Monday, January 29, 2018

Mark Twain, the Tice Meter, and the Nusbaums

Mark Twain called it a “ten million dollar swindle.”   The U.S. Commissioner of Revenue saw it as the answer to preventing the government from being deprived of “a vast amount of revenue” through frauds committed by liquor distillers. They both were referring to the spirits meter invented by Isaac P. Tice, a New York mechanical engineer.  Peoria, Illinois, liquor dealers Adolphus and Julius Nusbaum were typical of the hundreds caught up in the Tice Meter controversy.

Liquor tax stamp
The story began in 1867 when strong evidence emerged that the national government was being cheated out of tax money through frauds committed by distillers, often in collusion with dishonest inspectors.  For the Commissioner of Revenue the answer was to measure liquor output by means of meters attached to stills that reputedly would aid inspectors in detecting gross misstatements of the amount of spirits manufactured.  The Commissioner advertised for inventors to come forward with meters and asked the National Academy of Sciences to appoint a committee to review the submissions and select a winner.

The Academy could not have appointed a more prestigious panel. One was Dr. Joseph Henry, shown right, a physicist who had conducted pioneering research in electromagnetism and served as the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.  Another was Dr. Julius Erasmus Hilgard, shown left, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a professor at Johns Hopkins University, who was an expert on measurement.  They examined eighteen different meters and ended recommending one submitted by Isaac P. Tice. 

Tice, an engineer from New York, was an inveterate inventor who already had patented an improved windmill, milk rack, and water meter, among other items.  After the water meter proved to be commercially profitable, Tice had turned his attention to liquor.  In March 1867 he had patented what he called a “Revenue Guard for Stills” shown right and later a still itself that could be more easily monitored.  Apparently neither met the specifications from the Commissioner of Revenue because in December 1897 the inventor submitted what became known as the Tice Meter.  Shown below, it was that device chosen by Drs. Henry and Hilliard. 

Shortly thereafter, the Treasury Department began to require selected distillers to buy them, causing a fire storm on Capitol Hill where an “extended and acrimonious” discussion in both Houses of Congress ensued and an entirely new meter examining committee was empowered.  That caused a frustrated Tice to shut down his factory until 1868 when the second committee also endorsed his device.   Now the Treasury was free to demand that all distillers and rectifiers in the U.S. buy one.  

This included the Nusbaum brothers of Peoria, a city whose main drag is shown above as it looked at the time.  The brothers, Adophus and Julius, were born in Pennsylvania, the sons of John Nusbaum, a wealthy merchant who had immigrated to the United States from Germany.  Finding their way to Peoria, the brothers had established their liquor business about 1868 with facilities located on the banks of the Peoria River at the foot of Elm Street.  There they were using a still to rectifying (blend) whiskeys for taste and color and issuing them as their proprietary brands.

 Tice Meters were costly and the cries of anguished whiskey men reached the ears of one of the most celebrated Americans of the time — Mark Twain. Twain took aim at the requirement.  Characteristically using humor to get his point across, he quoted an anonymous source (actually himself) in an 1868 “Letter from Washington”: “Why, when the Tice meter was covertly foisted upon the public by the Government and every distiller in America preemptory commanded to come forward and buy one at $600 to $1,500, when a better machine could have been furnished for half the money, he said he believed there was a ten million dollar swindle behind all that, and that certain high officials were privy to it and reaping a vast profit from it.  — which was no doubt true as gospel, but where is the wisdom in talking about these dangerous topics.”

It did not take long for the Commissioner of Revenue to begin having doubts about the real utility of the Tice Meter and so a third expert commission was appointed to make a series of practical tests.  When the report came in negative, the Treasury Department in 1871 discontinued requiring use of the device, claiming to have found a more accurate meter than Tice’s.  In the meantime, hundreds of distillers and rectifiers had been forced to buy them — and now the Tice meters had been trashed. 

Some distillers asked for a payback by Congress.  Their claims were denied. Another recourse was to the courts, the path taken by the Nusbaums.  They sued Enoch Emory, the U.S. collector of revenue for the Chicago district in Federal District Court to recover the $1,500 they had deposited with him for Tice meters to be used in their rectifying operation.  Today that would be equivalent to at least $20,000.   

Emory’s defense was that he was only the conduit to Isaac Tice and he had forwarded the Nusbaums’ money to the inventor upon proof that Tice had sent the required meters to the Nusbaums.  Emory’s lawyers argued that the money was Tice’s and not his and implied the Nusbaums should be litigating against Tice. The judge agreed and threw out their case against Emory.  The brothers did not appeal the lower court decision.

At that point, the now wiser Nusbaums ceased their efforts at repayment and took their losses.  But the question remains:  Was the Tice Meter, as Twain labeled it, a “ten million dollar swindle” that netted government officials millions of dollars in illicit profits?   I have my doubts.  If Enoch Emory was telling the truth about sending the Nusbaum’s money to Tice, he would not seem to have benefited.  It also seems unlikely that Tice or anyone else could have been bribing the expert panels that alternatively were approving or dismissing his meter.  

My theory is that this debacle likely was the kind that often occurs in Washington when scientists, bureaucrats and Congressmen get embroiled in a complex technical area where there is strong “push-back” from a powerful industry.  The results, as demonstrated here, often are chaotic.  That would be no consolation to the Nusbaums.  By 1873 — just two years later — they appear to have shut the doors on their Peoria liquor house and gone out of business.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Whiskey Men and Machine Politics

Foreword:   It should be no surprise that a number of whiskey men were involved in political life at the local and state level, nor that a few of them might have been embroiled in machine politics.   Such men often had money, local influence and interests to be protected politically. It could be just a short step from there to being a machine “boss” or operative.  Four such situations are chronicled here in American cities as diverse as Louisville, Denver, Memphis and Kansas City.

Louisville earned the title “Whiskey City” as the center of the Kentucky distilling industry, a place where many leading liquor producers and wholesalers operated.  The Whallen Brothers, John Henry, shown left, and James Patrick, dominated politics in Louisville for many years as well as being whiskey men in their own right.

It was not their liquor trade, however, that thrust the Whallens into the political arena.  It was the need to protect their entertainment business.  They also were running the Buckingham Theater, shown below, with presentations featuring scantily-clad women who provided “female companionship” and off-stage services to male patrons. John immediately recognized that his theatrical enterprises would be under constant pressure from the more respectable elements in Louisville.  Already with wealth and influence, the Whallens decided to flex some political muscle.

By the mid-1880s the upstairs “Green Room” in the Buckingham Theater had become the hub of local Democratic politics  and John was dubbed the “Buckingham Boss.”  Others called him “Boss John” and some “Napoleon.”  In 1885 he engineered the election of Louisville’s mayor and for his efforts was rewarded with being named Chief of Police.  No more surprise raids on Whallen theaters.  One biography asserted that Whallen “... influenced every Louisville and statewide Kentucky election for the rest of his life. In addition to bribing officials and controlling assistance programs, at his peak Whallen controlled the awarding of 1,200 city patronage jobs.”

The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Arthur Krock recalled Whallen’s dominance of Louisville politics in his memoirs, describing the Buckingham Green Room as “the political sewer through which the political filth of Louisville runs.”  Not all in Louisville shared that attitude.  John was noted for his charitable work, providing food to the out-of-work and assisting the poor.  As a result he was popular among immigrants, blue collar workers, and Catholics. They saw him as their champion against the Louisville establishment.

When John died in 1913, the levers to the Whallen machine were handed to James, shown right.   The brother, although he had been important in the rise of the family fortunes was unable to maintain the power of the political organization John had built.  James lacked the charisma of his old brother and gradually the power of the Whallen political machine faded. 

By contrast, Wolfe Londoner’s attempt at a political machine were very brief.  A well-known liquor dealer and grocer, working from his four story building on Denver’s Arapahoe Street,  Londoner had built a reputation as civic activist and decided to take that prestige into the political arena by running for mayor.  His “machine” was composed of the city’s local saloon and gambling bosses, who wielded considerable political power in Denver.  Londoner was seen as someone who would be sympathetic to their interests against a growing tide of prohibitionism and puritanism in Colorado.

His rowdy crowd of supporters provided Londoner with volunteers that included notorious Western gunslingers Bat Masterson, shown left, and Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith.  Led by those “bad boys,”  Londoner’s friends stuffed ballot boxes and traded drinks for votes at local saloons on election day.  Londoner became Denver’s 20th mayor by a whopping 77 votes. 

If Londoner had thoughts about creating any kind of permanent machine, however, they were soon dashed.  Even before he could take office, opponents were filing charges against him.  It took a while before the legal challenges could make their way through the courts and while they were, Londoner served more than a year as mayor, until forced by court orders to resign.  He was Denver’s first Jewish mayor and the only mayor ever removed from office.  Wolfe went back to his liquor trade.

Louis Sambucetti, shown falls into the category of machine operative.  The child of immigrants, he grew up working in his mother’s saloon, perhaps fantasizing about becoming a wealthy and important figure in Memphis, Tennessee.  He would find that path to fortune and recognition in the liquor trade and by cultivating influential friends.  Among them was John T. Walsh, a grocer who had become a powerful political figure in Memphis, one known for being able to deliver the Irish vote.  Seeing Sambucetti as a leader of a growing Italian population,  Walsh brought him into his fold.

In 1906, when a Walsh crony was elected Mayor and Walsh himself was Vice Mayor and Fire and Police Commissioner,  Sambucetti was selected to serve as one of several Memphis Supervisors of Public Works.  Serving in the same capacity was E. H. Crump, whose rise from that post would be meteoric.  In the second term for the Walsh ticket in 1908, Sambucetti had the same position, but Crump, shown right, now had been raised to Fire and Police Commissioner. 

In 1911, Crump, right, obtained a self-serving state law abolishing the existing city government and  establishing a small commission to manage Memphis, an arrangement he dominated as “Boss” Crump for the next fifty years.  Sambucetti never held public office again.  Initially his “godfather” John Walsh sided against Crump dooming any chances Louis might have had to stay in office.  Seeing the newcomer’s hold on the city, John T. eventually capitulated and threw in with him, supporting Crump’s organization thereafter.  Louis made a quick exit from politics and stuck to running his liquor business thereafter.

That brings us to one of the most notorious political bosses of American history — Thomas J. Pendergast.  Some say that Tom Pendergast was just a Kansas City, Missouri, saloonkeeper and liquor dealer who came to the rescue of a failed clothing store proprietor.  Others say he was a high powered political boss who helped make Harry Truman the 33rd President of the United States.  Both are right.

For many years in the early 1900s Pendergast controlled Kansas City, historians say, much like a CEO controls a large corporation.  Presenting himself as a businessman, he ran the city, providing jobs for the working population, choosing municipal and state leadership, and directing a political “machine” that helped fill his pockets with kickbacks and bribes.  Although he had many business interests,  Pendergast was first and almost always (with a partial “time  out” for Prohibition) a dispenser of liquor.  

In 1924, as Pendergast’s political power was growing, he bought the Monroe Hotel at 1904 Main Street and several years later built a two-story yellow brick building next door that he called “The Jefferson Club.”  From that location, shown below, Tom held court, dispensed patronage and controlled city, county and even Missouri state politics.  He also was building a business empire of construction and other companies to undertake public works and services that were fertile sources of graft money.  Pendergast became known as “King Tom.”

Enter Harry Truman.  Truman had served with distinction in World War I but found civilian life more challenging. Co-owner of a men’s clothing store in downtown Kansas City he saw the business go bankrupt within two years,  a victim of the 1921 Depression.  A comrade in arms of Pendergast’s nephew, the honest and hardworking Truman soon came to the attention of Pendergast himself,  who backed Truman’s election for presiding judge of the county court.  Truman won and kept the job for eight years.  Pendergast became his political mentor and helped elect him a U.S. Senator from Missouri.  

But as Truman’s star was rising, Pendergast was on the skids. A strong reform movement in Kansas City eventually kicked out machine politics.  King Tom’s gambling habits incurred heavy debts, ones he attempted to pay off with money from crooked deals.  Arrested and convicted in 1939, Pendergast spent 15 months in prison.  While he was incarcerated and even afterward, his son, Tom Jr., took over the management of the family liquor interests.  Tom Pendergast died four years later.   Despite many who urged him to do so, Harry Truman never renounced his friendship with the political boss who gave him his start.

Note:  For more more complete vignettes on each of the whiskey men featured here, see Whallens, January 29, 2014; Londoner, November 26, 2017; Sambucetti, March 10, 2017, and Pendergast, December 2, 2013.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

George Buente Fed “Firewater” to Indians

Believing that anything alcoholic should be banned from Indian territories to prevent crime and social disintegration,  U.S. Indian Affairs officials during the 19th Century had to deal with men like George Buente, owner of a St. Louis shipping company whose principal trade was illicitly selling whiskey on reservations.  Buente ultimately became the U.S. “poster boy” for the greed of American citizens prospering from the sale of “firewater.”

The official Government view was expressed in an 1833 report by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to Congress:   “The proneness of the Indian to the excessive use of ardent spirits with the too great facility of indulging that fatal propensity through the cupidity of our own citizens, not only impedes the progress of civilization, but tends inevitably to the degradation, misery, and extinction of the aboriginal race.”   

Efforts to curb the whiskey trade by declaring all reservations “dry” did little good. During July 1889, for example, federal agents reported destroying 5,000 gallons of intoxicating liquor on Indian lands.  In the late 1800s on one ostensibly “dry” reservation, 95 percent of crimes — including murders, assaults, and robberies — were laid to intoxication,  Native American leaders also recognized problems with alcohol but saw the evil located not in the nature of the Indian but in the character of whites who brought it into Indian communities.  That introduces George Buente.

Despite his Hispanic sounding surname, Buente was a German, born in Prussia about 1839.  Details about his early life and arrival in the United States are scanty.   The earliest listing I can find for him in St. Louis is 1872 when he was listed as a grocer at 938-940 Broadway.  In 1874 he returned to Prussia where he found a bride in 26-year-old Augusta, a women eleven years his junior and brought her back to the U.S.  In quick succession they had three children.

A clue to Buente’s character may be Augusta’s petition for divorce in 1881 after seven years of marriage.  During the three preceding years, according to her allegations, her husband whipped and maltreated her on many occasions, beating her with his fists, throwing her violently against the wall and striking her while she was pregnant.  She further alleged that Buente frequently taunted her with a description of his illicit amours.  Her divorce petition stated:  “She bore this treatment until it became intolerable, and was at length compelled to appeal to the court for relief.”  Augusta sought custody of their children and considerable alimony, noting Buente’s lucrative grocery business and real estate holdings.  

About the time of the divorce Buente also opened a second business, one he called Geo. Buente Shipping Company.   This enterprise presumably was involved in shipping west a wide variety of items, using the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway, as well as other railroads that made that city a transportation hub.  

Buente’s emphasis on liquor emerges from the varieties of whiskey jugs found with his  labels and the slogan “Goodness Corked Up.”  The jugs and shot glasses found with his logo and “Cabinet Bourbon” on them indicate that Buente also was a wholesale liquor dealer, likely blending his own proprietary brands.

Buente found a ready market for his wares in the Indian Territory.  This originally was a large chunk of land in the center of North America that the government had reserved for the forced resettlement of Native Americans.  Over time, the Indian Territory had been whittled down by Congress to what is now the State of Oklahoma.   Then an 1890 Act of Congress further shrunk the area to the eastern portion bordering Kansas and Missouri while the remaining western portion became Oklahoma Territory, open to settlement by whites.

Although under the jurisdiction of federal laws that declared Indian Territory “dry,” the traffic in liquor there was a continuous flow.  Buente was described by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs T. J. Morgan as “one of the largest whiskey shippers doing business in the Territory.”   The middle men were Indian traders, mainly white men who were authorized to buy and sell on Native American lands.   Their licenses ostensibly were based on “dealing fairly and honestly with the Indians, exercising a wholesome influence on them, and observing the regulations prescribed…,” including those on alcohol.

More than a few traders fell short of those ideals.  They would order merchandise to be shipped by men like Buente in boxes or barrels marked to contain innocuous items like cooking pans and clothes pins, but bearing whiskey and other alcohol.  Those beverages would then clandestinely be sold to Indians by the traders, resulting, Commissioner Morgan said, in “destruction, ruin and death.”  It is ironic that later the Frankfort Distillery would name one of its whiskeys brands “Indian Trader.”

Commissioner Morgan claimed that the Indian Territory police force, made up of natives, had learned to scrutinize carefully Buente’s shipments into Indian Territory:  “…And few there were that did not contain a liberal allowance of whiskey,” he reported. Yet it appears Buente did not face legal sanctions until one particular 1889 shipment to the town of Atoka, the chief city of Atoka County and a stop on the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, the name of the southern branch of the Union Pacific.  Shown below, Atoka was originally a Choctaw town and home base of many Indian traders. 

Buente’s wooden cask carried a label claiming it contained “Queensware,” a type of British-produced crockery.  Suspicious, police seized it upon arrival in Atoka, pried the cask open and inside found sufficient liquor and materiel to outfit a saloon, according to Morgan.  Buente was arrested and brought before a federal court.  He feigned ignorance of the law but nonetheless pled guilty to the charges.  He was fined $500 (equivalent to more than $12,000 today) and court costs.   Whether these events were enough to discourage him from sending liquor into Indian Territory again is unclear. 

Six years after his conviction, while still active in business, George Buente died at the age of fifty.  He was interred in St. Peter’s Cemetery, shown here, a burying ground located in Normandy, St. Louis County.   To date no photograph of the the gravestone has emerged.  My imagination suggests an appropriate memorial using the words of Commissioner Morgan who may have had George Buente in mind when he said:  “The whiskey traffic is the most pernicious of all evils….”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Henry Laub Blazed a Whiskey Trail from KY to CA

Shown right in a 1922 passport photo, Henry Laub was steeped in Kentucky whiskey merchandising when about 1905 he pulled up stakes in Louisville and headed to Los Angeles where he founded the Old Plantation Distilling Co.,  There he sold what he claimed were “pure” Kentucky whiskeys and offered an iconic “Souvenir from Sunny California” carafe from which to pour them.

The son of Isaac and Hannah Abraham Laub, immigrants from Germany, Henry was born in Louisville in November 1858.  His father was a local grocer with a store at 991/2 Market Street between Floyd and Preston.  Liquor was a major part of its sales.  The family initially lived over the store.  As his sons matured, Isaac took them into the business, Henry included.  He would work for his father until 1884, absorbing information about merchandizing whiskey.

In 1882, at the age of 24, Henry married a 18-year-old woman named Hannah, a native of Kentucky whose parent both were native Kentuckians.  They would have one daughter, Florence, born in 1883, and a second daughter who died at six months.  The marriage launched Laub into another career.  Hannah’s sister Fanny had married Benjamin Stromberg and her sister Mollie had wed Leo Kraus.  With these brothers-in-law, in 1884 Henry co-founded a company that manufactured trunks, suitcases and other traveling bags.  The business was successful but after six years, Laub sold out his interest to Stromberg and Kraus who moved the plant to St. Louis.   The money and opportunity sent Henry’s mind westward.

“Realizing the future in store for Los Angeles,” wrote the LA Herald, Laub headed to California with a partner named Edward Mansbach and opened a liquor house. The Herald commented:  “Backed by sufficient capital to meet every emergency
…and possessed of the experience which is necessary in dealing with a discriminating public, the firm entered the Los Angeles liquor field prepared to make a successful bid for a large patronage.”

Calling their enterprise The Old Plantation Distilling Co., the partners found rapid success. Located initially at 108 South Broadway, the company within a month had outgrown their space and expanded to an adjoining storefront.  A 1906 company ad touted the reason for growth:  “No hypocrisy but actual facts—no misrepresentation but the truth—no vile substitute but purity.  No business such as our could be built up so quickly if we swerved an inch from these principles.” 

Despite these protestations of truth-telling, Laub and his partner claimed in ads to be distillers, citing as theirs Distillery No. 401, 5th District, located near Claremont, Bullitt County, Kentucky.  While Old Plantation Distilling might have been buying its whiskey from that distillery, it did not own it.  That facility had been built in 1880 by a trio of partners and was known as the Murphy, Barber Distillery.  A review of bonded warehouse transactions from this distillery from 1898 to 1918 nowhere indicates direct participation by Laub or his company.

The company featured a limited number of proprietary brands, with “Old Platonic” as the flagship.  It was sold as Kentucky bourbon “for family and medical purposes.”  Its label contained a line from Stephen Foster’s song:  “My old Kentucky home…good night.”  Other brands were “Old Plantation” “Old Huckster Whiskey,” “White Corn Whiskey,” “and “White Rye Whiskey.”  Laub bothered to trademark none of them.  He marketed those products in glass, from gallon bottles to quarts and flasks.  They bore paper labels but underneath were embossed with the company name and “Los Angeles.”

In a 1906 ad, Laub’s company touted its prompt service delivery carried out on bicycles.   But he was increasingly aware of the utility of motor vehicles for such purposes.  In 1911 Laub and Old Plantation made front page news in Los Angeles with a story about the company having purchased three two-ton trucks to assist with deliveries.  They promptly ceased using horses and possibly bicycles.  The paper reported:  “…In the short time the trucks have been in use Mr. Loeb [sic] says that they have reduced his delivery expenses half and he is serving a third larger territory.”   Laub was also talking about ordering a fourth truck, a five-ton vehicle.

As the march to Nation Prohibition proceeded, Laub was recognized for his leadership as a whiskey man and in 1915 unanimously elected president of the Allied Industries of Southern California, an organization organizing the campaign against prohibition in the lower half of the state.  The Wine & Spirits Journal  quoted Laub as saying that “…Los Angeles is to be the background in the coming fight and a majority of 50,000 votes against the dry amendments will have to be raised in that county.”

Although the prohibitionary referendum seems to have been defeated, Laub apparently could see the end of the liquor trade.  In 1916 the Western Canner & Packer reported that Laub was organizing a cannery for fruits and vegetables to be called the California Sanitary Canning Company with headquarters in Los Angeles.   The owner said that the new enterprise would give employment to 200 persons.  The following year Laub, now 58, closed out the Old Plantation Distilling Company together with a second enterprise called the Napa Wine Company. Instead, he was operating his canning factory from a concrete building at Industrial and Mill Streets, Los Angeles, initially concentrating on tomatoes. “The uncertainty of the wholesale liquor business caused the change,” reported The Grocer’s Advocate trade paper.

Both articles referred to him as “Colonel” Henry Laub.  Since he had not been involved in the military at any time in his life, this title must have been the honorary “Kentucky colonel,” a distinction awarded by the state’s governor to  individuals who had benefited the Kentucky economically, socially or culturally.   My assumption is that Laub’s strong exertions to bring Kentucky whiskey to Southern California had been recognized in his native state.

Throughout his life, travel abroad had been a passion of Laub’s.  He left the U.S. on trips, according to passport and ship records, in 1908, 1919, 1920, 1923 and 1925.  The most unusual jaunt was his 1920 trip to China, Japan and Hong Kong aboard the ship “Empress of Russia,” embarking from Vancouver, Canada.  In his passport application Laub said he was going as a “missionary.”  Since the Jewish faith does not evangelize, either he was spoofing or had converted to another religion.

By the 1920 census, Laub at 61 was a widower.  He was living alone with a single male servant, a Chinese named Seth Wong.  Laub had retired from business entirely.  He lived another six years, dying at the age of 68 in 1926 and was buried with other family members in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. His wife Hannah does not appear to be interred with him.

When Henry Laub first settled in Los Angeles and opened his liquor house, the population had just exceeded 100,000.  When forced to shut down in 1918, the city had passed the half-million mark and was heading toward a million.  Not only had his foresight picked a city on the move, Henry Laub had brought California’s drinking public the riches of blue grass bourbon, an achievement that had earned him the title of  "Colonel," even to his tombstone.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

William C. Whipps Was “Czar” of Kalispell, Montana

After an adventurous youth spent on the Western frontier, William Carvoso Whipps settled into Kalispell, a town in northwest Montana.  As a prominent businessman and owner of the Kalispell Liquor & Tobacco Co., Whipps, shown here, served four terms as mayor and became known as the “Czar” for his forceful advocacy of public improvements and for the creation of Glacier National Park.

Of English ancestry, Whipps’ great-grandfather, Benjamin Whipps was a Maryland slaveholder and and early settler in Ohio.  William’s father, Lloyd, a farmer, had served with an Ohio regiment in the Civil War.  His mother, Louise Grant Whipps, was from a Virginia family and distantly related to General Grant.  In rapid succession the couple would have nine children, of whom William, born in 1856, was the fourth.  Several months after the birth of her last child in 1865, Louise Whipps died.

William was educated in the one room school house common to rural Ohio and then sent for secondary education to Oberlin, Ohio, where he received a general commercial education and trained in telegraphy.   That skill would propel the restless young man westward.  In 1972 at the age of sixteen, Whipps found a job on the Nebraska frontier at McPherson as an telegraph operator for the Union Pacific Railway.  That town was the home of W. F. “Buffalo Bill” and other noted Westerners, whom the boy got to know well.  According to Whipps’ biographer:  “…Many of its white characters were gamblers, horse thieves and murderers…He shared in the excitement and romance of the time.”

That excitement led Whipps to give up his telegraphy employment and join a small party that on June 26, 1875, embarked on a hazardous expedition to “off-limits” Indian country to prospect illegally in the Black Hills, part of a gold rush to the area.  Because of the dangers from hostile Pawnee, Sioux and Cheyenne, the group traveled principally by night, taking twenty days to reach their destination.

Arriving in the Black Hills on July 16th,  Whipps and his companions soon were at work prospecting and developing their claims.  President Grant, however, had sent General George Crook, called by the Apache “Chief Wolf,” to the Black Hills to clear them of gold miners.  Thirteen days after Whipps’ arrival, Crook, shown right, ordered all prospectors to leave the Indian territory by August 10 or be arrested and taken as prisoners to Fort Laramie.  With no choice but to obey, Whipps returned to Nebraska, almost starving on the return, and went back to working for the railroad.  

A series of jobs ensued that ultimately took him further west to Montana where he ran a freight forwarding business.  That led to his becoming the manager of a bank in Helena, the state capitol.  While in Helena he met  Annie E. Osterhout, a Pennsylvania-born woman who had come west as a girl with her parents.  They married there in October 1886; he was 30, she was 29.  They would have two children, William O., born in 1888, and Carole Louise, 1896.

Whipps then moved to Demersville, Montana,  organizing a bank there, and finally, circa 1892, relocated to Kalispell, shown above, founding The First National Bank and erecting the first brick building in the town to house it.  He was manager and cashier of that bank until 1898 when he received a five-year federal appointment to run the United States Land Office.   Ending his term in 1903, Whipps immediately established a mercantile firm and brought in his now mature son, William, as a partner.  They called it W. C. Whipps & Son and erected the Whipps Block, then the largest and most modern building in Kalispell.  

It was there Whipps located his liquor house, naming it the “Kalispell Liquor and Tobacco Company.”  The photo below shows his establishment.  He sold his liquor both at wholesale and retail in ceramic jugs, now highly prized by collectors.  The jug below, a half gallon, recently sold at auction for $2,402.00.  

Throughout this period, Whipps also was pursuing a political career.  He became Kalispell’s first elected mayor in 1893 and served three consecutive two-year terms.  During this tenure, he was instrumental in installing a complete sewer system, paving the principal streets, and lining city thoroughfares with trees. In 1910, public clamor was for Whipps to run again.  He did and, without opposition, won a fourth two-year term. 

During that second administration he pushed for and achieved the reclamation of some 43 acres of marsh lands and transformed it into public green space known as Woodland Park.  Whipps also oversaw the installation of cement sidewalks, a system of lighting for the business district, and new municipal finance auditing systems.  He also able to obtain lower consumer water and electricity rates.  “Most of what was accomplished by him had to be fought through against strong opposition,” according to a biographer.  To both his adversaries and friends, Whipps became known as the “Czar” of Kalispell.

Whipps also was active socially.  He is credited with being one of the prime movers in building the Masonic Temple.  He was a Knight’s Templar and 32nd Degree Mason, a Mystic Shriner, and a member of several fraternal organization, including Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and the Elks.  He and his wife were members of the Episcopalian Church.

Under the management of Whipps and his son, the Kalispell Liquor & Tobacco Co. prospered.  Like other local merchants, he gave out tokens good in exchange for goods.  One shown here could be exchanged for a drink at the bar in his establishment or for a cigar.  The ample profits from his liquor business Whipps invested in land, owning ranches near Kalispell and acres of fruit orchards near Flathead Lake, shown below.

He also had a summer home at what was then the Glacier National Forest Reserve in Montana.  When the Forestry Department was considering the sale of timber from the reserve from a site near Lake McDonald, shown here, Whipps “showed himself an aggressive friend of conservation and took up the matter directly with President Roosevelt, describing its wondrous beauty….”  His was among a number of voices calling for the Glacier region to be made a national park, a process begun by Roosevelt and completed by his successor, President Taft.

Even as the liquor house prospered, prohibition forces in Colorado were on the move.  By 1916, four years before National Prohibition, the state voted itself “dry,” forcing Whipps to shut the doors on the Kalispell Liquor & Tobacco Company.  He spared little time shifting into other occupations.  In addition to managing his own land, Whipps became a real estate agent and also sold insurance.   The 1920 census found him, age 63, living with his wife and daughter.  Son William D. at the time was serving in the U.S. Army.

Whipps lived long enough to see National Prohibition on the brink of Repeal, dying at the age of 77 in November, 1933.  He was buried in Conrad Memorial Cemetery in Kalispell.  His monument, shown here, was unique in having a base of boulders and stones, topped by a granite slab that holds a mental plaque bearing his name.  In death as in life he was honored as an outstanding citizen of Montana and his home town.  Said one tribute:  “It is the deliberate judgment of a large part of the citizenship of Kalispell that no one man has longer exemplified the strongest influence of his public spirit in behalf of all matters affecting the welfare of the community as William C. Whipps….”

Note:  Several biographical sketches have been written about William C. Whipps, during his lifetime and subsequently.  Basic information is from the book, “Montana:  Its Story and Biography,” edited by Thomas Stout and published in 1921, from which the quotes here have been taken.