Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Natchez’s J.N. Stone: Bugles, Bullets and Booze

               
A container that likely held whiskey reveals the story of Joseph Newman Stone, a musician from an musical family in Natchez, Mississippi, that sent five sons to the Confederate army and received them back to carve out post-bellum careers.  Joseph, shown here, chose groceries and liquor.  His memory is kept alive by a namesake descendant, playing piano in Joseph’s historic Natchez home.

The father, Dr. Charles Henry Stone, was a Northerner, born in New Jersey in 1806, who became a medical doctor.  Moving to Natchez to practice he there met and in 1833 married Mary Giddings Newman, the granddaughter of Samuel Brooks, the first mayor of Natchez.  Charles was 27, Mary was 22. They would have a family of nine children, three daughters and six sons.  In order of birth, the first five sons were Henry born in 1837; Joseph, 1838; Charles, 1841; Garnett, 1844, and Nolan, 1846.  

Choosing the Rebel cause was not a foregone conclusion for Joseph and his brothers.  The City of Natchez, along with Vicksburg, its up-river Mississippi town, both had voted against secession.  Confronted with Union naval forces early in the Civil War, Natchez surrendered without a shot fired, sparing its mansion homes.  The rest of the South bristled when news came that townsfolk had thrown a fancy dress ball for the occupying Yankee officers.

By that time most of the Stone boys had joined the Confederates.  Henry, a physician like his father, was assistant surgeon aboard the CSS Tuscaloosa.   Joseph, shown here upon enlistment, and Charles both would see service as buglers in the 1st Confederate Infantry, and later the 32nd Alabama and Buck’s Mississippi Cavalry.  Garnett served in the 1st Confederate and 10th Mississippi regiments, and Nolan later served as a bugler with the 1st Confederate Engineers.

At first the war seems to have been taken as something of a lark by the brothers.  Charles Stone, shown here, wrote his father from camp in December, 1861:  “Dear Father:  Joe and I are still nursing the even tenor of our ways, enjoying good health and fine spirits, and relying upon Providence for a renewal of hostilities here, in which case we anticipate more fun. Don’t laugh when I call it fun, for this kind of scientific fighting is nothing in the world but fun. ’Tis for all the world like rolling tenpins. True enough it is sometimes attended with unpleasant consequences, but that only makes it the more interesting.”

The consequences could indeed be unpleasant, death and ghastly wounds were all around in the heat of combat. Music played a large part in the war and the field music of buglers like the Stones was not only necessary for the telling of time and duties in camp but also guided the actions of troops in battle, as illustrated here.   As a result buglers often were singled out by the enemy as strategic targets.  Despite Charles’ jocular tone, theirs was particularly dangerous duty.


Joseph was the first to be wounded, likely at the battle of Chickamauga, one of the bloodiest battles of the war, in which Confederate forces suffered 2,312 killed and 14,874 wounded.  While recovering from a gunshot wound, Joseph was a patient from September to November at Ross Hospital in Mobile, Alabama,  His battle jacket, name printed inside, is shown here  Garnett was the next to be hospitalized, likely for severe asthma.  He subsequently was discharged and is said to have died young.  The youngest Stone, Nolan, a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, left to join the Confederate engineers as a musician.  Nolan is said to have suffered unspecified war wounds in 1865 and died from them two years later.

When the war was over the Stone boys returned to Natchez. One author has suggested: “Of the brothers Joseph Newman Stone seems to have flourished the most in the postwar years.”  He married into a prominent Natchez family.  His bride was Theodora Summerel Britton, a New York-born daughter of noted Sea Captain William Britton.  She had come to Natchez soon after the Civil War to join two brothers who were prominent in banking there.  Theodora has been described as “one of the purest spirits that ever blessed this earth.” When they wed in December 1872,  Joseph was 34, Theodora, 30.  They would have five children, one of whom died in childhood.

By the time of their nuptials, Joseph was established in his grocery and liquor business.  He returned to a post-bellum Natchez that had emerged with its buildings and infrastructure unscathed but its economy in a shambles much like the rest of the South.  River traffic that had been the commercial lifeblood of the city had dwindled to a trickle.  Assessing the situation, Joseph judged that, given the need to eat, the grocery trade was a potentially prosperous one.  He also recognized that with the returning soldiers alcoholic consumption was rising sharply in Natchez and liquor would be a desirable lead item.


He was right on both counts and prospered.  It allowed Joseph to buy and renovate the house shown above.  Earlier it had been an exclusive men’s billard’s club.  Joseph made it a home for Theodora and his growing family.  A photograph of the dwelling show Joseph wearing a hat standing behind his white horse held by a black groom.  Standing on the porch, from left are Ruth Britton, Theodora’s sister, and Mary Stone, Joseph’s mother.  Seated on the steps is Theodora, flanked by her daughters on the left and son on the right.  The three women in aprons on the lawn were servants and not identified.  Joseph had the wealth and living space to accommodate them all.

Meanwhile, Charles, the premier musician in the family, was pursing his own career as a concert violinist.  After training abroad in London, Leipsig and Paris, he was reported in Natchez newspapers as giving a concert in Paris and having performed before crowned heads in Europe.  He also performed in the U.S., reported appearing before a sellout crowd in Houston, Texas.  In Paris Charles met a widow from South Carolina and they married.

Joseph Stone had limited time to enjoy his new home and family.  Whether it was residual effects of his Civil War wound or another cause, in August 1886 he died. He was only 47 0r 48 years old.  After fourteen years of marriage Theodora was now widowed, alone in caring for four children ranging in age from seven to twelve. She never remarried.  Joseph was buried in the Natchez City Cemetery. His gravestone is shown here along with a detail of the inscription.


The house Joseph bought and renovated is on the National Register of Historical places, still owned by the Stone family.  A great-grandson, Joseph Britton Stone, in 1999 updated the dwelling and opened it as a bed & breakfast featuring period furniture.  The house is shown here as it looks today.  Many evenings Joseph’s namesake, who is said to have performed at Carnegie Hall, gives classical piano concerts for guests.  In Natchez the Stone family’s musical beat goes on.


Notes:  The principal source of information and illustrations fo this post was an online article entitled “Mississippi Musicians:  The Stone Brothers of Natchez,” by Nancy Dearing Rossbacher for a site entitled North South Traders Civil War, Vol. 33, No. 4, 2008


















Friday, July 24, 2020

Grocers as Whiskey Men

               
Foreword: Today only sixteen states allow grocery stores to sell distilled spirits, popularly known as “hard liquor.”  In the rest of the Nation such sales are strictly illegal. But it was not always the case.  Before National Prohibition (1920-1934), it was common for grocery stores to sell whiskey and other forms of liquor.  Booze usually was a major profit center for such establishments.  Some grocers even had their own “house” brands of whiskey, mixing them up and bottling them in a back room.   Following are vignettes of three pre-Prohibition grocers for whom alcohol was a major commodity.  

The Peebles Family fashioned a Cincinnati business that
not only advertised itself as the “largest distributor of pure food products in the Ohio Valley”  but also boasted of being “largest handlers of pure, ripe, old, mellow whiskies in the United States.”  True claims or not, the Joseph R. Peebles Sons Company epitomized how liquor sales meant profits and success for a pre-Prohibition grocery store.


Shown here, the founding father, Joseph R. Peebles, proved  to have a genius for the mercantile trade. He had an eye for “fancy” groceries, buying pricey English and French goods, fine foreign wines, and stocking an array of whiskeys and other liquors.  After his early death his son, Joseph S. Peebles, proved equally astute. As the business continued to grow, a need was felt for larger quarters and the company relocated to the ground floor of Cincinnati’s prestigious Pike’s Opera House.


The space created by this move allowed Peebles to market his own brands of whiskey, likely bought from Kentucky distillers by the barrel, blended, decanted into bottles and sold.  House brands included “Peebles Sweet Hickory” and “Peebles Old Cabinet.”  The liquor department is illustrated above.  The company also claimed to be authorized bottlers for “Mellwood" and “Normandy” whiskeys.  Those were premium brands from the Louisville-based Mellwood Distilling Company, owned by George Swearingen. [See my post on this organization, October 8, 2015.]  An illustration of Peebles’ wholesale operation prominently featured Mellwood Bourbon. 


Business was carried on under the Peebles name until 1931 when the economic pressures of the Great Depression are said to have forced its closing.  Said one observer:  “The ‘fancy groceries’ that Peebles was noted for became luxuries that few could afford….”  Just as important, I would contend, was the advent of National Prohibition that earlier cut off Peebles’ highly profitable trade in alcohol.  Whiskey and wine had been the company’s life blood; termination after 91 years in business may have been inevitable after alcohol sales were banned in 1920.


Seated in the photo above, I believe, is Adolph Moll, the old gentleman with a cap, surrounded by the elegant St. Louis grocery store he had established years earlier and worked hard to make successful.  Note the displays of potatoes, onions and other produce in the foreground and then the bottles of whiskey and wine that seem to climb every pillar in the store.  Moll knew that although bushels of veggies made money, liquor made him a lot more.

Following the Civil War, Moll in addition to his grocery opened a warehouse on North Seventh Street in St. Louis.   The facility gave him space for mixing his own batches of whiskey, using raw product gathered from a variety of Missouri and Kentucky distilleries.  Much of it was sold at wholesale in large ceramic jugs bearing his label. 

For his retail trade, Moll featured two proprietary whiskeys, “Old Bob Pepper,” and “Delmar Club Rye.”  He advertised Old Bob Pepper as aged four years and sold it for $2.00 a gallon.   For his Delmar Club label, Moll issued a shot glass that would have been given to saloons and restaurants carrying the brand.  Moll never bothered to trademark either whiskey. 

Known as the “Grocery King” of St. Louis,  Moll was hailed as an immigrant arriving with few resources who succeeded through intelligence and hard work.  “All who knew him say he earned every cent of his comfortable fortune and built up his business on business lines and not by speculation,” opined the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Moll’s 1898 obituary.  The newspaper failed to mention that the much of that “comfortable fortune” could be attributed to alcohol.

In his 1905 book, “A History of the New California:  Its Resources and Its People,” author Leigh Hadley Irvine devoted two and one half pages to Thomas B. Hall, a highly successful Sacramento grocer and liquor dealer, whose civic accomplishments included forming a state military unit and serving as its commander, helping to write the Sacramento City Charter, and playing a key role in settling large tracts of California acreage to land-hungry farmers.


After clerking in a Sacramento grocery for seven years,  Hall with a partner co-founded a store known as Hall, Luhrs & Company.  As shown here on a trade card, the firm specialized in ham and rye — not rye bread, but rye whiskey.  In 1882 Hall and his partner bought out an existing dealership and made liquor a major element in their business.   They used the brand names, “Derby Brand,”  “Double Stamp,” Old Log Cabin,” and “Pride of the West.”  Their flagship was “Snow Flake Whiskey,” advertised as Kentucky bourbon with the claim:  “Unrivaled for purity, mellowness and bouquet.”  

Bottle collectors know Hall, Luhrs & Co. as a prolific distributor of whiskey, with at least five embossed round quart bottles, several mini-cylinders and at least one pumpkinseed flask.  As many wholesale liquor dealers did, Hall, Luhrs also issued advertising shot glasses as giveaway items to saloons and other establishments carrying their brands of liquor.

Hall, Luhrs first location was at the corner of Third and K Streets in Sacramento, but by 1883 increased business volume required larger quarters.  As a result the following year the company moved into a spacious building on Second Street, shown here.  It was specifically erected for the partners and occupied under a longterm lease.  The Sacramento Daily Union described the facilities in glowing terms under the headline “A Splendid New Structure for the Firm of Hall, Luhrs & Co.”   

The prosperity of the company allowed Hall to embark on a series of community  betterment activities for which he became widely known in Sacramento and throughout California.  With the coming of National Prohibition, Hall, Luhrs Co. was forced to shut down its liquor sales.  Snowflake Whiskey as a brand disappeared and was not revived after Repeal.  The grocery company survived until 1928.  

Note:  These three grocers/whiskey men have been profiled in longer posts on this blog:  Joseph Peebles, August 6, 2019;  Adolph Moll, September 11, 2016; and Thomas Hall, May 1, 2015.


















Monday, July 20, 2020

Scranton’s Patrick Cusick — The Undertaker’s Whiskey



Right up to the day of his death in 1958, Patrick F. Cusick, shown here, was the president of Cusick Inc. Funeral Directors, a business he and his brothers inherited from their immigrant father.  In the meantime Cusick, assisted by family members, was building a business empire in Scranton, Pennsylvania, largely financed by sales of alcohol.

His father, Owen Cusick, was born in Ireland and came to Scranton with his parents as a boy.  After receiving an elementary education in local schools, he went to work on the Lackawanna Railroad.  Saving his money, Owen began a livery business that expanded into an undertaking establishment at 217 Jefferson Street, shown here as it looks today, still bearing the Cusick name.  It was there that Patrick, born in 1881, went to work at the age of thirteen.


Despite only having little more than an elementary education Patrick Cusick proved to have astute business judgment with the ability to make “a success of virtually every enterprise he undertook,” according to his obituary.  One of his earliest forays was into the wholesale liquor business, establishing a company he called the Scranton Distributing Company.  As shown on the letterhead above, Patrick was president and treasurer and his brother, Eugene, shown right, was secretary.


Cusick called his establishment “Scranton’s Progressive Wholesale Liquor House” and claimed to have sales representatives covering Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.  Saloons, hotels and restaurants formed his customer base. They would have been provided with whiskey in ceramic jugs varying in size from a half gallon to one or two gallons.  These were made for Cusick by pottery works in Pennsylvania and Ohio.


At the same time Cusick was engaged in “rectifying” whiskey, that is buying raw product from some of the many Pennsylvania distilleries and blending it on his premises at 504 Lackawanna Avenue.  His proprietary brands were "Anthony Wayne Pure Rye,” "Big Six Straight Whiskey,”  "Diamond Wedding,” "Tower Bridge Gin,” and his flagship label, “Chums Whiskey.”


Chums Whiskey was described by Cusick as “a perfect blend of ripe old whiskies. Makes the best sort of base for cocktails and other mixed drinks.  Mild and Mellow. Because of its infinite purity, Chums is excellent for medicinal purposes.”  The name was advertised on the serving tray that featured a gent in a tuxedo drinking a large glass of whiskey while his “chum,” a large dog looked on, thirsting.  

Cusick also issued shot glasses advertising the brand but apparently found difficulty finding glassworks able reproduce the scene accurately.  On the glass below left the dog looks like the cowardly lion in Wizard of Oz.  On the right the pooch appears about to attack his “chum” to get a sip of booze.

While Cusick was developing his liquor trade he also was founding and operating one of Scranton’s twenty breweries, called Standard Brewing Company.  With Patrick directing its operation the growth of the brewery was swift, becoming the largest producer of beer in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Two of his pre-Prohibition brands were “Standard Export” and “Cardinal Beer, as show below on advertising serving trays.   Recognizing his ability, Cusick was elected president of the Pennsylvania Brewers Association for fourteen consecutive years and served as its principal lobbyist at the state capital.


By 1909 the profits from his liquor house and brewery were so lucrative that Cusick founded and served as president of the First National Bank of Jessup, a borough in Lackawanna County.  Like other of the undertaker’s enterprises, it was a success, printing $1,282,110 dollars worth of national currency. The bank opened in 1909 and stopped issuing bills in 1935. 

During these years, Patrick remained a bachelor, buying a mansion home at 1048 Clay Avenue in Scranton, where he was surrounded by family members.  They included his younger brother, Bartholomew, working in the Cusick Funeral Home; his sister, Elizabeth; her attorney husband, James Bell;  their four children, and a servant woman.  Cusick also maintained an active social life as a member of the Scranton Knights of Columbus, the Scranton Country Club, Elks, Eagles, Ancient Order of Hibernians, and The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.

With the coming of National Prohibition in 1920, Cusick was forced to shut down his wholesale liquor house and brewery.  The Scranton entrepreneur and banker then made a foray into New York City, buying a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, reportedly “at one of the highest prices ever paid.”  He launched himself into the brokerage business in Gotham as P.F. Cusick & Co. Investment Brokers.  Not long before the stock market crash of 1929 he also opened a large Scranton office.

While the Great Depression apparently moved Cusick out of the world of stocks and bonds, the end of National Prohibition offered an opportunity in 1933 for him to restart the Scranton Brewing Company.  As chairman of the board and treasurer, he watched as the company’s beer rapidly regained favor among the drinking public of the region.  Although whiskey sales also had become legal, Cusick made no move to resurrect his liquor house.  

The period also was one of change in his personal life.  At the age of 56, Patrick took the plunge and was married.  His bride was Grace L. Golden, a Scranton woman who was the daughter of Patrick and Mart O’Hara Golden,  A decade younger than Patrick, Grace also was in her first marriage. Census records suggest she may have been Cusick’s secretary.  A passport photo of the couple is shown here.

During World War II Cusick continued to distinguish himself, leading campaigns to assist the war effort, including spearheading a can collecting drive. He was selected to head Scranton’s government-sponsored “food saving” campaign.
The end of the war and the advent of the atomic bomb plunged the 65-year-old Cusick into developing Canadian uranium resources.  Keeping his headquarter in 
Scranton and continuing to be president of the funeral parlor, Cusick spent much of his time during those years working in the mining sector of Canada, an enterprise he maintained until his death.

As he aged, Patrick was increasingly troubled with heart problems and was admitted to Scranton’s Mercy Hospital in September 1958,  After lingering there for several weeks on November 8 he died at the age of 77.  In death Patrick came home to the place where he had begun his career — the Cusick Funeral Home at 217 Jefferson Street.  There the longtime president of the undertaking establishment was accorded a special ceremony by the Lackawanna County Funeral Directors Association.  After a requiem Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Patrick Cusick was buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery, Moscow, Pennsylvania.


Note:  The primary source for this post was the lengthy (unsigned) obituary of Cusick that appeared in the Scranton Tribune on November 10, 1958. That source was supplemented by material from ancestry.com.

































Thursday, July 16, 2020

144 Years of Lewis Bear, Southern Whiskey Man


There was nothing particularly unique about the life of Lewis Bear, shown right.  An immigrant from Germany in the mid-19th Century, he settled in the South and served with the Confederacy in the Civil War.  He subsequently opened a liquor store in Alabama until prohibitionary laws forced a move to Pensacola, Florida. There he sold a wide range of merchandise, including alcoholic beverages, for the rest of his life.  He is notable because the business he founded 144 years ago, The Lewis Bear Company, is still operating in Pensacola with Bear descendants at the helm. 

The Bear family’s story began when the parents of Lewis, Moses and Esther Baderman Bar, were married in 1830 in Bavaria, Germany.  They began a family in which Lewis in 1831 was the firstborn.  Four more children would follow.  Although laws prejudicial to them had been eased in the mid-19th Century opportunities for Jews in Bavaria were limited.  When Lewis was about twenty, the family, now using the name “Bear” moved to the U.S., settling in Greenville, Butler County, Alabama.

Why Greenville was chosen is unclear.  Most Jewish immigrants opted for big cities in the North.  Originally named Buttsville, this was a modest-sized town, the center of a cotton farming region.  During the 1850s the Mobile and Ohio Railroad constructed lines there, overnight making Greenville a railroad town and a center of commerce between Montgomery and south Alabama.  The Bear family may have seen merchantile possibilities.

When the Civil War broke out, Lewis, now 32,  joined the 33rd Alabama Infantry, a unit largely formed in 1862 from men in six counties in southeastern Alabama. The state flag flew over the regiment. 

Initially assigned to the defense of forts in Pensacola Bay, the 33rd soon transferred to the Army of Tennessee where it first met hot combat at the Battle of Perryville in Kentucky.  There the regiment took “horrific losses” — 82 precent casualties.  That was followed by more losses at the Battle of Franklin where its numbers were reduced by another two-thirds.  Nonetheless the 33rd held together until a final campaign in 1865.  Lewis Bear apparently escaped being wounded despite the intense fighting.


Bear return from the war to marry a woman named Henrietta Kugelman, also an immigrant from Germany.  According to federal census records, Henrietta was fourteen years younger than Lewis, possibly in her late teens when they wed.  Despite her age, she proved to be an able helpmate to her husband.  On her gravestone Henrietta was described as:  “A dutiful daughter, a faithful wife, a loving mother.”  A Pensacola newspaper posthumously called her one of the city’s “most prominent and valued citizens.”   The couple would have five children, Morris, Sallye, Max Lee, Bertha and Jacob called “Jake.

In this Reconstruction period Bear was making his way handsomely as a Greenville businessman, operating a liquor store.  In his immediate post-war tax return (1866) he had reported a meager net income of $115.00.  By 1870 Lewis was listed in the census owning property valued at $21,000 (today equivalent to $483,000) and Henrietta’s assets were $9,000 ($207,000).  Their household at the time included two children; Lewis’ brother, sister and niece; Henrietta’s younger sister, and two domestic servants.


Five years later, however, the picture changed utterly as the drum beat for prohibition grew louder and more persistent in Alabama.  The sign above shows brewer and distiller buzzards picking over the bones of the same blonde woman on the state flag shown earlier.  The caption was unequivocal:  “Having fatted on Alabama for 90 years it is now time for a change.”  Under the state’s “local option” law Butler County voted to outlaw the making or sale of alcoholic beverages.  Left high and definitely “dry,” Bear determined to leave Greenville.  Likely remembering Pensacola from his soldiering days, he bundled up his household and the following year moved by train 120 miles south to that still “wet” Florida town on the Gulf of Mexico.

Bear had selected a city on the move.  Much of Pensacola’s growth resulted from a boom in Florida’s lumbering industry, as markets for its pine went international. Saw mills expanded and ships from Europe visited the port daily to pick up lumber cargoes.  While in port they needed provisions and repairs for the return trip, as well as food for their crews.  Those seamen, joined by the mill hands and other workers, were a thirsty lot and saloons abounded in Pensacola.


Understanding the need for a broad-based wholesale house Bear in 1876 founded the merchantile establishment that was destined to become the oldest privately held corporation in Florida.  His initial business was selling groceries and ship supplies, expanding to include building materials, animal feed, tobacco, general merchandise — and liquor, a product Lewis knew well.  The interior store photo above gives an idea of the variety of goods Bear was selling, including whiskey.

Shown left is an 1882 ad for Lewis Bear & Co. that prominently mentions liquor from the firm’s address on Palafox Street opposite the Public Square.  Ten years later, needing more space for its burgeoning sales, Lewis moved his enterprise to a new warehouse and headquarters at the corner of Palafox and Main Streets, shown below.  It became known as the “Bear Block.”  By this time Lewis had added an important business connection in Anheuser-Busch, franchised as its distributor for Budweiser and other products over a substantial area of Florida.  The company has held the franchise for almost 130 years — currently Anheuser-Busch’s oldest continuous distributor.

The new building with its spacious interior opened opportunities for other innovations.  In addition to selling alcoholic beverages, Bear appears to have been “rectifying,” that is, blending whiskeys bought by the barrel from distillers in Kentucky and elsewhere.  He then would bottle them under proprietary (private) labels for sale.  


His flagship brand appears to have been “Albert Moore Pure Old Rye.”  Bear packaged at least some of this brand in attractive ceramic flat-sided jugs that came in both brown and blue.   As shown below, he issued a “bar token” featuring a quart bottle representation of Albert Moore Rye.  It was worth 25 cents — equivalent today to $5.50 — on a $5 dollar purchase of his private brands.  The company also would play express charges on mail orders.


Bear also featured proprietary brands of wine, a line he called “Don Carlos,” likely imported from California.  He packaged his wines in glass containers of quart and larger sizes.  Shown here is a half-gallon, two-handled glass jug bearing the Don Carlos name.  The embossing on the bottle is truly impressive, representing grapes and grape leaves.  It would have been significantly more expensive than a plain jug with a paper label.  This artifact and his whiskey jugs indicate that the Bavarian immigrant had a definite sense of style.

Meanwhile Bear was staying true to his heritage as one of the 1876 founders of the first Jewish congregation in Florida, Temple Beth El.  Most of its members, like Bear, were immigrants from Central Europe, chiefly Germany.  A Reformed synagogue, it numbered businessmen and saloonkeeper among its flock.  Bear also was known for his willingness to hire new Jewish arrivals in his business.  Said one observer:  “The company…was responsible for many future successful merchants whose careers began there.”

As they reached maturity, Bear brought his sons, one by one, into the company. The first was Morris Bear, shown here who was his father’s heir apparent.  Morris was followed by Max Lee Bear who joined in 1888, only to leave for a period for military service in the Spanish American War. Max later would be elected mayor of Pensacola.  The youngest Bear, Jake, would also be part of the picture as the company gradually narrowed its scope to becoming a major beer and beverage distributor in the Panhandle Region of Florida.


As he aged, Lewis Bear, left, increasingly turned business responsibilities over to his sons.   His own health faltered and in July, 1895, at the age of 63, he died.  Fittingly, he was buried in the cemetery of Temple Beth El, for which he had provided years of support.  Lewis was buried next to Henrietta who had preceded him in death two years earlier.  Over their joint graves the family erected two identical pillars resembling sturdy tree trunks.  Each is inscribed with an appropriate verse.


Morris Bear served as president of the family company from 1901 until his death in 1928. His son, Lewis Bear, then became president. Lewis served until his retirement in 1973 and was followed by a nephew, Robert Kahn.  Kahn was president for 15 years until his cousin, Lewis Bear Pollak, was named president in 1988.  Pollak served as president for two years and was followed in 1990 by Lewis Bear Jr., who today serves as president of a company with several thousand clients and 225 employees.  At 114 years it is the oldest  family owned and operated corporation in Florida.  The extraordinary legacy of Lewis Bear resides in the company longevity.


Note:  The information for this post was gather from a variety of sources, principally the Lewis Bear Company website.