at Fort Walker on Hilton Head, Hermann Klatte, shown here, three years later returned to his home in Charleston following the Civil War to open a liquor business. There he was hindered at every turn by Prohibitionist forces and finally put out of business by the government of South Carolina two decades before National Prohibition. 

Despite being a German immigrant and owning no slaves,  Klatte immediately went on active duty with a Charleston artillery company on December 20, 1860, the day South Carolina voted to secede from the Federal Union.  Klatte and his unit were among those Confederate forces that physically took over Fort Sumpter.  Subsequently Hermann was sent to Hilton Head where he was in the garrison at Fort Walker for the battle of Port Royal in November 1861. In the end Yankee fire power proved too strong and a Southern retreat was ordered.  According to one account, Lt. Hermann Klatte was the last officer to leave the field, cannonading the Yankees until the last moment.


In the aftermath of the Port Royal battle Klatte’s artillery unit was employed primarily to defend South Carolina’s coastal defenses.  When those were evacuated in February1865 as Confederate resistance crumbled, Klatte, now a full lieutenant, was in command of an artillery battalion.  He tried to join remaining Confederate forces, but was deterred by General Sherman’s march into South Carolina, and surrendered at Greensboro at the close of the war.  Ending his service ranked as a captain, Klatte’s heroism subsequently was hailed by several Southern commentators.

Upon returning to Charleston, he opened “Hermann Klatte & Bro” as wholesale dealers in foreign and domestic liquors and wines.  He also advertised sales of mineral water, “segars,” tobacco and both foreign and domestic beers.  For decades Klatte’s liquor house was a success.  Just before Christmas 1892, however, the South Carolina legislature voted for a corrupt scheme that put the governor in total charge of whiskey merchandising and prohibited all other sales of alcohol. 

Virtually in a moment, almost two decades before National Prohibition, the state that Klatte had fought so hard to protect, put him out of the whiskey trade.  Directories show that he struggled on with tobacco and nonalcoholic products for several years and then, at age 61, folded his business. There may have been times when Klatte wondered if his military service on behalf of the South had been worthwhile.

The Battle of Five Forks, fought on April 1, 1965, was the last major clash of North and South in the Civil War.  Nine days later Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.  But for Elijah Betterman,  whose subsequent career as a Tennessee whiskey man brought wealth and prominence, the war was far from over.  Captured at Five Forks he would spend months after the surrender in a Yankee prison camp.  After his release and subsequent marriage, Betterman found success elusive until he opened  a wholesale liquor business in Chattanooga under the name E.R. Betterton & Co., as shown on a company letterhead.


Ultimately Betterton found it necessary in 1895 to open his own distillery, located on Signal Mountain Road near Valdeau, Tennessee.  Betterton called it “White Oak Distillery.” Unfortunately his first plant, although it prospered, had no easy transportation access.  It was a distance from the Tennessee River and five miles from the nearest railroad.  As a result, about 1899 Betterton and a partner built a second White Oak Distillery on the south bank of the river just east of Chattanooga’s Market Street bridge.  An illustration of this facility emphasizes its nearness to river and rail transport.

When Tennessee went “dry” in 1913, Betterton and a partner opened a wholesale house under the name “E. R. Betterton” in Rossville, Georgia,  just over the Tennessee state line.  Liquor still could be sent by freight from Chattanooga to Georgia. For a time, it was still legal for Betterton to ship his whiskey back from Georgia to his Tennessee customers by express freight and even parcel post.  As a result, by 1917 he had exhausted most of the stock at the distillery and in his Tennessee warehouses.  The former Johnny Reb persisted in business.  In 1914 he formed the Betterton & England Shoe Company, footwear wholesalers, in Chattanooga.  

Henry Gunst, like Hermann Klatte, was a German immigrant, without slaves, who settled in Bowling Green, Virginia, a small town between Richmond and Washington, D.C.  Although married with children when the Civil War broke out, Henry shut down his tannery, left his family, and joined the 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment. Shown here in maturity, Gunst saw fierce action throughout the war, fighting at First Manassas, in Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign, Cold Harbor and in the battles up and down the Shenandoah Valley. 

Although the 13th Virginia was present at Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox, Henry apparently had returned to Bowling Green by that time. According to a family legend, when he attempted to restart his tannery, a Yankee officer told him he first had to swear an oath of loyalty to the Union. Henry, the story goes, chased the officer out of town with a pitchfork.


Moving to Richmond after the war, Gunst founded a liquor business, claiming to be both a distiller and whiskey blender.  His partner, Straus, appears to have exited early. Nevertheless, Straus-Gunst & Co. remained the name of the business throughout its lengthy existence. Its principal brand of whiskey was “Old Henry.”  As the business grew and flourished, Henry became a rich man, recognized in Richmond for his business acumen.  He and his wife lived in a mansion and he was chauffeured around town in a fashionable buggy.

Despite being on the losing side, Gunst continued to be proud of his “Johnny Reb’” Confederate past. In 1888 he attended a Virginia exposition related to the Civil War and displayed a 10-chambered pistol he had taken from an Union officer on the battlefield. A fond grandfather, as shown below,  Old Henry died in 1907, never to see statewide prohibition imposed in Virginia in 1916.

Note:  This post deals with former Confederate soldiers who remained in the South; a subsequent post will feature three Rebel whiskey men who went North and flourished.  Longer vignettes on each of the three featured here can be found on this blog at the following dates:   Hermann Klatte, March 23, 2014;  Elijah Betterton, August 10, 2013; and Henry Guntz, August 3, 2011.