Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rolling Out the Barrel with Friedenwald of Baltimore

Most liquor wholesalers sold whiskey by the barrel to the saloons and restaurants featuring their brands, but Jacob H. Frieldenwald was unique in marketing his whiskey to the general public in little oak barrels, each with a spigot and containing one gallon of Maryland rye or Kentucky bourbon.  Friedenwald had invented these “baby barrels” and stated they were made from the oak staves of old whiskey barrels:  “Thus the consumer continues to age the whiskey in wood after purchasing, a decided advantage over bottled whiskey.”  The whiskey came straight from the distillery, he claimed, right to the lips of the imbiber.   

This inventive whiskey man was born in Maryland in 1867.  His father, Joseph, a German immigrant, owned a clothing store in Baltimore.  Jacob’s mother, Rosina, a native of Baltimore, looked after a brood of nine children, ranging in age from 26 to 8 years.  They included four daughters and five sons; Jacob was the seventh in line.  Jim Bready, the guru of Baltimore whiskey, has linked him to the prestigious Friedenwald family that gave the city nationally recognized doctors and businessmen, but I have been unable to make the link.
Jacob Friedenwald first burst onto the Baltimore commercial scene in 1898 when he took over an existing liquor wholesale company that had been started by Moses Westheimer about 1880.  He was 31 years old and my guess he had been working as a clerk for Westheimer for several years, learning the whiskey trade.  J. H. Friedenwald & Co. was located at 101 to 113 North Eutaw Street, an address that changed slightly over the years as the city adjusted street numbers.

Friedenwald featured a number of brands of whiskey including “B.L.O.E.,” “Friedenwald’s Maryland,”  “Friedenwald’s Pure Rye,”  “Legion Rye,” “Purple Lable,” (his spelling) and “Triple Rye.” Of these brands, he appears only to have trademarked Triple Rye, in 1906.   His major advertising campaign for years featured the baby barrel and mail order sales.  He could ship more than 35 kinds of wines and liquors in the barrel and promised that it would arrive  “in perfectly plain package, no marks to indicate the nature of the content…”   Perhaps, but the postman might have noticed some sloshing.    Friedenwald also packaged his whiskey in bottles for over the counter retail sales.  As seen here, a colorful label usually covered his elaborately embossed amber quarts.

In 1902, the publication Advertising Age featured one of Friedenwald’s ads aimed at the retail trade.  In it the Baltimore whiskey man said:  “You couldn’t make a better resolution — you couldn’t do anything that would neet you more satisfaction than to determine to make this your headquarters for wines and liquors from now on.”  Friedenwald promised readers that with him they would get the best quality at lower cost.  Even so, his barrel of whiskey that cost $3.00 in 1901 had increased to $4.00 by 1908.

Jacob also concocted a “medicine” that he called “Friedenwald’s Celebrated Buchu-Gin.  This nostrum was made by filtering gin through the crushed leaves of buchu, a South American plant that was reputed to have therapeutic benefits.  He claimed, however, that his buchu gin was “a most effective cure for all diseases of the Kidneys, Liver, Blood, and Urinary Organs, Female Complaint and Irregularities.”   It also cured gall stones, diabetes, and “foul breath.”  This tonic, Friedenwald stated flatly, contained no opiates, narcotics, mercury or injurious drugs.  Note that he forgot to mention alcohol — a major ingredient.

Friedenwald’s Buchu Gin sold in embossed green quart bottles covered by an elaborate paper label that included instructions for its use that recommended three or four wine glasses of it daily or, for a woman, heating the beverage into a broth to be taken before going to bed.  This miracle cure could be had for $4.00 for four quarts or $1.00 per quart if bought with a baby barrel of whiskey.  He trademarked this “medicine” in 1905 and warned customers to be wary of fraudulent copies.

Jacob’s advertising ploys seem to have paid dividends in terms of business success.  In 1907 the Baltimore mayor and city council passed an ordinance allowing J. H. Friedenwald & Co. to construct and place a double faced electric sign in front of his Eutaw Street premises.   Ten feet long and two feet high, it read on one side “Friedenwald’s Wines,” and on the other “Friedenwald’s Liquors.” He also was gifting his customers operating saloons or restaurants with advertising shot glasses that touted both his wines and liquors.

Despite this seeming success, in 1913, Friedenwald, still a young man of 46, rolled out his last barrel, sold his liquor firm and exited the whiskey trade.  Why?  My guess is that the Webb-Kenyon Act, passed that year by Congress, he feared potentially damaging severely his mail order business.   Until 1913, the interpretation of the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitution was that liquor could be mailed into “dry” localities and states so long as the transaction took place across state lines.  The Act forbid the practice, thereby eventually driving mail order whiskey dealers out of business.  Friedenwald may have anticipated that outcome.

Indicative of the financial squeeze being executed by prohibitionist forces,  the Wingro Company that succeeded Friedenwald at the Eutaw Street address was able to stay in business only about one year before it was absorbed by the Atlas Wine & Liquor Co., an larger concern with outlets in Maryland and Virginia.  In 1919 the Atlas firm too was forced to terminate its activities with the onset of National Prohibition.

Meanwhile, Jacob Friedenwald, his profits from the baby barrel and buchu gin in his pocket, had moved from Baltimore to New York City.  The 1920 census taker found him and his wife, Louise, living in a high rise apartment on West 86th St. in Manhattan.  Louise indicated that she had been born in Michigan, also the birthplace of her parents. Jacob gave his occupation as  “liquor-retired.”  The 1930 census found the couple had moved and were now living on Broadway.  Then Friedenwald gave his occupation as just “retired.”  

Three years later in August 1933, Jacob Friedenwald died at the age of 66 and his body returned to Baltimore where he had been born.  He was buried in the Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, above.  Louise joined him there in 1938.   In my mind his legacy lives on in the plastic lined cardboard cartons with a spigot that currently dispense wine, beer, and even hard liquor.  Friedenwald clearly started something when he rolled out his baby barrel.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Booz in the Name and Booze in the Bottle


Shown above is a dictionary definition of the word “booze.”  It means an alcoholic beverage usually relates to whiskey or other hard liquor.  That is what Edmund G. Booz, a Philadelphia distiller of the mid-19th Century, put into his distinctive log cabin bottles and thereby etched his name in whiskey history and into the hearts of fervent bottle collectors.  He did not, however, give rise to the idea of liquor as “booze.”

Through the years the legend has been perpetrated that Edmund’s brand and the design of the bottles were so popular that “booz” (and later “booze”) became a slang term for hard liquor.  Actually the term may have been around since the 14th century, from the Dutch or German language.  Benjamin Franklin much earlier had referred to a drunkard as “boozy.”

Another legend surrounding Booz and his bottles is that the log cabin shape was derived from a supposed quote by William Henry Harrison in his 1840 election contest for that he would “rather sit on his front porch sipping whiskey than run for President.”  His opponents used the comment to slur him. As the story goes, Harrison turned it around and offered free bottles of whiskey in the shape of a log cabin (his birthplace) widely available to the electorate.  Well maybe, but Edmund Booz was only sixteen years old at the time and likely not at the helm of a Pennsylvania distillery.

While the real story of this whiskey man may be more prosaic than the legends, it is worth reciting.   Booz was born in 1824 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  His parents were William and Alice Green Hewson Booz, both of them born there.  His father worked the land and like many farmers at the time may have run a small distillery to use excess grain.  Edmund appears to have been young when he migrated to Philadelphia, shown above in the 1850s.  Nor was he much older when he started making whiskey in the big city.   In time as his business prospered Booz entered a marriage. His wife was Catherine D., a woman 12 years his junior who had been born in Philadelphia.  History records two son, Charles, born in 1857 and Andrew, born the following year.

The year 1858 often is cited as the first year of manufacture for the famous log cabin bottle.  By this time, Booz was selling his whiskey from a storefront at 120 Walnut Street to liquor merchants and tavern owners throughout the Delaware Valley.  The Whitney glass works had a retail office in Philadelphia next door to him at 118 Walnut.  We can imagine Edmund walking over there with an idea for a whiskey bottle and being warmly received.  Shown below, the Whitney Glass Works in Glassboro, New Jersey, was one of the largest and most accomplished glass and bottle manufacturers in America.

Even so, Booz’s log cabin must have posed challenges.  The bottle with its squared edges and embossed windows, doors, roof shingles and writing on many sides, would have required great skill from the workers.  It was difficult to blow sufficient glass into the corners and crevasses of Booz’s containers and they often are found with damage because of the thinness of the glass at those points.

The key to the bottles being feasible at all was a mold that was hinged to open and close diagonally.   A treadle mold was used applying foot power to allowed the master blower to close the mold around the blob of glass as he was blowing into it and then allowed him to open the mold carefully as he was finished making the bottle.  Excess glass was then cracked off and the top applied.  The original bottle also would have had a paper label wrapper, one that depicted an early American cabin, shown below in a reproduction.

The Whitney Glass works appears to have produced these bottles for as many as 12 years, reputedly into the 1870s.  As a result, although reasonably rare, many versions fetch under $10,000.  Over the years Booz bottles have been reproduced by other glass houses, however, and collectors must be aware of the differences in the later versions that are valued much less highly.

Meanwhile, the 1860 census found Booz and his small family living in the First Division of Philadelphia’s 14th Ward, his occupation given as “liquor dealer” but his name errantly given as “Edwin” and an incorrect birthdate.  A clear sign of Booz’s affluence was the net worth he reported of $4,000, equivalent to $100,000 today— twice as much reported by any of his neighbors.  Another indication were the two female servants in the household.  By this time in addition to his store on Walnut Street he was listed with an address at 15 Granite, possibly operating as his distillery or "rectifying" facility.

Having given the world an iconic bottle, Edmund Booz died young, only 46 years old in 1870.  He was buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, shown left, a graveyard that holds the remains of many of Philadelphia most notable whiskey men.  Buried with him is his son, Charles, a railroad conductor, who died at only 30 years of age in 1883.  Strangely, Catherine Booz, who died in 1914, is not buried with her husband or son, but lies in the Saint James Episcopal Churchyard in Bucks County, the resting place as well of Booz’s parents, William and Alice.

In summary,  Edmund Booz may not have given us the word for "alcohol, especially hard liquor" as defined earlier, but he left a notable legacy of his own in the iconic log cabin bottles that contained his own, ah, hard liquor.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Bernhardts Blossomed in Buffalo

How does a 20-year-old immigrant, likely speaking little English, within two years of his arrival in Buffalo, New York, establish his own wholesale liquor business and thereby establish a family dynasty?   The answer lies with the pleasant-looking gentleman shown right.  His name was Johann Heinrich Christian Bernhardt, known throughout his life as “Christ.”

According to census records, Christ Bernhardt was born in 1838 in Germany, the son of Christopher and Louisa Bernhardt.   He likely had a good education in his homeland but at the age of 18 in 1856 he headed to America, settling in Buffalo — a city with a substantial German-speaking population.   My surmise is that he spent the next two years clerking for a Buffalo liquor dealer and learning the whiskey trade.

Just two years later he founded his own liquor business at 297-301 Main Street, a location from which he would operate for the more than twenty years.  In 1863 Bernhardt was joined by other family members in Buffalo as his father, mother, and younger brothers, Adam and Herman, arrived in the United States.   By this time Christ had married.  About 1860 he wed Christina Geyer, who like himself, had been born in Germany.  Beginning about 1861 they would produce a family of at least ten children, seven sons and three daughters.

As he entered middle life, Bernhardt determined to expand his operation by working with an experienced partner.  He was Charles Gillig, a Buffalo local and the son of Lorenz Gillig who had founded his own liquor business as early as 1848.  After Gillig's brother and partner, John, died,  Bernhardt in 1885 joined Gillig in an enterprise located at 273 Washington Street, calling themselves as “successors” to the older company.   Gillig & Bernhardt advertised as “Importers and Dealers in Foreign and Native Wines, Brandies, Gins, Whiskies, Ales and Cigars.”

The merger with Gillig seems to have been ill-fated from the outset.  Within two years Gillig had departed and was in business elsewhere.   Christ Bernhardt took the opportunity to form a new partnership, this time with his brother, Herman, who likely had been working for him earlier.  Because of the growth of their business, the brothers moved their operation down Washington Street, opposite Elllicott Square, a major Buffalo commercial area.  

As shown here, they occupied a four-story and basement brick building,  60 by 175 feet in dimension.  The upper floors were used for storage and their wholesale trade, with the ground floor reserved for retail sales and the basement for wine cellars and vaults.

A contemporary report on the firm offered a extravagant account:  “The stock, which is one of the finest in the State, includes all foreign and native wines, ports, sherries, clarets, Rhine wines, campaigns, the finest Hungarian wines for medical purposes, special brands of Pennsylvania and Kentucky whiskies (aged for family use), and all the leading brands of cordials, ales and mineral waters.”   

By this time the Bernhardt Bros. company not only was doing business in the Buffalo area, but according to accounts, throughout New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.  For some of their whiskeys they were using stoneware ceramic jugs with script cobalt lettering as the label, as shown here. 

With the success of his liquor enterprises, Christ Bernhardt became an important part of Buffalo’s business community, active in the city’s Board of Trade and a member of leading social  clubs and fraternal organizations.  As befitting his stature in the community about 1872 he built for his family an imposing mansion in Second Empire style on Buffalo’s Main Street, shown above.  Located within Buffalo’s Allentown Local Historic District, the house still stands but has been converted to commercial uses.

Because of advancing age or perhaps ill health, Christ Bernhardt withdrew from partnership with his brother and in 1889 the Herman Bernhardt firm appeared in Buffalo directories, doing business at the same Washington Street address.   As shown here, by Herman’s day the earlier ovoid stoneware jugs had been superseded by shouldered jugs.  

This Bernhardt was also up to date on style and quality of the giveaway items he presented to saloonkeepers and bartenders using his whiskey.  Two tip trays bearing Herman’s name are shown here, one of a comely lass in a low bodice and the other of horse — both popular themes with the drinking public.

But Herman was not Christ’s only legacy to the Buffalo liquor trade.  The same year, at Bernhardt’s old address at 273 Washington Street, a firm called J.C. Bernhardt’s Sons, opened as a liquor wholesaler.  Of the father’s seven sons, the two following in his footsteps were Christian F. Bernhardt and his younger brother, Henry, both of whom likely had been working with their father for some years.  Whiskey jugs bearing their company name are shown here.  Still another son, Frank X. Bernhardt, opened a wholesale liquor firm in 1913, potentially completing with his brothers and uncle.  His establishment was located at 441 Ellicott for the first several years and later moved to 91 Gennessee.    

Bernhardt family liquor enterprises continued to prosper in Buffalo through the early 1900s.  As local option laws in nearby states increasingly meant many “dry” counties and towns, their business dwindled.  During this period, one of Herman’s children joined the firm and it became Herman Bernhardt & Son.  With the coming of National Prohibition, that firm was forced to shut down in 1919.  The same year also saw the demise of J. C. Bernhardt’s Sons at the Washington Street address and Frank Bernhardt on Gennessee.

Christ Bernhardt had died, at age 66 in 1904.  He was buried in Erie County’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, close to the spot where his immigrant parents lay.  His widow, Christina, followed him there in 1915.  An obelisk marked “C. Bernhardt,” marks the site of their graves.  Herman, likely the victim of a heart attack, died at Buffalo General Hospital in 1919 and is buried in a different section of Forest Lawn.  

For at least 62 years members of the Bernhardt family had been prominent figures in the whiskey trade of Buffalo and New York State — no small accomplishment in itself.  But even more impressive than the long finish was the amazing start:   A 20-year-old who had arrived in the U.S. only two years earlier from Germany venturing into business for himself and succeeding magnificently.   How did he do it?  One clue may be found in an 1898 book called “Our County and Its People:  A Descriptive Work on Erie County, New York,” edited by Truman C. White.  There Christ was described as “widely known in trade circles for sterling integrity.”  That attribute seemingly took him and the Bernhardt family a long way.

Monday, July 20, 2015

“Re-Inventing” John Garnhart, Whiskey Man Inventor


 John H. Garnhart was a whiskey man and an inventor.  His most intense and enduring activity, however, may have been re-inventing himself, changing occupations and locations frequently, and known under at least three names during a foreshortened lifetime of only fifty years.

Likely as John “Garnhard,” our man was born in 1924 and raised in the part of Virginia that broke away to become West Virginia at the time of the Civil War.  As recorded in the book “Recollections of a ‘49er,” by Edward McIIheny, Garnhart was one of a company of men recruited in Jefferson County in 1849 who paid $300 for merchandise to sell to gold miners flocking to California.  Upon arrival after a difficult trek westward he was able to sell off his goods at premium prices.  His obituary suggested that Garnhart “laid the foundation for a fortune” in California.

Nearly a decade passed until gold seekers panned a creek near what is now the city of Denver.  Rich gold deposits were discovered and word quickly spread.  As with most of the gold rushes across the West, thousands of men uprooted themselves and headed to Colorado, the number estimated at around 100,000.  Garnhart (by this time it likely was the way he spelled his name) seemingly was in the vanguard.

Records shown him doing business in Denver during the mid to late 1850s.  A 1859 legal document indicated that Garnhart had been operating several enterprises in that city, including selling liquor and groceries, making vinegar, and engaging in banking and exchange activities.  By that year he had moved further east to St. Louis, Missouri, and had given over management responsibilities for his enterprises and power of attorney in Denver to a colleague.

In St. Louis Garnhart appeared to concentrate his efforts on the whiskey trade.   An 1854 city directory listed a firm called John H. Garnhard, located at 188 North Second Street.  In 1860, the listing for that address was Garnhart & Conner.  With the subsequent departure of his partner the firm became John H. Garnhart Co., but upon occasion later rendered again as “Garnhard.”   Not only was John H. selling whiskey, he was operating as a “rectifier,” blending whiskeys to achieve a particular look and taste.  Later he would be accused of adding coloring and water to raw alcohol and selling it as whiskey, but I can find no collaboration for that charge.

The year 1862 saw Garnhart’s first invention, shown above.  It was for a bottle of highly alcoholic bitters, sold as a patent medicine.  The nostrum had been invented by a New York whiskey merchant named James B. Kelly.  How Kelly found Garnhart across a wide expanse of America is not clear, but they clearly “clicked” as partners.  My surmise is that Garnhart was concocting the bitters in his rectifying operation and assisting Kelly with their sales.  The bottle with its log cabin shape was embossed with the legend “Kelly’s Old Cabin Bitters.”  Those bottles, examples shown throughout this post, have become highly desirable among collectors.

Whiskey men like Garnhart and Kelly had moved away from selling liquor to making bitters because of the high taxes levied by the Lincoln Administration against whiskey.  Bitters, when sold as medicine, were not so taxed.  Shown here, the label from a Kelly’s Log Cabin Bitters “modestly” touts it as “The Greatest Discovery of the Age” and a remedy for almost any ailment, large or small.  Advertised widely, Garnhart and Kelly’s bitters seemingly were an instant success and their bottles have been found in many locations, especially in the West.

By this time Garnhart had found a wife. She was Roberta Cecelia Noe, a woman about thirteen years younger than he and, like him, born in Virginia. The couple had seven children between1859 and 1873, one boy and six girls.  Two daughters died in infancy. In her obituary, Roberta was described thus:  “She was a lady of great amiability, full of life, cheerful in spirits, gentle in manner, sweet in disposition, the charm of social circles, faithful in all her domestic relations, a devoted and affectionate wife and mother.” 

Faced with the financial responsibilities of supporting a wife and growing family, Garnhart also found ways to benefit from the Civil War that raged over the Nation from 1861 to 1865.  No major battles were fought in or near St. Louis but the Mississippi River at his doorstep was a vital waterway during the conflict and he could supply his products via the river to other cities and towns.  Moreover, the Union soldiers who occupied and garrisoned St. Louis provided a lively market for strong drink.

 A Virginian by birth, it is not clear where Garnhart’s sentiments lay in the war.  He came under suspicion, however, as a possible Southern sympathizer in 1863.  In a letter of April that year Brigadier General Jeremiah C. Sullivan, who commanded troops garrisoning parts of Tennessee wrote a letter to the provost marshal in St. Louis about suspicious cargo off-loaded in his territory from the steamship “Belle of Memphis,” shown above. The shipment contained 80 barrels of whiskey, a box of drugs, and ten ounces of quinine — all bearing the name of Garnhart and Kelly.  Sullivan suggested the officer keep an eye on the firm.

As the war had progressed, the high taxes on liquor began to be applied to bitters.  The law was ambiguous.  Those selling bitters and other alcoholic compounds put up and sold as medicine were not required to pay the special tax.  Persons selling bitters or other alcoholic compounds “put up and stamped as rectified spirits” were taxed.  Garnhart and Kelly apparently were considered in the latter category and in 1864 began to affix their own government-approved stamp, one carrying a portrait of Kelly, shown here.   One writer has suggested that their stamps were fraudulent, but Federal records showed tax receipts of $5,800 from Garnhart & Kelly.

After the end of the Civil War Garnhart decided to “re-invent” himself once again. In 1866 he pulled up stakes in St. Louis and moved with his family to Madison, a modest-sized city and the capital of Wisconsin.  Now he became an industrialist with an invention for a new kind of grain reaper, incorporating a binder that he had been successful in patenting.  Garnhart’s original drawing is shown right. He also impressed the locals by immediately purchasing a mansion in Madison for his family, seen below in an artist’s version.

Madison was keen to rival Milwaukee as an industrial center.  In 1871 momentum for making agricultural equipment seemed to be occurring when Garnhart (now sometimes known as “Garnhardt") agreed to locate a large factory for his reaper in Madison.  A canny businessman, he had a price to ask of the locals.  At his bidding, investors donated an entire city block to him for his factory and additionally threw in $5,000 (equivalent to $200,000 today) to kick-start the company.

Garnhart made good on his promise and in 1872 began to produce his patented reaper.  He employed about fifty men most of the time and told the press he intended soon to increase the size of the works.  Then disaster.  As one writer tells it:  “…The 1873 depression swept across the country, leaving a rich harvest of new enterprises in its wake.  The once promising Garnhart Reaper Works was one such casualty.”

In the meantime, John H. still had a hand in St. Louis liquor.  As evidence of this continued interest, in 1868, more than a year after moving to Madison, he trademarked a label for a brand of whiskey bearing his name.  Shown here, the anchor design almost certainly was his handiwork.  As Garnhart had done with his Denver liquor interests, he brought in two partners to run his company and seemingly gave them full responsibility for its management and finances.  They were Robert P. Hall and Henry Ruggles.  During this period the firm featured a number of whisky brands, including "Chrystal Springs Bourbon,” "Clear Creek Bourbon” "Glendale Bourbon,” "Gold Spring Bourbon,” "I. N. Miller Bourbon,” and "Miller Rye.”   Business as usual, however, was about to end.

Beginning in 1871 the notorious “Whiskey Ring” was taking shape in St. Louis to defraud the U.S. Government.  The scam worked this way:  Crooked officials would attest that distillers and rectifiers had paid all their taxes when they actually had paid about 60% of what they owed, much of the money going as bribes.  The residual 40% owed stayed home.  The partners in J. H. Garnhart & Co. became part of the cabal.  Why?  It may have been a matter of “everybody was doing it” not only in St. Louis but also in Chicago, Milwaukee and other Midwest cities.  Non-joiners were being undersold on their whiskey and often faced financial hard times.

Activities of the Ring began to draw suspicion by 1872 as federal revenues from liquor sales in the region were observed to dwindle sharply.  When Washington asked for an investigation, it was a corrupt official named Brasher who conducted the inquiry.  His report, filed in January 1873 was drafted, a later investigation found, “such as suited the distillers and rectifiers.”  Brasher’s report purported to compare the books of the liquor firms, including Garnhart & Co., with the records of the Collector and Assessor of Internal Revenue (himself the ringleader) and not surprisingly found no discrepancies.  Brasher concluded that his investigation “has failed to disclose that condition of affairs, which was presumed to exist, from that condition of affairs made to me by persons claiming to possess most direct and positive information about the fraudulent distillation of spirits….”  The whistle-blowers, he declared, were flat wrong.

Nevertheless, rumors continued to fly, rumors that Garnhart in Madison must have been aware of.  Moreover, the collapse of his reaper factory was imminent.  Yet he apparently gave no hint of these concerns.  His obituary in the Wisconsin State Journal (giving his name as “Garnhardt”) reported that he had seemed “robust” with a strong hold on life.  His last hours, it recorded, were in the city attending to business in excellent heath and good spirits.  He spent his last evening on the porch of Madison’s Park Hotel in “animated conversation with his friends.”  The next morning, May 10, 1874, he died suddenly at the age of 50.  Cause of death was listed as “syncope,” a medical term of that day that could indicate a heart attack or stroke.

Garnhart’s death may have saved him from a prison term or at least profound embarrassment.  A month after his passing, a new Secretary of Treasury, Benjamin Bristow, took office, described as an honest man “with a passionate conviction that others in the public service should be honest, too.  He set a trap for the St. Louis racketeers and sprung it in May, 1875.  Garnhart’s company was among those where barrels of illicit whiskey and office ledgers were seized.  Criminal indictments followed for 175 people involved. Many were convicted and went to jail.

Whether Henry Ruggles was among them (Hall had died earlier) is not clear.  Even before the raid Garnhart’s company may to have gone out of business.  It was replaced by a liquor firm named Adler, Furst & Co., that advertised itself as “Successors to J. H. Garnhard & Co.”  Located at the 19-21 South Second Street, the company was listed in St. Louis business directories only for 1875.  The reason seems evident.   According to press accounts, Simon Adler and Abraham Furst were among those arrested in the Bristow raid.  Convicted, they were slapped with a large fine and a prison term of one year in the Cole County, Missouri, jail.

Meanwhile, back in Madison, Roberta Noe Garnhart was coping as well as she could, with two teenaged daughters and three younger children to bring up on her own.  Five years after John’s death, she married again, to the Chief Judge of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Orasmus Cole.  Her obituary indicated that it had been a successful union:  “…No happier family has lived than that over which she presided with charming propriety and graceful dignity.”

John Garnhart’s body had been returned to St. Louis in 1874 where he was interred in Bellefontaine Cemetery in what has been described as a “family tomb.”   Roberta joined him there following her death in 1884 after a long illness.  Shown below, the mausoleum-like structure later had to be dismantled because of water damage and the bodies removed.  As a result the Garnharts currently lie in unmarked graves at the cemetery.

Over his foreshortened lifetime, John Garnhart packed enough entrepreneurial activity for five men, prospering in California; owning companies in Denver, St. Louis and Madison; designing bottles that today can fetch as much as $75,000; merchandising a patent medicine that swept the country; inventing and producing an improved grain harvester; and engaging in real estate and banking activities along the way.  While his early death may have spared him being caught in the web of the Whiskey Ring, by virtue of his continual reinvention he made his mark among the whiskey men of America.

Note:  For a number of years I had wanted to do a vignette on John Garnhart but lacked sufficient information.  To my rescue came Jean E. DeLauche, an indefatigable researcher and genealogist who is a distant relative of Roberta Noe Garnhart.  She was able to supply me with an immense amount of useful information on Garnhart, from his youthful trek to California to his current place of interment. She also was the source of two illustrations. I am deeply indebted to Ms. DeLauche for being able to tell this story. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bateman-Switzer of Montana: When the Cowboy met the Capitalist

I have no direct evidence that David Wellington Bateman was a cowboy.  Raised in Texas by a father who rode with a Confederate cavalry unit, young Bateman, shown right, lived the kind of peripatetic life style often equated with cowboys, moving frequently from place to place.  That is, until he met a capitalist and immigrant from Germany, named Jacob Switzer and they together they founded a highly successful wholesale liquor firm in Great Falls, Montana.

By most accounts Bateman was born in 1854 (his gravestone says 1852) in Tennessee, the son of William L. and Florence Bateman.  His father was a physician and surgeon, reputed to be of considerable prestige, who left Tennessee in 1855 when David was still an infant to settle in Hill County, Texas.  Dr. Bateman joined General Throckmorton’s brigade of Confederate mounted cavalry as a surgeon during the Civil War, seeing action in Texas and Mississippi.  Growing up in Texas, David Bateman, like his father, surely was comfortable on the back of a horse.

Meanwhile David was developing a wanderlust.  In 1878  likely traveling by horseback, he moved to Hutchison, Kansas, “for a short time.”  In 1881 he left Kansas for Montana, locating initially at Three Forks in Madison County. There he ran a branch store for the Kleinschmidt Brothers of Helena and later for the same firm at Martindale.  About the same time, he found a wife, Lucretia Brown, called “Lucy,” a woman born in Ohio from a family with roots in Virginia. They married in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1881.  The newlyweds shortly after moved to Helena, Montana, where Bateman worked in another Kleinschmidt store.  A staple of this mercantile chain was liquor sales and David was learning the whiskey trade.

But even marriage could not tame Bateman’s “cowboy” ways.  In 1884 a gold rush broke out in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and, as wryly recorded later:  “…Bateman took part in the stampede.  His participation was not successful.”  Apparently with Lucy still in tow, David returned to Helena briefly and then was off to Maryville, now a semi-ghost town outside Helena.  Along the way he had met Jacob Switzer, his elder by some fifteen years who had been born in Alsace, then part of Germany.

Switzer had come to the United States in 1857, settling first in Kansas and later in Colorado, making his money in the mining sector.  He arrived in Helena in in 1877 to pursue his mining interests vigorously throughout Montana, investing his capital in diggings across the state.   Among his investments was one in clay mining in nearby Blossberg and, as shown above, in a wholesale and retail cigar and liquor house.  In a contemporary biography Switzer was described thus:  “He is recognized as one of Montana’s sagacious businessman and is highly esteemed and popular.”
Switzer must have seen something special in Bateman, despite the young man’s restless ways,  and offered to set him up in business.  They recognized that selling liquor to thirsty Montana miners was a prospective bonanza and that Great Falls, almost a hundred miles from Helena, was a rapidly growing city with good water and rail transport.  In 1890 they chose to locate their wholesale liquor store there on Central Avenue. In the photo of that street shown above “Bateman &  Switzer” can be clearly seen on the sign at right.  Playing the role of “silent partner,” Switzer remained in Helena while Bateman ran the day to day liquor business.

Theirs was a multifaceted operation.  The firm advertised as a wholesaler of wine, liquor, and cigars as well as imported and domestic “cordials” (liqueurs).  It also manufactured cider, soda water, ginger ale and other carbonated beverages.  Bateman & Switzer were agents for the beer produced by the Wm. J. Lemp Brewery of St. Louis.  They also carried a line of bar glassware and billiard supplies.  For saloonkeepers in Great Falls, their store could be “one stop shopping.”

Unlike other liquor wholesalers at the time Bateman does not seem to have been rectifying his own whiskey, that is blending and mixing it on premises , but rather contracting for the products of outside distilleries.  He advertised such brands as “Grass Valley Bourbon;” "Yemassee," “Park Island Club” from Anderson County, Kentucky; “Messenger Maryland Rye.” and “Moorland Fire Copper Bourbon,” likely a product of the H. L. Griesdieck Co., of St. Louis [see my post on this firm, November 2014].  Bateman packaged his whiskeys in gallon and half gallon ceramic jugs, some with his label stencil in cobalt on the container, others with paper labels, as shown here. 

With the growing success of their foray into the liquor trade, in 1898 the partners decided to incorporate.  The company was organized as the Bateman-Switzer Co., with a capital stock of $50,000 (equiv. $1.5 million today).  David Bateman became president;  Jacob Switzer, vice-president.  The circa 1903 book, “Progressive Men of Montana,” reported:  “Under this new arrangement the business of the firm has shown gratifying progress and prosperity, securing the patronage and commanding the confidence of an every-augmenting body of customers, and widening its reputation for the quality of its output and the methods of its management far beyond the boundaries of the state.”

Their growing wealth allowed the partners to embark on other enterprises.  With a man named Brady, Bateman and Switzer joined in a land and irrigation project at Ashfield, Montana.  It was touted as the largest in the state, with a lake-sized reservoir covering 8,609 acres, forty-three miles in circumference, and able to irrigate 26,250 acres.  Their organization also owned several thousand acres of land that they operated as a cattle ranch.  Profits from liquor sales would have been a large part of the financing behind these gigantic projects. Additionally, Bateman owned a hotel in Great Falls that bore his name.

Although Switzer had Republican Party leanings like many German immigrants, Bateman was an active Democrat and as a rising business star was tapped by the local Democratic party in 1895 as its candidate for mayor of Great Falls.  He was defeated by the slim margin of 100 votes.  Also active in Great Falls fraternal organizations, Bateman was a member of the Independent Order of Old Fellows, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the United Commercial Travelers.  

As surrounding Western states went “dry” and action by Congress curtailed mail order sales into state and localities that had prohibitionary laws, Bateman and Switzer saw their business negatively affected.  Finally, in 1916 Montana itself by a statewide vote ended all sales of alcohol.  Bateman-Switzer Co. was forced to shut down.  Recent excavations in Great Falls have uncovered relics of the company.  The shot glass shown here was found in the basement of their building.  The labels here for “Very Fine Pure Rye Whiskey” may similarly have been recovered.  They are said to be identical to others that bearing the Bateman-Switzer name.  I have been unable to identify the distillery shown in their design.

Despite the demise of their liquor business, both partners now had sufficient other enterprises under management to survive the loss.  Switzer died in February 1931 and Bateman, who had retired from business a year earlier because of heart problems, followed in May 1932.  He was 78 years old and had been a resident of Great Falls for 42 years.  He was buried in Highland Cemetery, Monument Section 11, in Cascade County.  Shown here is the Bateman plinth and his gravestone.  Lucy/Lucretia would join him in Highland Cemetery in 1938.

A last word on David Bateman might be culled from his biography in “Progressive Men of Montana.”  It noted his rise to local prominence:  “He is a self-made man in every good sense of the term and well deserves the high position he has in the financial, social and political circles of the city.”   Bateman, the youthful “cowboy,” in maturity had become Bateman “the capitalist.”