Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cincinnati’s Rosenthals Decorated Along the Bar

The Rosenthals, father and sons, were among dozens of whiskey wholesalers and retailers who called Cincinnati home during the pre-Prohibition era.   Every outfit in the town’s liquor trade was scrambling to find a business formula that would make the company successful in spite of the fierce competition.  The Rosenthals succeeded by providing a variety of brands and advertising giveaways to decorate the bars of their customers.
Beginning in 1871, the Rosenthals gave America a rich mixture of whiskey labels, including "1881 Rock Castle Rye,” "Fern Hill Rye,” "Forest Grove,” ”Lion Head Rye,” "Meadow Brook,” "Mephisto Rye,” "Montreal Club,” "O' Hare Malt,” "Red Letter Rye,”  “Rosedale, and "Wm. Berkele.”   Shown here are a number of Rosenthal brands with colorful labels lined up as they might have looked on a bar during the heyday of that organization.

The founding father of this liquor trade was known throughout his life — even to the census taker — as “H. Rosenthal.”  Only one source indicates that his full name was Hyer (possibly Hyman) S. Rosenthal.  He had been born in the German state of Baden-Wurtemburg about 1820.  I have found no record of when and where he initially immigrated to to United States, but as a young man he settled in Cincinnati, a city with strong German roots.   He entered business directories initially in 1871 as a partner in the liquor firm of Rosenthal & Levison, located at 17 West Front Street.  Within two years Levison had departed the scene and the company now was H. Rosenthal & Son,  Rosenthal’s son, Meyer (or Myer), having joined his father.

The 1880 census found the family residing at 302 Bass Street in Cincinnati.  The senior Rosenthal, now 60 years old, was with his wife, Theresa, who was 53, and three of their children, including Charles.  The father’s occupation was given as “wholesale whiskey.”  When Charles, grew to adulthood, he too was taken into the business and the name was changed once again to H. Rosenthal & Sons.  By that time their store had moved to several addresses on East Second Street and soon would move to 341 Main Street and then on to East Third Street, the headquarters shown here.

The Rosenthals were not content to provide saloons, restaurants and bars with just their whiskeys.  Like many of their competitors in Cincinnati, they lavished advertising gifts upon their customers.  One staple of the trade was the shot glass.  They would be provided to bartenders for pouring drinks along the brass rail in the belief that customers would order the liquor thereon advertised.   The Rosenthal’s shot glasses were elegantly etched offerings, advertising, among other whiskeys,  Wm. Berkele, Fern Hill, and Forest Grove.

At the same time the Rosenthals were helping decorating the bars of their clients with an array of glass decanters known popularly as “back-the-bar bottles.”   Displayed in this post are four examples of their generosity.   One William Berkele bottle has etched lettering with inlaid gold, as does a Fern Hill decanter. Both were sure eye-catchers behind the bar.  A second Berkele decanter has a white glass label embossed on it and a third bottle a simple etched message.  All four have interesting stoppers.  While these items were relatively expensive to produce, the Rosenthals knew their value to their “bar-centric” marketing strategy.

Meanwhile,  Meyer and Charles were having personal lives. Meyer had married a woman known as Mamie who was seven years his junior.  They would have a family of at least three daughters and one son, Henry, who later would join H. Rosenthal & Sons.  Charles married a Cincinnati girl in 1886.  His wife, Rose, was the daughter of German immigrants.   The 1900 Census found them living with their three children,  Charles Jr., 7;  Terese, 5, and Margaret, 3, in the 31st Ward of Cincinnati. 

Under the management of the Rosenthals, the liquor business flourished. As “rectifiers” and blenders of whiskey, however, the family members likely were hampered by a lack of supplies. They were forced to rely on sources in Kentucky and elsewhere, made even more problematic by the manipulations of the several “Whiskey Trusts.”  The Rosenthals required a more steady supply of product.  One solution was to buy their own distillery.  In 1907 an opportunity was presented.   A man named W. H. Head during the 1870s had built a whiskey plant about two miles south of Raywick, a small village on the Rolling Fork River in central Kentucky.

The Head Distillery initially was a small operation.  Designated by the federal government as Distillery #9 of the Fifth Kentucky District, it was operating at a mashing capacity of 80 bushels a day, resulting in eight barrels of whiskey.   The property included two bonded warehouses with a total aging capacity of 2,500 barrels.  After purchasing it, the Rosenthals lost no time in expanding the infrastructure.  By 1908 warehouse capacity had been enlarged to 7,000 barrels and the name was changed to the “Wm. Berkele Distillery.”  In 1910 the family tore down the distillery building and rebuilt it, generating a capacity of 200 bushels a day and supplying three warehouses.

The Rosenthals were not without their problems.  One of their products was a alcohol based “medicinal” tonic they called “Rock Candy Drips and Whiskey.”  In 1909, three years after the passage of the Food and Drugs Act, the Bureau of Chemistry in the Department of Agriculture, the agency enforcing the law, filed a “criminal information” against the Rosenthals in the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio.  After testing the “drips” product, officials alleged misbranding because the labels and packaging failed to state of the proportion of alcohol.  Turned out it was 27.2 percent.  The Rosenthals pled guilty and paid a $10 fine and court costs.

By 1912, the father and founder seems to have exited the scene.  The annual report of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce that year reported only Charles and Meyer Rosenthal associated with the company.   They made a final move to 212-214 East Third Street in 1913 and were forced to shut down their activities in 1918 when Ohio voted statewide prohibition.  I have only scanty information about the subsequent lives of any of the Rosenthals, a “hole” in the narrative that perhaps a descendant, seeing this post, will help me fill.  In the meantime, a concluding word of appreciation for H. Rosenthal & Sons:   They did their best to decorate the bars of America.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Tom Megibben Was a Man of Many Distilleries

An American distillery owner most usually was engaged in just one such whiskey-making operation, although occasionally a proprietor might have two plants under management at one time.  An exception was Thomas Jefferson (T.J. or “Tom”) Megibben who controlled multiple Kentucky distilleries and at his death was said to have “an interest” in at least six.  Shown right,  Megibben is a whiskey man whose story can be told through a list of distilleries.
Findley & Foley Distillery.   Megibben was born in 1831 in the Ohio river town of Neville, Clermont County, Ohio, the son of William and Emily (Galvin) Megibben.  Educated in the Neville schools until the age of 16, he left school to make his own living, finding employment as an employee in a local distillery.   He quickly learned the whiskey-making trade and after two year, relocated to Cynthiana, Kentucky, a town in the north central part of the state and the seat of Harrison County,  located about half way between Cincinnati and Lexington.  There in January 1849 Megibben took a job with Findley & Foley Distillery.

Those partners had established a distillery near Broadwell, Kentucky, several years earlier.  They hired Megibben initially as their assistant chief distiller.   After spending a year working in that capacity he so impressed the proprietors that they made him the chief distiller.   He stayed in that job until about 1854 when a severe drought hit that region of Kentucky and the corn failure halted any distilling.  One biography says Megibben then “engaged in [unnnamed] agricultural pursuits.”

Megibben had strong incentives to keep working.  In June 1853 he had married Elizabeth J. David, the daughter of Simon and Nancy (Brown) David of Harrison County.  Elizabeth has been  described as “a lady of most exemplary character, pleasing address, and good judgment, and well worthy to be the life companion…”  The Megibben’s first child, Mary Loraine, was born a year later.  In time there would be seven other children, a total of four sons and four daughters.

Megilbben & Bramble “Excelsior” Distillery.  In the early 1850s with a partner, C. Bramble, Megibben struck out on is own, building a distillery near his home in Cynthiana at a place called Lair’s Station.  The flagship brand was “Excelsior Whiskey” and the distillery became known by that name.  Tom took his brother, James, into the business with him at this facility.  By the early 1800s, Megibben’s plant had a mashing capacity of 700 bushels and three warehouses with a capacity of 17,500 barrels.  A on-premises cooperage shop could turn out fifty barrels a day and at peak the distillery employed forty hands.  Annual production of Excelsior and other company brands was 8,000 barrels while an additional 11,000 barrels were aging in bond.  In 1868 management of this extensive operation was turned over to a Megibben nephew.
The Edgewater Distillery.  Not content with running only a single distillery Megibben during the 1850s purchased an existing plant that had been established in 1836, owned and operated by Benjamin Brandon as part of a a grist mill and whiskey-making complex.  After passing through several proprietorships, about 1855 it was leased for three years to Megibben and two partners.  The lease included twenty-five acres of farm land on which cattle could be kept to feed spent mash.  The venture proved very profitable and before the end of the three years, Megibben, after buying out his partners, purchased the entire property.  It included the distillery, “all the appurtenances thereto belonging,” and a 200 acre farm.

As sole owner, Megibben lost no time in improving and expanding the distillery.   As shown above, it was expanded over time into a large complex, featuring five warehouses with the capacity to hold 25,000 barrels of aging whiskey.  According to insurance records, the distillery itself was of frame construction with a metal or slate roof.  The warehouses included three adjoining bonded buildings constructed of brick with metal roofs, a separated iron-clad bonded stone warehouse located 250 feet southwest of the still, and a “free” (non-bonded) stone warehouse with a shingle roof, located 120 feet east of the still.

According to an 1893 report on Megibben’s Edgewater distillery:   “The warehouses…are constructed after the most approved plans for the maturing of the product and are lighted by immense skylights which give a perfect flood of light and safe so arranged that the reflected rays of the sun are thrown upon the entire space.  The whiskey is still further matured by the use of steam-heat which is forced by steel blowers to all parts of the houses.”

His flagship brands became “Edgewater Sour Mash Whiskey” and “Edgewater Rye.”  Megibben put his own portrait on the labels, perhaps as an indication in his pride in the product. He merchandised these whiskeys vigorously throughout the country, finding a ready customer base because of their quality.  It was one of the Kentucky brands specially featured at the 1893 Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago.  A Kentucky publication boasted that Edgewater Whiskey “is to be found in nearly every first-class hotel and bar in this country.

Over time Megibben continued to add parcels to his holdings until he had accrued some 3,000 acres.  Shown below is a line drawing of the estate he created for himself and his large family not far from the distillery complex.  These holdings allowed him during the 1860s to become known as a breeder of fine cattle. Willing to pay big money for prize bulls, Megibben assembled a herd that was said to be one of the finest in the United States.  He also was breeding high-grade sheep.
The Ashland Distillery.  His passon to own distilleries not yet satisfied, Megibben early in the 1870s became a partner in the Ashland Distillery, located on Manchester Street (Frankfort Pike) in Lexington, Kentucky.  Shown below, this plant on eleven acres had been established in 1865, produced the “Ashland Whiskey,” brand, and had gone through several ownerships before closing.  Dates differ, but about 1871 Megibben, with well-known whiskey entrepreneur, William Tarr, acquired the distillery and restarted production.  [See my post on William Tarr, February 2015.]  The partners continued to produce the Ashland brand and introduced “Wm. Tarr Whiskey.”   Both brands came in bourbon and rye versions.

In May 1879, a fire destroyed the distillery, one that largely had been constructed of wood.  This disaster forced the city fathers of Lexington to establish a waterworks to provide a year around supply of water to fight fires and thereby lower insurance rates.  With this safeguard the distillery was reorganized during which Megibben became a director, owning 40%, and his son-in-law, Joseph M. Kimbrough the plant manager.  Shown here, the distillery was rebuilt at a cost of $75,000 (almost $2 million today).  By 1882 the output was approximately 45 barrels a day with 18,000 barrels in bonded storage in two warehouses, both adjacent to a railroad spur.

The Van Hook Distillery.  Not long after acquiring the Ashland Distillery, Megibben struck again, purchasing the Van Hook Distillery in Harrison County, shown below.  Although scholars disagree on the origins of this facility, they agree that it was destroyed by fire in 1869 and rebuilt the same year.  At the time of McGibben’s purchase, during the early 1880s, the distillery had a mashing capacity of 300 bushels per day and produced 3,000 barrels of whiskey annually, with 6,000 barrels held in bond. The size of the distillery was 35 x 55 feet and rose three floors. Three brick warehouses with a capacity of 7,500 barrels could be found on the grounds, containing L. Van Hook Pure Bourbon.  A cooper’s shop attached to the still annually turned out 4,000 barrels.  Waste from the mash fed 150 cattle and 400 hogs. Shipments from the warehouses were made via the Kentucky Central Railroad from Cynthiana.

After operating the Van Hook Distillery for a few years with continuing success, Megibben sold the property to another son-in-law, Felix S. Ashbrook.  By this time he had become the largest landowner in Harrison County.  His abundant energies included horse racing.  In 1872 he bought his first thoroughbred horse and eventually ran a stable of fifty thoroughbreds and a hundred trotters and pacers.  His horses competed in the Kentucky Derby in 1882 and again in 1884.  Neither won.
The Paris Distillery.  Shown above, this whiskey manufactory had been built in 1860, located about half mile from Paris, Kentucky, on the Kentucky Central Railroad. It had been operated under at least two ownerships by the 1880s when Megibben got involved.  This facility produced a whiskey called “Paris Distillery Hand Made Sour Mash.”   The daily mashing capacity was 412 barrels per day and boasted a warehouse storage capacity of 15,000 barrels.  The warehouses were five, four bonded of brick construction and one free, iron clad.  The distillery was frame and the property included a frame cattle shed 225 feet west of the still.  By 1884 Megibben was in charge of managing this distillery.
While just keeping track of these many business activities might have been too much for an ordinary man,  Megibben also found time for politics.  He first was elected to the Kentucky State House of Representatives from Harrison County in 1871.  According to a biographer:  “By being always vigilant and watchful, regarding the best interests his constituency and singularly prompt in devising measures best adapted to their wants…,” he was elected to a second term.  In 1879 he was elected to the State Senate, serving one term.  A delegate to a Democratic convention that nominated Grover Cleveland, Megibben was a familiar figure in Kentucky Democratic circles and his mansion home, shown here, a frequent political gathering place. 

Megibben also fulfilled the old adage, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”  In addition to his many business and political interests, he often was tapped for other leadership roles.   He founded the Latonia Track and Jockey Club, was president of the Shorthorn Cattle Breeders Association of Chicago, and president of the Kentucky Trotting Horse Breeders Association from 1873 until 1882. McGibben was elected the first president of the Kentucky Distillers Association at its 1880 initial meeting in Louisville.  He continued to be active in the organization until his death.  

At the End.  When T. J. McGibben died in January 1890 at the age of 59, his obituaries noted, seemingly in awe, that he continued to have an interest in six Kentucky distilleries.  Extra trains were run to Cynthiana from both Cincinnati and Lexington to bring some 300 mourners to his funeral services.  A lengthy procession led from the church to the Battle Grove Cemetery where he was laid to rest in Section G, Lot 4.  A tall stone pillar marks the place.

McGibben was the object of many tributes after his death.  Among them, is one from the Frankfort Capitol that captured the man rather than the titan of Kentucky whiskey.  In part it read:  “Modest as a woman, gentle as a child, ‘Tom’ McGibben, as those who loved him loved best to call him, never betrayed a trust, never faltered in his devotion to a friend or forgot to keep his plighted faith to any man.”

Note:  T.J. McGibben was given considerable biographical attention after his death, the information on which much of this post is drawn.  Most important was the 1882 volume, History of Bourbon, Scott, Harrison and Nicholas Counties, by William H. Perrin. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The “Silver Wedding” Three and a D.C. Mystery

Three proprietors dealing in liquor sales in the Nation’s Capital — John Keyworth, Harry H. Meyerstein, and Alonzo Bunch — had one attribute in common.  They each claimed to be the source for a D.C.-based whiskey called “Silver Wedding.”  The truth behind these assertions is not easily uncovered, the facts are scanty, and some details remain a mystery.
John Keyworth was the first on the “Silver Wedding” scene.  According to records, he was born in District of Columbia in 1838, the son of Robert Keyworth, an immigrant from England who became a “citizen of prominence” in Washington.  Robert was a watchmaker and jeweler, doing business on Pennsylvania Avenue, west of Ninth Street.  He also was a major in the First Regiment, D.C. Volunteer Militia.

Robert’s son, John, eschewing his father’s profession, but not a commercial life, ran a grocery store and liquor shop at the corner of Ninth and D Streets, N.W.,   From a fuzzy photo of Keyworth’s establishment, right, can be noted multiple barrels, several of which likely held whiskey, including Silver Wedding.  In an unusual step for the time — trademark laws were generally not respected — Keyworth registered the brand name in 1876 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The label is shown below as it appeared in government documents and later on a shot glass. Calling his establishment “Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Fine Groceries, Liquors and General Merchandise,” Keyworth advertised himself in 1881 as the “sole proprietor” of Silver Wedding Rye.

He also was a family man. In the 1870 and 1880 census reports, Keyworth was living in the District with his wife, Mary, and their five children, four boys and one girl, ranging in age from 18 to 11.  I have been unable to find a definitive date of his death but a John Keyworth, occupation listed as a grocer, died in April 1897 and is buried in Washington’s Congressional Cemetery.   Keyworth’s downtown store eventually was torn down to make way for the large FBI Building.

Enter Harry H. Meyerstein.   Business directories for 1900 show him working in Baltimore for L. Strauss, a grocery outfit.  The following year he is listed in D.C. directories and working for a Strauss outlet there.  By 1905 Meyerstein was operating a saloon at 417 Eleventh St. N.W.  In 1901 he had either purchased or by default obtained the trademark on Silver Wedding Whiskey.  Above is shown the official Patent Office approval. Note that Meyerstein asserted that the brand name had been used since September 1, 1874, obviously initiated by Keyworth.  Meyerstein may have been the source of a second Silver Wedding shot glass, shown right.

How Meyerstein fared in business is not recorded but at some point he may have sold or given up the rights to the Silver Wedding brand.  Now the brand was claimed by Colonial Wine Co., located (like Keyworth) at Ninth and D Streets N.W., and more particularly to Colonial’s flamboyant owner, Alonzo Bunch.  The 1910 census found Bunch, living on 9th Street, likely above his liquor store and saloon.  Age 33, he was Virginia born and married to a woman whose name — no kidding — was given to the census as Cuta Bunch.  No children were recorded in the household.

At least three shot glasses were issued by Colonial Wine, one involving the Silver Wedding Whiskey.   These would have been given to saloons, restaurants and bars featuring Bunch’s liquor.   Alonzo also was running a bar on the second floor of a building at 1213 Pennsylvania Avenue.   He had acquired the license after the previous owner was cited by First Precinct Lieutenant J. A. Sprinkle as follows:   “Under present conditions this place should not go on…I think it is the worst conducted place in the precinct, and unless the musical attractions and the woman trade is eliminated I recommend that this license not be granted.”   The license was denied and the saloon put in the hands of receivers, from which Bunch obtained it and, I trust, cleaned up the situation.  

Alonzo’s hands, however, were not altogether “clean.” He was the D.C. agent for Cincinnati Extract Works, selling vanilla, lemon and other extracts, all with a high alcoholic content.  In 1913, his extracts were found by Food and Drug officials to be “imitation products, artificially colored.”  The Feds confiscated Bunch’s stock and he was fined $15.

After Congress in 1917 voted to make the District of Columbia “dry,” Bunch, who had continued with his liquor interests up until the end, made headlines in Washington D.C. papers during a Congressional hearing by accusing Justice Department officials of confiscating his liquor and then giving it away to friends.  It is not clear that his charges were ever confirmed.

Along the line,  Bunch sold Colonial Wine Company to a pair of Washington businessmen named Landmesser and Fox.  The circumstances of the change were somewhat mysterious.  The new owners announced in newspaper ad that the business would “hereafter be conducted in a first-class manner,”  seemingly implying something adverse about Bunch’s proprietorship.  Subsequent Colonial ads continued to advertise Silver Wedding Whiskey.  It cost $1.00 per quart; Colonial’s “better whiskies” cost $2.00.

The assumption must be that the sale of Silver Wedding brand ceased  with the coming of Prohibition.  No evidence exist of the brand being revived after Repeal.  The transfer of the name from Keyworth to Meyerstein to Bunch and beyond remains murky at best.  But 1917 was not the end of the saga.  Shown here is a 1932 “medicinal” prescription for Silver Wedding whiskey issued by a “Greens’ Eye Hospital” in San Francisco.  Was this whiskey from a usurper of the brand name or federally confiscated liquor from Washington, D.C. that had found its way to the West Coast?  Just another Silver Wedding mystery.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sound the Trumpet for Simon Hartman and His Whiskey!

Ta-ta-tara, ta-ta-tara!   A trumpet blares at left to announce this post, one that features an immigrant boy from Germany,  his peripatetic early life selling cigars, his liquor endeavors in Chicago, his sudden departure for the West, his eventual return to Chicago, his success in producing and merchandising his whiskey across America.  Simon Hartman was his name.
One source says Simon was born in Wurtemburg, Germany, another says Bavaria, in May 1850, the son of Jacob and Caroline (Rosenour) Hartman.  He seems to have been a restless youth from the start.  Educated in the good German school system, he emigrated to the U.S. while still in his mid teens, settling in Omaha, Nebraska.   There he found work as a clerk in a clothing store, a job that he obviously found dull and boring.  Then opportunity beckoned.

To many young men — even as young as Hartman was at 16 — the idea of being a traveling cigar salesman seemed a romantic alternative to the humdrum.  One writer on the cigar trade has observed about the attraction:  “They dressed well, and traveled to distant places.  They were on the move finding adventure…Best of all, salesmen were popular, the center of attention wherever they went….”   Continuing, the writer noted that the reality for traveling cigar salesmen often was quite different.  Selling was hard work, traveling conditions were arduous, competition was fierce, and too often they met rejection:  “Salesmen came and went.  Some lasting barely long enough to get their business cards printed.”

Not Simon Hartman.  He persisted three years as a cigar salesman in the West.  His strategy was a simple but ingenious one:   He followed the building of the Union Pacific Railroad as it wended its way west.  Shown here is a train that had arrived at the Nebraska town of Cozad, 247 miles west of the the starting point in Omaha.  Hartman might well have been on it.  As the rails were extended across America a whole succession of end-of-tracks towns came to life where cigars could be sold.  A train car would serve Hartman as both hotel and office as he accompanied the progress of the railroad across Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada and perhaps even into California, bringing him to places like Grand Island, Cheyenne, Laramie, Salt Lake, Reno and Sacramento.
How far Hartman followed the transcontinental rails is uncertain but he likely emerged from the experience in 1869 with a fair amount of cash.  Then he headed east to Chicago where a relative, Emanuel Hartman, with brothers Elias and Samuel, had begun a wholesale liquor firm located initially at 107 W. Harrison Street.  Its flagship brand was “Ages — All Rye.”

Simon learned the liquor trade and accumulated sufficient wealth to think of marriage.  In May 1872, at the age 22 he headed west to Leavenworth, Kansas. There he married Emma Abeles.  She was 19 andlike Simon, an immigrant from Germany.  How they had met is unclear but their union would produce five children, Emanuel, Edward, Louis, Pearl, and Charlyne.

Two years later Simon’s wanderlust reasserted itself.  Uprooting his family from Chicago he headed west again, this time to Colorado.  Why he had departed is not explained.   Perhaps the Colorado silver boom caught his attention.  Or not being Emanuel’s immediate relative he may have seen no future for himself in the company.  In any case the 1880 census found him in Lake City, Hinsdale County, Colorado.  At age 30 he had returned to his original occupation in the clothing business.  Hartman soon became active there, joining the local “Pitkin Guards,” a Colorado National Guard unit that also was involved in abundant social events.  It took Simon only two years to determine that selling booze rather than britches was a more appealing prospect. In 1882 he and his family moved back to Chicago and he re-entered the liquor trade.  

This time Hartman associated himself with Dallemand & Company.  Albert Dallemand had been born in California and initially engaged in wholesale liquor there.  In 1885, however, he had decided that Chicago provided more opportunity and subsequently opened a business on Jackson Street.  [See my post on Dallemand, September 2012].   Hartman joined him there in 1886 as a minor partner and helped oversee that firm’s rise to prominence.   Dallemand was a marketing genius and Hartman learned enough from him over the ensuing eight years to strike out on his own.

Thus in 1894 was born the Goodhart-Hartman Co., located at 229 Kinzie Street in Chicago  Simon was the president and P. H. Goodhart was secretary-treasurer.  They called themselves “distillers and importers.”   In truth they more likely were rectifiers, blending and mixing whiskeys to achieve certain taste and color.  Their brands were "Belle Mead,” “Belmead,” “Clear Brook,” "Fairview Spring,” "Ivy Leaf,”  "Victoria Club,” and the flagship label, “Herald.”  In 1906 the firm trademarked that name, along with Clear Brook and Victoria Club.   A chromolithographed saloon sign advertising Herald Whiskey displayed four illustrations showing the extensive interior of the Goodhart-Hartman facility.  The scenes begin with the bottling department at the upper left, and progressing clockwise depict the blending room, the business office, and finally, barrels of Herald Whiskey maturing in racks.
Hartman had learned well from Dallemand about the need for a wholesale liquor dealer to provide attractive giveaway advertising items to customers like saloonkeepers, restaurant owners and bartenders.   Prime gifts were saloon signs, as the one shown above, and the one below that is a reverse glass example, attractive but expensive to make.  Lesser but common items were shot glasses.   Shown here are three shots, advertising Herald, Clear Brook and Belmead Whiskeys.   Another item was a paperweight containing bar dice.  It bore the address of 116-118 Franklin Street, where Goodhart-Hartman moved about 1900.  The company would make two more moves, to 20 North Franklin in 1911 and 225-227 West Randolph in 1913.

Hartman’s marketing efforts extended far beyond the confines of Chicago and Illinois.  Shown here is a “ghost sign” from the front of a building in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Over the door of an establishment identified as a “cafe,” it carries the admonishment “Always Get the Best, Herald Rye.”  It also was the featured liquor at the fancy Hotel Minnesota, located on the shores of Detroit Lake in Minnesota. In 1901 the capitalization of Goodhart-Hartman was increased by stockholder vote from $100,000 to $300,000, the equivalent of $7.5 million today.

Moreover, Simon was extending his financial interests.  In 1904 he was one of three Chicago businessmen who organized a “manufacturing confectionery business” called The Western Candy Company.  He also was an investor and director of the United States Coffee Company.  The census taker found him at home in 1910 at 4558 Ellis Avenue in Chicago’s Sixth Ward.  Now 59, his occupation was given as “wholesale merchant - liquors.”  Residing with him and wife, Emma, was his son, Edward, working as a Goodhart-Hartman traveling salesman.

Sadly,  Hartman had only two more years to live.  On December 6, 1912, he died in Chicago at the age of 61.  He was buried at Rosehill Cemetery and Mausoleum in Chicago.  Emma would join him there 18 years later.  About the time of his death the Goodhart-Hartman Company disappeared from Chicago business directories.   Without the founder’s guiding hand the business appears to have faltered and terminated.

Left to posterity are the attractive artifacts Simon Hartman left behind and the story of a young immigrant who rode a train car West selling cigars and setting the tone for a career that culminated in giving America a much “Herald-ed” whiskey.  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Portland’s Varwig Family Sold VIM with Vigor

Taking their cue from the Herman F. Varwig, the family founder,  described as having “the courage, strength and resourcefulness of the true pioneer,  the Varwigs of Portland, Oregon, created a rye whiskey they called “VIM.”    They merchandized VIM vigorously and made it a highly successful product of the West Coast liquor trade.
Herman Varwig was a native of Germany, born in the province of Hanover in 1925.  Immigrating to the United States as a boy, he settled first in the East and then in New Orleans before being drawn to California by the discovery of gold.  His first stop was San Francisco where he apparently became discouraged about finding his fortune in mining.   He relocated to Sacramento where he opened a general store that drew its many of its customers from local farmers.   After much of Varwig’s stock was lost in a flood, he made a final move to Oregon, settling in Portland in the 1860s.

It was in the U.S. that Herman met his wife. Her name was Sophia Wiebisch and she also had been born in Hanover.  Orphaned at an early age and making the trip alone as a young girl she sailed from Germany to America, settling in New Orleans.   How the couple became acquainted is unknown but they were married in the Big Easy sometime about 1846.  Their first child, Louis, would be born there in 1848.  They eventually would become the parents of seven, three of whom died in childhood.

Herman Varwig opened a saloon in Portland about 1869, operating it for about four years before changing occupations and opening a bakery shop.   Apparently coming to the realization that booze was a better seller than buns, he returned to the liquor business in 1878.  He located his business at 231 Front Street in Portland, an address adjacent to the harbor.  Varwig also was engaged in the wholesale and retail tobacco business for many years, manufacturing cigars for which, it was said, “…he found a ready market and established a large industry, managed in systematic and efficient manner.”

Varwig also was  finding a good market for his whiskey and in 1888 his son, Louis, joined the business.  The name became “H. Varwig & Son.”   During this period the Varwigs hit on the name VIM Rye for their flagship whiskey brand.   Likely blending the VIM in their own facilities from raw product provided from outside distilleries, they trademarked the name in 1905.  By that time it had become a familiar name to West Coast imbibers with substantial annual sales.

Their second brand was “R. Bond Whiskey,” a label that initially had been registered in 1876 to Mills, Johnson & Co. of Cincinnati.   Since this firm is recorded in business only a short time, the Varwigs may either have purchased the brand name or simply appropriated it.  They packaged their whiskey in amber bottles, most of them with embossing that contained the Varwig name and monogram.

Like many whiskey wholesalers Varwig & Son provided giveaway items to favored customers.  These included saloonkeepers who stocked VIM and R. Bond, and bartenders who kept those brands behind the bar and recommended them to the boys along the rail.  A really good customer could get a fancy sign.  The one shown here features a “lady of the night” sleeping on a hammock in the moonlight half nude while a male “admirer” approaches in stealth.  This illustration appears to have been specially made for the Varwigs.   
The Varwigs also provided the same customers with shot glasses containing company advertising, notable for the number and variety of the shots they issued.  VIM got the most attention.  In addition to the glass that opened this post, the company provided at least three other varieties, shown here.  Note that one at right is heavily enameled and the other, below, is elaborately etched.  R. Bond  whiskey also merited several varieties of shot glasses, one an unusual “label under glass,” with gold trim,  another with heavy enameling.   The glasses attest to the merchandising acumen of the Varwig clan. 

With Herman's success came  recognition for his “spirit of enterprise” and “public spirited” community service.  He was an active member of the Order of Red Men,  the Lutheran Church, and the Democratic Party — but never sought office.  When he died in 1895 at the age of 72, it was asserted,  “…His passing deprived Portland of a citizen of high principles and substantial worth.”

Subsequently, ownership of H. Varwig & Son fell to Herman’s widow, Sophia, and her son Louis.   For a time two other sons were identified with the firm, Herman F. as a bookkeeper and Thomas as a salesman.  Within several years Sophia retired from the business and directories listed the company management as Louis, Thomas, and their sister, Minnie.

The Varwigs remained at their store on Front Street, selling VIM Rye and R. Bond Whiskey until a statewide ban on sales of alcohol was enacted in Oregon in 1915.  Louis had only two more years to live, dying in 1917.  Sophia followed in 1923 and Thomas in 1927.   Thus none of them never saw the repeal of the prohibitionary laws.  Herman, Sophia and other family members are buried in Portland’s River View Cemetery.  A tall plinth, shown here, marks the Varwig family graves.
A measure of the importance of the Varwigs in Oregon was an extensive family biography in the 1928 book “History of the Columbia River Valley from the Dalles to the Sea.”  It is from that document that much of the information and all the direct quotations above were taken.  To that legacy must be added the distinctive shot glasses the family issued.  Finally, the Varwigs gave the world VIM — a whiskey vigorously to be reckoned with.