Sunday, September 15, 2019

Whiskey Men As Journalists

                                           
Foreword:  Three of the most important men in the history of American whiskey before National Prohibition were journalist writers who understood that the liquor trade was one of the nation’s most important industries, at the time generating the majority of tax revenues for the U.S. government.  These men put enormous effort into advancing good trade practices and discouraging bad. 

About 1880, William Mida established a wholesale liquor house in Chicago.  Although it was successful,  Mida’s restless mind saw a grave need in America’s liquor industry and determined to fill it.  In 1883 he published “Mida’s Handbook for Wholesale Liquor Dealers.”  Its success encouraged him to publish a semi-monthly journal devoted to the trade, much of it devoted to explaining state liquor laws. He called it “Mida’s Criterion” and published it for nearly three decades.  The success of the magazine prompted Mida to establish a publishing house, called Criterion Press.  In quick succession he issued a number of publications. 


Perhaps the most famous of them was “Mida’s National Register of Trade-Marks,” published in 1893, with a second volume in 1895 and a combined volume in 1898.  During that period trademarks were a dicey proposition.  A tough 1870 law had been struck down as interference with interstate commerce.  Disputes over whiskey brand names were common and judges generally were unwilling to enforce the laws that existed if any home state interests were involved.  Into this situation stepped William Mida.  He believed that the trademarking of brands was a key to the orderly growth of the whiskey industry and in his register listed the several hundred trademarks that already had been recorded with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 


Mida’s work was valuable in letting whiskey men know what brand names already had been registered.   The index was by brand name, not company and thus easy to reference.  He also was pushing the importance of registration to the liquor trade. When a stronger trademark law was passed by Congress in April 1905, with Mida’s backing it rapidly gained acceptance among distillers and rectifiers.  At the same time he was trying to make sense for the liquor industry of the blizzard of federal and state laws, ever-changing and often reflecting the work of prohibition forces.  In “Mida’s Compendium” (1889) and later “Mida’s Compilation of State and Federal Pure Food Laws” (1906),  he parsed the laws and tried to answer questions about their application.

William Mida’s impact on the pre-Prohibition liquor trade was immense.  When he died  in October 1915 at the age of 76,  a leading beverage industry publications said in his obituary:   “He was probably the best known man among the distillers and liquor dealers in the United States and during his lifetime did much to advance their interests.”  

Shown here, George Rudy Washburne gave up his pursuit being a “big butter and egg man” in Louisville, Kentucky, to turn his attention to a more lucrative trade — liquor.  It led to his founding and leading for 32 years a publication called the “Wine and Spirits Bulletin” where he became a vocal and influential leader in the ultimately losing fight against “Dry” forces pushing toward state and national prohibition of alcohol.

In 1886, while a partner in a short-lived Louisville, Kentucky, commission house Washburne, described as a “hustler,” also was publishing a small newsletter aimed at the Louisville whiskey industry.   He called it the “Wine and Spirits Bulletin.”  Washburne proved to have a natural ability as an editor and publisher.   Originally a four page weekly, eventually the Bulletin became a monthly of some 50 pages, well-illustrated and providing substantial news and information.  It became essential reading for whiskey men.

Initially the Bulletin was primarily an organ of the whiskey industry in the Ohio Valley, covering Kentucky and Cincinnati, at the time the leading city in liquor marketing.  Eventually the publication would open adjunct offices in New York, Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, Milwaukee and New Orleans.  A review of Bulletin front covers indicates that the publication was drawing advertisements from distillers and rectifiers around the country. 

Washburne did not ignore the general population.  In 1911 and again in 1914 he published a booklet he called “Beverages de Luxe,” a pioneering prelude to the “drink books” that currently flood the reading marketplace.  He explained in a foreword:  “Despite a spirit of fanaticism that periodically passes over the land, there is no denying that fine beverages are among the things that make life brighter, happier and worth while. A knowledge as to the best of them, their selection, their care and their serving, is, therefore, not amiss.”  The publication provided recipes for cocktails of the era to the drinking public.  

Most of Washburne’s efforts, however, were providing news and editorials about the growing trend in America toward banning alcohol in localities, states, and ultimately the entire country.  As the U.S. inched closer to National Prohibition, a group of  brewers in 1918, hoping to make friends of the powerful Anti-Saloon league, pointed fingers at distilled spirits as the culprit while championing beer as “food.”  In effect, those beer makers were breaking with the distilling industry in last ditch effort to save themselves.  Washburne wisely saw the folly in that approach, writing that:  “If the brewers begin a warfare on distilled beverages, they will, in our opinion, make a very great mistake….”  He understood that the forces of “dry” were intent on shutting down every saloon in America and cared not at all if liquor were served or only beer.  Events soon would prove him right.  As National Prohibition became assured in 1919, his client base was doomed. Washburne after 32 successful years was forced to cease publishing the Wine and Spirits Bulletin. 

Beginning as a printshop owner Charles Austin Bates was motivated by the lure of a high salary to become a journalist in New York City writing for “Printer’s Ink,” the leadlng publication of the advertising industry.  He rapidly became aware that much of what passed for advertising in America was inferior.  Soon Bates began his own publication called “Criticism” in which he advertised as following: “Send me two dollars, along with a batch of your trade paper, magazine, or newspaper ads, and I will send you a critical opinion of them with suggestions for their improvement, if improvement is possible.”


With advertising as a crucial element in liquor merchandising for distillers, rectifiers and dealers,  Bates frequently was called upon to provide advice to practitioners in that industry.  An example was Samuel Alexander (S.A.) Sloman, a whiskey wholesaler of Detroit and Cincinnati.  Sloman in the late 1900s devised a business plan that largely depended on luring customers by marketing his “Diamond Wedding Whiskey” heavily through display ads in Midwestern newspapers.  After several years of vigorous and expensive advertising, one example shown here, Sloman realized demand for Diamond Wedding Whiskey had remained slack.  


Clearly frustrated by the poor results of his advertising blitz, in 1898 Sloman sent Bates copies of his newspaper ads.  What Bates sent him back, according to Sloman, was “a beautiful roasting.”  Nonetheless the whiskey man was grateful:  “However, after recovering from the first shock cause by all the unpleasant things you said about our advertising effort, and the realization that so many hard earned dollars had been diverted in practically useless channels, we started in to follow some of the suggestions thrown out for our benefit.”   

Paying another $2.00 to Bates Sloman sent Bates a copy of an advertising booklet that he had issued in 50,000 copies.  They had been sent to dealers, imprinted with their names, for distribution to customers in hopes of enticing them to buy Diamond Wedding.  I cannot find a record of Bates’ response.  But his “copy credo” was well known:  “Show price.  Use simple English.  Never overestimate the consumer’s IQ.”  Finally and most important:  “Be truthful.” 

With those few commandments, Bates not only help to raise the general quality of advertising in America but more particularly that of a liquor industry that too often ventured into hyperbole and sometimes told outright lies.  As for S.A. Sloman, he eventually gave up selling whiskey and returned to his family’s lucrative furrier business, presumably a happier man.

Note:  Each of these three men have been treated in greater detail in prior posts:  William Mida, Febuary 25, 2014;  George Washburne, June 11, 2019; and Charles Austin Bates,  March 10, 2015 and September 10, 2018.






















Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Rauh & Pollack: “Jews and Dayton’s Booze Trade”

Foreword:   As often happens, a encounter with a branded whiskey item will send me on a search for the source behind it.  Intrigued by a back-of-the bar bottle for “Belle of Dayton,” I traced the item back to two Dayton “whiskey men” who had been written up by Marshall Weiss in the Dayton Jewish Observer as recently as last April.  Theirs is an interesting story, as told by Mr. Weiss under the title “Jews and Dayton’s Booze Trade.” As is my custom in such cases, I have sought permission to reprint portions of it here.  Will add material as seems necessary in italic.


Partners Isaac Pollack (L), 1836-1908, and Sol Rauh, 1835-1915, Dayton’s first wholesale liquor distributors

Mr. Weiss begins his article by citing the important role that Jews served for centuries in countries in Central Europe like Poland and Hungary as distillers, liquor sellers and saloon keepers.  He then moves the narrative to Dayton, Ohio:

Our story begins during the Civil War, in 1862, with Isaac Pollack and Solomon Rauh.  Both in their 20s, Pollack and Rauh had arrived here as part of the wave of Jewish immigrants from Central Europe: Pollack from Riedseltz, France and Rauh from Essingen, Bavaria.

With Rauh as his clerk, Pollack began selling wholesale wines, liquors, brandies, and cigars at 234 3rd St. in 1862. This was Dayton’s first wholesale liquor store. A year later, Rauh was listed as Pollack’s partner.

By September 1862, Pollack was considered a Civil War hero. He had been appointed a corporal among the Squirrel Hunters, the civilians who assisted the federal government in defending Cincinnati from a Confederate attack.

The partners prospered rapidly. In 1876, they built identical mansions for their families on adjacent lots: 319 and 321 W. Third St. in Dayton. According to lore, in the shade of a nearby tree, Pollack and Rauh flipped a coin to determine who would occupy which house; the Rauhs took 321, the Pollacks 319.  The Pollack House still stands today, though in a different location; in 1979 it was moved to 208 W. Monument Ave. and now houses the Dayton International Peace Museum.

Rauh and Pollack were among the Jews who lived downtown and worshiped at the predominantly German Jewish B’nai Yeshurun, now Temple Israel. They were founding members of the Standard Club, the social and literary club that was effectively an extension of B’nai Yeshurun.  Rauh married Jeanette Lebensburger, whose father, Joseph, was the first leader of Dayton’s early Jewish community. It was Joseph Lebensburger who in 1850 established what would become B’nai Yeshurun.

A staunch supporter of the Democratic party, Pollack was a major donor and champion of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital when it was established. He was also a member of St. John’s Lodge of Masons and Dayton’s B’nai B’rith lodge.  “His cheerful and amiable disposition won him many friends,” the Dayton Daily News wrote of him.

Rauh was also a director of the Merchants’ National Bank and a longtime president of both B’nai Yeshurun and B’nai B’rith. The Dayton Daily News described him as “genial, whole-souled and charitable…one of the leaders of this community, and one of the acting spirits in movements that meant the advancement of Dayton.”  After 30 years in business together, Pollack decided to split from Rauh around 1893.

Pollock subsequently opened his own liquor business in Dayton, in effect competing with his former partner.  His proprietary whiskey brands were“Bandana Whiskey,” “Gold Brick Rye,” and “Silver Bar.”  These likely were sold both at retail and wholesale.  Pollock does not appear to have trademarked any of his labels.

This was the year [1893] when Sol Rauh & Sons, then at 107 E. Third St., began to list itself as also in the distilling business.  It’s possible that Rauh’s desire to add distilling to the business led to the separation with Pollack, who would retire from his business in 1906 and died two years later at 71.

Strictly speaking, Rauh appears to have been a whiskey “rectifier” rather than a distiller, making whiskey from scratch, although many of the skills required were similar.  He was blending whiskeys likely received from Kentucky distilleries to achieve specific color, smoothness and taste.  Brands attributed to this effort were“Belle of Dayton Whiskey” and a “Sour Mash Whiskey,” the back-of-the -bar-bottles shown here.  These bottles were found in 2013 during an excavation at the former location of the Rauh liquor establishment.  Other brands registered by Rauh were “Eddy’s,” “Templeton,” and “Wellbrook.”

The Rauh business was destroyed in the fire that resulted with the Great Flood of 1913. Two months later, it advertised in the Dayton Daily News that it had relocated and was “now prepared to fill all orders promptly.” It continued to list itself as “distillers and wholesale liquor dealers.”  Rauh & Sons would rebuild and return to its location at 107 E. Third St.


The flood and the resulting destruction of the original Rauh building are shown above and below.


After Sol Rauh’s death in 1915 at 79, his son Ed took over the business. Sol Rauh brought Ed into the business after he bought out Isaac Pollack in about 1893.  Ed Rauh was a sportsman, well known as an enthusiastic harness horseman. He owned several trotting horses.

Both Isaac Pollack and Solomon Rauh are buried in Dayton’s Riverview Cemetery maintained by Temple Israel.  Their gravestones are shown below.


In 1919, Ed Rauh’s business in Williams’ Dayton City Directory was listed at 107 E. Third St. as “wholesale non-intoxicating beverages.”  An enthusiastically “dry” state, Ohio entered Prohibition May 27, 1919, nearly eight months before the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — known as the Volstead Act — went into effect Jan. 17, 1920.  The Volstead Act prohibited the “manufacture, sales or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes” in the United States.

Whether or not Ed Rauh went into the soft drink business as a front and remained in the whiskey business as a bootlegger is unclear. Descendants of Rauh who were contacted for this story didn’t know the answer.  In any case, Rauh’s business in the 1921 city directory was listed at the same location, but now as Rauh’s Tire & Auto Supply.
Note:  To date I have not heard back from Mr. Weiss or the Dayton Jewish Observer but believe they have been given adequate credit here for the article and several of the illustrations.  My thanks to both for this interesting profile of two notable whiskey men.














Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Conjoining Sins of Chicago’s Many, Blanc

    
For many Americans the “conjoining sins” were drinking whiskey and smoking tobacco.  Beginning in 1891 Many, Blanc & Company for years were one of the foremost liquor and cigars importing and distributing houses in Chicago. Such activities merited the special scorn of Carrie Nation and her followers who viewed smoking and drinking as the Siamese twins of sinful and dissolute behavior — inextricably joined.  Stanley G. Many, however, had a different idea, one that succeeded in perpetuating the name of his company almost 70 years.

Shown here in a passport photo, Many was born in New York City in January 1858, the only son of Mary Ellis and Lewis Many, who owned a hardware store in Brooklyn.  He was baptized in New York City’s St. Clements Episcopal Church.  Both parents died while Stanley was still young, his mother when he was just 12, his father when he was 19. Years later Stanley told a census taker that he had left school after the fifth grade.

Cast on his own, the youthful Many gravitated to Chicago where he found employment with a liquor store at 15-17 Dearborn Avenue owned by Caleb W. Webster, a successful wholesaler.  There Many also met Norris Blanc, likely Webster’s bookkeeper.  Five years younger than the New Yorker, Blanc was born in Trinidad, British West Indies, and had immigrated with family members to the U.S. in 1874 as a boy of eleven.


When Webster decided to retire in 1891, the two men bought the business, calling it Many, Blanc & Co.  Many served as president of the firm, Blanc was the secretary and treasurer.  From the outset the partnership was successful and after ten years at the Dearborn address, they were impelled to move to larger quarters at 227 Randolph Street.  Among their liquor brands were the proprietary “Old Ethyl Bourbon,” “Oversea” and “White Top,”  all trademarked during 1905 and 1906. The company also distributed national brands like “Old Cabinet Whiskey,” “Old Crow Bourbon,” and “Mount Vernon Rye.”

From the beginning Many, Blanc made selling cigars, both imported and domestic, an important parallel business with liquor sales.  Thus, when Carrie Nation, the hatchet-swinging prohibitionist came to Chicago, the partners must have been attentive to her rants. She had made it very clear where she stood:  “No man who drank or smoked could ever come nearer to me than the telephone.  I’d say, I won’t let you, you nicotine-soaked, beer-besmeared, whiskey-greased, red-eyed devil, talk to me face to face.”

During Mrs. Nation’s blitz into Chicago her disciples already were on the rampage, having smashed four drug stores and holding a fifth hostage.  For her part Carrie, according to biographer Robert Lewis Taylor, was found fulminating on Chicago street corners with “repetition of her curses against whiskey, smoking, sin….  Probably listening in amusement, Many and Blanc continued to sell great quantities of both whiskey and stogies.   

Suddenly Norris Blanc, only 35 years old, died.  Perhaps as a memorial to him, Many never moved to change the name of the company.  Soon, however, he took a new partner named Fred L. Koehn who had been the company bookkeeper.  
After Blanc’s death the new partnership added a move to West Kinzie Street and finally to 7-11 West Illinois in 1913. 

There the firm appears to have emphasized wholesale trade, selling whiskey in large ceramic containers to the dozens of saloons to be found throughout the Second City.  Like other wholesalers Many and his partner provided customers with advertising giveaway items like back-the-bar-bottles and shot glasses.


Despite his lack of formal education, Stanley Many understood what was ahead.  By 1918 the cries of Carrie Nation and her ilk were being widely heard and Temperance forces were limiting the whiskey trade locality by locality and state by state until National Prohibition was inevitable.  Many determined to leave the liquor trade and concentrate on cigars.  He bought the Shrine Cigar Company, a prominent Chicago tobacco retailer and absorbed its management.  

The Feb. 16, 1918 edition of the U.S. Tobacco Journal announced:   “Many, Blanc & Co., for years one of the foremost liquor and cigar importing and distributing houses in Chicago, are embarking in the cigar manufacturing business and will market the "Shrine" line of clear Havana goods in a variety of attractive sizes and packlngs, made under their own supervision.”  Shown here is one of the packages.

A section of their four story building on Chicago’s West Illinois Street was converted into a “modern new” cigar factory.  When this facility proved too limiting, Many bought a  “dancing pavilion” in Frankfort, Michigan, and converted the building into a cigar factory employing 100 people.  The company also continued to be distributors in their region of “Gorfein’s Garcia Grande” and other lines of cigars.  R.G. Dun, a popular cigar line out of Detroit, signed on with the Chicagoans.


The passport photo of Many that opens this post was one of several items that signaled his company’s pivot to cigars.  Stanley was preparing to leave for Cuba with a newly hired expert to purchase Cuban tobacco for his cigars.  A 1918 letter on company stationary to the State Department about the trip omits any mention of liquor, depicting Many, Blanc as olive oil importers. Not strictly a business trip he also took his wife with him to Cuba.

Stanley Many’s strategy worked.  The manufacturing and sales of tobacco and cigars allowed the company to survive the 14 “dry” years between 1920 and 1934.  With Repeal, the company immediate went back into the liquor trade, but specialized in liqueurs and cordials.  Many, Blanc & Co.’s first post-Repeal trademark was for a brand of kummel, a sweet drink flavored with caraway and other herbs. It also registered a series of cordials under the DuBouchett name. What if any role Many played in the company at that point is unclear.  In 1934 he would have been 76 years old.

The 1940 census found Stanley and his wife, Anna, living outside of Chicago in Washington Township, Will County, Illinois. She is shown here on her passport photo. They were retired and had owned a substantial home there since at least 1935.   Stanley Many died in 1944 at the age of 86 in Broward County, Florida.  I have been unable to locate his place of burial.

Obviously under different management, Many, Blanc & Co. was purchased in 1945 by  Schenley Industries that kept the name but moved the headquarters to Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  By the time the name was finally dropped years later Many, Blanc had survived an almost unprecedented seven decades.  Despite the Carrie Nations of America, Stanley Many had proved that liquor and tobacco conjoined could survive the worst the zealots might inflict.



















Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Samuel Strong: Alcohol and the Cleveland Druggist

    
During his 63 years of life, Samuel Merwin Strong built the largest wholesale drug company in Cleveland and perhaps in all of Ohio.   Like many druggists of that time Strong, shown here,  featured alcohol in his medicines and even marketed his own brand of whiskey.  Ironically, it also was alcohol that led to his untimely and horrific demise.  

Although a biographer has called him a “country boy” with “narrow” educational opportunities, Strong’s was not a rags to riches story.  His father, also Samuel, was a practicing physician in Amherst, Ohio, 35 miles west of Cleveland, and twice elected to the Ohio State legislature.  Young Samuel after graduating from local schools gained admission to Oberlln College, the oldest coeducational institution of learning in America.   The youth did not stay long, however, leaving at the age of eighteen to apprentice to an Elyria, Ohio, druggist.

There followed a series of pharmaceutical employments.  “With his first savings of $100 and a great deal of ambition he drifted to Cleveland in 1851…,”  according to a biographer.  There Strong worked for two years for J.D. Hayward, a pharmacist, until Hayward retired.  Then Strong joined the wholesale and retail drug house of Gaylord & Co.  This was an upscale business with a fancy oak paneled interior at the corner of the new four-story Hoffman Block.

In 1872 the location would become infamous for the “Hoffman Block Outrage,” in which medical students working in an upper room raided a cemetery for a newly buried cadaver and brought it back.   Drunk, the students stripped the body and tossed its garments around, only later discovering that that their plaything had died of smallpox.  Twelve people, some not at the bacchanalia, were known to contract the disease.  None apparently died. Cleveland was in a panic, however, and mass inoculations were conducted.

While working for Gaylord & Co., Strong demonstrated some of the marketing creativity that would mark his career.  He persuaded his employers to let him make and sell a nostrum called “Dr. Samuel Strong’s True Fever Destroyer,”  apparently using a recipe his father had developed.  It proved very successful as a popular remedy.   A long ad for the alcohol-laden cure appeared in an August 1858 issue of the Elyria Lorain County Eagle, one full of glowing testimonials from druggists around Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.  A bottle cost $2.50, a hefty sum when 50 cents would buy a substantial meal.

In the meantime, Samuel had been having a personal life.  At the age of 23 in 1855 he married Ohio-born Eudora P. Ingersoll, 18, in Medina, Ohio.   Eleven years later they would have twin sons,  Edwin Lee and Samuel Erwin, both of whom eventually would join their father in business.

Taking ownership of the “True Fever Destroyer,” with him, in 1858 Strong with a partner purchased a Cleveland wholesale drug company founded in 1833. The country doctor’s son now was president and co-owner of a pharmaceutical house,  Called Strong & Armstrong, the company was located at 199 Superior Street not far from Cleveland’s Public Square.  By 1867 the partners were listing a second address at 62 Frankfort Street.   They also had taken into management,  Ahira Cobb, shown above, a Connecticut Yankee druggist who had found his way to Ohio.


With Armstrong’s departure in 1873, the company underwent a reorganization that brought Ahira and his son, Lester A. Cobb, into the organization, the latter as a traveling salesman.  The firm became Strong, Cobb & Co., the name it would bear for the remainder of its existence.  The Civil War had brought enormous economic expansion to Cleveland, with considerable benefit to Strong and his associates.  Neither the post-war bank panic of 1873, nor an 1881 fire with $41,000 in damages, nor a subsequent depression in the early 1890s, impeded expansion.  By the 1890s more than 100 men were employed at Strong, Cobb, including salesmen who traveled throughout Ohio and neighboring states.


The company premises, shown above, covered 77,000 square feet and were five stories high.  The complex fronted on Superior Street, designated the sales headquarters, connected by both a tunnel and a bridge to a building of similar height on Long Street.  It held the laboratory, stock rooms, packing and shipping facilities.  A third adjacent building served as a warehouse. 

Strong’s biographer enthused:  “Thus it will be seen that S. M. Strong’s career…is a straight and gallant line to what he aimed at.  Its progressive stages are so well defined as to afford a subject for pleasant contemplation and a deep sense of admiration and plaudit.”

Significantly, the first floor of the main building was dedicated to liquor sales.  Like many druggists, Samuel Strong knew that alcohol was a major profit center.  He had his own brand of whiskey, called “Puritan Club.”  It likely was blended on the premises and sold to retailing druggists in distinctive gallon and larger size ceramic jugs.  Shown here are two styles of container, one with an under-glazed inked label and another with molded letters in the top.  Each would have been decanted into smaller bottles by druggists and the jugs likely return to Strong, Cobb.

The fourth floor held the patent medicine department, most of the nostrums well laced with alcohol.  “Dr. Samuel Strong’s True Fever Destroyer,”  was touted in advertising testimonials as a cure for “ague,” that is, malaria — the true cause of which was still unknown.  Another Strong nostrum was “Echitone,” sold as a remedy for diseases involving discharges of pus. It was clearly labeled as 28% alcohol, about the same as sherry or port wine. The company’s patent medicines were packaged in amber, amethyst and clear bottles.  

Meanwhile Strong was being recognized both locally and nationally and portrayed in trade and other publications.  Called “a model business man” and a “leader in society,” he was elected as a director of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce.  There, according to his biographer: “…He again proved his high character as a citizen, and a lover and promoter of all things Clevelandish.”   With a national reputation in the pharmacy community,  when the National Wholesale Druggists’ Association was formed in 1876, Strong was elected its first treasurer, a position he was to hold for the next eighteen years.

As they reached maturity Samuel Strong brought his two sons into the business.  Edwin Strong had been educated at the University of Michigan and after a stint in New Mexico experimenting with cattle raising became general manager and a full partner.  Samuel E. Strong, after serving an apprenticeship as a traveling man, was named Strong, Cobb’s managing buyer.  When Ahira Cobb died in 1882, his son, Lester, took his place as a partner.  Another son, Ralph L. Cobb, followed. Ralph was said to have “started from the bottom of the ladder,”  eventually to become head of the sundries department.  Shown below, from left to right, are the second generation:  Ralph Cobb, Samuel E. Strong, and Edwin Strong.


While the participation of Strong and Cobb family members proved a coherent management team, nothing could have prepared them for what was to occur.  In June 1895, during the middle of the night, Samuel Strong found his way to the bathroom in the dark.  While striking a match to light a gas lamp, he accidentally knocked a large bottle of cologne off a shelf and it broke on the marble washstand.  The contents saturated part of his night clothes.   The alcohol vapor from the cologne burst into flames, enveloping Strong’s body.  Badly burned beyond recovery, the next day the man who made part of his fortune selling alcohol ironically died its victim.  He was 63 years old.

Tributes to Strong poured in from around the U.S..  The Merck Market Report called him “a forceful man, though naturally retiring in disposition, and he was held in high esteem by the drug trade throughout the country.”  Despite his wide recognition in Cleveland, his funeral was a private event at the family’s Euclid Street home.  With only his family gather around his bier, Samuel M. Strong was buried in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery.  His gravestone is shown here.  His widow, Eudora, would join him there in 1906.

Strong, Cobb Wholesale Druggists continued in business following the founder’s demise, moving from its Superior Street headquarters to 206 Central Viaduct SE in Cleveland.   Shown here are gallon and two gallon whiskey jugs bearing that address were issued after the company relocated in 1908. With family members still involved, Strong, Cobb survived National Prohibition, advertising in 1935 that the company now sold wine along with pharmaceuticals.

Note: Several references are made in this post to Strong’s “biographer.”  They cite a full page article about Strong and his company that appeared in an 1894 issue of The Pharmaceutical Era.  No author was credited.  The item appeared only a year before Strong’s unfortunate demise.