Saturday, November 17, 2018

Whiskey Men Contributing to Health Care

Foreword:  In the last post citing comparative whiskey men, the subject was those who most notably contributed their wealth to the cause of education.  Other distillers, distributors and saloonkeepers lavished their philanthropy and often their personal attention on improving the health care for people in their communities.  In brief vignettes here are told the stories of three who made significant contributions to that cause.   
Philip Engs, whose liquor business survived more than 100 years, recognized the public needs of a burgeoning, pre-industrial New York City and answered with his time and money, among a host of causes, to provide public health care The picture right is based on a portrait given posthumously by his family to the City of New York to honor Engs, truly a “first responder” to the needs of his fellow New Yorkers.

Beginning in 1808, Engs not only carried on a vigorous wholesale liquor trade, he also was operating as a “rectifier,” that is, blending raw whiskeys to achieve a particular taste and color.  His efforts met with quick success.  As he rose in wealth and influence, Engs increasingly was becoming involved in the civic affairs of a rapidly expanding metropolis where the unmet needs of the populace, particularly the poor, were a growing concern.  In December 1817 Engs was among what he called “a number of philanthropic gentlemen” who met at a New York hospital to consider the causes of poverty and adopt efforts to remedy them, including creation of an alms house to provide shelter and health care for the indigent and a community medical dispensary.  Philip Engs would play a pivotal role in both those efforts.   

In 1834, Engs was named one of five Commissioners of the Alms House.  Their job was to supervise those sanctuaries and provide general relief to poor people living outside them.  Shown above is a drawing of the largest of the facilities, located on Blackwell’s Island, now Roosevelt Island, in the East River.  The commissioners also had responsibilities for medical care and those duties may have propelled Engs into still another philanthropic effort.  

The Northern Dispensary, shown here still standing, was erected in Greenwich Village just off Christopher Street in 1831 for the purpose of providing medical and hospital care for the indigent.  The dispensary was designed to serve 40,000 people living between Spring and 21st Streets and from Broadway to the Hudson River.  A dispensary annual report of 1832 listed 3,296 patients treated. Edgar Allan Poe is recorded as having obtained medicine there for a winter cold in 1837, but many patients were treated right in their own homes.  In 1834, Engs was named Commissioner of Supplies for the dispensary, responsible for seeing that it had necessary medicines and other supplies. 

In 1859, a time of significant unrest in Germany, two boys, Lesser Levy and Albert Lewin, were born.  Each emigrated to the United States, settling in Denver where their fortunes intertwined in a liquor business known as the Levy & Lewin Mercantile Company.  With diverging personal interests, each man earned a measure of local fame:  Lewin was a showman;  Levy a humanitarian.

Levy’s initial contribution was triggered in 1899 when a wave of Romanian Jews, victims of harsh laws in their homeland, fled to the U.S.  The American Jewish community immediately made efforts to aid those refugees settle into American society, find them employment and social services, including health care, and dispersed them to other parts of the country to relieve the burden on East Coast relief agencies. Obviously moved by pictures of the homeless Romanians, Lesser Levy served as the chairman and leader of the Denver relief organization from 1901 to 1907.  In this way he helped re-settle 2,791 Jewish refugees in Colorado.  

Levy also volunteered for the Local Board of Managers for the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives in Denver.  The need was felt for such a hospital where the mile high altitude and clear air was seen as therapeutic for those suffering from tuberculosis.  At the time, no medical institution in Denver would admit penniless consumptives, and many poor victims of the disease lived and died on the city's streets. Organized in 1890, the hospital project took nine years to realize.  Financial support was nationwide and some of Denver’s best physicians donated their services.  Patients arrived from all across the country, many of them non-Jews.  The hospital motto, as shown on the postcard view above, was:  “For the poor only—None who enter pay—None who can pay may enter.”   Levy was among those welcoming the first patients.

Perhaps the most unlikely whiskey man to have made a contribution to health care was Robert E. Garner.  Raised on a farm in nearby Georgia, he found his way to Anniston, Alabama, during the latter part of the 19th Century.  He became known as “Daddy” Garner there and created a saloon he called the “Peerless,” Shown left, it has been revived by his modern counterparts and now is accounted the oldest such establishment in Alabama.

During his lifetime Garner provided one of the fanciest watering holes in Alabama.  Built in Classic Revival Gothic style, the Peerless featured a massive mirror-backed mahogany bar, shown below. It had been purchased at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and moved by Garner to the Peerless in 1906.  He also bought old church pews, had them sawed in two and fashioned customer booths from them.

But that was the only thing “churchy” about the Peerless.  Garner set aside the entire second floor of the Peerless for a brothel. There were four rooms, each with its own ornamented fireplace, and a fifth bedroom in a loft accessed by a ladder.  It is something of a mystery how Garner earned the nickname “Daddy.”  No record exists of a marriage or any children.  It occurs to me that the ladies upstairs might have bestowed that name on him as the boss male of the Peerless Saloon — and it stuck.  

Nor was Garner above flouting the law in other ways.  After Alabama passed statewide prohibition against making or selling liquor in 1915, he is said to have bootlegged whiskey through the Peerless.  At his death in 1919, however, Robert Garner belied his reputation as the “outlaw” proprietor of a rowdy saloon and bawdy house.   Never having married and with no children as heirs, he left his considerable fortune to the creation of a new Aniston hospital, the existing structure having become outdated.  Using the saloonkeeper’s money, city fathers built a new health care institution and named it Garner Hospital, shown above.  After many years of service as the municipal hospital, the building now serves as a nursing home.

Each of these three whiskey men in his own way contributed to the health and welfare of his community, deserving to be recognized in his own time — and ours — as a humanitarian.  

Note:   Longer vignettes on each of these three men can be found on this blog.  They are:  Philip Engs, January 7, 2017;  Levi Levy, May 13,2018, and Robert “Daddy” Garner, July 2, 2017.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Abe Trattner and his Pennsylvania “Wet” Hotel

During the early decades of the last century the sale of liquor was being attacked  by prohibitionists in many ways and on many fronts — nationally, statewide, and in hamlets as small as Delta, Pennsylvania.  Located in York County, 30 miles southeast of York City, Delta and its Auditorium Hotel had attracted the attention of the Anti-Saloon League — regrettably for Abe Trattner, liquor dealer, realtor, and co-owner of the hotel.

Tiny Delta was a site for hotels primarily because it was a railroad crossing. The Peach Bottom Railway entered the hamlet in 1876 and ran its line to Red Lion and York City. From the South, the Maryland Central Railroad reached Delta in 1883 and began operating trains in 1884 from there to Bel Air, Maryland, and Baltimore  Catering to travelers and licensed by the county, the Auditorium Hotel, shown here, featured a bar and restaurant where whiskey and other alcohol were readily available.

In the Spring of 1914, prohibitionists staged a large rally in Delta and submitted  a petition of 345 names, mostly from women, demanding that the Auditorium and another hotel be denied liquor licenses.  Three hundred protesters, likely abetted by the Anti-Saloon League, chartered a special train and filed into a York City courtroom to make their point:  “They brought overwhelming proof that both proprietors had violated the law,”  according to “The American Issue,” an organ of the League.  Things looked bleak for Trattner and his partners.

In a sense, Abe had been heading for a conflict with “dry” forces for some years.  Born in 1868 in Galicia, Austria, he was the eldest child of Isaac and Bella (Durst) Trattner.   With four younger siblings his parents brought him, about age 15, to the United States, settling in York, Pennsylvania.  There Isaac ran a grocery store.  Although Abe’s early employment is lost in the mist of history, he likely began his career working for his father.  The 1900 Federal census lists his occupation as “traveling salesman.”

Apparently tiring of life on the road, by 1905 Trattner had established an office at 38-40 East Market Street in York where he dealt in real estate and insurance, as well as providing small loans, as indicated by an ad in a local business directory.  York teemed with real estate offices and Abe may have found it difficult to crack the market,  By 1909 he was listing himself as a general merchandise “broker.”

The following year in March, his mother Bella died.  Several months later Abe, a bachelor of 42, in York married a woman seventeen years his junior  She was Esther Bauer, an immigrant from Hungary.  Apparently their marriage was childless.  His nuptials may have persuaded Trattner to seek a more profitable occupation.  By 1911 he was advertising as a “Wholesale Dealer in Beer, Wine and Liquors,” located at 144 South George Street.  The real estate business now was “in the rear.”  Abe and Esther lived above the store.

Instead of the crowded real estate field, Trattner had emerged as one of only two liquor wholesale houses in York.  He was buying whiskey by the barrel from Pennsylvania distilleries and decanting it into gallon and larger ceramic jugs with his label and selling them to local saloons and restaurants.  There the liquor  would be poured into smaller containers to be sold to customers, either by the drink or in glass flasks.

As shown here on his billhead, Trattner had been designated by the Anheuser-Busch brewery of St. Louis as its local agent, signing him up as a member of its network of dealers across America.   Having purchased the appropriate machinery,  Abe was able to bottle Budweiser and other beverages on site. A Trattner labeled bottle is shown here along with a detail of its embossed label.

Continuing to expand his enterprises, Abe looked to Delta and the Ambassador Hotel that recently had come up for sale.  The family already had a hostelry in York, appropriately named “Trattner Hotel.”  It was run by Abe’s younger brother, Harry.   Partnering with Theodore Helb, characterized by prohibitionists as “the big millionaire brewery boss of York,” Trattner invested heavily in the hotel, sharing a mortgage of $10,250  — equivalent today to about $205,000.

Now Trattner found the Ambassador’s liquor license under heavy attack.  According to the opposition, Abe was overheard talking to his attorney about how much the hotel would be worth if the court refused the license.  His response was quoted as a curt, “Not a damn.”  This response seemingly defined the stakes as the crowded courtroom was hammered to order in York City in February 1915.  Local judges Wenner and Ross presided.

After several days of testimony, the judges rendered their decision, noting:  “If this were a mere question of majorities, we would, of course, be obliged to refuse this license, but the law does not permit the case to be decided on that ground alone.”  On the other side was the need to accommodate travelers by rail who regularly stopped overnight in Delta.  The only other hotel in town was dry, the court noted, and evidence existed that “…a large majority of the strangers and travelers stopping there prefer a licensed hotel, where liquors can be procured, to the temperance house.”  With that justification, the judges awarded the Ambassador Hotel an extension of its liquor license.

The Anti-Saloon League, having targeted the situation in Delta, was outraged.  Its American Issue publication trashed the Ambassador Hotel as “an old frame shell” without any substantial value if it was denied alcohol sales and suggested that financial interests and political influence had leveraged the decision.  Trattner was fingered as exerting “a mighty political influence in the county.”

Whatever lay behind the decision, its effect was short-lived.  Although the Anti-Saloon League had been bested in Delta, five years later it triumphed when National Prohibition was enacted.  The Ambassador Hotel went dry. Trattner was forced to shut down his liquor house.  After initially concentrating again on real estate, by 1931 Abe was listed in business directories owning and operating a storage company.

Trattner lived long enough to see Repeal but did not revive his liquor business, dying in 1939.  Following a Jewish funeral service, he was buried in in the South Hills Hebrew Cemetery in York, the grave shown here.  Abe’s confrontation over the Ambassador Hotel with the Anti-Saloon League was only a small blip on the prohibition screen but it reveals the lengths to which the Drys would go, even in tiny Delta, Pennsylvania.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Bob Yokum Rode a Buffalo to South Dakota Fame

The glass paperweight at left bears the photograph of a man riding a buffalo and bears the legend:  “Bob Yokum’s Buffalo, Pierre, S.D.”  It provides a window into the feats of a South Dakota saloonkeeper in training buffalo — the American bison — to pull a wagon or sleigh, be mounted and raced, and, most famously of all, engage in bullfighting in Mexico.

Details of the saloonkeeper’s life before settling in the Dakota Territory are sketchy.  According to 1870 census records, Robert Lee Yokum, shown here in maturity, was born in California in 1866.  His father, Dennis, was a carpenter.  After his wife died the father initially was dependent on an older daughter to keep house and care for younger siblings.  After a move to Archer, Texas, where he was recorded working as a blacksmith,  Dennis Yokum married a woman almost half his age and started a new family.  Bob was recorded as still at home in 1880, working as a laborer, but soon left for other adventures.

Details of his next few years are scant.  Yokum is said to have engaged in “the old ranching and cowboy life of the American West,” eventually becoming a United States marshal and gaining the title “Major.”  This rambling did not deter him from an early marriage.  In 1890, at age 24, in Callahan, Texas, Bob wed Inez Coppins, a Michigan-born girl who was only 15 years old at the time. They had two children. The 1900 Census found the family living in Ft. Pierre, South Dakota, shown below.  Yokum’s occupation was given as “drayman” — the driver of a flatbed wagon, called a “dray,” pulled by horses or mules.

Beer frequently was hauled on drays, a cargo that might have brought Yokum in close contact with the saloons of Ft. Pierre and neighboring Pierre, the state capitol.  Blessed with a good business sense, before long Yokum was reported to have owned at least two such establishments.  Unfortunately I have been unable to discover their names but believe one was the “Buffalo Saloon,” as suggested by the paperweight that opens this vignette.

The American buffalo for years was considered untameable and many biologists considered it as one of the most stupid animals in existence.  That did not deter Bob Yokum, drawing on his experience with horses and mules, from experimenting on his ranch to see what they could be taught to do.  “His troubles and trials with the unwieldy bison were innumerable,” noted one writer.  A photo below of a smashed wagon with onlookers and a pair of buffalo standing by lend credence to that view.

Eventually, however, Yokum succeeded in breaking them to a harness and driving them as a team.  Shown here, Bob’s bison are pulling a sleigh, with the saloonkeeper at the reins.  As the fame of his accomplishment spread, Yokum was invited to participate in the annual Calgary Stampede, a showcase of Western motifs.  For the occasion in Alberta, Canada, Yokum hitched his team to a fancy chariot.  A postcard shows Bob in the role of Ben Hur.

Yokum’s next feat was training his buffalo being to be ridden.  They were said to “loathe” the saddling process and upon being mounted for the first time were known to buck fiercely trying to throw the rider.  With patience, the saloonkeeper was able to accustomed the shaggy beasts to a passenger, as shown on a postcard.  In addition, he was able to race them, both against other bison and against horses.  They beat the horses.

Yokum’s singular feat was introducing a bison into a Mexican bullring.  The idea was hatched during the winter of 1906-1907 to see which was the more dominant animal — a fighting bull (toro) or the American buffalo.  Loading one eight-year old bull buffalo and one four-year old in a boxcar a group of South Dakota men that included Yokum headed to Mexico.  According to one account, “Bob was a major instigator in arranging the buffalo versus bull fight with friends in El Paso and Juarez.  Bob made sure there was plenty of alcohol in the baggage to make the trip a more pleasant experience….”

After a seven day trip the group arrived in Juarez just in time for the afternoon show of four regular bullfights and as the finale the American buffalo vs. Mexican bull.  According to the account, the older buffalo, named Pierre, was released into the ring where it walked calmly to the middle:  “When the attendants released a red Mexican bull into the ring, he immediately spied the buffalo and charged. The bull aimed for the buffalo’s flank; but at the last second, the buffalo pivoted and the bull hit him head on…and was knocked back on his haunches.”  A second and third charge yielded the same result.  “On the fourth attempt, the bull again hit the buffalo head, was stunned and fell to the ground.  Then the bull rose up, fled from the buffalo and tried to climb out of the ring.” 

Sequentially, attendants released four more bulls into the ring, each time to the same result.  The buffalo defeated them and ended up chasing them around the ring as the Mexican crowd shouted their approval.  Their point made, the delegation donned matador outfits for a triumphant photograph.  Yokum is front right.  Several days later the delegation entrained back to South Dakota but without the buffalo, claimed by the Mexican promoters for an uncertain fate.

Yokum went back to his buffalo farm and to operating saloons in both Pierre and Ft. Pierre.  When the latter town under “local option” went dry about 1910, Bob clearly was distressed and upon subletting his building included a provision banning anyone else from running a saloon there if the laws changed.  In fighting a court challenge to the provision, his lawyer explained:  “Mr. Yokum had been conducting a saloon in this building and this saloon business always was a touchy affair….He is praying for the time when Ft. Pierre will again become wet and he can again run a saloon there.”  No indication exists of that having happened and by 1917 the entire state of South Dakota had banned alcohol.

The latter years of Bob Yokum’s life, as one author has suggested, “are lost to history.”  He lived until 1937, seeing both the imposition of National Prohibition in 1920 and, at the age of 71, Repeal fourteen years later.  Indications are that Yokum moved to Wyoming at some point, perhaps to be close to relatives.  He lies buried in Riverside Cemetery in Thermopolis, Hot Springs County, Wyoming.  Appropriately, his obituary referred to him as “Buffalo Bob Yokum.”

Monday, November 5, 2018

Albert Gottschalk: Baltimore’s “One-Man Conglomerate”

When Albert Gottschalk arrived in Baltimore in 1855 he was a twenty-one year old immigrant from Germany with barely the clothes on his back.  At his death in 1898 Gottschalk owned a distillery, an alcohol rectifying plant, a wholesale liquor business, a North Charles Street fancy grocery and a brewery.  Maryland whiskey guru, Jim Bready, has called him “a one man Baltimore conglomerate.” 

Gottschalk was born in Herford, Westphalia, Germany in 1834, the son of Levi and Lina Gottschalk.  When he was only three, his father died, leaving his widowed mother with three small boys to raise.  One of Albert’s younger brothers, Noah, soon would follow their father in death.  Gottschalk received the quality German education available and early went to work to help support the family.Reaching twenty-one, perhaps to avoid being conscripted into German military service, he immigrated to the United States, settling in Baltimore.

While details of his early life in America are sketchy, Gottschalk appears to have had experience working as an employee in one of the many wholesale liquor houses in Baltimore.  In that city he also met Rosa Ullman, an immigrant from Baden, Germany.  They married about 1859.  Albert was 25, his bride 22.  They would go on to have a family of four children, two boys and two girls.
By at least 1867, Albert had graduated from working for a liquor dealer to being a full partner in a company called Gottschalk & Spilman, located at 46-48 Light Street, the avenue shown above. Over the next decade the company prospered as liquor distributors and “rectifiers,” that is, blenders of whiskeys obtained by other sources.  The company bottled the liquid in glass bottles or ceramic jugs and sold them under proprietary labels.  

By 1887 Spilman was no longer in the picture and the firm now was Gottschalk & Company (later to become “The Gottschalk Company”).  In the same year the now sole proprietor moved his operations to larger quarters as 108-118 Light Street and several years later opened a second outlet at 21-23 Balderston Street.  Indicating the national attention its Maryland rye was attracting, it opened an office in Chicago to spur Midwest sales.

The Gottschalk organization featured a range of whiskey brands.  They included "A. A. A.,” "Bluebird Rye,” “Bortner,” “Buckwater,” “Dictator,” "Family Nectar,” "Oliver's O. K.,” “Pointer Rye," "Social Session," ”Sunny South,” and "Virginia Club.”Of these, the company trademarked only Bluebird Rye and Pointer Rye in 1906 and Dictator, Sunny South and Virginia Club in 1914.  Much of this whiskey was sold in flask sized glass bottles embossed with the company name.  

Pointer Rye became Gottschalk’s flagship brand.  Advertised as “A Superior Article” and “THE Maryland Rye” the firm gave it a distinct quart jug to emphasize its quality.  Jim Bready noted:  “Pointer Maryland Rye…was the only Baltimore whiskey marketed in an expensive, glazed, transfer-decorated pottery jug.”  As shown here, those ceramics came in several transfer colors including black and red, and body colors of sepia and off-white.  Characterized by the illustration of a hunting dog “on point”  the jugs are avidly sought by collectors in Maryland and elsewhere, and as a result good specimens are pricey. 

Along the line, Albert brought his son Joseph Gottschalk into the business with him, initially as a clerk but eventually in management as company treasurer.  In the late 1890s the Gottschalk’s bought the Standard Brewery of Baltimore, an existing property founded about 1888. One of its bottles is shown here The company is recorded having operated the brewery until 1920.  During this same period to his business empire Gottschalk added Fairall & Company on North Charles Street, a store that sold fancy groceries and, of course, imported and domestic wines and liquors.

Gottschalk’s most significant business triumph was building his own distillery, one he called “The Maryland Distilling Company” in 1894.  Shown here, it was an impressive facility, rising to four stories and encompassing a city block at North, Saratoga and Davis Streets.  Known as RD #7 Maryland in government documents, the distillery showed steady growth. Its mashing capacity of 900 bushels of grain daily put it second in Maryland in size only to the Melvale Distillery. [See my post of May 8, 2018 on Medvale.]  The Maryland State Tax Commissioner reported the taxable value of distilled spirits from Gottschalk’s facility in 1897 at $48,252.  By 1905 that number had almost doubled and by 1907 was reckoned at $90,724 — equivalent to $1.8 million today.

Unfortunately Albert Gottschalk would enjoy his “conglomerate” only four more years, dying in October 1898.  After a Jewish funeral service he was buried at Oheb Shalom Cemetery in Baltimore.  His widow, Rosa, would join him there four years later.  A large monument, a detail shown here, marks the spot of their interment.  With his father’s death, Joseph became president of the Gottschalk Company.   In 1904 Joseph faced a crisis when the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 resulted in damage to both Gottschalk liquor stores but he soon opened at 1766 North Gay Street and soon rebuilt at the original addresses.

Joseph and other family members ran the business in alliance with the Fleischmanns of Cincinnati (yeast and liquor) following a marriage that united the two families.  Using many of the merchandising methods that Albert pioneered, the Gottschalk Company and Maryland Distilling continued to expand operations.Two of its national brands, represented here by shot glasses, were Calvert (“The Banner Maryland Rye Whiskey”) and Old Drum Rye (“You Can’t Beat It.”).  National Prohibition shut down the Gottschalk empire.  After Repeal a  Fleischmann heir who had retained title to the brand revived the Calvert label.

“Rags to riches” story of young immigrants to America making good are not unusual.  Albert Gottschalk’s rise is unique, however, for his imagination and versatility in the disparate enterprises from which his “conglomerate” grew.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Whiskey Men Contributing to Education

Foreword:  Because selling liquor could be a very lucrative occupation, many whiskey men became known for their philanthropy.  Their generosity took many forms.  Some contributed to the arts.  Others helped immigrants or the poor or the sick.  A few made education the object of their largesse, including individuals who in their youth had few educational opportunities.  Presented here are four distillers and liquor dealers who gave generously to institutions of learning ranging from elementary schools to universities.

John McDougal Atherton was a native-born Kentuckian with two obvious passions in his life, making good whiskey and promoting quality education for the people of Kentucky.  Shown here as a young man, Atherton is remembered well in the state for the latter but, sadly, his whiskey history — the occupation that fueled his philanthropy — has been forgotten or ignored.

The son of a farmer-distiller, Atherton received a good education for the time, including Georgetown (Ky) College and the Louisville School of Law.  Early on he decided on distilling as a career and by 1869 was operating two distilleries at Knob Creek, about 50 miles south of Louisville, the installations shown below.  

Eventually he built two more distilleries at the location, a complex with worker housing he called “Athertonville.”  The sesquicentennial History of Kentucky observed:  “Thus the quality of the product caused the site, the enterprise and the brands to take on a national scope, becoming the largest single plant in the country for the manufacturing, warehousing and distribution of fine beverage whiskey for which Kentucky became so famous.”

In February 1899, Atherton sold his distilleries and brand names, giving him more time for his other passion:  education. Even as a young man planning Athertonville he had built a schoolhouse at the top of a hill near the town.  It appears to be the three-story building behind the distillery in the illustration above.  The children of his employees received instruction there during the week and on weekends the building was used for Sunday School and prayer meetings.  In 1884 Atherton  was appointed as a member of a largely ineffectual Louisville school committee.  There he fought for reforms that ended an antiquated system of school trustees in favor of a unified  system that put management under a non-political Board of Education.

Nor did Atherton forget the academic institution that had given him an education.  In 1893 he donated $30,000 ($750,000 equivalent today) to Georgetown College.  The money created the Atherton-Farnam chair of natural science, done in tribute to his father-in-law, Dr. J.D. Farnam, who had taught him science there.

Shown here in old age with his grandson, John Atherton enjoyed a long life, one filled with civic honors. In 1921, setting aside a rule forbidding the naming of a school after a living person, the Louisville Board of Education decided to give Atherton’s name to a proposed new girl’s high school.  

The Board then sent the octogenarian the following message: "The Board of Education honored itself as well as you in naming the girls' high school about to be built 'Atherton High School for Girls.' In wishing you a happy New Year it desires to record itself appreciative of the years of hard and successful work which you have given to public school education in Louisville and the State of Kentucky.”  

A secondary school in San Francisco is named for Jellis Clute (J.C.) Wilmerding, a philanthropist who left his affluent New York home at the age of sixteen to make his fortune in the West.  He initially found only poverty but despite his lack of education, his intelligence and energy in the liquor trade ultimately brought him fame, fortune, and the resources to help educate young boys.

From a wealthy New York family, Wilmerding left home at 16 for San Francisco and blew through a borrowed $5,000, leaving himself impoverished.  By dint of hard work over the next few years, he paid off his debt and by the early 1860s was able to buy a share of an established liquor house, issuing Old “49” Whiskey as his flagship brand.  

Wilmerding proved to be an able businessman and amassed a considerable fortune from his whiskey trade, as well as from important banking interests.  His generosity to a range of San Francisco charities was well known, many of them to assist children, for whom he was said to have a special concern although he never married.  Wilmerding’s dream was to create a school: “To teach boys trades, fitting them to make a living with their hands, with little study and plenty of work.” 

Some have traced Wilmerding’s passion for a vocational school back to having left home so early, with no opportunity to acquire a trade.  It has been suggested he felt the lack of one when he recalled his own grinding poverty in San Francisco as his early attempts to earn a living largely failed.  One biographer has speculated:  “Perhaps his early hardships in California, coming on him so suddenly, made him look with greater fondness of his interrupted boyhood.” 

As his health deteriorated in 1893, Wilmerding made elaborate legal arrangements to finance an educational institution that would be called  “The Wilmerding School of Industrial Arts” through a bequest to the Regents of the University of California who agreed to create the school.  For the purpose, he left $400,000, the equivalent of $10 million today.   After his death in 1884 the Regents, respecting his wishes, established the Wilmerding School.  Over time the Wilmerding School merged with a training school for girls.  The main building is shown above as it looked in the 1930s.  Today it is known as the Lick-Wilmerding School and considered a prestige educational institution from which many students go on to college.  

Beginning with a Columbus, Ohio, liquor house and evolving into a major bottler of soft drinks, William and Glenna Joyce, a couple themselves with limited educational opportunities, over the past 57 years through the Joyce Trust have distributed tens of millions of dollars toward the college education of more than 800 students at Ohio State and Notre Dame Universities.

With little formal education himself, William Joyce about 1909 with a partner founded the Millbrook Distilling Company, described as “Importer Distillers and Jobbers of Wines, Liquors and Fine Old Whiskey.”  It was located at   548-550 High Street, Columbus, the three story building shown here.  Milbrook Distilling also had a presence across the Ohio River in Covington, Kentucky.   As the business prospered, Joyce opened a brewery.

After his first wife died, William married Glenna Stengel, a seamstress with little schooling but a penchant for business. When the coming of statewide prohibition forced the shutdown of the Millbrook Distillery and Joyce’s brewery, William started two new enterprises devoted to soft drinks, the Joyce Products Co. and Beverage Management Inc.  He brought Glenna into company management, a position she maintained for years, even after William’s death in 1933.

Whether the idea for the Joyce Trust and the Glenna R. Joyce Scholarships originated with her or had been agreed earlier with her husband is unknown. Nor is it entirely clear why she selected to assist Ohio State and Notre Dame since the Joyces had no direct ties to either university.  Candidates for the scholarships are limited to residents of seven Ohio counties around Columbus. They pay for the full cost of attendance for four years and are split evenly between Ohio State and Notre Dame.   As of 2017 Trust assets were in excess of $28 million and the number of scholarship recipients annually has been increasing.  

Charles Rebstock was one of the Midwest’s most successful whiskey merchants, with customers in a multitude of states. During his career he successfully merchandised several brands with interesting trade cards and ads, while pursuing philanthropic interests that centered on higher education.  

In 1870 at the age of 25, Rebstock founded a whiskey wholesale organization in St. Louis, Missouri, and began to sell his products in both in bulk and in bottles. As was characteristic with his mode of operating, he collaborated with a Kentuckian named D. L. Moore to build a distillery on the Shawnee River near Burgin, Kentucky.  Eventually they formed a company called Moore and Rebstock Distillers. The products of this facility gave Charles an assured supply of whiskey for his several brands and over time he grew very wealthy.  

After 24 profitable years in St. Louis, Rebstock eventually shut down his liquor business as National Prohibition approached. Now 74 years old and apparently without immediate heirs, this wealthy man began to look for likely places to practice philanthropy.

The Journal of the American Medication Assn. reported in 1922 that Rebstock had purchased the Wintersteiner Collection of 13,000 microscopic preparations of pathologic changes of the eye and contributed them to the St. Louis University College of Medicine, shown here. The collection was said to be the most complete in Europe and in the U.S. was to be used for graduate instruction in opthamology.

Four years later Rebstock, with no appointment, presented himself in the office of the Chancellor of Washington University of St. Louis, asking for an interview. Reluctantly ushered in by a secretary, he announced that his name was Charles Rebstock, distiller, and that he had one million dollars he wished to give the university for the construction of a new building with no specification of purpose other than it have his name on it. In 1926 a million dollars was a huge sum.  During a walk through the campus with the Chancellor, Charles saw that the zoology and botany departments were poorly housed and decided that they deserved a new building that he would finance.  Its front entrance shown above, the Charles Rebstock Building still is home to those departments and a professorship is maintained in his name.

Note:  Longer and more complete biographies of each of the four whiskey men featured here are available elsewhere on this website.  They are:  John Atherton, February 12, 2015;  J. C. Wilmerding, October 24, 2015; William and Glenna Joyce, September 22, 2018, and Charles Rebstock, September 6, 2011