Thursday, April 30, 2020

“Uncle Charlie” Coon: Treasury Sec. to Town Merchant

             
Identified as “Uncle Charlie,” even on his gravestone below, Charles Edward Coon traced an amazing career trajectory that included service in the Nation's Capital as Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department to Port Townsend, Washington, storekeeper selling liquor.  Coon’s story was unlocked by the miniature whiskey jug shown here, one with which he gifted the drinking public of the town.

Coon’s life also encompassed facing hot combat as an enlisted man in the Civil War, fostering baseball in Washington, D.C., effectively negotiating U.S. Civil War debts in Europe, and winning elective offices in Washington State.  A lifelong bachelor, Coon, shown left, became widely known as “Uncle Charlie” because of his devotion, well reciprocated, to his sister’s fatherless family.

Charlie was born in 1842 in Friendship, Allegany County, New York, the son of Arthur A. and Emile Evarts Coon.  Although his mother was descended from the commander of the “Green Mountain Boys” in the Revolutionary War, the family was of modest means and the youth was educated in local public schools.  Almost immediately after the outbreak of the Civil War, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the 23rd New York Volunteer Infantry.  As shown here, the 23rd dressed in Zouave uniforms.


Corporal Coon saw considerable hot fighting with the regiment as part of the First Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Among battles, the 23rd New York fought at the second Battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Antietam, shown below, where his regiment suffered 42 killed, wounded or missing.  Coon’s devotion to duty and intelligence caught the eye of his superior officers and he was removed from combat and was promoted to deputy Army provost marshal for an area encompassing the southern portion of New York State.

Discharged from the Army in 1864, Coon obtained employment in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.  Again catching the eye of his superiors for the quality of his work, he was tapped in 1871 to serve on and subsequently to lead an American mission dealing with British and other European authorities on resolving American Civil War bonded debt. It required ten trips across the Atlantic by ship in ten years as Coon negotiated the overseas transfer of resources.  During that decade the money and securities passing through his hands has been estimated at a billion dollars, worth many times that amount in today’s dollar.

Coon’s success in that important mission led to another notable achievement during the Garfield Administration when a crisis in the balance of trade was threatened because a large number of U.S. bonds were about to fall due simultaneously.  Coon convinced the Treasury Secretary that he could exchange those bonds in Europe for others with lower interest rates.  Given approval, largely at his own expense he crossed the Atlantic one more time.  His biographer explained:  “…Through his acquaintance with financiers over there, both in England and on the Continent, succeeded in [refinancing] seventy-five million dollars of these bond-holdings into four percent bonds.  The savings were enormous, and Congress reimbursed him for all expenses.”


Throughout his life Charlie was a fanatic about baseball.  Before enlisting in the Civil War, he had been a member of one of the earliest premier teams, the Eckford Club of Brooklyn.  Moving to the District of Columbia after the war, he became an enthusiastic booster, and even for a time manager, of the Washington Nationals. The team was among America’s elite baseball organizations, traveling — and winning — throughout the Northeast, Central Atlantic and Midwest. For his efforts at promoting the sport Coon merited mention in the 2014 book, “Baseball Pioneers: 1850-1870.”

In April 1884, President Chester A. Arthur, shown right, recognized Coon’s ability and lengthy effective service by naming him Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and he was quickly confirmed by the U.S. Senate.  When the secretary died, he was named “ad interim” Secretary of the Treasury, serving until a new secretary was appointed.  He continued to serve as assistant secretary for another year and then retired at only 46 years old and returned to New York City.  

Even out of government Coon continued to be widely known and consulted as an authority on the fiscal operations of government:  “The newspapers in those days made constant use of him as a source of information and as an authority on government finance,” according to a biographer.  In 1888 he was nominated by the Republican Party to run for Congress in the 10th District, chiefly Brooklyn, but defeated by Democrat Gen. Daniel Sickles, well known Civll War commander.

Coon never married but as a surrogate for his own family after 1880 took in and looked after the family of his widowed sister, Camilla Coon Merrick.  Her husband, a railroad conductor, had been killed in a train accident, leaving her with small children to raise:  three girls, Isabella, Helen and Adelaide, and a boy, Frederick.   Coon took over the responsibility for housing and educating the four youngsters.  As a result he became known by them and a wider group of family and friends as “Uncle Charlie.”

As an adult his niece Helen had married and moved to Tacoma, Washington, and in 1895, Charlie entrained westward to visit her.  At the time The Pacific Northwest was experiencing considerable economic growth.  Coon’s trip likely coincided with the Northwest Interstate Fair held in Tacoma to show off regional progress.  Coon was impressed and decided to move to Washington State “because of opportunities for development.”  He chose Port Townsend, a town on the Olympic Peninsula looking out over Puget Sound.

Port Townsend’s harbor was large and frequented by oceangoing vessels. Shipping of goods and timber from the area was a major part of the economy.  A number of ornate Victorian homes and public buildings were erected on the speculation that Port Townsend would become a booming shipping port and major city, rivaling even San Francisco. In 1897 Coon became a permanent resident and purchased the Port Townsend Mercantile Company, a ships’ supply house and wholesale and retail grocery.  A major profit center was selling liquor to the town’s many saloons and to the public.


Initially occupying a building at Washington and Taylor Streets, by 1907 Coon had moved to larger quarters at  311-313 Water Street, and by 1915 to 831 Water, shown above as the building looks today.  Coon lived in one of the Victorian mansions that graced the town, known as the John Quincy Adams house. Located at 1028 Tyler Street it now on the National Register of Historical Places.  Shown below is the living room, looking much as it might have in Coon’s day.   Living with him were his sister Camilla, niece Helen, her husband Charles Pragge, and their daughter Helen, Uncle Charlie’s grand-niece.  Both Pragges were involved with helping Coon manage the mercantile company.


The transplanted Easterner lost no time in making himself known in town.  An early member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the principal Union Civil War veterans’ organization, Coon took a leadership role in the Port Townsend Chapter.  He also was a member of the Union Soldier’s Alliance and the Masonic Veterans Association.  Around town he became known as “Colonel Coon,”   

The residents of Port Townsend soon recognized the capabilities the former Treasury Department official brought to Port Townsend.  He was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce and re-elected for three further terms.  Six years after arriving he was elected the town’s mayor and the following year, 1902, elected again, this time receiving all the votes cast. Given his popularity and his standing in the Republican party, Uncle Charlie in 1905 ran statewide for Washington State Lieutenant Governor and won, serving in that office for four years.  His primary responsibility was presiding over the state legislature, shown right.

The 1920 census found Coon still living with his niece and her family.  By this time Port Townsend, without good railroad connections, had failed to meet expectations and its economy faltered.  Moreover, sales of alcohol had been banned in Washington in 1916 cutting off liquor profits. Port Townsend Mercantile survived by continuing to selling groceries, hay, grain, flour, feed, crockery and glassware. Coon continued as president of the company despite his 77 years. “Uncle Charlie” would die in August of 1920, much mourned by family and townspeople alike.  He was buried in the Port Townsend Laurel Grove Cemetery.  His gravestone is shown below.


Note:  This story of “Uncle Charlie” Coon and his amazing career would have been untold except for the two miniature whiskey jugs shown here that came to light on an Internet auction site.  Having visited Port Townsend not long ago, I was intrigued and followed up.  Among biographical writings on Coon, the most important in crafting this vignette was “A History of the Puget Sound Country:    Its Resources, Its Commerce and Its People,” by Col. William F. Prosser, Lewis Publishing Co., New York, 1923. Quoted material above is from that source.




















Sunday, April 26, 2020

Whiskey’s John L. Casper — The Second Act


Foreword:  Before 1908 John Casper of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was one of the top two mail order distributors of alcoholic beverages in the United States. In an earlier post (June 30, 2011) I tracked Casper’s distilling activities in the Tarheel state until it went “dry” and his subsequent foray into Virginia.  After that the trail became faint as Casper ventured into Florida and Arkansas.  Then the trail disappeared.  Some sources indicated the whiskey man ended up in Mexico.  In recent years more information has come to light and so I am providing for this post, “The Second Act” of John L. Casper, shown below.

While the earlier post was correct in most aspects, it erred in assuming that since Casper seemed to live in hotels much of his life that he never married.  New information indicates otherwise.  According to a publication from the Forsyth County (Winston-Salem) Library, in December 1886 Casper married Annie Nadling, the daughter of a local tobacco warehouseman, and moved into a home not far from her parents.  Sometime in the 1890s they had two children, John Jr., known as “Jonny” and “Sissy.”  Both would play future roles in their father’s liquor business.

When North Carolina went “dry” in 1908, Casper moved to Roanoke, Virginia, and sold stock to erect a distillery.  Fortune seemed to smile on Casper. The money rolled in and he was able to move to self-described  “magnificent buildings” in Roanoke, illustrated in a Casper-generated newspaper advertisement, shown below. The authenticity of the image is questionable. The facility, which boasted being on 14 acres, appears rather odd, with a mountain rising out of the center of a campus-like setting. 

After only several years in Virginia fortunes turned sour for John Casper.  Whether overextended financially or for other reasons, years before the state went dry the whiskey man left Roanoke for other climes.  There may be a clue in a crackdown by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue on distilleries that had sprung up in a number of Virginia cities to provide mail order liquor to North Carolina and other “dry” Southern states.  Some distillers were discovered defrauding the government of their revenue taxes by means of “double runs” and other methods to avoid the $1.10 tax on every gallon produced.  Never himself accused, Casper was a defense witness for a Danville distiller who later was convicted and served time.


Next Casper popped up in Jacksonville, Florida.  While the Sunshine State had “local option” prohibitionary laws, Jacksonville and other major population centers were wide open for alcohol.  The letterhead above announced the formation of the Atlantic Coast Distilling Company and dates its incorporation at February 12, 1910 with John Casper listed as vice president. As might be expected, Casper was in charge of sales. The firm boasted that it did annual business in excess of half a million dollars and had broken all prior sales records under his leadership. The secretary treasurer of Atlantic Distilling, Ray Tesch later related that Casper always told young employees to remember that: “Whiskey is made to SELL and not to DRINK.”

Located on Jacksonville’ Bay Street, Atlantic Distilling featured a number of brands, including “Blue Ridge", "Old Eagle Corn", "Red Rooster Corn,” “Southern Whiskey” and “Sweet Mash Corn.”  The company was selling at both retail and wholesale, the latter whiskey packaged in ceramic jugs of half-gallon, gallon and two gallon size. 

Evidence is that Casper was more than the vice president indicated on Atlantic Distilling’s letterhead.  The putative president was John F. Smithdeal, his friend from North Carolina, who from early on was bound up in Casper’s often complicated business deals.  Proof of Casper’s primacy was a May 13, 1913, letter to a Georgia attorney, signed by John as “president” of Atlantic Distilling.  The letter also notes that the Southern Distilling Company was an “auxiliary firm.”  So evidently were two other outfits named Blue Ridge Distilling and Rush Distilling.  The latter’s liquor labels included "Cream of Kentucky ‘Thee' Whiskey,” and “Crme de la Crme.”


In Jacksonville Casper ran athwart government authorities. In 1913 Atlantic Distilling was charged under the 1906 Food and Drug Act with adulterating and misbranding its Southern Whiskey, a corn liquor.  Although the label in very small print acknowledged that the product was only 50 proof — 25 percent alcohol — and contained water, federal authorities contended that the addition of capiscum, an agent derived from peppers, was used to disguise the weak flavor.  Although the label claimed that capiscum was included as a doctor recommended “best stomach stimulant known,” Casper and his partners pleaded “nolo contendere” to the charges and paid the paltry $25 fine. 

Apparently not wanting to put all his liquor “eggs” in a single state, Casper also began operating more than a thousand miles away in Fort Smith, Arkansas, forming a whiskey-making enterprise he called the Uncle Sam Distilling Company, incorporated in May 2011 under the laws of Arkansas.  Casper was listed as president and Smithdeal as vice president.  This company claimed as its  marketing territory the “entire Southwest portion of the United States” and emphasized mail order sales.

Casper is said to have turned Atlantic Distilling over to Smithdeal to run while he concentrated on the Fort Smith enterprise.  Several artifacts from Uncle Sam Distilling have survived, including a pocket mirror that promised 12 quarts of straight whiskey for $6.00, or 50 cents a bottle, making it among the cheapest booze available anywhere — and likely watered. As bonus gifts for large mail order purchases, Casper also provided mini jugs advertising “Zulieka Old Corn Whiskey.”

Government agents soon were on John Casper’s trail in Arkansas.  He and his partners were charged by U.S. Internal Revenue with multiple counts of evading federal taxes on alcoholic beverages.  On October 15, 1915, Casper pleaded guilty to all 33 counts against him and was sentenced to nine years and three days confinement at the Leavenworth, Kansas, federal penitentiary.  He was also fined $33,000, the equivalent of $725,000 today.  The Federal District Court also seized his Fort Smith properties, worth the equivalent of $2.3 million.


Casper was forced to eat very few meals at the Leavenworth mess hall, shown above, reported to have received a pardon after only three months in prison.  His early release testifies to his having friends in high places. Nevertheless, he had become a “whipping boy” of the prohibitionist crowd who claimed, without evidence, that Casper from his earliest days in North Carolina had been guilty of cheating the federal government out of millions in tax dollars.  Under fire, the Tarheel native returned to Winston-Salem where he occupied himself managing a printing company and a mercantile house.  But whiskey still ran in Casper’s blood.

After the imposition of National Prohibition in 1920, Casper with son John Jr. and daughter Sissy’s husband, John Lamb, went to Mexico where they began to build  a new distillery.  Although it was illegal to export whiskey from south of the border into the U.S., American tourists were allowed to bring it back and other conduits existed for Mexican-made whiskey to find its way into the States. Casper intended to take advantage of the opportunities.

As he aged, however, Casper had begun to experience heart problems. The exertion required in getting his new liquor enterprise off the ground may have worsened his condition.  On July 29, 1921, Casper suffered a massive heart attack at the town of Villa de Acura in Coahula, Mexico, and died.  John Lamb shipped his body back by train to Winston-Salem  In early August, with family at his graveside, John Casper was interred in Salem Cemetery, shown left. The gravesite itself has not been identified.

In writing about more than 750 American pre-Prohibition whiskey men, I have found none more persistent, none more inventive, perhaps none more devious, than John Casper.  For that he deserves a special place in the panoply of those  who for decades provided liquor to a thirsty Republic.  May he rest in peace.


Note:  The “new information” cited above that triggered this second look at John Casper was an Internet newsletter article on Casper by Fam Brownlee Jr., a historian at the North Carolina Room of the Forsyth County Library.  Mr. Brownlee’s piece clarified the whiskey man’s marital status, identified his children, provided additional information on the Fort Smith gambit, and detailed Casper’s death in Mexico.  The photo of Casper that opened this vignette and the postcard of the Leavenworth dining hall are both from Mr. Brownlee’s article.  I am grateful to him for his permission to use this material.  He also has offered the following comment:  As an aside, one of our top developers has become interested in Casper's story and will soon be opening a speakeasy themed bar named for Casper. Knowing him, it will probably be the best bar in the Triad.  Finally, thanks to David Jackson for the photo of Casper's gravestone in Winston-Salem.  
























Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Gus Shivelbine’s “Wettest Corner” in Cape Girardeau

                    
With its rich history as a major port on the Mississippi River, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is known as the town “where the river turns a thousand tales.” One of those stories is of August “Gus” Shivelbine, a native son who returned home to operate the Arcade Saloon, known as the “wettest corner” in the city and who earned a tribute as “one of the best residents Cape Girardeau ever had.”

Shown here in maturity, Gus was born in May 1855 and baptized into the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church as Ferdinand Wilhelm August Schiewelbein (a.k.a. Shivelbine).  Shown below is a map of the Cape Girardeau the boy grew up in, at the time the largest port on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis.  The city would get into his blood.


His father, Carl, was a German immigrant who settled in Cape Girardeau, married, and had become sufficiently prosperous to send Gus to Germany to be educated at the University of Heidelberg where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineer.  After returning to the U.S. Shivelbine spent four years working as a mining engineer in Northern California.  

Drawn back to his home place, for a time he was employed to operate a grain mill in Cape Girardeau, later buying his own mill at a small unincorporated village eight miles north called Egypt Mills. Two years later the mill was destroyed by fire.  At that point Shivelbine apparently concluded that selling the liquid essence of the grain was more lucrative than the grain itself and bought a drinking establishment strategically located downtown on CapeGirardeau’s Main Street. Called The Arcade Saloon, his place also featured a restaurant and oyster cafe.

Meanwhile Gus had been courting the daughter of a prominent local innkeeper and saloon operator.  She was Amelia Frank, whose German immigrant parents Elizabeth and John Frank, fostered the musical talents of their children.  Amelia was known in Cape Girardeau as an accomplished classical pianist.  Gus and Amelia were married in what was described as “elaborate wedding” on June 16, 1888.  Shown here in a formal  photograph, he was 33 and she was 22.

Their wedding reception was held in the new home that Gus had built for Amelia at 303 South Spanish Street.  Shown here, the house looked east over the Mississippi River and was a showplace of Queen Anne style, with German influences in the arched windows and decorative woodwork.  Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the home featured fine interior woodwork including a Victorian staircase, corner fireplace and carved mantel.
Symbolic of their union, Gus commissioned a stained glass window above the main entrance.  The couples’ initials are displayed intertwined there, a symbol of their love and his devotion.

Gus Shivelbine proved to be a genial and highly popular saloonkeeper.  His drinking establishment became a local institution where businessmen would gather to discuss items of commerce or just let off steam.  One journal commented: Business men in those times thought it necessary to take their best customers to the Arcade for a treat. A Main Street banker boasted that he got his recreation by going to the Arcade each evening for his drink before going home.”


Shivelbine advertised the Arcade widely, as above, even to the use of cartoons to make his point.  His saloon was known to be thronged always, not only with businessmen and town notables.  According to one observer, crowds of men also  congregated both day and night outside the Arcade, an observation validated by a photo of the side of the saloon.  The site became generally known as “the wettest corner in the city,” duly excoriated by local Prohibitionists. 

Meanwhile, the Shivelbine family was growing steadily.  The couple would have six children of whom five would reach maturity:  William, Oscar, Norma Elizabeth, Irene Anna, and Ruth Emma.   After the birth of Ruth Emma, 36 year old Amelia, shown here, tragically died in March 1903. The cause given was blood poisoning and acute hemorrhaging brought on by the after-effects of childbearing. Gus was left with the responsibility of caring for and raising his children, including a newborn.  Although he must have been heartbroken over his loss he never flinched from that responsibility nor did he ever remarry.  

Instead, Shivelbine threw himself anew into Cape Girardeau’s civic betterment.  He served several terms as a city councilman and developed the county fairgrounds on the outskirts of town, shown here, serving as director and general manager of the city’s Fair and Park Association.  Credited by the press with having “virtually built the fairgrounds as they now exist,” reporters annually repaired to him for a statement as the event approached. Said one: “The busiest man in town these days is August Shivelbine; he is manager of the grounds for the Fair Association, and it keeps him hustling from morning until night; Shivelbine is having a time locating the many attractions that will be coming, and most of the stalls have been engaged for fast horses….”

As he aged, Shivelbine’s health deteriorated, perhaps hastened by grief over Amelia’s death.  After seventeen years successfully operating the Arcade Saloon in 1905 Gus sold it and retired.  As related by his obituary in the Southeastern Missouri Daily Republican on February 5, 1906:  “While Mr. Shivelbine was a doomed man, according to his physicians, for a long time, and the fact was known to all his most intimate acquaintances, they hoped that Providence would permit him to survive and again take his place in their midst as one of the prominent business men of the city.”  The story called Gus “that man with the big heart.”  Another obituary characterized the saloonkeeper as “one of the best residents Cape Girardeau ever had.”

Shivelbine’s funeral was held from his mansion home through the auspices of the Knights of Pythias.  The coffin was carried through the door under his and Amelia’s intertwined initials on its way to Cape Girardeau’s Fairmount Cemetery where he was laid to rest beside his wife.  A tall obelisk marks the site of their burial together.

Despite losing their parents at an early age, the Shivelbine children appear to have done well.  The eldest son, William Adam, was a co-founder of Shivelbine Music Store, and the eldest daughter, Norma Elizabeth, trained as a classical pianist at the prestigious Kroeger School of Music, later part of Washington University.  Meanwhile the Arcade under different ownership was alleged (by “drys”) to have become a dive and for lack of patronage forced to close about 1918.  The space subsequently was occupied by a clothing and shoe store.

Note:  This post was drawn from a variety of sources, with newspaper obituaries of August Shivelbine being particularly helpful.  The picture of the Shivelbine House is digital artwork by Larry Braun that was placed on the Internet in March 2017.





















Saturday, April 18, 2020

Whiskey Men with Unusual Pets


 Foreword: Men making a livelihood by selling whiskey often by their turn of mind or an accident of circumstances followed a course of action that others might find eccentric but that they could justify as assisting their liquor business.  In certain instances this involved keeping an animal on the premises that few would consider as a “pet.”  Here are brief stories of whiskey men who fancied, respectively, buffaloes, moose, and bears.

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 famous of all, engage in Mexican bullfighting.

The American buffalo for years was considered untamable and many biologists considered it as one of the stupidest animals in existence.  That did not deter 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.

Eventually, however, Yokum succeeded in breaking the animals to a harness and driving them as a team.  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 next trained 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 rider. In addition, he was able to race them, both against other bison and against horses.  They are alleged to having been faster than the horses.

Yokum’s singular feat was introducing a bison into a Mexican bullring.  The idea was hatched in Pierre 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 named “Pierre” 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 made sure there was plenty of alcohol in the baggage to make the trip a more pleasant experience.”


Yokum’s buffalo proved up to the challenge.  When a Mexican bull was released into the ring, it spied Pierre and charged.  The buffalo pivoted and met the bull head-on knocking him back on his haunches.  After each of four charges ended in the same result, the bull fled and tried to climb out of the ring. Sequentially, attendants released four more bulls, each time to the same result.  The buffalo defeated them all, chasing the bulls around the ring. Yoakum returned to his saloon to loud applause from townsfolk.

A veteran North Country saloon owner, Bill McPhee, shown here, was known for his geniality and off-beat personality.   Born in Eastern Canada in 1841 of Scottish ancestry, he came to the United States in 1870 and eventually became a citizen, although equally at home in Canada.  McFee had owned several drinking establishments in the Canadian Yukon but when the gold strikes ran out he joined the stampede of prospectors in 1904 to Fairbanks, Alaska.  

There he established the Washington Saloon at the corner of First and Lacy Streets, an establishment the locals called “McPhee’s Place.”  The proprietor’s reputation as an “old pioneer,” combined with his generosity toward his customers made the Washington Saloon one of the most popular in Fairbanks. Among its attractions was his moose. 

Moose are found throughout most of Alaska except on the Aleutian Islands, but they are most commonly inhabit south central and the interior of the state. Moose abundance in the wild can range as high as five or more moose per one square mile.  The average weigh for a male is 1,000 pounds; females average 800 pounds.


Where and how McPhee obtained his moose or tamed it has gone unrecorded.  The animal became a frequent resident of the Washington Saloon and never failed to draw a crowd when it appeared.  The proprietor was known to feed it potatoes and stale bread and at times chase the food down with beer.  It took little alcohol to render the moose drunk and in that condition to reek havoc all over Fairbanks.

According to the local press: “Since the mayor’s repeated demands to remove the moose from the saloon were refused, he drew up an ordinance prohibiting moose on the city sidewalks—so that the large ungulate couldn’t lawfully enter the bar.”   With that mandate, McPhee capitulated.  Giving his reluctant permission, the moose was shot, butchered and handed to his cook.  His saloon patrons ate it.


Capt. Charles M. Crow, was busy operating his wholesale wine and liquor dealership in Syracuse, New York, when a letter from the Canadian North Woods arrived in August of the late 1800s.  A friend wrote that he had shipped him a “beautiful black bear” that had been captured just fifteen days earlier.  Deciding it was no joke, Crow entrained to a station west of Syracuse to intercept the animal.

According to the New York Times, he found the train and shouted up to the American Express agent: “Have you got a bear in that car?” The agent replied: “I should think I had, and if he belongs to you, you better come in here and take care of him.  He has tired us all out and we have got enough of him.” Crow mounted into the car to find in one corner a large iron-bound cage made of oak planks.  In it was chained a huge bear, growling loudly and thrashing up and down the enclosure.

Undaunted by the scene, Crow told the agent:  “I’ll fix him.  Wait till I get him home, and if I don’t tame him in 24 hours you may have my store.” Arriving in Syracuse, the cage with Crow sitting on top was transferred to his establishment.  There ensued a struggle between the liquor store owner and the bruin while a phonograph played music in the background.  Spectators, including a New York Times reporter, jammed into the liquor store to watch.

The bear continued to roar and several times the crowd ran out of the store thinking the bear had escaped.  In the end Crow’s strength in pulling a chain around the bear’s neck prevailed. According to the Times reporter:  “…The bear gave up conquered and lay down peacefully in the bottom of his cage.  Capt. Crow eyed him in triumph and proudly said, ‘There you beast, I told you I’d fetch you.’ The Captain says that in less than 10 day he will lead the bear around the streets like a dog.  Of course he will have him muzzled.”

Addendum:  While today Crowe's treatment of an animal would be subject to criminal charges, years ago in Wisconsin I can recall more than one local venue where a tamed bear was on display.  Although further press accounts of Crow’s animal are lacking, it must be assumed that he kept the bear as an attraction to his liquor house.

Note:  More complete posts can be found on this blog for Bob Yokum, November 9, 2018, and Bill McPhee, March 29, 2019.