Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Whiskey Men — From Booze to Banking


Foreword:  The numbers of distillers, liquor wholesalers and saloonkeepers who turned to banking sometime during their careers is legion.  But it should not be too surprising.  Selling alcohol could be a very lucrative profession and many whiskey men had ready cash for investment.   Banks proliferated during the latter half of the 1800s and these gents had ready money to take advantage of the opportunities.  Some continued their liquor interests while engaging in the financial world; others turned to it when prohibitionary forces shut down their liquid operations.  Out of the many I have profiled, four men have been selected to illustrate the various paths from booze to banking.

Charles Froeb, an immigrant to the United States as a teenager, founded a highly successful liquor business in Brooklyn and used it as a springboard to an equally successful career in banking.  While other whiskey men moved into banking once Prohibition forces shut them down,  Froeb, shown here, embarked entered the financial world as a parallel career.

Born in Germany in 1857 and brought to the United States as a youngster, settling in Brooklyn, Froeb spent eleven years working for a New York liquor house before striking out on his own, inn 1883 founding the Charles Froeb Co, wholesale liquor dealers.  Success came quickly. During the late 1880’s he engaged a well-known New York architect to build him a mansion in the Bedford Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn.  It is shown here.

Froeb’s flagship brand was “Blue Grass Rye” that he sold in ceramic jugs and glass bottles. He advertised it heavily, emphasizing its medicinal uses, asking “physicians and consumers” to note such qualities as “very digestible,” “very nourishing,” and “entirely natural.”  Like many of his competitors, Froeb issued color lithographed signs for saloon customers. Froeb’s depiction of Daniel Boone, advertising Blue Grass Rye stands out.

Even as he was prospering, Froeb perhaps anticipating Prohibition, was embarking on an alternative career. During the early 1900s he became a vice president of the German Savings Bank of Brooklyn.  By 1914 he had achieved the presidency.  This financial establishment merged several times and each time Froeb emerged at the top of bank management. He ultimately became president of the Lincoln Savings Bank, shown here, a post he held until retirement. 

Meanwhile the original source of his wealth and business prestige had been shut down by the dictates of National Prohibition.  When he died in 1946 at the ripe old age of 89, Froeb could look back on a career that brought him from a teenage immigrant, speaking only a foreign tongue, to the top of the New York City financial world, living in one of Brooklyn’s most elegant mansions.

The function of a “breaker boy” in mining was to break coal into pieces and sort those pieces into categories of nearly uniform size, a process known as “breaking."  The individual also chipped away any impurities that might be clinging to the coal.  It was hard, low-paying labor.  How Michael Bosak went from breaker boy in a Pennsylvania mine to proclaiming himself “The Richest Slovak in America”  is a story of brains and initiative.

Born in 1870 in Saris, a town now the Slovak Republic, Bosak immigrated to the U.S. about 1887, settling in Northeastern Pennsylvania.   After a few months he left mining and worked for several liquor merchants, taking orders and delivering merchandise.  Frugal in his habits, Bosak saved sufficient money to open his own liquor store in Hazelton in the 1890s.  When it prospered he opened a saloon called Glinsky’s Tavern in nearby Olyphant, Pennsylvania, and subsequently a branch liquor house in Scranton. 


Bosak's Growing wealth allowed him to pursue other business interests.  Early on he moved into  banking.  The force of his personality led other Slovak immigrants to trust him and seek his help in purchasing steamship tickets, exchanging foreign currency and making small loans. Bosak established  private bank in 1897 that grew into the Bosak State Bank of Scranton by 1915.  In time he also became president of the Miners Savings Bank of Olyphant and the Trust Company of Wilkes Barre.  Bosak's signature could be found on U.S. backed bank notes. 

Once the self-proclaimed “richest Slovak in America,” Bosak saw his business empire crumbling in 1929 with the advent of the Great Depression. His banks faltered and finally in 1931, failed and closed.   His earning of a lifetime were virtually wiped out.  Despite these setbacks, a biography of his life was entitled: “Michael Bosak:  An American Banker from Saris.” 

The Muehleisen, William Sr. and William Jr., father and son, were proprietors of one of Washington, D.C., best known and most prosperous liquor businesses until Congress in a fit of political correctness voted the District  “dry” and the son gravitated to running one of the more unusual banking institutions in the history of the Nation’s Capital.


About 1867, in the wake of the Civil War, Muehleisen Sr. struck out on his own, establishing himself as an importer and dealer in foreign and domestic wines and liquors at 918 Fifth Street, NW, in the District of Columbia.  The firm's flagship brand was Oakmont Whiskey.  For the next fifty years the Muehleisens ran a highly respected, very profitable, liquor house until William Jr. was forced out of business when Congress voted D.C. “dry” in 1917.

Muehleisen’s  transition from liquor to liquidity seems to have been an effortless one. He founded a bank.  A 1921 D.C. business directory listed him as president of the Mount Vernon Savings Bank, located in the International Machinists Building at 9th St. and Mount Vernon Place, N.W.. shown here.  As related in a historical account of D.C. banks, Muehleisen’s financial institution was the first U.S. bank in which a labor union owned a large bloc of the stock.  Known as a “labor bank,” with a mandate to benefit the working class,  this institution provided a higher return on worker money than other banks, namely, three percent on savings and four percent on certificates of deposit. The bank also worked closely with credit unions, holding their deposits and extending loans
to them.

Even after relinquishing the presidency of Mount Vernon Savings, Muehleisen Jr. stayed on as a director, listed as late as 1828 among their number.  The coming of the Great Depression, however, had a negative effect on this unusual financial institution when many small borrowers were forced to default on loans. The bank went out of business in the early 1930s.

Alexandria was a Virginia town with strong Confederate sympathies that greatly resented Union occupation during the Civil War. That animosity failed to deter a New Jersey lad of 23 who arrived in 1862 to sell whiskey to thirsty troops. Despite this problematic start, he became Alexandria’s mayor and a leading citizen while founding a liquor business that prospered until the advent of Prohibition.  His name was Emanuel Ethelbert (E. E.) Downham and his career ended in the financial sector.

After arriving in Alexandria, Downham quickly established himself as a wholesale liquor dealer with a profitable business.  His promise as an “up-and-comer” must have been evident very early. In 1865, despite being a Yankee, he married the daughter of a leading Alexandria merchant.  He also became politically active, in 1874 seeking and winning seats on the City Council and Board of Aldermen, eventually becoming mayor of Alexandria in 1887, an office he held for four years.

As Virginia came closer and closer to going “dry,” Downham changed direction and became a banker.  By the early 1910s his principal occupation had become president of the German Co-Operative Building Association, a financial organization located at 615 King Street.  This institution had been founded in 1890.  According to a local newspaper, the savings and loan association enjoyed “a steady patronage.”  The building, shown here, still stands in the city’s “Old Town” and is home to a bank.

Featured here are four whiskey men whose fortunes ultimately took them from operating liquor establishments to running financial institutions.  For some the onset of state and national Prohibition forced them into a new career.  For others the transition appears to have been a natural extension of their business interests.  In all cases their investments ultimately were fueled by money from selling whiskey.  

Note:  More complete profiles on each of the four whiskey men featured here can be found on other posts on this blog:  Charles Froeb, November 12, 2012;  Michael Bozak, August 23, 2013;  The Muehleisens, October 28, 2016; and E. E. Downham, May 26, 2011.  




















Friday, October 12, 2018

Louis Abel — Whiskey and the Missionary Position

Dictionaries generally define a “missionary” as “a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.”  That had been my understanding until my research on Chicago liquor dealer Louis Abel took me to a court case in which the word “missionary” assumed a whole new meaning.

First, some background:  In 1918 Hiram Walker & Sons, a U.S. and Canadian distilling company and the maker of “Canadian Club Whiskey,” filed suit against Louis Abel, along with his brother Joseph, for infringement of trademark, simulation of labels and direct fraud in refilling Canadian Club emptied bottles with their “imitiation” Canadian whiskey.  Walker, shown here, was assiduous in taking to court any whiskey outfit that seemed to be infringing on his trademarks. 

Circuit Judge Baker, presiding in the Federal District Court of the Northern District of Illinois, obviously approached the case with a great deal of relish, providing his written opinion with a flair unusual for federal cases.  Baker was particularly intrigued by Abel’s “established sales methods” for promoting his liquor at the expense of the Walkers.  He noted that numerous men were employed by the Chicago liquor firm to go to saloons throughout the country and “puff” the house liquors, so that subsequently their salesmen and jobbers would find their way prepared for them.  “In the liquor world these puffers are called ‘missionaries,’” the judge asserted.

These so-called “missionaries” exclusively were men — women generally were not allowed in drinking establishments — who went from saloon to saloon to ask for an Abel labeled whiskey.  When told the saloon did not have it, they would raise a fuss, either ask the proprietor to get it or leave in a huff.  In a day or two Abel’s salesman would appear to take an order.  In other words, these missionaries were not asking for a reform of religious beliefs but for a switch in brands of booze.

Two of those whiskey emissaries were in the courtroom to testify for the Walkers.  They gave enthusiastic accounts of their success as missionaries to achieve “conversion” from Canadian Club to their client’s erzatz product.  Judge Blake was not impressed:  “…The testimonies of Missionaries Craig and Blake is discredited.  They in fact were not the such glowing successes as boosters as they pictured themselves….It is easy to see their tendency to exaggerate.  They might not hesitate to lie…”  In the end, however, Judge Blake found their testimony sufficiently credible to consider, given the dubious accounts of other “…missionaries, salesmen, and bartenders, who testified….” for Abel and co-defendants.

In the final court document under “Words and Phrases,”  a new definition emerged:   “The term “missionaries,” as used in the liquor trade, applies to men employed to visit saloons throughout the country and puff liquors of a particular manufacture, so that salesmen of wholesalers and jobbers will find the way prepared for them.”

Judge Baker opined that he found the testimony of two private detectives who testified against Abel more credible than the witnesses who spoke for the Chicago liquor dealer.  Baker found him guilty as charged and issued an order to cease his trespasses against Hiram Walker & Sons.  The judge did not assess monetary damages.

Louis Abel was the son of Henry and Ellen Abel, born in Baden, Germany, about 1864.  When he was just a child, his parent emigrated to the United States bringing their five sons with them.  The Abels settled in Chicago where the father found work in a lumber yard.  Although the eldest son, John, ultimately was employed as a baker, the second, Charles, became a whiskey dealer and saloonkeeper.  As soon as he had achieved some maturity, Louis left school and joined Charles in his establishment as a bartender.  

At some point Louis made a connection with a longtime Chicago liquor wholesaler named Samuel Myers who claimed his firm had been founded in 1847, although it first showed up in Windy City business directories in 1860.  Although Myers at times claimed to be a distiller, in reality he was a “rectifier,” compounding his own brands — one of them “Brown-Red Bourbon.” Samuels Myers & Co. initially was located at 276 Madison Avenue, moving a decade later to 268-270 Madison Avenue where it spent the next four decades.

How Abel hooked up with Myers is not clear but by 1904, Louis was advertising himself as “successor to Samuel Myers.”  Abel sold his whiskey in a series of stoneware jugs that carried a standard label that advertised:  “Louis Abel, successor to Samuel Myers & Co., Old Whiskies, established in 1847” and listing the same address as the Myers firm.  That address also showed up on an amber flask embossed with Abel’s name. 


For his ceramic jugs Abel turned to The Red Wing Potteries of Red Wing, Minnesota.  That company, founded by a German immigrant named John Paul, had become renowned for the quality of its salt-glazed, hand thrown, kiln-fired items and for the crisp lettering of its under-glazed labels.  

Abel’s jugs, in sizes from one to two gallons, indicate a preference for two-toned containers, with brown Albany slip tops and spout and plain stoneware bases.  Red Wing jugs likely were more expensive than other ceramics and today ceramic items of pre-Prohibition vintage from the pottery fetch fancy prices.


By 1911, Abel had moved from his earlier location to the southeastern corner of Market and Washington Streets, near the Chicago intersection shown here.  That new address was added to the company Red Wing jugs.  Beginning about 1908, according to court records, Abel began to compound and sell “Canadian Type” whiskey, ostensibly similar in proof, color and flavor to Hiram Walker’s Canadian Club.  Missionaries and salesmen then were employed to boost and sell Abel's faux Canadian in bulk to retailers whom they knew would use it to refill Walker’s bottles, “the brand being practically unknown to and never called for by consumers,” according to Judge Baker.

This dubious and illegal practice apparently proved to be quite lucrative to Abel until the Walkers’ 1918 lawsuit.  Subsequent publicity about scheme, however, seemingly led to the firm’s demise.  The same year that Judge Baker accused it of “direct fraud,” the Louis Abel liquor house disappeared from Chicago business directories.  Seven years later Louis died and was buried in Chicago’s Waldheim Cemetery.

Note:  This blog contains two other articles dealing with Hiram Walker’s court actions against trademark infringement.  On April 16, 2016, I posted on Walker bringing down Charles Klyman, another Chicago liquor dealer, and, on December 4, 2017, his less successful campaign against the Turner-Look Co. of Cincinnati.
















Monday, October 8, 2018

Bitters Were Sweet for the Steeles of Lockport

John Wesley Steele, like many rural youths of his time, cut short his education at age sixteen in order to find employment, moving to Lockport, New York.  Over time he worked there in a variety of occupations.  But it was not until Steele engaged in the liquor trade and invented an alcoholic tonic called “Niagara Star Bitters” that he and his family would be thrust into the forefront of Western New York business  circles.



Steele was born in Royalton, Niagara County, New York, in 1821.  Described as an ambitious youth, as soon as he was able he gravitated to nearby Lockport, a city that literally was “made” by being a lock on the Erie Canal.  By 1829, Lockport was an established village.  The community was centered on the locks, and consisted mainly of immigrant Scottish and Irish workers brought in as labor.  There always was canal-related work and in 1839 Steele was recorded as the foreman of a construction gang, graduating in subsequent years to enterprises involving stabling horses and selling lumber.

About 1845, John, now 24, married a 20-year old local girl named Sophronia Houstattler.  The family would have thee children who lived to adulthood, Charles W., William Wallace, and Mary Sophronia.  A fourth, George, died in infancy.  The requirements of his growing family may have provided the incentive for Steele to try his hand in the whiskey trade.   By the early 1860s he was working for a Lockport liquor firm called S. W. Lackor & Co. It did not take long for Steele to recognize the profits to be realized by producing a new brand of bitters.  Not only were these highly alcoholic tonics popular with the public, they were considered medicine and accordingly taxed at a lower rate by the federal government. 

After some months with Lackor,  apparently deciding he could do better on his own, about 1864 Steele quit and turned to compounding, bottling, and selling a nostrum of his own invention that he called “Niagara Star Bitters.”  As shown here  he packaged it in  rectangular bottles in a range of amber shades.  


The bottles had a domed base and stood 10 1/4 inches tall.  The words “JOHN W. STEELE NIAGARA STAR BITTERS” were marked on two lines on one indented panel.  The opposite side has the names with a star between Niagara and Bitters.  In one domed top indented panel has an embossed flying eagle facing right with three arrow in its talents.  Stars are present on three sides of the roofed shoulders and the “1864” is embossed on the fourth side.  These have been attributed to the Lockport Glass Works, a local glass house recorded having employed 56 men and 15 boys.


With the success of his bitters, Steele moved back into the liquor trade in partnership with a mayor of Lockport, R. B. Hoag, and Captain B. H. Fletcher.  They called their enterprise Fletcher, Hoag & Steele.  Although this company was credited with distilling whiskey at a plant at the northeast corner of Lock and Ontario Streets, I can find no record of such a facility.  I believe Fletcher, Hoag & Steele were “rectifying,” that is, blending raw whiskeys for color, smoothness and taste.  Their major seller was Steele’s “Niagara Star Bitters,” described as selling twelve thousand cases a year.  In 1870 Steele’s net worth was put at the hefty equivalent of $625,000.

Subsequent Lockport business directories indicated that in the mid-1870s, Steele was back working as a single proprietor.  Thus some of John W. Steele bitters bottles may date from this time, as against the earlier period.  Now rich and established among the leading businessmen of Lockport, the entrepreneur began to branch out in interests.  He financed the construction of an all-brick commercial office building in downtown Lockport called the Central Block, hailed as “an ornament to the city.”  He also joined with a partner in business called Steele, Wells & Company.  This outfit dealt in coal and lumber, and manufacturing sashes, doors and blinds in a Lockport factory.  It also owned a lumber and coal yard in East Lockport. With Hoag, Steele also built a large malt house.

As he matured, Steele’s son, William Wallace, increasingly had become part of family ventures.  Because of the family’s new-found affluence, Wallace was able not only to complete his secondary schooling but also to attend the Rochester Business College.  In 1872 Wallace at the age of 22 married Lydia L. Freeman, 19, of Middleport, New York, the daughter of prominent businessman Benjamin F. Freeman.  They would have three children. Wallace was active in community affairs, serving for 1876 and 1877 on the Niagara County Board of Supervisors and participating in several Masonic groups.  He also served a term as a volunteer fireman.


In 1878 as John Steele looked after other interests, Steele & Co. was reorganized as Steele, Torrance & Co. with R. B. Hoag as a silent partner and major stockholder. The firm billed itself as “Dealers in Foreign and Domestic Wines and Liquors” and continued marketing the “Celebrated” Niagara Star Bitters.  In 1881 Torrence retired, leaving Wallace Steele and Hoag at the helm of Steele, Torrence. 


John W. Steele died in June 1882, age 61, after a lingering illness.  According to his newspaper obituary:  “The supposed cause of death was cancer of the stomach, but a post mortem examination this morning disclosed the fact that the cause of death was a degeneration of the liver, kidneys and spleen, and a general breaking down of the system.”  After a service at Lockport’s Grace Episcopal Church, where he was a member, Steele was buried in Glenwood Cemetery.  His obituary hailed him for a “life of industry and usefulness.”

A year after the father’s death, however, the roof fell in for Wallace Steele when his company was thrown into bankruptcy.  The Lockport Journal claimed that:   “The cause of the failure is mainly losses in business extending over several years, the firm of Steele, Torrence & Co. having been considered on a precarious foundation for some time back.”   The main culprit was R. B. Hoag who had racked up debts equivalent to $1.6 million today and was forced to liquidate his local business interests, including the liquor house, to pay for them.

The individual liabilities of Wallace Steele were a small fraction of what Hoag owed and he had sufficient assets to cover them.  As his “preferred creditor” he designated Benjamin Freeman, his father-in-law.  While obviously shaken by these events, this Steele emerged from bankruptcy to start anew.  Later it would be said of Wallace:  “Under many business difficulties in former years, he has always shown that indomitable business energy which has enabled him to laugh at misfortune and to place himself in the front ranks with the successful men at the present time.”  

This time Wallace Steele opened his liquor house under two names, his own and “L. L. Steele,” representing his wife, Lydia L. Steele.  Both were located at Number 2 Lock Street in Lockport.  Shown here is a whiskey jug with L.L. Steele etched in it.   After a successful run of about twenty years at the head of these alcohol-based ventures, Wallace died in 1906 and was buried not far from his father, mother and infant brother in Glenwood Cemetery.  He was only 56 years old. 

His wife, Lydia, who increasingly had been brought into management, continued to operate the liquor house for the next two years.  By 1909, however, the company had disappeared from Lockport business directories.  Lydia was listed simply as “widow of Wallace.”  Thus ended the half century that the Steele name and “Celebrated Niagara Star Bitters” were renowned in Western New York.  John Steele’s nostrum had brought the family a long way.

Note:  Coming across the whiskey jug that opens this post, I found my research — as has happened before — carrying me to the Peachridge Glass blog of Ferdinand Meyer V.   Ferd featured the bottles, including several shown here.  Nevertheless, I decided there was a story to be told about the Steele family and its rise in Lockport through the success of Niagara Star Bitters.  A key source for the information found on this post was Landmarks of Niagara County, New York, edited by William Pool and published by D. Mason & Company in 1897.

























Thursday, October 4, 2018

His Heritage Meant Little to Lloyd Addison


Shown here, Lloyd Dulaney Addison sprang from one of Maryland’s richest and most notable families of the Colonial Era but it benefited him little.  In the end, through his own exertions he hewed out a fiefdom, including a distillery, amid the hills of Breckinridge County, Kentucky.  

In England, Addisons were members of the gentry, and while not aristocrats, were sufficiently distinguished to have a coat of arms.  In early Maryland the Addisons were one of the most economically, socially, and politically prominent families.  The Oxon Hill Manor House, shown in a sketch below, was their home. Around it spread their large plantation on which as many as 109 slaves toiled, according to Maryland historians.


Lloyd’s grandfather, the Rev. Walter Dulany Addison, shown here, was a well-known cleric, founder of St. John’s Church in Georgetown, D.C. and one of four clergymen officiating at George Washington’s funeral.  Important enough to warrant a Wikipedia article, the clergyman about 1800 began to make arrangements for the eventual emancipation of his slaves.  Rev. Addison is believed to have altered his will so that upon his death all males over 25 and females over 20 years of age would be freed.  It appears that he subsequently proceeded with manumissions, but historians say, details are lacking.

Rev. Addison proved to be an inept custodian of the estate he had inherited and to make ends meet compelled to dispose of family land piece by piece.  Finally, in 1910 he was forced to sell the Oxon Hill Manor House and remaining acreage.  Those events may have impelled Walter’s son, our subject’s father, also named Lloyd, to leave Maryland about 1819 and head for Louisville, Kentucky.  There he was counted among young business pioneers, engaged in molasses sales.  A short biography says of him:  “He was a gentleman of fine appearance and polished manners; and a merchant of a very high character for business capacity and integrity.


In Louisville, shown here as it looked in 1846, Lloyd Senior married Ann Marie Sands.  The couple would go on to have five children, three daughters and two sons.  The last was our Lloyd Addison, born on Christmas Day 1859 in New Orleans where the family earlier had moved.  Why the father chose the “Big Easy” is unclear.  According to the 1900 census, he was working there as a “public weigher.” that is, someone licensed to weigh bulk commodities for a living.

If records are correct, his father died when Lloyd was still an infant.  My surmise is that, as a result, the widow Anna Marie determined to return to Louisville, her home town, with her minor children.  Although the fatherless youngster was given an elementary education, Lloyd’s schooling was limited.  He went to work at a young age, likely to help support his mother.  Addison first surfaced in Louisville directories in 1881 working as a clerk.   During that same year, at 22 years old he married Mary Alice Setzer, 20, in Louisville.  She had been born in Kentucky of native Kentuckians.  Addison apparently had chosen well.  Mary Alice later would be described as “…a most charming lady, possessing business qualifications of a high order.”  I can find no evidence of children.

Marriage may have provided the impetus for Addison to move up in the world. Three years later he had graduated from clerk to being a partner in a grocery store with a man named Nelson Clore.   Meanwhile, he had discovered and bought land about sixty miles south of Louisville along the Ohio River in Breckinridge County.  The community was located at Lock #45 on the Ohio River and boasted a train station on what later became the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. 

The town’s picturesque name, “Holt’s Bottom,” celebrated local hero Joseph Holt, shown here, whose mansion home still stands.  Holt long before had gone to Washington, D.C. where he served as Commissioner of Patents, Postmaster General and Secretary of War in the Buchanan Administration.  President Abraham Lincoln named him Judge Advocate General of Union forces and Holt was one of three judges during the trial of the conspirators in the Lincoln assassination.

In 1886, Addison opened the first general store in Holt’s Bottom and became its postmaster.  Mary Alice worked right beside him, listed in the 1900 census as “salesman and clerk.”  By 1889, the enterprising couple by strength of personality  had convinced county officials to rename a section of the town. No longer part of Holt, the area became “Addison.”  Having repeatedly invested in land there, Lloyd owned a considerable amount of the town bearing his name.

Addison opened the Old Breckenridge Distillery in 1895.  From Peter Best he  purchased distillery RD#11, located in Hancock County, Kentucky, for $1,000.  The structures and equipment were dismantled and moved to his site in Breckinridge County.  The plant had a mashing capacity of 150 bushels a day and warehouse capacity for 5,000 barrels.  

Addison marketed his whiskey with ads in the Wine & Spirits Journal where he described his products as  hearty, strong, bourbons for bar, bottling or blending,” indicating that he was selling his whiskey wholesale to “rectifiers.” One observer called Addison’s “a perfect sour mash, using a ninety-six hour fermentation.”  Addison featured only one proprietary brand, “Old Breckinridge Hand-Made Sour Mash Whiskey,” a label he never bothered to trademark.

He marketed Old Breckinridge in “Albany slip” brown stenciled jugs.  Shown here are three examples of his containers, avidly sought by collectors today.  One, shown above, in script text reads:  “L.D. Addison, Old Breckinridge Whiskey.”  A second with block letters read:  “L. D. Addison, Distiller of Old Breckinridge Whiskey, Addison, Ky.”   The stencil for the third label is more elaborate:  “L. D. Addison, Distiller, Old Breckinridge Handmade Sourmash Whiskey, Pure Apple Brandy, Addison, Ky.”


As indicated above, Addison also operated a brandy distillery, capable of mashing 46 bushels of apples or other fruit daily and producing 300 barrels of brandy annually, depending on the availability of apples.  On his 250 acre farm Addison had devoted eighty acres to orchard and was not entirely dependent on the marketplace for his fruit.

Addison’s enterprises eventually extended beyond the distillery.  He ran a grist mill that according to one observer “is mostly used for custom work and is kept pretty busy.“ He also operated an agricultural implement warehouse and had expanded his general merchandise store to 45 by 115 feet in size, stocked with goods worth an estimated $25,000, equivalent to $625,000 today.  

He also found time to build Mary Alice and himself a home to complete with the Holt mansion.  The site made use of a cellar, foundation and brick walls of an house built in 1814 by an early Kentucky pioneer.  Onto those venerable ruins, the Addisons grafted a structure modern for the times.  Said one observer:  “Their handsome residence is an ornament to the locality, and can be seen for miles owning to the sightliness of its position on a hill.”  Unfortunately the house today no longer exists.

Despite living most of the time in Addison, Lloyd for a number of years operated a sales facility in Louisville, visiting his employees there frequently while staying in local rooming houses.  According to business directories, he opened his store in 1906, located at 655 Market Street.  After three years he moved to two locations on South Fourth Street.  After 1909 directory references end.  Addison may have found himself overextended.  As early as 1904 he sought to sell his general store, claiming:  “The store has a trade of about $25,000 a year, and will furnish a good opening for someone familiar with that business.

By 1910 Addison appears completely to have exited the whisky trade.  Whether this change occurred by personal choice or because Breckinridge County voted “dry” is unclear.  In subsequent business directories he appears to have opened a restaurant in Louisville on South Fourth Street.  By 1914, he is listed as working a “steward” at the Galt House, the city’s premier hotel, shown here.  In the 1920 Federal census he listed his occupation as “farmer” and 1930, “retired.”

Although I can find no record of her death or burial site, it appears that Mary Alice,  Lloyd’s helpmate of many years, died about 1931.  Despite his advanced age, Addison appears to have wed a second time in 1932, this time to Harriet Louise Malone, a Kentucky woman of similarly advanced age.  Three years later, Lloyd Addison died on August 11, 1935, in Breckinridge County.  Seventy-five years old when he passed, he was buried in the county’s Cloverport Cemetery #1.  His gravestone is shown here.  

As the history of the Addisons reveals, family wealth and prestige often do not translate from one generation to the next.  Fortunes are lost. Bad decisions are made. Individuals die unexpectedly.  Lloyd Addison understood that his pedigree was not a ticket to success so he carved out his own future.  And whiskey was his ally.

Note:  Although many sources were tapped for this vignette, a prime one was an article in the Wine & Spirits Journal, 1904 volume, a story that also supplied the photo of Lloyd D. Addison.