Brought to this country from Germany as a toddler, William E. Brachman amply earned his credentials as a citizen of the United States by his gallant service in the Union Army during the Civil War, his dedication to selling domestic liquor, and his apparent close interest in American political life. The last was made manifest by ceramic whiskeys, including the little brown jug seen here.
Born in October 1837 in Frankfort-on-Oder, Brachman (alternatively “Brachmann) arrived with his family in 1840, settling in Cincinnati. His father, a farmer in Germany, after several years in the city went back to agriculture. The Brachmans moved to Highland County, Ohio, a hilly jurisdiction north and west of “The Queen City.” There the boy completed his education while assisting on the farm.
Just 21 years old at the outbreak of the Civil War, Brachman was quick to enlist in the Union Army in June 1861. He was mustered into the 47th Volunteer Ohio Infantry Regiment as a corporal, indicating he had some amount of secondary education. As the tattered battle flag of the 47th suggests the regiment was thrown repeated into major battles. Meanwhile Brachman was rising steadily through the ranks. In December of 1862 he was promoted to second lieutenant. In that role he was wounded at the Siege of Vicksburg, shown below. Brachman recovered sufficiently to rejoin the 47th Ohio where in July 1964, age 24, he was raised to first lieutenant and assigned to command Company H.
During General Sherman’s siege of Atlanta, shown below, Brachman distinguished himself as a military leader. In an after-action report by the regimental commander, Major Taylor, the German immigrant was singled out for praise for having “rendered efficient aid in various assaults.” In one instance Taylor described Brachman and Company H “pouring a continuous and deadly fire into the enemy, driving them from the works, and retaking a section of artillery which the enemy had turned on us.”
After the war the decorated soldier came back to Cincinnati where thereafter he was called “Captain” Brachman. It is unclear if he had been raised to that rank before being mustered out or if it was an honorific. Brachman also returned to marry Georgia Ann Robb from Highland County in May 1872. The young woman may have been a childhood sweetheart. Over the next six years they would have four children, daughters Jessie, born in 1873; Willa, 1874; Sarah, 1879, and son Fredrick, 1877.
Following his return Brachman formed a business partnership with Charles J. Glossner, a Cincinnati local of similar age who may have learned the liquor trade working in his father’s store. The partners’ first address was 168 Elm Street. They soon outgrew those premises, moving to 125-127 Walnut Street. Within several years, however, the partnership was severed for reasons unknown. Glossner carried on at the Walnut Street address while Brachman moved along and in 1869 found a new partner.
He was John Peter Massard, a considerably older local tradesman. Earlier, Massard’s career had taken many turns, working as a baker, saddle maker, druggist and steamboat operator before joining Brachman in a wholesale and retail liquor business, located at 79-81 West Third Road. That would be the address of Brachman & Massard Wines & Liquors for the next two decades. The partners likely were “rectifiers,” blending raw whiskeys they obtained from neighboring Kentucky distilleries to sell. They advertised in 1890 that they were mixing “whiskey, gin, and brandy cocktails…prepared for use by the bottle or gallon.” In soliciting the cocktail trade they were ahead of their time.
The partnership also was marked by the creativity of the partners in their choice of containers for their whiskey. The jugs seen here are all the creation of the Kirkpatrick brothers of Anna, Illinois, a pottery firm 350 miles west of Cincinnati. The Kirkpatrick’s produced a series of ceramic bottles that incorporated a variety of snakes, lizards and other animals. Some observers have concluded that the jugs were meant to illustrate the evils of strong drink: “The ghastly images evoked in these jugs are brutal and meant to be a warning to those tempted by liquor.”
Wait a minute! Several of those jugs carry labels indicating that they came from Brachman and Massard. The jug above, shown from three angles, features a snake that wraps around the neck of the jug and then loops out to form the handle. The incised letters in the Albany slip on the front identifies the item as a “Little Brown Jug” from the Cincinnati liquor dealers and bears the date 1876. Brachman and his partner though their mini-jug were making an anti-Prohibition statement. The snake, if it meant anything, was menacing the “dries.”
If the witness of this jug is not enough to dispel the notion of a Kirkpatrick temperance crusade, a second ceramic crafted for Brachman & Massard should be sufficient. Shown here in two images, including one that opens this post, this small jug carries a label that clearly identifies the contents as coming from the Cincinnati wine and liquor dealers. This jug also carries a political message. Look carefully at the base below. Note the scratches. Those slash marks, “8 to 7,” were making a partisan statement. They were a reference to the Presidential election of 1876 in which Samuel Tilden, the Democrat, received a larger popular vote than the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, but the electoral vote essentially was a tie. To decide which one would become President a group of five congressmen, five senators and five members of the Supreme Court were selected to make the decision. By an 8 to 7 vote —widely thought to have been swayed by political promises — they determined that Hayes was the winner.
The result set off a firestorm of protest that tore the country apart to an extent not rivaled in American history until last January’s Trump-inspired insurrectionist assault on the U.S. Capitol. Although the Kirkpatrick brothers of Anna Pottery were known to be fierce Tilden partisans, Brachman and his partner must have been in full agreement. They knew their customers would understand the symbolism.
Brachman & Massard survived well beyond the Tilden-Hayes controversy until 1897, moving during the last two years from West Third Street to East Third. In the meantime, Brachman had become wealthy from liquor sales. He moved his family into a spacious home on Morris Place, an upscale neighborhood. He also was investing in transportation as one of five founder-owners of the Cincinnati, Georgetown & Portsmouth Railroad. This interurban narrow-gauge train was unusual in being powered by coal burning stream engines rather than electricity. Shown here atop the White Oak trestle, from a modest beginning the line grew to serve territory that had no other steam railroad and survived into the Twentieth Century.
Brachman lived long enough to see the dawning of the new century, but just barely. At the age of 63, he died in January 1901. The Civil War hero and whiskey dealer was cremated at Cincinnati’s Hillside Chapel and his ashes deposited in the adjoining colombarium. Shown here is a room in that facility, one displaying ceramic jars containing ashes. None, however, are valued at the thousands of dollars that Brachman & Massard’s Anna Pottery ceramics currently fetch from collectors.
Note: I was drawn to the story of William Brachman by the jugs that decorate this post. Their significance is explained by Author Richard D. Mohr in his 2003 book entitled, “George Ohr and the Brothers Kirkpatrick.” Brachman’s heroics during the attack on Atlanta are contained in a document entitled “HDQRS. FORTY-SEVENTH OHIO INFANTRY VOLUNTEERS, East Point, Ga., September 10, 1864.