Sunday, March 17, 2019

Max Reefer: Adman Foe of the Whiskey Trust

                           
Shown here embossed with “Green Mountain Anti-Trust Distillery,” is, to my knowledge, the only time that a liquor bottle overtly challenged the powerful and feared “Whiskey Trust” of the late 19th and early 20th Century.  It was the work of Max C. Reefer of Kansas City, Missouri, whose reputation as an advertising genius tended to overshadow his aggressive success as a liquor dealer.

Described by his hometown newspaper as “irrepressible” and “indispensable,” to the Kansas City business community, Reefer devoted considerable attention to opposing one of the largest monopolies in American history, the Whiskey Trust.  The Trust was an attempt to consolidate distilleries, control liquor production, and hike whiskey prices. Known to resort to dynamite to intimidate resisters, it was organized in 1887, three years after Max set up his liquor house.

A circuitous road led to this point for Max.  He was born in 1848 in Czanow, a small city in Austria now part of Poland.  Early in life he moved to London where he learned the printer’s trade.  About 1861 Reefer came to the U.S. and found employment as a typesetter for the New York Tribune.  He subsequently moved on to newspapers in Chicago and St. Louis.  Shown here in his early 20s, Max cut a confident figure in bowler hat and floral cravat.

Reefer’s intelligence and creativity soon propelled him from the printshop to the advertising department and in turn to a sojourn in New York City where he solicited ads for several Midwestern newspapers.  He became increasingly recognized for his merchandising genius, a reputation that then sent him to Cleveland as business manager and publisher of the Daily Record newspaper.

Meanwhile, Max had found a bride in Marie Cohen, an immigrant from Germany who was 18 when they wed.  They would have eight children in quick succession, six girls and two boys.  His growing family may have occasioned 
Reefer to move to St. Louis where he ran a weekly newspaper and continued to gain a reputation for advertising prowess.  A trade journal would later claim that as an ad writer Reefer “stands without a peer in this profession” and jokingly advised firms to lock their safes and lose the combinations “when he calls.”

After the  birth in 1863 of his first son, Eugene Juliius  (“E.J”) however, Reefer with his family in tow moved from St. Louis 250 miles west across Missouri to Kansas City.  There, at the age of 33, he set up his liquor house, calling it “Green Mountain Distillery.”  His business plan was to advertise his whiskey repeatedly in national magazines like Munsey’s, emphasizing mail order sales.  Not only did Kansas City have good rail access to points west and east, it looked out on a number of western states where, in whole or part, prohibition had prevailed.  Mail order liquor was still legal, however, protected by the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution, and the only way many thirsty residents could get alcohol.

Reefer featured a relatively small number of brands, including “Reefer’s Green Mountain Whiskey,” ”Gold Medal,” "Green Mountain Rye,” "Real Kentucky Royal,” "Smoky Hollow Rye,” and “Tastewell."  Despite not trademarking any of these names, he featured them in splashy display ads with a clear message that “We pay the charges” for railroad express delivery.  Max’s advertising genius appears to have paid off rapidly and his business prospered.  By 1900, in addition to Kansas City, he claimed warehouse outlets in St. Louis, Louisville and Chicago.


Reefer soon came in conflict with the Whiskey Trust.  He was not a true distiller, making whiskey from raw grains, but a “rectifier,” that is, receiving whiskeys received in barrels from distilleries in Missouri, Kentucky, and other states, blending them on his premises, and bottling them under his own label for shipping.  Rectifiers often found themselves at the mercy of the Whiskey Trust.  By shutting down distilleries the Trust controlled a large percentage of existing whiskey stocks and hiked prices to the blenders.  If they refused to pay, they ultimately ran out of raw product, adding to whiskey shortages — the delight of the Trust.  As Reefer knew, the Trust would have been very happy to put Green Mountain and its owner out of business.

Reefer struck back.  Apparently able to obtain enough liquor for his blends, he advertised vigorously that he could undersell the Trust.  “The whiskey we send is distilled from the purest grain (no seconds), is matured and ripened in wood and will cost you but a few cents over $2.00 per gallon.  We guarantee that no Trust house ever sold the same quality goods for less than $3.00 to $4.00.”  Buy a five gallon keg for $10.37 and Reefer would throw in a gallon of blackberry brandy.   As shown on the bottle that opens this post, he made his anti-Trust stance also clear on the embossing under his labels.


Like many liquor dealers, Reefer also advertised by providing
 giveaway items to his customers, providing a “gold rimmed, fine etched whiskey glass” and a corkscrew with purchases.  Shown above, his shot glasses came in several styles.  On one glass Max seemed to claim that Registered U.S. Distillery No. 9 of the 7th District of Kentucky was his own.  While it may have been a principal source of his whiskey supplies, this was the Glename Distillery of Woodford County, Kentucky.  Established in 1882 by Thomas Edwards, by 1892 the plant had become a component of the Woodford Distilling Co., headed by S.J. Greenbaum.  Not part of the Trust, federal records show this facility was supplying several rectifying outfits.

Reefer also was involved in outside commercial enterprises.  For a period in the 1890s he divided his time between Kansas City and New York where he ran an advertising agency from an office in the Tribune building.  He subsequently returned permanently to Kansas City where in addition to his liquor trade he managed the Reefer Publishing Co.  In 1897 he joined with other local businessmen in starting a new trade journal devoted to the manufacturing and wholesale trade interests of Kansas City.  In 1906 he organized and incorporated the Mutual Ice, Fuel & Storage Company.

With the passage of time Max was able to bring his elder son, Eugene Julius (“E.J”) Reefer into the management of Green Mountain Distilling.  He incorporated the company in 1904 with himself as president and E. J. and an unmarried daughter, Zerllna, as directors.  As Max’s interests turned to his other enterprises, his son increasingly was operating the liquor house, with continued success.

In failing health as he aged, Max Reefer died at the age of 68 in December 1916.   Not only was his obituary noted in Kansas City media but in national trade publications like The Advocate:  America’s Jewish Journal;  American Printer and Lithographer, and Fourth Estate, a newspaper trade publication.  Reefer also gained recognition for a prize he created and funded through his will.  Called the Menorah Prize, it was awarded annually, regardless of creed, to an undergraduate at the University of Missouri for the best essay on Jewish history, literature, or religion.  Max was buried in a family plot in Kansas City’s Elmwood Cemetery.  Four months later his widow, Marie, would join him there.


In the meantime E. J. Reefer was continuing the vigorous mail order advertising campaign begun by his father.  Without specifying a source he was claiming to sell “genuine straight Kentucky Whiskey” while citing the Bottled-in-Bond Act.  Within just three years, however, National Prohibition made him shut the doors on the liquor house his father had founded 35 years earlier.  Although the Whiskey Trust had been greatly weakened by mismanagement and the pushback from whiskey men like Max Reefer, it survived until 1920 when it suffered the same fate as the Reefers’ enterprise.

Addendum:  This is to alert both followers of this blog and others that I have a new website involving whiskey.  It is a complication of more than thirty vignettes about Old West saloons and saloonkeepers.  Outlaws, gunslingers, and shootings abound.  This new blog can be accessed at wet enterprise: select saloons of the old west@blogspot.com If this new website proves popular, other compilations under the “wet enterprise” heading may be forthcoming.




























Wednesday, March 13, 2019

James Duffy’s Was No Pulpit for Prohibitionists


Never before have I opened a profile of a whiskey man on an event that occurred a year after his death.  In the case of James J. Duffy of Troy, New York, however, it is appropriate because of the dedication of an imposing brass and marble pulpit in a New York church, given by Duffy’s family in 1909 as a lasting memorial to a man whose life was devoted to selling liquor.  It is shown here in a fuzzy 1900s photo.

Not only was the gift noted in the local press, the national Jesuit magazine, America, featured a note on the pulpit, calling it “magnificent” and noting it had been made by the Gorham Company.  It was a New York City firm renowned as gold and silversmiths whose production included pulpits. Compare the one pictured in its catalog to the one above.  The church in which it had been installed was St. Henry in Averill Park, a town about 12 miles from Troy.  The photo below shows the newly constructed house of worship next to the original church that eventually would be torn down.


Born in Troy on Christmas Day in 1855,  the son of James and Ellen McEnrow Duffy,  James Duffy was educated in the Catholic schools, including the Christian Brothers Academy.  Except for four years living in St. Louis, 1872-1876, Duffy spent his entire life in Troy.  For four years he was the local agent for Coleman Bros. brewers and malt producers in Albany New York, proprietors of the Chestnut Street Brewery.  This experience not only educated him in the alcohol beverage trade, it gave him the opportunity to save sufficient funds to open his own liquor house in Troy about 1880.

The young Duffy had made a good decision.  Through much of the 19th and into the early 20th century, Troy was not only one of the most prosperous cities in New York State, but one of the most prosperous in the entire country.  Strong in iron and steel manufactures, as well as other industrial facilities, its work force not only was thirsty but also had disposable income to spend on liquor. Saloons proliferated.  Duffy prospered. 

Moreover, his headquarters was well located at 485 River Street, a major commercial avenue that paralleled the Hudson River, a location he advertised widely.  Not only was Duffy’s liquor house on a main street car line, it was located between two highly frequented hotels, the Rensselaer and the Northern.  The former was among Troy’s premier hostelries.  It is shown here at right.  My guess is that the three story building at the left was Duffy’s establishment.



The structure was large enough to allow the proprietor to import barrels of whiskey  by rail or water directly from distilleries in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Kentucky and to decant them into jugs of a gallon or more capacity that would be retailed to saloons in Troy and the surrounding region. 

The source of his containers likely was Fort Edwards, New York, a town only fifty miles away.  That town, boasting a ready supply of ceramic clay, was a major producer of pottery, recognized worldwide for the quality of its stoneware, known as “Fort Edwards Crock.”  A Duffy jug shown above carries the mark of the Ottoman Bros. & Co.  Others shown here carry no mark but likely also were obtained at Fort Edwards. 


Meanwhile, James was having a personal life.  He had married in the late 1870s at about the age of twenty-five.  His bride was Mary, a local woman born in New York State of Irish immigrant parents.  They do not appear to have had children and within just a few years of their marriage, Mary died in 1885.  After several years Duffy married a second time.  Five years younger than James, Jennie was a native of Brooklyn from Irish immigrant parents.  The couple would have five children, according to census records, four of whom lived to maturity.

Duffy also had his own brand of whiskey that he called “Club House Whiskey.”  Shown here is a shot glass advertising it.  It was well named by Duffy who was notable for joining multliple Troy men’s clubs, including the Pilsner Club, the W. S. Earl Boat Club and the Olympic Club.  He also was active in Irish-American activities as a member of both the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Emerald Society, an organization dedicated to assisting new immigrants from Ireland. Little wonder that the 1889 publication “Young Irish Americans of Troy, N. Y.”  featured an illustration, shown above, and a short biography of Duffy.

Duffy had little time to enjoy his prosperity and his children, dying at the age of 52.   The liquor house he had run so successfully for almost three decades, however, never faltered.  His widow, Jennie, took over its management becoming president and treasurer of the company.  Her business savvy must have approached that of her late husband because she ran James J. Duffy Co. for the next ten years until shut down by the coming of National Prohibition.

Jennie Duffy’s devotion to her late husband demonstrated itself in several ways.  Not only was she the instigator and driving force behind the gift of the pulpit to St. Henry’s, she also arranged for a large Duffy monument to be raised in Troy’s St. Peter’s Cemetery where James is buried   A granite plinth holds a statue of what appears to be the young Christ as a carpenter.  Unusually, Jennie also arranged for her husband to have not just one but two headstones, each marker linked to one of his two wives.  Jennie would join him at St. Peters in 1933 at the age of 70.  

Today the pulpit given in James Duffy’s memory is no longer present in the sacristy of St. Henry’s.  Its fate apparently is unknown.  Wherever it may be, it likely still bears the plaque that memorializes the New York whiskey man.  And abides no sermons of a prohibitionary content.

Note:  Thanks go to St. Henry’s and Kerin Banker of its staff for sending me photos of the church interior that show the pulpit standing in the early 20th Century but gone by 1977.  From the first photo it was possible to isolate the Duffy pulpit and present it above, fuzzy but recognizable.

Addendum:  This is to alert both followers of this blog and others that I have a new website involving whiskey.  It is a compilation of more than thirty vignettes about Old West saloons and saloonkeepers.  Outlaws, gunslingers, and shootings abound.  This new blog can be accessed at wet enterprise: select saloons of the old west@blogspot.com. If this new website proves popular, other compilations under the “wet enterprise” heading may be forthcoming.






















Saturday, March 9, 2019

Whiskey Men Scheming to Evade Prohibition


Foreword:  As towns, counties and states increasingly banned the consumption of alcohol within their boundaries, many whiskey men were faced with the reality that their customer base increasingly was being eroded — or in some cases eliminated entirely.  Some in the liquor trade simply shut their doors, found other things to do or retired.  Others seem to have stayed up nights thinking of how they might evade the restrictions of prohibition and continue to make or peddle booze.  The results of these gambits differed sharply. This post is devoted to three of them.

A.P. Simms once was a big man in Natchez, Mississippi.  He owned a furniture store.  He owned a meat market and a grocery store. He owned a saloon and a flourishing liquor business.  That profited him very little when, in 1909 he was, as the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in unusually strong terms, “perpetually banned from doing business in the state.”

This drastic blow to Simms occurred after the voters of  Mississippi with their strong ties to the Baptist Church in 1908 voted a complete ban on the sale of alcohol throughout the state.  Natchez, despite its reputation as a rip-roaring river town, was left high and very dry.  A. P. Simms was undaunted.  Forced to shut down his saloon and liquor retail operation, he simply moved his business across the river to “wet”  Louisiana and set up shop.  A Simms jug dated 1909, shown below, helps tells the story.  Not only did Simms plan to sell whiskey in Louisiana,  but also to send it into an increasingly thirsty Mississippi.  

Several state courts had ruled that the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution made mail order sales into “dry” areas legal until such time as the U.S. Congress decreed otherwise. That did not stop local officials from harrassing parcel companies and railway express by arrests and other legal actions.  As a result, some carriers were refusing to carry booze into dry areas. 

Simms, always the entrepreneur, sought to obviate that problem by establishing his own carrier in 1908.  He called it the “Simms Express & Telegraph Company.”  His intent was to take telegraphed orders for whiskey and ship it through his Louisiana operation back into Mississippi, delivering it via his own express company.  It did not take officials in the State of Mississippi long to determine that this scheme was an attempt to skirt Prohibition laws.  In 1909 they enjoined him from selling or delivering liquors in the state. 

Simms, not one to buckle to the authorities, took the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court asking that the injunction be dissolved.  The court not only disagreed, it made the injunction permanent.  Moreover, Simms was  enjoined “perpetually” from doing business in Mississippi, his company was declared “ousted from the State” and he was required to pay hundreds of dollars in attorney fees, expert witnesses and all court costs.  He permanently moved to Louisiana.

Try to put yourself in Herman Egger’s shoes.  In an overcrowded field of liquor dealers in Louisville, Kentucky, he was trying to distinguish himself and his “Old Drennon” whiskey by emphasizing mail order sales.  As more and more Kentucky counties under “local option” laws voted dry, however, he found his business rapidly dwindling. What could he do?

Faced with a dismal financial future, Eggers in 1912 from his Jefferson Street liquor house hatched a scheme to sell his whiskey to customers in officially dry Kentucky counties.  He composed and sent a form letter to doctors and druggists there asking for help.  In his letter the Louisville liquor dealer pointed out that for “medicinal purposes”  Kentucky law allowed licensed doctors and druggists to receive whiskey shipments in five gallons or less.  Eggers explained:  “There are a number of people in your neighborhood who would like to receive goods but cannot order within the state as the laws prevent shipments….If you will permit those who order to have goods shipped to you, without expense to you, it will be an accommodation to both of us.” 

Eggers gave the dubious assurance to potential collaborators that his proposal was within Kentucky law and urged them to write him with the names of friends who might be interested in shipments.  As a reward for their trouble in handling his liquor, cooperating doctors and druggists would be given one free gallon of whiskey for every ten gallons he shipped.  “I do not know if this would be legal,”  Eggers acknowledged, but went on to give detailed instructions how the process would work.

Among the physicians who received Eggers’ letter was Dr. Thomas C. Holloway, an eminent gynecologist of Lexington, Kentucky, a town that intermittently had gone dry.   Dr. Holloway was caustic in his response to Eggers:  “As I have no intention of engaging in the whiskey business, I do not see what right you had to presume I would be interested in your bootlegging proposition.”  His letter went on to blister the whiskey man.  Then the outraged physician went further by sending the exchange of letters to the Kentucky Medical Journal, the state’s leading publication for doctors and druggists.  They published it under the headline “Forum” on September 1, 1912.  

With Eggers’ scheme exposed to the world, its utility was gone.  Even if tempted initially, doctors and druggists almost certainly walked away from the whiskey dealer’s proposition once it was widely known to the Kentucky medical fraternity and likely revealed to law enforcement officials.  Moreover, in addition to having his scheme fail,  Eggers had been exposed as someone willing to conspire to evade the law.

Issac Oppenheim was typical of the whiskey men who embraced the “Jug Train,” a scheme legal until after 1913 to bring liquor from “wet” states into “dry” via the railroads, protected from being seized under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.  Oppenheim, a successful saloonkeeper and liquor dealer was forced out of Atlanta, Georgia, by prohibition into Tennessee, parlayed the Jug Train into personal prosperity.


When Georgia voted its statewide on alcohol production and sales, Oppenheim quickly moved his operation to Chattanooga, Tennessee, 120 miles east of Atlanta.  He set up his liquor house at 1013 Chestnut Street and in that railroad town quickly made use of the Jug Train.  He ran ads for his “Farm Belle” rye and corn whiskeys in Atlanta newspapers stating:  “Fifteen years in Atlanta — send your orders now to Chattanooga.”  

A buyer would send Oppenheim money by mail order.  Upon receipt of the funds in Chattanooga he would send a “wet” package via the Jug Train to Atlanta.  Since it had been purchased out of state, the liquor was legal in Georgia.  Competition came from what was known as the “lightning express.”   This was an illegal extension of the Jug Train phenomenon.  An Atlanta buyer paid cash to an intermediary and thirty minutes later liquor was delivered in a package stamped “Chattanooga” — clearly having made the 120 mile trip in “lightning” time.

The transplanted Georgian was not alone in Chattanooga using the Jug Train. A local business directory from 1908 listed some 28 wholesale liquor dealers in “Train Town,” many of them employing railroad express sales to Southern states and localities that had banned alcohol.  Shown here is a cartoon that depicts whiskey being pumped south into “dry” Georgia from Chattanooga and north from Jacksonville, Florida, via the rails.  Although Atlanta was a principal destination, secondary Jug Trains fanned out from that city across Georgia to smaller towns.

The prominence of Jug Trains throughout the United States caused Congress to outlaw the practice in the Webb-Kenyon Act of 1913.  Court challenges, however, delayed its enforcement for months.  After seven years of riding the Jug Train Oppenheim was forced to shut the doors on his Chattanooga liquor house in 1915 when Tennessee also went “dry.”  He returned to Atlanta a considerably wealthier man to run a cigar business.  From Chattanooga virtually every day he had shipped liquor back to Georgia via the Jug Train.   No only did railroad traffic make him rich, it provided a measure of sweet revenge on the state that had banned the sale of alcohol and put him out business in Atlanta.

Addendum:  This is to alert both followers of this blog and others that I have a new website involving whiskey.  It is a compilation of more than thirty vignettes about Old West saloons and saloonkeepers.  Outlaws, gunslingers, and shootings abound.  This new blog can be accessed at wet enterprise: select saloons of the old west@blogspot.com.  If this new site proves popular, other compilations under the “wet enterprise” heading may be forthcoming.













Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Schmidt Liquor House Was All About Family


In 1899, a commercial review of the Pittsburgh area enthused about the liquor business of George W. Schmidt, one that had been founded by his father: “…It has come to a golden epoch in its history as a progressive house in Western Pennsylvania.  Not many years later, however, Schmidt, shown here, was filing for bankruptcy having diverted today’s dollar equivalent of almost $1.2 million from the corporation to other purposes.  Those with the most to lose, however, did not care:  They were family.

The Schmidt liquor interests long had been a family affair.  William Schmidt had established the business in 1836 at 409 Penn Avenue in an area called Bayardstown.  In those days liquor and wine had to be shipped into Pittsburgh via sailing vessels to New Orleans and then brought upriver on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  With the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal network it became possible to receive shipments by canal boat from New York and Philadelphia.  According to the review:  “The journey from the wine cellars of Europe to this city then consumed from four to six months, while at the present time by steamer and the use of cable, it requires about fourteen days for the filling of an order.”

William ran the Schmidt liquor enterprise until 1854 when management was taken over by his son, Joseph, who is recorded as having run it until 1865.  At that point a second son, George, just 19 years old, took charge. He is shown here in a portrait done when he was about 35. He had been married the year before the painting. His bride, Ellen, a Pennsylvania woman of Irish Ancestry. was fourteen years younger, according to census records.  The couple would have nine children over the next twenty years, one of whom died in infancy.  

Upon George’s accession to the liquor trade, he took a partner, William J. Friday, an older Pittsburgh local with a background as a distiller and wholesale liquor dealer.  Their collaboration over the ensuing years proved to be highly profitable. After several moves to larger quarters, they took over a building at 384 & 386 Penn Streets.  This three story structure provided the partners with ample room to store rye and bourbon whiskeys and additionally allowed them to “rectify,” that is, blend, their own brands on premises, including “1855 Pure Rye,” “McKim’s 1860,” and “Old Columbia.”

The need for more space continued to press the partners and in 1885 Schmidt determined to build a new building to house the enterprise.  Accompanied by considerable hoopla, the company opened there on May 24th, 1886.  The Pittsburgh Press headlined: "Formal opening of the Schmidt Building," "Colossal Establishment," "A Triumph of Architectural Art Blended with Mercantile Enterprise."   Shown here, the building was located on Pittsburgh’s principal business street, Fifth Avenue.   It was eight stories high.  The cellar, first floor and a connecting four-story warehouse in the rear were occupied by the liquor house.

The upper stories were divided into some ninety offices.  The Press story called the building Schmidt’s “cherished dream” and:  “…The finest structure in the land devoted to the wholesale wine, liquor and cigar business….It has been erected at great expense and in the most thorough manner, with the sole purpose of making a superior office building and perfect in all its appointments.”

A decade after the move, however, the partnership of Schmidt and Friday broke up.  William Friday opened his own wine, liquor and cigar sales at 630-633 Smithfield.  What precipitated the split is not clear but given the subsequent money problems that embroiled Schmidt, it may well have involved differences over financial management of the firm. 

With Friday gone, a new letterhead was rolled out for the business. Moreover,  the owner’s son,  George W. Jr., was now working for his father, being trained in the liquor trade and groomed for management.  This period saw the liquor house issue its blended whiskies in large ceramic jugs with Schmidt’s name stenciled on them and the emergence of a new brand, “Fine Old Rye Whiskey,” shown below with its elaborate paper label.  The company was advertising itself as “The largest and most complete Wine and Liquor House in the United States.”

With the departure of Friday, the company also incorporated.
Directors all were members of George’s family, including Ellen J., his wife; Mary Ann, his daughter; George Jr., and Mary Fuherer, his married sister.  The liquor house was capitalized at $150,000.  Among the assets was the Fifth Avenue building, on which a large mortgage was owing and $35,000 in whiskey stocks in warehouses.  Shortly thereafter, however, business began to turn sour apparently forcing Schmidt to draw money to pay creditors out of the corporation to the tune of $52,213 (equiv. to almost $1.2 million today).  Eventually the situation led to his filing for bankruptcy.

These withdrawals might have gone unremarked as the bankruptcy proceeded had it not been for J. F. Erny, a cashier at Pittsburgh’s German American Savings and Deposit Bank who saw a chance to make a quick buck.  He enticed the bank to sell its 50 shares of liquor company stock to him for $100, then sued Schmidt and the other directors — the family members — claiming the $5,000 face value on the certificate.  Erny’s case centered on the money Schmidt had taken out of the corporation, an act he characterized as fraudulent.

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dismissed Erny’s case.  The judges noted that Schmidt’s withdrawals were part of his effort to save his business and only a minor amount had gone to “private purposes.”  Moreover, the owner had kept strict accounts of the withdrawals and their rationale, and that the directors (family members) were completely in favor of his efforts.  Erny had bought the shares two years after the bankruptcy, the court pointed out, and had no cause for complaint.  It charged him and fellow plaintiffs court costs.

Nevertheless, the bankruptcy proved extremely costly to Schmidt.  The building that he had so carefully designed and that once bore his name had to be sold.  Stocks of aged whiskey that he owned were required to be sold at a fraction of their value to pay off creditors.  With his family still behind him, however, George persevered.  He moved to a smaller space in the Bessemer Building on Duquesne Way at Sixth (Federal) Street, shown here, and continued in the whiskey trade.  

In April 1905 another blow fell on the Schmidt family.  The eldest son and heir apparent to the liquor business, George Jr., died, only 30 years old.  He was a veteran, having served as with Company H of the Pennsylvania Voluntary Infantry in World War One.  A younger son, Erhard, was taken into the business and eventually raised to the position of vice president. 

Schmidt continue the business strategies that once had proved so successful. To match the competition for liquor sales in Pittsburgh, he issued shot glasses with his Bessemer Building address.  For1918 Christmas holidays he issued an attractive painting under glass flask featuring a comely young woman.  It may have been farewell gesture because within months he had closed down the George W. Schmidt Co. and retired from the liquor trade.

This whiskey man lived another twelve years, until 1930 — long enough to see National Prohibition imposed but not repealed.  Age 86 and plagued in his latter years with a chronic heart condition, Schmidt was interred in Pittsburgh’s at the family plot in Section N of St. Mary’s Cemetery.  George’s grave is adjacent to his son.  His wife, Ellen, would join him there nine years later.

The Schmidt liquor house, despite taking blows, survived from 1832 to 1918.   From the founder, William, down through Joseph and on to George, the House of Schmidt experienced the Civil War, several 19th Century financial panics, and most traumatic of all, a bankruptcy.   A twenty year run usually meant success for a liquor house.  The Schmidts’ enterprise survived for 82.  The reasons for its longevity were rooted in the fabric of the Schmidt clan.  It truly was all about family.

Note:  The material for this post was gathered from numerous references, with the principal one — and the source of all quotations —  the "Pittsburgh and Allegheny Illustrated Review: Historical, Biographical and Commercial,” published by J M Elstner & Co., Pittsburgh, PA., in 1889.