Saturday, March 6, 2021

Whiskey Men and the Roots of Baseball


Foreword:  My post of May 1, 2018, featured three “whiskey men” based on a baseball theme.  Those were fans, liquor purveyors who were avid followers of baseball, sometimes using the sport as a theme in their merchandising.   Presented here are three short vignettes of men who, by contrast, actively participated in baseball, playing, managing, organizing.  Two have written their names in the annals of the game.

One of them was Charles E. Coon, identified as “Uncle Charlie,” even on his gravestone. Shown left, Coon traced an amazing career trajectory that included service in the Nation's Capital as Acting Secretary of the Treasury Department to becoming a Washington State storekeeper selling liquor.  His story was unlocked by the miniature whiskey jug shown below, one with which he gifted the drinking public of Port Townsend.  

Born in 1842 in Friendship, Allegany County, New York, Coon was the son of Arthur A. and Emile Evarts Coon,  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 and saw considerable hot fighting with the regiment as part of the First Corps, Army of the Potomac.  

Discharged from the Army in 1864, Coon obtained employment in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. and rose rapidly through the ranks to eventually being 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. 


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 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 an item in the 2014 book, “Baseball Pioneers: 1850-1870.”

A lifelong bachelor,Coon in 1895 entrained to visit relatives in the State of Washington.  He was impressed and decided to move to there, he said, “because of opportunities for development.”  He chose Port Townsend, a town on the Olympic Peninsula looking out over Puget Sound. In 1897 Coon became a permanent resident and purchased the Port Townsend Mercantile Company, a ships’ supply house and wholesale and retail grocery.  His major profit center was selling liquor to the town’s many saloons and to the public.  

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.  After an amazing career, in which baseball played an important role, “Uncle Charlie”  died in August of 1920, much mourned by family and townspeople alike, and was buried in the local cemetery. 


Whether it was operating drinking establishments, organizing  baseball teams, or building volunteer fire departments, John C. Keenan, Irish immigrant and former Texas Ranger, found opportunities for wealth and renown in Sacramento, California, and 600 miles north in Victoria, British Columbia.  During his short  lifespan Keenan, shown here, seemingly hit home runs wherever he was at bat. 

An Irish immigrant, Keenan landed in the U.S. about 1848 and joined the Texas Rangers. then, drawn by the 1849 Gold Rush, he went to California, stopping in Sacramento. The energetic Keenan hit town like a tornado.  After a large fire destroyed many of the town’s saloons, the Irishman sensed opportunity. He raced to a nearby settlement where he purchased a wooden building on the Sacramento River and had it floated to town. The saloon was a  success.

Keenan pressed ahead and  opened a larger saloon he called “The Fashion.” The new drink emporium was graced with an iron facade that set it apart on Sacramento’s J Street.  Made in the Eureka Foundry the signature design featured faux Greek Corinthian pillars. The building is shown here as it looked in the 1960s before being torn down. 

Despite his seemingly frenetic life Keenen like many Irishmen was keen on sports with an emphasis on bringing the newly created game of baseball to the West Coast.  Growing up in Ireland, he had been exposed to cricket at an early age and apparently excelled at it.  As a result the transition to baseball seemingly came easily to him and Keenan was able to help fledgling players develop their baseball skills.  

In 1862 Keenan arranged for a group of cricketeers from British Columbia to come to Sacramento.  In advance he had organized a cricket and baseball club under the aegis of the Fashion Saloon.  The Fashion Base Ball Club and the Victoria Cricketeers met for a series of matches at a racetrack in which Keenan had a financial interest.  The Victoria squad won all the cricket matches while Sacramento boys prevailed at “base ball.”   A local news story commented:  The play on both side is represented as very good.”  The box score shows Keenan was the pitcher for the Fashion Club’s 42 to 23 baseball win.  Later making Victoria, Canada, his home, Keenan is credited with introducing the sport to the Canadian West, with Victoria baseball teams he sponsored and coached playing each other and cricketeers.

Keenan subsequently sold his Victoria properties and returned to California, settling in San Francisco.  There he opened a saloon at the corner of Merchant and Montgomery Streets.  It had been in operation only a short time when coming home in May 1869, he was felled by a heart attack or stroke on the stairway leading to his apartment.  An organizer of the Sacramento fire department, Keenan was buried in the Exempt Fireman’s Plot in the Old Sacramento Cemetery.  

Francis X. “Big Jeff” Pfeffer, shown left,  was a Major League baseball player who could both hit and pitch — once twirling a “no hit” game for a team that became the Boston Braves.  After his temper as a minor league manager had him barred from organized baseball, Pfeffer turned to operating a Providence, Rhode Island, hotel, bar, and liquor store.  

Dropped from his high school team for playing summer semi-pro ball, Pfeffer turned professional, accepting an offer from the Chicago Cubs.  Along the way, he picked up the nickname “Big Jeff,”  a moniker of murky origins, used by the press but not by Pfeffer.  After a so-so season in Chicago, the fireballing right-hander in late 1905 was traded to Boston, a frequent cellar-dwelling club then called the “Beaneaters.”  

Although the Beaneaters were traditionally bad, Pfeffer was a star.  One local sportswriter commented:  “Pfeffer [was], by all odds, the steadiest and most serviceable of Boston’s pitchers.”   He also played 14 games in the outfield, posting a competent fielding average (.955) but hitting only .196, with one home run and 11 RBI’s for the season.  The next year, however, Pfeffer started the season with a bang.  On May 8 using, one writer said, “…a world of steam and puzzling curves,” he threw a 6-0 no hitter at the Cincinnati Reds.  The following month, however, he tore a tendon in his pitching arm.  After spending weeks recovering, his pitching prowess largely had vanished. 

Subsequently Pfeffer continued to be associated with baseball as a hitter and sometimes manager for a series of minor league teams in and around New England.  In April 1914, he was hired as the player-manager of the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Tigers of the Class C Colonial League.  As reported in the Providence Daily Journal“Pfeffer opines he is not through with baseball itself and he will play somewhere on the team, likely first….”   Known for his temper, Pfeffer’s days in organized baseball came to an end that year when during a game in Pawtucket he had an on-field fistfight with the vice president of the Colonial League and was summarily fired.  

Faced with familial responsibilities, in 1913 Pfeffer moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to manage a hotel and liquor store.  The hostelry was known as the West Side Hotel and Pfeffer called his liquor establishment the “West Side Family Wine Store.”  His proprietary brand was “West Side Club Whiskey.”  After his wife’s death in 1947, Pfeffer moved to Champaign, Illinois, to be close to family.   He died there at the age of 72 in December 1854.

Note:  Longer vignettes on each of these whiskey men can be found on this website:   “Uncle Charlie” Coon, April 30, 2020;  John Keenan, September 6, 2020, and Frank “Big Jeff” Pfeffer, January 21, 2020. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The Tragic Passion of J.W. Cornell

 The letterhead above for James W. Cornell, introduces a successful saloonkeeper and liquor dealer of Cascade, Montana, whose unrequited love for a “soiled dove” at a brothel in nearby Butte led to a tragic end for the principals and shattered lives for others involved. 

 Born in 1864 in Susanville, California, a town close to the Nevada border, James  was the son of Harriet Maston and Heriro Keneda Cornell.  Know as “Iro,” James’ father presumably was of mixed Japanese parentage, born in New York.  Iro was a farmer and for one period postmaster of  Clear Lake, California.  Mother Harriet had come from Ohio.  The couple produced a family of six children in ten years, one of whom died in infancy.  James was the third in line.  He presumably was given the standard education of the times, ending about the age of 16.

Cornell first shows up in records in 1888 when at the age of 24, he registered to vote in California, giving his address as Tulelake and his occupation as “farmer.”   His younger brother Clarence registered with him.  The brothers likely were engaged in spring wheat production, a prominent crop in the northern part of the state.  Meanwhile Margaret Goldstein, later to be known as “Goldie Graham,” was born elsewhere in California of unknown parentage, possibly of an unwed mother.

It is unclear when Cornell showed up in Montana and opened his saloon in the town of Cascade, shown above, apparently during the early 1890s.  He may have decided there was more profit in selling wheat in liquid form than in farming it.  Situated on the north bank of the Missouri River, Cascade had been founded in the 1880s by Pioneer Thomas Graham.  Located in Cascade County downriver from Butte, the town was linked to the outside world by the Great Northern Railroad. Cascade served a region boasting 250,000 sheep, 75,000 head of cattle and 50,000  horses, as well as several hundred people.  In 1897 the town was described as having a school, two churches, two blacksmith shops, two hotels and a livery stable.  There was no mention of drinking establishments. 

Cornell apparently was a success as a saloonkeeper.  A strong indication was his being selected as the agent for “Gold Bond Whiskey” by Isaac Solomon & Co.  This was a well established Cincinnati liquor house with a branch in New York City.  Solomon provided Cornell with stationary for his letterhead and advertising shot glasses with which to gift special customers.  Those contributions attest to confidence in the saloonkeeper.

A bachelor until he was 27 Cornell eventually found a bride in Cascade County.  She was Mary Loss Conlin, born in Fort Dodge, Kansas, the daughter of Robert T. Loss, a prominent Cascade citizen.  The same age as James, Mary apparently had a previous marriage.  The Cornells were wed in 1893 in the nearby hamlet of Sun River.  There is no record of any children.

By 1893 Margaret Goldstein, an orphan, had reached six years old and was in San Francisco.  She likely was living at the Mount St. Joseph Infant Asylum run by the Catholic Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de DePaul.  Shown here are the home’s 108 young orphan girls in their uniforms.  As Margaret grew and went unadopted, she was transferred to San Francisco’s Roman Catholic Orphan’s Society at 18th Avenue and N Street North.  The 1900 Federal Census found her there, now 12 years old.  Like all the older girls Margaret had to have an occupation and was recorded working as a laundress.

During the ensuing years Margaret’s path led her from California and to a way of life the nuns would not have wished for her.  At about 20, without benefit of matrimony, she gave birth to a daughter and gravitated to Great Falls, Montana.  This was a city on the Missouri River where numerous “soiled doves” of prostitution plied their occupation.  Shown here is a typical house in a “red light” district.  Margaret found residence in a brothel run by a woman named Myra Collins.  There she changed her name to Goldie Graham.  My imagination sees her looking like the woman below, still youthful and attractive.

It was at Myra Collins’ house that Cornell, now 45 years old and 17 years married, found Goldie Graham and became totally enamored of her.  Their relationship over time apparently became strained as he might have seen her transfer her affections elsewhere.  He began to drink heavily and when drunk was known to threaten Goldie. On the night of July 16, 1911, according to the Great Falls Leader, Cornell, now estranged from wife Mary, closed his saloon and mounting the Great Northern train in Cascade arrived in Great Falls about 10 p.m.  Bystanders said he appeared to be sober.

Cornell made straight for Myra Collins’ brothel at 217&1/2 Rosebud Alley and accosted Goldie who was a front room with other women.  According to witnesses they argued.  He stood up, took a 44. caliber pistol from his pocket, looked at Goldie, and shouted:  “I’ve been going to do this for a long time and now I’ll finish it.”  Madam Collins told the press that she tried to hustle Goldie out of the room when she sensed trouble, but the young woman was slow to heed the warning. 


At last sensing the danger, Goldie tried to run out a back door.  Said the newspaper:  “Cornell was too quick for her and shot her in the side.  The bullet entered the left side well toward the base of the lungs, passed entirely through her body, coming out the right side, tore a hole in her right arm and lodged in the wall.”  Then the saloonkeeper raised the pistol one more time, pointed it at his head and blew his brains out.  His passion and fury spent, James Cornell lay in a pool of blood, dead on the brothel floor.  

Meanwhile, Goldie, badly wounded, staggered into the back yard where she was assisted by another prostitute who caught her as she fell.  The friend beat out a fire on her dress that had been ignited by the powder flash and carried her to a bed. Police and a doctor were called.  Dr. Leroy Southmayd, assessing the situation, said that it was not possible to make a final diagnosis of Goldie’s condition but, the press said, “…He believed she would get well.”  The young woman was rushed to Butte’s Deaconess Hospital, shown here, where she lingered in pain for a week before dying.  Her death certificate listed the cause as “gun shot wound of lungs” and labeled it a homicide.  Possibly noting the existence of her daughter, the certificate pronounced Goldie “widowed.”

When the news got back to Cascade, Cornell’s pistol assault and suicide caused considerable stir and speculation.  The saloonkeeper was a familiar figure in town, even if his passion for Goldie was not generally known.  Mary Cornell arrived in Great Falls the next morning to take possession of James’ body and a gold watch and diamond ring found in his pocket.  Had Cornell once meant the ring for Goldie?

While the Fraternal Order of Eagles, of which Cornell was a member, arranged for the saloonkeepers funeral, Myra Collins saw to Goldie’s.  Arrangements were handled by the same funeral director.  The tragic pair both were buried in Great Falls’ Highland Cemetery.   James Cornell’s gravestone, shown here, proclaims him “At Rest.” Goldie’s grave apparently has gone unmarked. The saloon was shut.

In reflecting on these events, I feel particular pity for Margaret/Goldie caught up in these deadly events.  It reminds me of a quote from the biologist Steven J. Gould:   “We pass through this world but once. Few tragedies can be more extensive than the stunting of life, few injustices deeper than the denial of an opportunity to strive or even to hope, by a limit imposed from without….” Goldie’s daughter, now herself an orphan, was sent to live with a relative in Boise, Idaho.

Notes:  This post has been drawn from a variety of sources.  The letterhead that opens this narrative put me on the trail of James Cornell and articles from the Great Falls Tribune and The Great Falls Leader provided the gist of the story.  My plumbing of genealogical sources led me to the early life of Goldie Graham as well as information on other principals in these tragic events.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Tom Curran and Three Orphans Saloon


For 24 years, between 1890 and 1915, Moorhead, Minnesota, was infamous for being a tough, rowdy saloon town. The reputation was well earned.  Alcohol sales were the city’s major industry with one in every 10 families deriving their income from the liquor trade.  Thomas H. Curran, a Moorhead policeman, apparently weighing the perils of his current occupation against the opportunities awaiting, about 1895 traded in his brass badge for a brass railing. In time Curran would become a partner on arguably Moorhead’s most famous saloon:  “The Three Orphans.”

In 1890, prohibitionists had scored a major victory when North Dakota outlawed alcohol sales and went totally “dry.”  Thirsty resident of neighboring Fargo simply went across the Red River to Minnesota, where alcohol was still legal. “Let the saloons come,” said John Erickson,  Moorhead’s mayor and a brewery owner. “The more the better it will be for us. They pay more in taxes than anyone else. How many temperance people…pay $500 a year in taxes?”  

Curran, of Irish ancestry, was born in England in 1863, and although records differ, most likely immigrated to America about 1880.  Sometime during that decade he moved to Minnesota.  At the age of 21 young Tom met and married a woman named Bridget, her name believed to be McNamara.  She was an immigrant from Ireland and about the same age.  Over the next thirteen years  the Currans would have five children:  James born in 1884;  Mary, 1886; Lucy, 1888; Margaret, 1893, and William, 1897.  He is shown here in a family photo.

The financial requirements of his growing family may have convinced Curran to abandoned the role of peacekeeper for one of saloonkeeper.  When he made the switch, he did not have to look far for a job. By 1900, Moorhead boasted forty-seven saloons to serve its own population of fewer than 4,000.  According to city directories Curran first surfaced in 1896 as a bartender for a saloon owned by L. H. Kertson.  

Having learned the whiskey trade, within five years Tom struck out on his own, opening a saloon about 1896 on Moorhead’s First Street at the northeast corner of Ridge Avenue.  Enlisting two partners, H. J. Waldron and Frank Freel, he called his drinking establishment Curran & Company.

For unknown reasons Curran’s efforts at operating his own saloon proved short-lived. By 1902 he was back working as a bartender for W. H. “Billy” Diemert, a well-known Moorehead publican.  In a photograph of the city’s “drinking” district below, Diemert’s place can be seen at right.  According to directories, Curran stayed with Diemert until 1905 when a new and attractive prospect opened.

The shortest route from dry Fargo to wet Moorhead, the distance of a little over a mile, was the bridge over the “Northern” Red River.  Since those waters belonged to Minnesota, saloons blossomed all along the bridge, making it a short hop for Dakotans.  One of those establishments, shown below, belonged to Billy Diemert.  In 1904 he agreed to sell it to Curran and two partners,  John W. Higgins and Julius Aske.  Higgins was a Canadian, born in Nova Scotia who had moved to North Dakota, and then to Moorhead.  Aske was a native-born Minnesotan of Norwegian heritage;  only in his late 20’s, Julius was the youngest of the trio.

The site of the building, shown above in Diemert’s day, was a boat-like structure anchored on stilts in the riverbed abutting the bridge.  From the photo below it appears that the partners added considerably to Diemert’s structure in creating the saloon they called The Three Orphans.  It soon became one of the premier drinking establishments at the bridge, known for its fancy interior and a 48-foot bar the owners claimed “was the longest in the country.”  (The bar wasn’t even close actually but the word hadn’t gotten to Moorhead.)  The front porch, a favorite with patrons in summer, faced the Red River.

Speculation has thrived as to why only Higgens' and Aske’s names appear on the building.  Some have speculated that Curran, as a former policeman, preferred to be a silent partner.  Truth was, however, Tom was almost a decade gone from policing.  Moreover, Moorhead directories regularly listed him as a partner in The Three Orphans. In a 1973 newspaper article in the Fargo-Moorhead Forum, Curran's son, William, shown here, recalled as a boy going with his father on Sundays when the bar was closed “to watch him blend whiskey in the basement, a blend that was bottled as “Three Orphans Whiskey.”

This suggests the crucial role that Curran was playing in the business.  He was the saloon’s “rectifier,” that is, the partner entrusted with mixing up the establishment’s proprietary brand in order to achieve a particular color, smoothness and taste.  Rectifying was a real art and Curran apparently had mastered it.  He was buying barrels of whiskey shipped from selected Midwest distilleries, carefully mixing the whiskeys according to his recipe and bottling the blend in gallon jugs.

Those ceramic containers hold their own story.  Shown are three jugs that bear the Three Orphans logo.  They were the product of the potteries of Redwing, Minnesota, a town 260 miles southeast from Moorhead, famous for the quality of its stoneware vessels.   Today Redwing ceramic products are collected avidly in the United States and beyond.  A national collectors organization with a newsletter, based in Redwing, keeps the torch burning for the hobby.   As a result, prices, particularly for saloon jugs, are kept high.  Three Orphan Saloon jugs today sell regularly for $4,000 and $5,000, depending on condition.  Remember that Higgins, Aske and Curran gave the jugs away with their whiskey.

Although the Three Orphans saloon enjoyed the steady clientele that dry Fargo provided, there was a distinct downside.  According to Moorhead police records, 75 percent of arrests in the 1900s were alcohol related. After the harvest when thousands of farm hands arrived to drink up their pay, general rowdiness and often violence was the result.  Liquor money also bred political corruption.  Many locals became opposed to the whiskey trade.  As expressed by one Moorhead business and political leader: The problem was: “…If they took the 47 saloons out of Moorhead, what was left?…Liquor was the principal business of Moorhead….Moorhead’s greatest problem was whether to be pure or prosperous.”

By 1914 the residents of surrounding Clay County joined the national clamor to ban strong drink and voted the county dry.  As a city, Moorhead was exempt from the edict — but only for a year.  The law was changed and in May 1915, voters outlawed alcohol in the city.  It likely was no coincidence that exactly 25 years to the day Fargo dried up, so did Moorhead.  Along with other watering holes, the Three Orphans Saloon closed amid fireworks and a rousing civic farewell.  The partners promptly sold the building to one of their bartenders, Amund Thorson, and a partner who renamed it “The Silver Moon Cafe.”  While ostensibly dealing with only with food and cigars, the new owners were not averse to some bootlegging.  Moorhead court records list multiple arrests for the pair.

No evidence exists that Tom Curran dabbled in illicit alcohol.  The 1920 census found him age 53 living in Moorhead at 211 Seventh St.  With him were his wife, Bridget; daughter Lucy, a teacher in the public schools, and son William, later to be sheriff of Clay County.  A family photo shows Tom and Bridget with a son-in-law.   Curran’s occupation was given as farmer.  Tom’s residence in town suggests he may have been a “gentleman farmer,” owning the land and leasing to tenants.

Curran lived to witness World War I, the Spanish flu epidemic, National Prohibition, the onset of the Great Depression, and Repeal.  He might well have taken some joy from the last. The Silver Moon Cafe began serving beer, although hard liquor for a time was still forbidden.  Thomas Curran died in 1939 at the age of 76 and was buried in Moorhead’s St. Joseph Cemetery.  His headstone is shown below. 

In time the building that was the Three Orphans Saloon was razed.  The place where it stood, shown right, is now a protected archeological site because of artifacts from the Three Orphans Saloon some have found at low tide.  When the river was low, people were digging in the muck hoping to find saloon artifacts.  An intact jug would be a bonanza.  The Curran home still stands in Moorhead, shown below as it looks today.

Two mysteries remain:  Why did Curran not add his name formally to ownership of the saloon?  As bartender and rectifier he was an essential part of the operation.  My thought is that he might have been content to have one Irishman and one Norwegian identified up front and concerned about possible negative effects of a second Irish name.  Second, were the three owners really orphans?  The record is inconclusive.  On genealogical sites, the parents of each man are unlisted as “unknown” but that fails to establish orphanhood.  Clearly more research is needed to establish the validity of such a claim.

Notes:  This post was occasioned when an old friend, Jack Hamilton, sent me a newspaper clipping on Thomas Curran, his great grandfather.  I had already done some research on Moorhead MN (see post of March 13, 2020) and Curran and the Three Orphans Saloon intrigued me.  This post has been drawn from two key sources, an Internet article (undated, unsigned) from the Minnesota Historical Society, and photos and research by Mark Peihl, Clay County archivist.  Family photos were contributed by Dr. Hamilton.

Monday, February 22, 2021

T. D. Casey: A Liquor Dealer in Poetry & Prose



Though beautiful Cork he had left far behind,

Yet he knew abroad there was prospect of boodle;

Inspired by this feel, he soon grew resigned,

And to keep up his spirits struck up “Yankee Doodle.”

In Pittsburg arriving,

He set about striving;

With judgment discerning’

To brush up his learning,

And soon there was not in this Land of the Free,

A more wide-awake business-like Yankee than he.

In these few lines of absolutely awful verse, the author has managed to tell in highly abbreviated form the story of Timothy David Casey, an impecunious Irish immigrant from Charleville, Cork, Ireland, who came to Pennsylvania at ten years old in 1850, arrived in Pittsburg (original spelling) in 1865, and went on to wealth and prominence as owner of the oldest liquor house in the city.  Casey is pictured here from a newspaper photo.

A measure of Casey’s stature is that he was among Pittsburgh elites to be included among about 300 men (no women) featured in an 1892 book by illustrator, writer and abysmal versifier, Arthur Burgoyne, entitled “All Sorts of Pittsburgers:  Sketched in  Prose and Verse.”  Burgoyne’s prose biography noted that Casey had been able to finish his education by graduating from Iron City Commercial College, an institution that advertised itself as “The largest, best organized,and most successful commercial school in the United States.  Among immigrant whiskey men about whom I have written, few have had the kind of business education Casey enjoyed.  

The Irishman apparently decided to put his learning to use in the booming oil fields of Pennsylvania, but soon became disillusioned with those prospects.  Casey returned to Pennsylvania and opened a grocery store in the adjoining town of Allegheny.  He abandoned that effort after a year and opened a grocery in Pittsburgh on Pennsylvania Avenue.  One of Casey’s principal sale items was liquor and he soon recognized the profitability of such merchandise. 


By 1868 Casey had abandoned brussels sprouts for booze, the product that would make his name.  That year he formed a partnership with Robert Woods, buying a liquor house that dated its establishment back to 1837. It was located on Liberty Street, one of Pittsburgh’s major commercial avenues, above.   When Wood retired from the firm in 1870, Timothy and his younger brother James continued their business under the name Robert Wood & Company.  Two years later Casey took Thomas Fogarty into the firm and changed the name to Casey & Fogarty.  The latter retired after about a decade as partner.  In 1881 the liquor house became known as T.D. Casey & Company.   Burgoyne pictured the sole proprietor as a dashing figure in a bow tie and black cape, smoking a stogie and posing like an 19th Century prince. The caricaturist’s doggerel narrated Casey’s rise:

" Eureka," he cried, when he*d hit on a scheme,

 "Rye whisky's the thing that'll make me a Croesus; " 

Forthwith of Old Red-eye he buys up the cream,

And a lucrative trade on the instant he seizes. 

The whiskey consumers,

Attracted by rumors,

Of liquor seraphic, 

Expanded his traffic. 

And that's why to-day it's in order to greet 

Him as principal Croesus of Liberty Street.

Whether Casey equalled the wealth of the fabled Roman is a matter for conjecture, but that Pennsylvania rye whiskey was his main commodity is not.  He featured it prominently in all his advertising. His labels included "Log Cabin,” "Mountain Dew,” "Old Velvet,” and “Excelsior.”  All four names are prominent on a give-away advertising shot glass.   Casey never bothered to trademark any of his brands.

Casey was not a distiller.  As a wholesaler of liquor, he was receiving shipments of whiskey from some of the numerous Pennsylvania distillers, mixing it on his premises and then selling it in ceramic jugs.  Shown below are two of his two-gallon containers that would have been filled with Casey’s blend and sold to local saloons, restaurants and hotels.  The jugs are interesting for their salt-glazed exteriors, featuring  cobalt hand-drawn applied decoration and stenciled lettering.  These ceramics would have been decanted into smaller containers at the retail level and likely returned to Casey for refilling.  The smaller jug shown here suggests he also was selling Log Cabin Rye for direct retail sales.


Through all his rise in wealth and local recognition, Casey managed to have a personal life.  In 1868 he married Margaret Joanne O’Hanlon, the U.S.-born daughter of Irish immigrants James and Cecilia O’Hanlon.  Timothy was 28, Margaret was 25.  Over the next 17 years the couple would produce ten children, of whom two died in infancy. Casey housed his family in a mansion home at 384 Beaver Avenue in Allegheny.  He also involved himself in the social and political affairs of Pittsburgh, especially the Columbus Club, an elite Democratic organization.  The record indicates he served a term as a prison inspector for Western Pennsylvania, likely a political appointment.  Some of Casey’s personal life was caught in Burgoyne’s last verse:

His house is the oldest in town, he declares. 

And so is his liquor — at least, so he claims; 

And the look of profound satisfaction he wears,

 Shows how little he cares for Prohibitive games.

Four youths and four maidens,

 Decorous and staid 'uns, 

His home help to brighten, 

And life, too, to lighten.

The Temperance folk up the creek wouldn't fly, 

Were they half as well fixed as this dealer in rye.

The 1892 publication, in addition to detailing Casey’s domestic situation, raises the prospect of Prohibition, some 22 years before America and Pennsylvania went “dry.”  Timothy was not to see that day, dying in 1902 at the age of 62.  He was buried in Section N, Lot 104, Space 9 of St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Pittsburgh.  A final word from Burgoyne:  “Mr. Casey is a man of agreeable social qualities….And stands high among the “solid men” of [the] city.”

Note:  As should be evident, augmented from genealogical and other sources, the major portion of this vignette on T. D. Casey has been garnered from the 1890 publication, “All Sort of Pittsburgers” .  Author Arthur Burgoyne is pictured here in a self-drawn caricature.