Friday, August 31, 2012

Harry Klein: Up and Down the Golden Hill

 At the beginning of the 20th Century,  there was a saloonkeeper in Toledo, Ohio, named Harry H. Klein who climbed The Golden Hill in seach of riches and issued a number of whiskey jugs in celebration.  Not long after, however, he climbed down again and the jugs are about all we have to remember him by.

According census information, Klein, shown here, was born in New York City in 1877,  the son of an immigrant mother and father, both of German nationality who had lived in Hungary.   How and why Harry migrated to Ohio is unclear but about 1900 he is recorded as operating a saloon and wholesale liquor establishment in Toledo.  He issued a half-pint jug given to favored customers of his establishment.

More than a half century before Starbucks was conceived, an enterprising Columbus, Ohio, whiskey merchant  devised a franchise scheme to market his products throughout the Buckeye State by establishing retail outlets in saloons in multiple cities.   The merchant was Harry Bayer. The network he created was linked by a single name -- “The Golden Hill.” 

About 1905 Klein, apparently enthusiastic about the concept,  joined up with Bayer and changed the name of  his establishment to “The Golden Hill Liquor. “ Described in Toledo business directories as a distributor of “wines & brandies & fine whiskies,” the company initially occupied a building in downtown Toledo at the corner of Monroe and Adams Streets, then moved next door to  519-520 Adams Street.  To let his customers know of the move, he issued a postcard.  On one side, it showed the old business site and the new one, replete with a Golden Hill sign.  On the other of the postcard was a small picture of the smiling Harry. 

For the next several years Klein seems to have been an energetic participant in the franchise.  He may have been provided with some funding by Bayer that allowed him to make the move next door and also to open another outlet on Toledo’s Adams Street.  Over the years Klein commissioned and gave away a series of  The Golden Hill half-pint and mini-jugs.   Given the numbers of these items to be found today,  Klein must have distributed hundreds, a possible sign of affluence and success.  To saloons and other drinking establishment featuring Golden Hill whiskeys,  he also provided metal tip trays.

Whatever dynamic was catapulting Klein and The Golden Hill into prominence in the Buckeye State whiskey trade was short-lived and waning by 1908.  That year the Akron Gold Hill outlet apparently shut down.  By 1910 Harry Klein apparently had had enough and his  Golden Hill establishment  disappeared from Toledo business directories.   Whether he stayed in the liquor trade, remains unclear.  In 1918 Ohio voted in Prohibition and most liquor businesses shut down.

In 1917 Harry emerged as the representative  of a Cleveland based company called Central Brass Manufacturing that sold plumbing fixtures and accessories. He is shown below as he attended a convention of the Master Plumbers Assn.   Later that same year he was recorded as the leader and manager of a new company called Toledo Store Fixture Company, incorporated with a capitalization of  $10,000.   That business also seems short-lived.  By 1919 the “Credit Men’s Bulletin,”  a publication advertising for deadbeat borrowers, had published Harry’s name, looking for his whereabouts.

In 1920 the U.S. Census found Klein still living in Toledo.  He was 43, listed as a widower, and residing in Cora McCarthy’s rooming house with a group of other unmarried men and women.  His occupation appeared to be peddling brushes from door to door.  The slide off the Golden Hill for Harry Klein had been a precipitous one.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Huey and Christ Made a Whiskey for All Seasons

When the Philadelphia liquor firm founded by William M. Huey and Amos H. Christ launched its flagship brand called "Bailey’s Pure Rye," they touted it as a whiskey good for a lifetime and on all occasions.   Shown here is a large billboard for Bailey’s.  It recommends it as a spirit for “boylads,” and advises that these youths “take it in moderation and grow old gracefully.

A similar note was struck on a paperweight issued by Huey & Christ.  It represents Bailey’s as good for social occasions, with friends gathered around the table, as well when one is hospitalized and being provided a snort by a uniformed nurse.  Illustrated with a “boylad” and a seated elderly gentleman, the message once again was to take Bailey’s Pure Rye in moderation and thereby grow old gracefully.  The firm’s advertising emphasized this theme over and over.

Although Huey and Christ both were born in Pennsylvania the same year, 1844, they came from different backgrounds.  Huey was the son of an immigrant to the U.S.  Christ’s parents were native born in Pennsylvania. They may have met as schoolmates, although their early years are not detailed.  Evidence is that Amos was in the Union Army during the Civil War since later he later was a member of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) organization.

Although the partners would later claim that their firm was founded in 1837, that was seven years before either of them was born. There is evidence Christ had previously been engaged as a liquor merchant. The company first shows up in Philadelphia directories in 1875, located at 121 North Third St.  The directory characterized Huey & Christ as:  “Manufacturers of Bailey Pure Rye Whiskey and Dr. Stoever’s Tonic Herb Bitters. Importer of wines, brandies and gins.”

At that point the partners may not have had the rights to the Bailey Rye trademark.  For some years earlier that brand had been sold by Kryder & Company, another Philadelphia liquor dealer.  Huey & Christ bought the rights to the name and never looked back.  With the subsequent growth in business, the company was squeezed for space and moved in 1885 to a four-story building, shown here, located at 1207-1209 Market Street.  There they became known as wholesale liquor dealers and the sole proprietor of Bailey’s Pure Rye.  A close look at the first building shows displays of liquor in the storefront windows and a large roof sign advertising Bailey’s.

Meanwhile the partners were getting on with their personal lives.  The 1880 census found Christ, age 37, living with  his wife Lavinia in Philadelphia’s Ward Twelve.  They had married in 1868 and in 1880 had four minor children at home, all boys.   William Huey, according to one report,  married a woman named Annie Moore who had arrived in Philadelphia from Northern Ireland between 1869 and 1873.  They too would have a family.

With the expanded space on Market Street, Huey & Christ began a new venture, co-located at their Market Street address.  They called it the Florida Wine Company, Ltd.  Huey was listed as president and Christ as vice-president.  The manager was Amos M. Schultz.  This firm specialized, according to ads, in “pure orange wine,” -- appropriate to its Florida name.

Unlike other whiskey blenders, Huey & Christ featured just one brand, marketed very aggressively.  A 1900 company ad urged the use of Bailey’s Pure Rye in cases of typhoid fever.  It  stated:  “Convalescents are advised by eminent physicians, because of well-known general excellence, purity and medicinal properties, to use Bailey’s Pure Rye.”  In 1895 Huey & Christ bought an interest in a distillery, shown here, called the Philadelphia Rye Whiskey Distilling Company.  It was located at Eddington, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County.  C. T. Hanna was the manager.  Little else is known about this facility which was Registered Distillery #77, First District of Pennsylvania.

The partial ownership of a distillery gave Huey & Christ an assured supply of the raw product they need for their blending efforts. They sold their “pure rye” in kegs and in bottles,  the latter embossed with the Bailey’s name.  They also were known for their giveaway merchandising items, including tip trays and saloon signs.  Their merchandising always stressed the theme that Bailey’s Pure Rye was liquor for all seasons of life.

With their growing wealth,  the partners ventured into the Atlantic Ocean town of Cape May, New Jersey.   It appears both bought summer homes at this popular seaside resort.  Christ gained a reputation as a yachtsman, ultimately becoming the commodore of the Holly Beach Club in nearby Wildwood Crest.  It is shown here on a postcard. A 1908 New York Times article cites Amos as leading his club in a regatta and race for motorboats registered along the Jersey and Maryland shores.

The foundations of Huey & Christ were shaken in 1902 with the death of William Huey at the early age of 58.   His passing touched off a feud between Christ and the Huey family,  led by his widow and son, Arthur T. Huey, who was the administrator of his father’s estate.   The Hueys claimed that Christ owed them $19,604.40, much of it relating to the sale of the Market Street building in 1910 and a move to 1308 Arch Street.   Christ was able to convince the court of original jurisdiction that he already had paid much of what was owed and disputed the Huey’s other claims.  When the lower court found in his favor, the Hueys took the case to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  That court also found for Christ.

Still, this must have been a difficult time for Amos.  His wife of 41 years, Lavinia, had died in 1909.  The 1910 census found him living with an unmarried son.  His own health was declining and in 1913 he died.  Christ was buried next to Lavinia in the West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.   William Huey is buried nearby in the same graveyard.  Family members continued to pilot the firm until 1918 when Prohibition pressures shut it down and ended for all seasons the sale of Bailey’s Pure Rye.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lang, Schenck and Co.: Swimming in the Olentangy

Few stories about the effects of Prohibition on the whiskey industry are as dramatic as its impact on the highly successful Columbus, Ohio,  whiskey dealers,  Lang, Schenck & Company and their flagship brand, Olentangy Club Rye.

Founded in 1879 by George Lang and brothers William and Charles Schenck,  by 1904 their company had prospered mightily.  It operated from an imposing three-story building at 404 S. High Street, immediately adjacent to the Franklin County Courthouse, shown here.  Emblazoned on the facade in foot high letters was the proud designation:  “Liquor Merchants.”   Moreover that year Charles Schenck was elected an officer of the Wholesale Liquor Association at the national organization’s convention in New York City.

The firm’s flagship whiskey,  Olentangy Club Rye, was a best-selling brand,  not just in the vicinity of Columbus but throughout Ohio and in neighboring states.  Named after the Olentangy River that flows through the city, shown here in a painting by Susan Astleford,  the partners registered this brand with the federal government in 1906. It was packaged in quart bottles and pint flasks , each bearing a distinctive label with a distinctive triangle trade mark.

Faced with strong competition by other Ohio origin whiskey brands,  chiefly from Cincinnati,  Lang, Schenck strove for customer loyalty through generous giveaways.  Chief among them were advertising shot glasses . Despite being etched, these were relatively cheap to make. They could be given by the dozens without great expense to bartenders, distributors, and even directly to retail customers.

Pricier giveaways were “back-of-the-bar” bottles.  At least two examples exist from Olentangy Club Rye.  The first is a fluted bottle with a tall neck that probably held a fancy closure. The other is a bulbous  container that, like the other,  has applied white lettering.  Both were made to display in a saloon, filled with Lang, Schenck’s whiskey and ready to pour.

An even more expensive giveaway to saloons was an Olentangy Club pewter tea kettle, with the legend incised into the metal. While a number of distillers used pewter or silver plated jugs as back of the bar giveaways,  this item is very unusual and speaks to the innovative merchandising of the company.

In addition to its flagship Olentangy Club Rye,  the Columbus liquor distributor featured a number of other house brands,  including Ageno, Deer Creek, Eastern Star Rye, Fern Dell, Jackson Country, Old Dominion,  Old Mill Bourbon and Rye, Old Virginia Dominion,  Three Bunnie, and Windsor Town. The Deer Creek label displayed  the head and antlers of a large stag on its label. Ageno may have been a whiskey meant for using in mixed drinks.  It was advertised on a giveaway “highball” glasses.

On the personal side,  the Schenck brothers were born in Ohio, the sons of immigrant parents,  the father from Germany, the mother from France.  Charles was the elder, born in 1860;  William came along three years later, in 1863.  At the time of the 1900 census Charles was living in Columbus with his wife Mary and four children, Frank, Stanley, Lida and May.  Their ages ranged from 11 to 16.   Vital statistics on George Lang are scanty.  He was born in 1860, married and had at least one son.

As they prospered, the Lang, Schenck partners would have been painfully aware of the struggle going on in Ohio over liquor sales. In a very real sense the “Dry” movement had been founded in the state.  At the same time, efforts to induce Ohio voters to initiate statewide prohibition had failed repeatedly.  With the onset of World War One the tide turned.   Liquor was depicted as hurting the war effort in addition to causing other social ills. In 1918 Ohio narrowly passed statewide prohibition. It went into effect a year before the entire U.S. went dry.

The impact on the Lang, Schenck & Co. was immediate.  A report from the Ohio Secretary of State recorded that in 1919 the assets of the company dropped from $60,000 to $6,500.  The liquor firm quickly disappeared from Columbus business directories.  Olentangy Club Rye and other company brands disappeared, never to be seen again.  Death also overtook the partners.  William Schenck died in 1917, age 54, and George Lang in 1919, age 61.

Out of the wreckage caused by Prohibition was born a new business, called the Lang, Schenck Reality Co.  It was incorporated in 1919 with assets of $20,000.  Its principals included Charles Schenck and Lang’s son, George Junior.  Schenck would live to be 71, dying in 1931 and thus never seeing the end of Prohibition.  All three original partners are interred in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus.



Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Levaggis of San Francisco: Mixing Whiskey and Olive Oil

It may have been an ad like the one shown here that first lured the Levaggis from their native town of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy, to California to search for gold.  Whether they found prosperity in the mines is unclear, but they found real prosperity in the mercantile field,  establishing a reputation for both whiskey and olive oil.

The pioneers in the family were Bernadino (aka Bernardo), born in 1842, and Giovanni (aka G.B.) born in 1844.  They may have been brothers but certainly were close relatives.  Bernadino appears to have been the first to have arrived in America and is recorded as having worked as a miner for 12 years.  Giovanni, shown here, arrived in California from Lucca after 1865 and mined for eight years.

Both Levaggis quit toiling for gold about the same time.  In 1874 Bernadino went to San Francisco and opened a saloon.  A city directory of 1880 recorded him running the establishment at 3 Vallejo Street.   By this time he had married Mary Craviotto,  an immigrant from Italy who had arrived in San Francisco as a girl.  They would have six children, three sons and three daughters.   Meanwhile, G.B. had established a fruit commission company called Levaggi & Barbiera.

Early in the 1880’s, reportedly for the health of a child, Bernadino left San Francisco and the saloon for Plymouth, California, a small town east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains.   There he began a general mercantile business that proved so successful that it became one of the most important enterprises in the region, according to contemporary accounts.   Among key products for sale was liquor.  Eventually two of his sons, Jules and Anthony, joined him.  Bernadino used his increasing wealth to accumulate considerable property in San Francisco and became well known throughout the Bay District.

The effects of the the Great San Francisco Earthquake on Levaggi holdings are not recorded but Bernadino clearly saw an opportunity.  Barely had the ashes cooled that his son Jules was sent to the city in 1907 to open a grocery and liquor store at 615-619 Front Street.   Jules’ brother Anthony was listed as vice president.  The Levaggis’ establishment included a whiskey blending facility.

By 1910, Levaggi & Company had outgrown its original quarters and moved to a three-story building at 333-339 Clay Street.  With the move they abandoned the grocery department and concentrated on liquor.   It was reported that they had become the West Coast representatives of “several large Eastern distilleries.”   The firm issued several of its own brands, including “Royal Life Whiskey,” “High Life,” “Old Silver Creek,” “N.A. Hawkins,” and “Clermont.” 

The company also claimed the Clermont Distilling Company at Clermont, Kentucky.  The only distillery in that town, however, was the Murphy Barber Co., located on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Line.  It had been founded in 1880 with a capacity of 1,800 barrels annually and sold its product to a number of whiskey rectifiers. The Levaggis apparently were drawing on those supplies for its blends and felt comfortable claiming the distillery for their own, a common practice in the pre-Prohibition whiskey industry.

Meanwhile,  G.B. Levaggi was making his own fortune.  He married another Italian immigrant named Rose.  After a visit back to Tuscany in 1894, he returned to San Francisco and launched the Levaggi Import Company, that featured prime olive oil from Lucca.  It became a product leader not only in California but the Nation.  G.B.  supplied most firms on the Pacific Coast as well as Italian groceries across the United States.

The close ties between Bernadino and G.B. were revealed when E. N. Cadenasso was named secretary of Levaggi & Co.  He was married to Linda Levaggi, born in San Francisco and the daughter of Giovanni and Rose.  G.B.’s son-in-law was working for Bernadino’s family firm.   Moreover, in 1908 the two Levaggi companies had joined in a protest against certain U.S. Customs fees.  Their pleas were summarily dismissed by  authorities as “without merit.”

As National Prohibition began to draw a noose around the liquor trade,  Levaggi & Co. in permissive California continued to thrive.  Jules and his family moved from their home at 810 Union Street in  1917 to 1025 Green Street on Russian Hill.  This home, now in an historic district, had been constructed in 1911 as an architectural mixture of the Mission Revival, Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles.  Family descendants owned the house into the 1980s.

Probably seeing the coming end of the liquor business,  Jules branched out into other areas.   In 1919 he set up a dehydrating plant for making dried fruit.  He also became well known in the Bay Area as an importer, according to one account, “building up  a large and important business.”   By contrast,  Levaggi whiskey brands disappeared forever with the onset of National Prohibition in 1920.

Meanwhile, Bernadino was living in semi-retirement in Plymouth, from time to time visiting San Francisco.  We assume one of those occasions was the funeral of G.B. who died in 1920.  His son Jules would also preceded him in death in 1927.  Bernandino died two years later,  age 87.   His obituary stated:  “He continued his active interest in the mercantile business to the time of his death.”  This pioneer Levaggi is buried in Plymouth Memorial Cemetery in the crypt shown here.  His epitaph reads simply, “At Rest.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Edwin Schiele Sat an Autocrat at the Bar

Edwin Schiele’s family were anything but aristocracy.  His father, Sigmund Schiele was a German Jewish  immigrant to America who settled in St. Louis, Missouri. For reasons unknown, in the immediate post Civil War era Sigmund suffered the indignity of being made to swear a special pledge of allegiance to the Union.  Sigmund’s signed oath, shown here, now resides in a Missouri museum.  The practice has subsequently been denounced by observers as a disgrace on the state.  Born in 1862, at the time of this incident Edwin was only three years old.

Not discouraged by his treatment at the hands of Missouri officialdom,  Sigmund engaged in the wholesale liquor business in St. Louis.  With his wife,  Fanny Shulman Schiele, he groomed Edmund for a business career.   The boy attended public schools until he was fourteen, then went to work for a local wholesale notions store called Judd & Pratt.  After three years in that business, Edmund became part of his father's liquor establishment at age 17, as a traveling salesman hawking his father's liquors.  

In 1882, age 56,  Sigmund died and was buried in New Mount Sinai Cemetery in St. Louis County.  His monument is shown here.   His son, now just 22 years old,  took over the father’s business and  changed the name to Edwin Shiele & Co.  The company was located at 107 North Main Street in St. Louis.   After 14 years of building his business,  Edwin in 1898 married Minnie Kramer, daughter of Abraham Kramer.  Over the next few years they had three children,  Herbert, born 1899;  Frances, born 1903, and Edwin Sidney, born 1909.  The family lived at 4558 Washington Avenue.

Schiele proved to be a excellent merchandiser for his alcoholic products.  Among the limited number of brands he featured were “Five Feathers," “Geisha Malt Rye,” and "Old 91,” the last shown in a purple bottle.   His flagship label was "Autocrat Whiskey."  He did not come to “own” that name, however, without a fight.   The Autocrat brand was contested between Schiele and the Wichman, Lutgen Co. of San Francisco. (See my July  2012 post on Lutgen).  Both outfits registered the trademark with the Federal Government in 1905.  How the dispute was settled is not clear, but Schiele continued to feature the Autocrat brand.

His merchandising to saloons included shot glasses and other giveaways, with tip trays being his special mode of advertising for Autocrat whiskey.  Displayed throughout this post are four examples of the lithographer’s art that Schiele featured on his trays.  All of them present two figures and often, but not always,  a bottle.   One shown below is an exception, showing an elderly, apparently married, couple sharing a cup of tea and a newspaper.   The couple shown above seem a  bit more lively and presumably are preparing to quaff a bottle of Autocrat Whiskey.  The same bottle has more prominence in the tableau of a monk playing cards with a vested gent.   It plays an even larger role in the picture of a bare breasted woman and a cherub in a woodsy scene.

As his business prospered, Schiele became well known in club circles,  belonging to the Westwood Country Club,  the City Club,  the Triple A Club and Columbian Club.  A 1921 biography said he was “widely and favorably known in the membership of these organizations.”  He also was active in Masonic orders and attained the 32nd degree of the Scottish rite.  A member of the Ethical Society, he also attended a St. Louis synagogue.

Unlike most whiskey men, in politics Schiele was a Republican, apparently ignoring the many “dry” advocates in the party.  During the height of the Temperance Movement  before nationwide Prohibition, the voters of Missouri rejected prohibition in three separate initiative elections in 1910, 1912, and 1918. When temperance crusader Carrie A. Nation entered a bar in Kansas City in April 1901 and began to smash liquor bottles with her hatchet, she was promptly arrested and fined $500 ($12,926 in 2010 dollars), which the judge stayed as long as she agreed to leave Missouri and never return. The Missouri General Assembly did ratify the 18th Amendment in 1919, but only after it already had received enough ratifications to become part of the Constitution.

As a result of Missouri’s tolerance for alcohol,  Schiele was able to operate for
some 36 years.  In 1903, he moved the company to 204 S. Fourth Street, a location he would occupy for the next 13 years.  About the same time,  as other whiskey wholesalers and blenders were doing, he added to the company name the designation “distillers.”   A final move occurred in 1916 when Schiele moved one last time to 118 North Third Street, before shutting down because of Prohibition.

Even with losing his whiskey business Schiele never missed a beat.  In 1913 with a brother, Seymour, he had founded an advertising business which proved to be very creative and grew, according to contemporary accounts, into one of the leading firms of its kind in St. Louis.  After 1920 he concentrated on the advertising business.  He also was the treasurer of Griesedick Beverage Company.  The Schiele family became well-known nationally for their pioneering work in the phonograph and records industry.  With Edwin’s money backing the effort, son Herbert Schiele founded Artophone in St. Louis.  It produced an early phonograph and subsequently became a national distributor of phonograph records.  Edwin was a director and the outfit’s treasurer and likely principal financial backer.

In 1935, at the age of 73,  Edwin Schiele died in St. Louis and was buried next to his father and mother and other family members in New Mount Sinai Cemetery. Whatever indignities had been visited on his family were long in the past and the Schiele name had come to be highly respected in St. Louis business circles.   Edwin was no autocrat but he put the brand name into many a Midwest saloon.