Monday, January 28, 2013

Thomas Martindale: The Hunter and His Jugs

During his lifetime Thomas Martindale, shown here, was esteemed as a big game hunter and civic leader.  But it is as a Philadelphia merchant whose company, Martindale & Johnson, produced three of the most collector-sought American whiskey jugs by which he may be remembered today.

One ceramic bears the name “Minnehaha - Laughing Waters.”   It has a cobalt blue underglaze transfer design of a Indian brave in a canoe attacking a sea serpent with a bow and arrow, while a European gentleman lies prone at his side.  The name “Minnehaha” is derived from the poem by Henry Longfellow called “Song of Hiawatha.”  It is a long epic tale about an Indian brave who does many heroic deeds to assist his tribe. Minnehaha was his sweetheart.

The poem was staple reading in American schools for decades and the characters would have been familiar to most people of the 19th and early 20th Century. We can assume that the Indian shooting the serpent is Hiawatha.   This Indian brave frequently was depicted with a bow and arrow, often pointed at a deer. Although I have scoured the poem from stem to stern,  I cannot find any reference to Hiawatha besting a sea serpent.  Moreover, white men appear in the poem only at the very end and with little attention.  The encounter depicted on the jug appears to have been the concoction of the artist, identity unknown.

The second jug depicts the winsome Minnehaha sitting near a waterfalls. It comes in two versions. In one  the title is the same as on the first and the illustration is in a crisp dark cobalt. In the second “Laughing Waters” is missing and the cartoon is lighter blue and lacks strong definition. This jug also is found in a sepia brown.  The third Minnehaha jug has nothing to do with Native Americans.  It appears to depict two small birds amidst a floral background looking intently on the ground.   On further inspection it would seem that the birds are on an elaborate Victorian stage and illuminated by rows of footlights.  The jug comes in a sepia brown and blue.  Like the others it bears a elaborate M&J monogram at the back.

Thomas Martindale, the man  responsible for these attractive containers,  was born in 1848 to  poor parents in England,  emigrating to the United States at the age of eight with his family.  After trying several occupations in his early years, according to an obituary, in 1869 he entered the grocery business in an area of Philadelphia known as “Old City.”  He bought a half interest in a small store there but in a short time had built it into a leading grocery in the city and eventually bought out his partner.  Martindale’s store became known as “The Oldest Natural Food Store in the USA.”  Under the founder’s leadership, according to company literature, the store included a lunch room, some office space and a plant to manufacture a coffee substitute. The foods served in the lunchroom were salads, soups, Martindale's coffee substitute,  tea, healthy baked goods sweetened with honey and maple syrup, and ice cream sweetened with honey.

During this period,  Martindale also found a wife.  He married a local Pennsylvania-born woman named Rosanna Crum, more commonly called “Rosie.”  They would have two children,  Thomas C., born in 1873 and James, born in 1878.  About 1880 he moved his growing family to an imposing house at 413 33rd Street, shown here.  Built in 1859, it was a three-story, Italianate-style double, rough coat over brick. It featured central recessed entrances; outer  pitched 
gabled towers and a Victorian porch extending from entrance.  It still stands and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.

Seeking a broader horizon, about 1883 he teamed with a local named William Johnston to found a grocery at 10th and Market Streets. Ironically, given his reputed prejudice against such food items as coffee and sugar, Martindale had no compunctions about liquor.   His company was listed in business directories as “Importers, Grocers, Wine and Spirits Merchants.”  In fact, whiskey was a mainstay.   The flagship band was “Dirigo,”  a Latin phrase meaning, “I lead.”  The firm issued several shot glasses for that label.  “Weardale” was another Martindale brand and, as we have seen, “Minnehaha.”

During the late 1880s,  Johnston appears to have departed the partnership and by 1887 the company has changed its name to Thomas Martindale & Company.   City directories of 1900 showed Martindale as president.  He also was making an impact in Philadelphia civic life.  He was the first president of the Poor Richard Club,  a private club in Philadelphia whose members were mostly members of the ad industry.  It was founded in 1906  as a way to promote and enforce ethical advertising guideline but functioned largely as a place to nurture business, social, and political relationships.  He also was the founder of the Philadelphia Trades League and an active member of the Retail Grocer’s Association.

By now Martindale’s passion had become big game hunting.  An interior photo of his home displays a number of his trophies. Shown here on horseback on the frozen tundra, he was particularly avid for hunting in Alaska and the Canadian Northwest.  Not only did he write books about his adventures, he was frequently asked to speak to men’ groups. In January 1916 he gave a talk to an Philadelphia area college alumni association in which he was introduced as a “true man,”  at once a successful merchant and leading an active, masculine life.  In turn, Martindale exhibited his hunting trophies including caribou racks, polar bear pelts and mountain sheep fleeces, all the while extolling the virtues of the outdoors and exercise.

Ironically, Martindale may already have been ill. Later that year as he prepared for another  hunting expedition in Northern British Columbia, according to an obituary, friends urged him not to go because of signs of bad health.  His doctor disagreed, believing that the open air would be good for the businessman.   About one month into his trip,  Martindale was beset with “boils and carbuncles and a facial disorder that his friends believe to have been paralysis.”   Failing rapidly, he died far from civilization and his body had to be carried by his companions on a woodland trail to the nearest railroad line.  A special train was dispatched that carried him on to Skagway where his body was embalmed and shipped to the U.S. by steamer. Following services funeral services in Philadelphia, he was buried in Westminster Cemetery.

Before his death,  Martindale had groomed his son, Thomas C., to take the reins of the grocery firm.  The son, a lifelong bachelor and natural foods advocate, proved to be an able manager while continuing to live with his widowed mother in the house on 33rd Street.  When Prohibition was levied, Martindale alcoholic products disappeared forever.   They are remembered still, however, through the fancy ceramic jugs that Thomas Martindale had decreed for them.

Note:  Because of the expressed interest of readers of this blog, I am below adding a photo of the Martindale jug of two birds in the blue version.  The photo recently was sent me by a friend and associate who purchased it.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

James W. Kelly: The Chattanooga “Carpetbagger” Who Stayed

A youthful immigrant from Ireland, James W. Kelly saw opportunity in Tennessee during the Civil War selling whiskey to Union troops occupying Nashville.  Although he eventually would move on to Chattanooga, he never left the state, in time becoming an honored citizen.

At this point it is necessary to set the scene into which Kelly introduced himself.  Tennessee was the last state to join the Confederacy in June, 1961.    After its governor had declared it independent of the United States, Nashville became an immediate target of Union forces.  Not only was it the capital of the Tennessee, the city was significant as a shipping port on the Cumberland River.  In 1862 Union troops, following battles that brought Ulysses S. Grant to the fore, occupied the city.

Although Confederate attempts to take back Nashville continued over the next two years, refugees, white and black, poured into the city because jobs were plentiful in the depots, warehouses and hospitals serving the Union war effort.   With this large transient population, Nashville had a flourishing red light district and dozens of saloons.   Often the U.S. military government gave preferential treatment to Northerners who came to do business.  Enter James Kelly.   The assumption is that he engaged in the booming liquor trade during the time of conflict.

With the cessation of hostilities, however, Kelly moved further south to Chattanooga, a major city that had been established 50 years earlier as a trading post on the Tennessee River.  At this point he would have been considered a “carpetbagger,”  a Northern entrepreneur looking to make a quick dollar from the conquered Southerners, abetted by the occupying Federal authorities.   In 1866, he began by opening a retail liquor store.  As that business grew he moved into wholesale liquor sales.  Like most wholesalers,  Kelly also engaged in “rectifying” whiskey, that is blending raw whiskeys to taste, bottling it and slapping on his own labels.

In 1876, Kelly merged his efforts with George W. Davenport, a native of Alabama, who had come to Chattanooga about 1874 to work as a clerk in a whiskey and cigars wholesaler and eventually had taken over the business.  The new company was called Kelly & Davenport and originally had two locations,  63-65 Ninth Street and 253 Market Street.   The company grew steadily, as one contemporary said, “building up a large and profitable business.  The trade of the house in the Southern States is an extensive one.”   About 1883, apparently as a result of its growth, the firm moved to 13-15 West Ninth.

After 14 years in business,  the partners split.   Kelly maintained the existing business under the name J.W. Kelly & Company while Davenport, with a brother, went on to establish a dry goods and furnishing store.   About this time Kelly made two important decisions.  First,  he hired Carl White  as his manager although the Louisiana native was a considerably younger man.  White came with a reputation as an able merchandiser and promoter.  Second, Kelly started his own distillery.  Called the Deep Spring Distillery, it was located in Chattanooga on East Missionary Avenue.   Many wholesalers/rectifiers eventually took similar steps as a means of insuring themselves of a steady flow of whiskey.

With White’s merchandising and the distillery to provide product, Kelly’s business continued to expand, advertised with a wide array of liquor labels.  Among them were "Belmont,” "Golden Age,” "Mountain City Corn Shuck, " "Old Milford,”  "Old Tenn. Sugar Corn," "Pine Split Gin,”  "Silver Spring.” "Silver Spring Corn,”  “Lincoln County,” and "Deep Spring."  Kelly wisely, but at some expense, registered the most of these brands with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1905.

Deep Spring Tennessee Whiskey was Kelly’s flagship label.  He advertised it using slogans such as “The Whiskey Without an Unkind Thought,”  and “Made on Honor, Sold on Merit.”  For retail sales Kelly preferred glass containers, putting his whiskey in flask sized and both round and square quart bottles.  His saloon sign for Deep Springs whiskey was among the most imaginative to emerge from the pre-Prohibition era.   General Robert E. Lee on horseback is shown saluting his victorious Confederates as two “Reb” battle flags flutter in the background.   In the foreground lies a casualty of the battle who is being given a glass of whiskey by a comely young woman.   As shown in the detail, she has at her disposal a full case of Deep Springs Whiskey.

Like their competitors for Southern markets,  J.W. Kelly and Co. merchandised their whiskey by giveaways to favored customers, including gifts to saloons.  Among the items were shot and highball glasses and bar signs.  In addition to the Lee design, Kelly issued a sign showing a fully dressed female in a provocative pose on a railroad platform.  This likely was to remind to Southern buyers that the company could deliver its whiskey by rail.

Despite accumulating, as one biographer put it, “a large fortune,”  Kelly was not a carpetbagger who would take his money and run back North.  He stayed to become an honored citizen.  As the same biography states:  “Mr. Kelly has found leisure to devote to the promotion of the general interests of Chattanooga at home and abroad.  He is one of the founders of the Lookout Rolling Mills and is a stockholder in the same.  He is also a stockholder in the Merchants National Bank and is interested in other enterprises of the city....Mr. Kelly has unbounded faith in the South, and especially East Tennessee.”

Kelly’s faith in the South and Tennessee must have been tempered by the growing tide of Prohibition in the region.  Anti-alcohol forces gained steady ground in Tennessee during the late 19th and early 20th Century.  The Four Mile Act,  first passed by the Tennessee legislature in 1877 prohibited sale of liquor within four miles of an active school, exempting incorporated towns.  Repeatedly expanded, the law effectively turned most of rural Tennessee “dry.”  The state’s courts consistently rejected challenges to those laws.

In 1909  the Tennessee legislature passed a law that completely banned all liquor sales within its borders.   Many saloons and liquor retailers were forced out of business.  J. W. Kelly & Co. and the Deep Spring Distillery continued to operate as a result of substantial mail order sales in other states.  Tennessee’s Attorney General was not blind to this trade.  In 1910 he hauled Kelly into court for selling a shipment of whiskey to a customer in New York.  The state’s argument was that such sales opened the door for fraudulent reshipment of liquor to Tennessee customers.  In “State vs. J.W. Kelly & Co.,” the Tennessee Supreme Court dismissed that argument and ruled that Kelly’s shipment was within the protection of the interstate commerce clause of the United States Constitution.   The company rolled on until about 1915 or 1916,  closing for good when the Webb-Kenyon Act, in effect, forbid interstate liquor sales into dry areas.

By this time, James Kelly had died, according to one source, passing in 1907 at the age of 63.  He is buried in Chattanooga’s Forest Hills Cemetery, Section K 74 NE.  His wife, Lizzie, lies by his side.  It is said that Kelly was involved in the management of his liquor house right up until the end.  The skepticism that locals must have had about this man from the North with an odd accent had long since dissipated.  For more than 40 years James Kelly had proved that he was no carpetbagger but a true “son” of Chattanooga and devoted to its future.

Note:  Much of the information and quotes here come from a short biography that appeared in a volume entitled “East Tennessee Historical and Biographical” published by a Chattanooga printing house in 1893.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Odyssey of Lazard Coblentz: Prussia, Pokerville, Portland

Portland Oregon 1888
Lazard Coblentz probably knew that when he fled Europe to avoid being forced into the Prussian Army he would head for America and the State of California, there to join the Gold Rush.  But he cannot have known that he ultimately would find his mother load following a “North Star,” selling whiskey in Portland, Oregon.

Coblentz was born in 1852 in the sleepy village of Lixheim in the Lorraine region of Northeastern France, near the German border.  Lazard’s extended family of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage had originated in the German city of Koblentz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers.  Decades earlier they had migrated into France.  When France and Prussia went to war in 1870,  Prussia captured Lixheim and attempted to conscript into its army male residents of eligible age.  As a result, according to a family history, twenty one Coblentz men, a mixture of brothers and cousins,  headed for the New World, scattering out across South, Central and North America.

Lazard Coblentz, age 20, headed for California, arriving in the state about 1871.  His early years in the U.S. are shrouded in time but he is recorded in 1880 running a mercantile store in a California mining town that had been known as Pokerville and eventually as Plymouth.  It is located in Amador County, and had the nickname, “The Heart of the Mother Load.”  With difficulty Pokerville/Plymouth could be reached by stage coach over bad roads from other parts of the state.  The main street as it looked during Gold Rush days, shown here, has been recreated at the town fairgrounds,  Coblentz opened his business with three partners, Isaac (Ike) Levy, Alex Rosenwald and Isaac Kohn.  They did a brisk trade in liquor serving thirsty miners.

Coblentz early must have impressed the townsfolk of Pokerville.  Despite his being a new arrival on American shores and only recently conversant in English,  they named him the judge of Pokerville.   When a post office building was erected, the rear part was designated as a court room  One observer has written that it was “fitted out with all necessary conveniences for cinching offenders or bleeding litigants, with jury seats, attorneys’ and reporters’ tables, and above all, an imposing pulpit for his Honor,  Judge Coblentz.”

The partners also opened a branch store in another nearby mining town, Lundy, formerly known as Mill Creek. This village was located in Lundy Canyon at the west end of Lundy Lake.   It boasted a mining camp, a sawmill run by W. J. Lundy, and briefly a post office.  The partners called their Lundy establishment the Mill Creek Pioneer Cash Store.

Meanwhile,  Lazard was having a personal life.  In 1883 he married Sarah Levy, the sister of his partner Ike.  She had been born in California of French immigrant parentage and was eight years younger than her husband.  They would have two children,  Julian born in 1886 and Helen in 1888.

As the 1880s proceeded,  Coblentz seems to have become increasingly restive,  perhaps sensing that, with the mining surge ebbing, the economy of central California was faltering.  The Heart of the Mother Load was beating slower and slower.  In fact, Lundy before long would become a ghost town and Plymouth would dwindle to fewer than 1,000 inhabitants .  Moreover, in 1887 a fire destroyed most of the town, a conflagration said to have been started by children playing with matches.  About a year later,  Coblentz, with his family and brother-in-law Ike in tow, pulled up stakes and followed his star north to Portland, Oregon, a city that was experiencing an economic surge.

There, under the company name, Coblentz & Levy, the pair opened a liquor wholesale business at 166 Second Street.   They featured their own brands,  probably “rectified” blends mixed on their own property.   Appropriately their flagship was “North Star Old Kentucky Bourbon.”   Other brands were “Old Private Stock” and “Black Diamond.”  Although many West Coast whiskey men preferred to put their product in pottery jugs,  Coblentz &  Levy favored glass bottles,  both in amber and clear tooled cylinders.
They also featured giveaway items.   For retail customers was there was a token they  issued for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, a major event held in Portland that drew visitors from many parts of the country.  The token clearly was aimed at the tourist trade,  suggesting that “When in Portland, Make Our Store Your Headquarters.”   The partners also issued shot glasses for their North Star and Private Stock brands.  Their most flamboyant giveaway,  presented to saloons carrying their liquor, was a wall sign advertising “Black Diamond Whiskey, Rich and Mellow.” It depicted two African-American couples dressed elegantly, the men in top hats and tails, the women in evening gowns.   There are few pre-Prohibition bar signs to match it in energy.

At the time of the 1900 Census Lazard was living in Portland at 137 Morrison Street with his wife and children.  With them in the same residence was Ike Levy and his wife, Nettie, and two younger brothers of Sarah, Aaron and Roger.  Coblentz’s occupation was given as “wholesale liquor,” Ike’s was “clerk.”  Near the end of that decade, Ike, for reasons unknown, pulled out of the partnership and began working elsewhere.   In 1910 the company changed its name to The Coblentz Co. and son Julien, who had been brought into the company at an early age, became the secretary-treasurer.   In 1912 Lazard incorporated The Coblentz Co., and a year later moved the firm to new quarters at 105 Fifth Street.

Already the hounds of Prohibition were on the Coblentz trail.  As early as 1844 the Oregon Territories had voted to prohibit alcoholic beverages.  This ban was repealed only one year later but Dry Forces continued to work.  In 1910 referendums prohibiting in the sale of liquor, regulating its shipment and providing police powers to search for illicit booze failed when put to a popular vote.  The Prohibitionists then got really busy winning public approval and in 1915 Oregon voted a complete ban on sales of alcohol.

The Coblentz Co. closed its doors.  The 1920 Census found Lazard and Sarah living at 151 22nd St. in Portland.   Their children, Roger and Aaron were no longer in the household. Ike  and Nettie Levy were still living with them -- an indication that the business parting earlier had been amicable.   Ike gave his occupation as an assistant secretary in a club.  Lazard Coblentz, age 68 and with his whiskey business five years gone,  gave his job to the census taker as “macaroni salesman.”  I detect more than a modicum of sarcasm in his response,  appropriate for someone who had ventured in life as far as he had.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

McCart Met Christy and the Rest Was History

In 1899 two Cleveland entrepreneurs combined forces to form the largest wholesale grocery company in Northern Ohio,  a business that specialized particularly in whiskey sales.  The two were Edward E. McCart  and Henry C. Christy, both shown here.

Edward McCart was born in Cleveland in 1863, the son of Patrick and Mary McCoy McCart, Irish immigrants who had settled in the city by Lake Erie during the 1840s.   He was sent to the Cathedral School for his elementary education and Spencerian College, a business school where he was said to “study the commercial  branches.”

 Henry Christy was older than his partner by 17 years.  He was born in 1846 in Trumbull County, Ohio, and educated in local public schools.

At age 16 McCart went to work for the William Edwards & Co., a leading Cleveland wholesale grocery,  one with a thriving business selling whiskey along with other products.  He remained with that house for twenty years steadily advancing up the corporate ladder as he matured.  A biographer said of him:  “His long years of service there mean two things chiefly : first, he must have proved his worth and ability; secondly, his employers must have appreciated his faithfulness, honesty, and capacity. That their relations were always pleasant attested the qualities of both.”

In the meantime,  McCart was having a personal life.  During the early 1880s he married Genevieve O’Brien, the daughter of Margaret and Patrick O’Brien, Irish immigrants to Cleveland.  The couple would be childless. The 1990 census found them living on East Prospect Avenue with a servant girl.

Christy took a much different path.  At age 21 in 1865 he began a career in the hardware business and with a partner established the firm of Kirk & Christy in Warren, Ohio.  The company flourished and became a major regional provider of lumber.  In 1893 he created a branch of the business in Cleveland,  incorporating the firm there in 1895.  By this time Christy had become very wealthy.  He organized the Empire Lumber Company in Buffalo and the Standard Brick Company of Cleveland, with the capacity to produce 100,000 bricks per day.  He also was vice president of the National Union Bank in Cleveland.

By 1899 and the age of 36 McCart had accumulated sufficient experience to strike out on his own in the grocery business.   He had met Christy along the way and the older man recognized an opportunity so he provided the bankroll and McCart the know-how.  The McCart-Christy Company was born, first located at 48-54 Huron Street.  As their company grew, it moved to 186-194 Huron.   By 1903 the company had eclipsed the Edwards Co. and other competitors and was accounted the largest wholesale grocery firm in Cleveland and, indeed, all of Northeast Ohio.   McCart’s prominence was highlighted by his being chosen in 1905 for a caricature as a local business leader.  It shows him firmly astride his company headquarters.

Liquor was a mainstay of the McCart-Christy firm, sold under the name “Lakewood Beverages.”  The flagship brand was Star Medal Rye shown here on an unusual painted label back of the bar bottle.  Other house brands, all of them likely blended on the premises,  included:  "Fencing Club Rye,” "Our Special,” and "Shakespeare.”  Like many of their Cleveland competitors  McCart-Christy Co. issued shots glasses to saloons carrying their liquor.  The glasses advertised several of these brands.  The firm also handed out advertising corkscrews to favored customers.  

McCart-Christy also featured several lines of proprietary grocery products.  In 1900 the firm trademarked “Colonial”  for its brands of coffee. A principal label was “Macrisco,”  an anagram of the partner’s names.  Included in this line were fruit preserves,  salad dressings, olive oil and olives. These and other products proved to be highly successful. By 1906 the firm was grossing $3 million annually, a huge sum for the times.

In 1907, however,  the partnership was ruptured.  McCart left the business which subsequently became the H.C. Christy Co., still at the Huron St. address.  What caused the split at the height of the firm’s fame and fortune is something of a mystery.  It may have been a strong disagreement over the management with the money man winning out.  Alternatively,  McCart might have decided to seek other business opportunities. 

The automobile was just coming into vogue and many businessmen left off what they were doing to get some of the action.  In 1912 McCart and a partner set up an auto dealership for the Imperial Motor Car. This vehicle was the product of brothers T.A. and George Campbell of Jackson, Michigan, who begin in 1908 to produce mid-sized cars with four-cylinder engines.  One of the losers in the early “car wars,”  Imperial went out of production in 1916,  likely leaving McCart’s dealership high and dry.  In the 1920 census, the former whiskey “baron”  gave his occupation as “grocery salesman,”  an employee 
not the owner.

Meanwhile Christy was to continue with his many enterprises, including the wholesale grocery.  In 1910  Ohio agricultural authorities seized a shipment of adulterated mince meat from his store.  The company pleaded guilty and by 1911 had disappeared from Cleveland business directories.   In 1936 Christy died, age 92.  He is buried in a cemetery in Warren, Ohio  He was followed in death in 1942 by Edward McCart.  After a funeral Mass at St. Ann's Church he was buried in St. John's Catholic Cemetery.

The rise of McCart-Christy Co. was meteoric in Cleveland business history and its eventual dissolution and final disappearance seemingly just as swift.  Today it is remember through just a few artifacts,  all of them now over 100 years old.

Notes:  Much of the information on McCart and Christy comes from short biographies written during their lifetimes.  The caricature of McCart is from the 1904 book, “Clevelanders as We See ‘Em”  by a trio of local cartoonists.  The headstones are from the “Find-a-Grave” site on the Internet.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Philadelphia Mulherins: “Friendly Sons of St. Patrick”

"The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland in Philadelphia" is accounted the oldest extant fraternal organization in the United States,  founded in 1771 six years before the American Revolution.  Among its members over the years have been such worthies as George Washington and General “Mad” Anthony Wayne.  Three of its members,  the Mulherins,  whiskey men all and the subjects of this post,  must be counted among those luminaries.

The progenitor of the line was William Mulherin, born in Derry, Ireland, in 1848.  At the age of about 15 he emigrated to the the United States, according to census records.  Where he went initially is unknown but by 1869 he had settled in Philadelphia.  About the same time he married a woman named Mary.  She also was born in Ireland and at the age of 13 had come to the U.S. in 1863,  likely with her parents or older siblings.  William and Mary Mulherin would have six children over a span of 15 years,  John, born in 1869;  Arthur P., 1870;  William, 1878; Jennie, 1880; Frank, 1882; and Anna, 1884.

We can speculate that William served a time in apprenticeship in the whiskey trade, probably working for one of the several Irish liquor dealers in Philadelphia.  In 1887, at the age of 39, William struck out on his own,  opening his whiskey business at 1355 North Front Street.  He called it William J. Mulherin Company.   When his sons John and Arthur had grown to manhood,  he took them into the company,  renaming it William Mulherin & Sons.  Later a third son, William, would join the firm.

With business expanding,  the Mulherins moved their offices to the Southeast Corner of Front and Masters.  As shown above,  the company occupied a substantial three story building with their name prominently displayed.  My assumption is that  members of the Mulherin family are among those standing outside the doors.  This site would be the final location of the business.

Mulherin & Sons were not distillers, although they may have claimed to be in some of their advertising.  They were importers,  compounders and rectifiers (whiskey blenders) who mixed raw whiskey products to taste,  bottled the result, labeled and sold it.  Like many rectifiers they  apparently found it difficult to arrange for a steady supply of alcoholic product from U.S. distilleries.  As a result, over time they found it  expedient to invest in distilleries and enjoy the rights of ownership.

The first was a distillery located in Union County, Kentucky.  It had been founded at a site on the Ohio River near Uniontown prior to 1878.  Eventually it was sold to a whiskey man named John Roach who specialized in supplying raw whiskey to a wide range of rectifying outfits.  After the distillery burned in 1890, for a loss of $50,000,  Roach sold out to  a combine that rebuilt the distillery.  According to testimony of an investigator before a Congressional committee looking into the “Whiskey Trust”:  “There are a number of dealers in Philadelphia who organized what is known as the Mutual Distilling Company to take care of themselves. and they are running their own plant in Kentucky, at Uniontown, and make their own alcohol and spirits.”   Among those owners were were the Mulherins.

Because the Kentucky-made raw whiskey was divided among several dealers, the Mulherins looked for yet another source.   This time they invested closer to home,  becoming part owners of the Philadelphia Pure Rye Whiskey Distillery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.   As initially constructed in 1893, the distillery contained a single warehouse and two large stills, one wooden, one copper.  The wooden still had a capacity of 16,840 gallons and the copper held 2,554 gallons, according to insurance records.  The warehouse was six stories and constructed of brick with a gravel roof.  It held 14,000 barrels of aging whiskey. With the enactment of the Bottled-in-Bond Act by Congress,  it became a bonded warehouse and with time, as shown on an illustration above, other warehouses were added.

Now with an assured supply of whiskey for blending,  Mulherin & Sons began to advertise their brands widely in a four state area.    The firm’s flagship brand was “Winner Rye.”  The name was registered with the U.S. Patent Office and a Pennsylvania  government office in 1902 and again in 1904.   The company also used the name “Private Club Pure Rye.”    The Mulherins featured giveaway items to favored saloons and other customer, including tip trays featuring comely ladies and a paperweight that contained bar dice.

The Mulherins were a tight knit Irish family. The 1900 census found the entire clan living together at their home in Philadelphia.  Three of their sons were adults.  John and Arthur both gave their occupation as “liquor merchant.”   The first to join the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick was William. With his wife Mary he likely attended the organization's 1906 ball indicated by the program cover at the outset of this vignette.  He was followed into the Friendly Sons by John in 1909 and Arthur P. a year later.  By the 1910 census the Mulherin offspring had moved away from their parents but were living together with an older sister. None of the sons was married.

William died about 1913 and the following year the name of the company changed for a final time to “William Mulherin’s Sons Company.”   John Mulherin was tapped as the successor to run the business and became well known in Philadelphia.  In addition to his membership in the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, he was a member of the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute, the Philadelphia Lodge, No. 2 of the Elks, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Foresters of America and the Catholic Historical Society.  He was also president of the Founders and the Integrity Building and Loan Associations, and a director of the Consumers' Brewing Company of Philadelphia.  John was accounted to be a staunch Democrat.

He had only a few years of running the liquor business before it was shut down by Prohibition.  But the Mulherin heir took that time to remodel the building which housed the firm.  He added new brick facing to the building and a series of arched window treatments.  The structure still stands and bears a terra-cotta sign of the company name.   It long has been vacant and it appears that its last use was as a liquor establishment.

With the onset of Prohibition the family, as did other whiskey men, went into the automotive business.  They founded Mulherin Brothers and ran the Regent Garage, located at 4518-4526 Baltimore Avenue.   John became the senior member of that firm, along with Andrew and Frank.   When he died in 1925,  following an unanticipated terminal condition after suffering a compound fracture of the ankle,  John was accorded a wake at the home of brother Andrew at 2350 Broad Street.  That was followed by a Requiem Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy.  His obituary primarily remembered him as “a well-known former liquor merchant.”

That is how we can remember all the Mulherins,  successful whiskey men and “Friendly Sons of Ireland.”


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Montana’s Martin Luther: Not Just a Token Name

Christened after the famed Protestant reformer,  Martin H. Luther was always going to attract attention for his name.  Beyond that distinction, this Luther carved a career in the whiskey trade and other pursuits that resulted in his being counted prominently among “Progressive Men of Montana.”  Although his name was not just a token,  he issued a number of tokens in his name.

Martin was born in 1857 in Selchow, Kreis Filehne, Prussian Germany, a village of about 500 people that is now part of Poland and known as Zelichowo.  He was the son of Gottfried and Albertine (nee Karkuschki) Luther.  They lived in a Protestant town in a region that was predominantly Catholic and naming their son “Martin” may have been a sign of defiance.  The boy received his early education in German schools.

Although his father was a farmer,  Martin at the age of 14 quit school and left the land to learn the trade of brick mason.   Selchow had a brickworks and he worked in town at his trade for several years.   During that period he may have met Amelia Welke, 10 years his junior, born in Selchow in 1867.   She was the daughter of of August Welke, a farmer and blacksmith of the town. The two would meet again.

Showing a restless streak in his youth,  Luther in 1875 at the age of 18 emigrated to the United States.   He settled in upstate Wisconsin,  first in Baraboo for a year and subsequently in Wausau for three, working at the mason’s trade and learning to speak, read and write English.  In 1879 he continued moving westward,  moving to Fargo, North Dakota,
where he continued his brickwork and did some farming.  After nine years in Fargo, Luther once more set out for new horizons.  He made a prospecting trip through the mining districts of Washington and Idaho before settling down for good in Montana in a new town called Great Falls.

Marking the limit of the navigable section of the Missouri River for large watercraft Great Falls in 1880 had caught the eye of a businessman named Paris Gibson.  He was impressed with the possibilities of building a major industrial city near the falls with power provided by hydroelectricity. Gibson returned in 1883 with surveyors and platted a town on the south side of the river.  Shown here is an 1895 map showing the street grid and early structures.  By 1887 Great Falls had 1,200 citizens and the same year the tracks of the  Great Northern Railway linked the town to the rest of the Nation.  Luther arrived in 1888, the year Great Falls was incorporated.

Apparently using money he had saved from masonry and perhaps prospecting,  Luther seems immediately to have opened a saloon and liquor store to serve the thirsty denizens of this rapidly growing city.   He called his retail establishment “M.H. Luther’s Family Liquor Store.”   It probably was located in a row of brick buildings Martin had constructed on the west side of Second Street, extending from First Avenue north one-half block.

Several years later Luther constructed the first brick building in nearby Neihart, Montana, a silver mining boom community that heretofore had been a row of shacks and today is a semi-ghost town. His structure of two stories indicates Luther had a different idea about Niehart’s future.  Although he later sold the building, he continued to have an interest in mining.  In 1893 Luther bought 50 acres of public land from the government for $5 an acre. Evidence is he subsequently mined it.

Meanwhile in 1887 Amelia Welke, age 20, had emigrated to the United States and settled in Montana.  Whether her coming to the state was merely a coincidence or that she had been in touch with Luther over the years is unknown.  Nevertheless, Martin and Amelia were married in 1892 in Bozeman,  a trip of 190 miles from Great Falls where they made their home.  The couple would have six children:  Louisa Hettie (born in 1893), Erna Emilia (1895), Gretchen Henrietta (1896), Ella Marie (1898), Herman Martin (1900) and Otto (1903).  T he Luther family lived in a large house on 6th Avenue North near 9th Street.

Throughout this period the M. H. Luther Family Liquor store was thriving.  One evidence of this was Martin’s ability to afford to put his whiskey in well designed jugs produced in  Redwing in far off Minnesota.  One is shown here. He also put his whiskey in glass -- a shoofly glass bottle exists with “From Luther’s Family Liquor Store...This Whiskey Absolutely Pure...Great Falls Mont.”

Another sign of prosperity was the discounts his business gave through issuing tokens.  The early ones were molded in brass with an elegant “L” (for Luther) and a 12 1/2 cent discount.  Another token was a hexagon,  again with an “L” and noting “Great Falls, Montana.”  A third token was round and had a decorative half moon cut in it.  It mentions no value so it may have been meant as a “lucky” pocket piece.  A fourth token, shown here back and front, appears to have made of tin or aluminum.

Luther was not finished with construction in Great Falls.  During 1900 and 1901, he erected a building, termed “elegant” by a contemporary observer.  It was 50 by 150 feet, with two stories and a basement.   He called it “Luther Hall” and the structure became a  centerpiece of the growing city.  His hall was the scene of girls’ basketball games, the regional convention of chicken farmers and other trade groups, and social events sponsored by local chapters of organizations such as Modern Woodmen of America.   On many weekends the main pavilion became a dance hall.  Characteristically, Luther issued tokens that allowed lucky bearers a free dance.

His role as a builder probably was Martin Luther’s entree into the 1902 tome, “Progressive Men of Montana.”  Without mentioning his saloon or whiskey trade,  that publication extolled him as a real estate and mining figure.  It said of him:   “No name is perhaps more prominently associated with the progress and substantial upbuilding of the city of Great Falls than that of Mr. Luther....”

Amid this success was a real worry.  Montana had been flirting with Prohibition since the middle of the 19th Century.  “Dry” forces were strong in the state.  Although Luther was a self-identified Democrat, his party affiliation was of little help during this period since national and state power largely was in the hand of Republicans, who leaned “dry.”  In 1910, ten years before National Prohibition was voted in,  Montana passed a law that forbade all sales of alcohol.  M. H. Luther Family Liquor Store closed its doors forever.

Neither Martin nor Amelia is recorded in the 1920 census, indicating that they might have died.  Son Henry Luther was listed as an auto mechanic and Otto Luther was a clerk in an auto supply store, both still living in Great Falls.  Opposition to the enforcement of Prohibition grew over the years as people became disillusioned with the so-called “Noble Experiment.”  Montana became the first state to vote repeal in 1934.  For the remaining Luthers, it must have been an ironic and perhaps bitter turn of events.

As for Martin Luther,  he may best remembered through his apparent fascination with issuing bar tokens, artifacts that today are avidly collected.   Or we may choose to think of him as he was described in ”Progressive Men of Montana”:   “He is far-sighted and discriminating in his methods, and his success has been attained by worthy means, his absolute integrity of purpose being recognized by all.”