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.