Thursday, January 28, 2021

Edward Pattison: Success Through Perseverance

“The Pattison family was quite prominent in the Cincinnati, Ohio, and area business community from the 1860's until the middle of the 20th century, primarily but not exclusively in the business of distilling whiskey,” — Anonymous 

The statement above is accurate but fails to convey the hard work and persistence that the “Founding Father,” Edward Moore Pattison exhibited to achieve his family’s status.  Shown here at 80, Pattison knew setbacks and disappointments in his efforts to achieve prosperity and recognition but persevered in a career that covered half a century.

Edward was born in 1839, the son of Leah H. and Elijah C. Pattison.   His father, originally from Kentucky, was quick to join the Indiana 16th Infantry at the outset of the Civil War.  Elijah rose to sergeant before being discharged a year later, just before his entire regiment was captured at the Battle of Richmond.  By that time, Edward, age 21, had married his childhood sweetheart, Mary Josephine Fisher. Over the next 14 years the couple would have five children, three in quick succession:  Nettie, born in 1862; Kate,1863; Crawford, 1864.  Then came Harry, 1971, and Edward Jr. 1876.

This rapidly growing family must have acted as an impulse for Pattison to make a life outside of rural Rush County.  He moved his family to Cincinnati where he first showed up working as a “hat and fur merchant.”  In Ohio Pattison met and allied with James Gaff, one of the noted Gaff family who ran distilleries.  Impressed with the younger man, Gaff, shown right, gave him management responsibilities.

Pattison’s abilities led to an assignment running the Eastern Distilling Company in Blissvillle, New York.   He moved his family to New York.  A joint venture between the Gaffs and the Fleischmann distilling interests, the company president was Max Fleischmann, a noted yachtsman then living in New York City.  Max, shown left, proved to be a difficult partner for the Gaffs and after several years the distillery was sold.  Pattison was out of a job.

Dealing with that disappointment, Pattison moved back to the Cincinnati area. With his brother Frank, about 1866 he established a liquor store at 11 East Pearl Street.  By the following year, perhaps needing more space, the brothers moved to 56 Main Street.  That would be the home of the E.M. Pattison Company for the next 12 years.  In 1879, for reasons unknown, this enterprise disappeared from Cincinnati directories, suggesting another business setback for the young entrepreneur.

Pattison found an opportunity to partner in a distillery located in nearby Hamilton, Ohio.  Initally given the title of corporate secretary, he advanced as other partners departed, finally becoming president and treasurer of his own whiskey-making operation.  Pattison called it the Miami Distilling Company.  The corporation was reorganized and according to a stock certificate capitalized at $100,000.

The document contained an artist’s drawing of Pattison’s facility, with the distillery building in the back and a bonded warehouse in the front, facing the railroad tracks where a train is passing.  It bears the initials “C H & D,” representing the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. This line, based in Ohio, existed between March 1846 and its acquisition in 1917 by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  The same drawing in color exists on a paperweight Pattison issued for his distillery, an item I deem “The Holy Grail” of pre-Prohibition whiskey glass weights.  Unfortunately, as shown here, this one has suffered significant damage.

Pattison’s venture into distilling apparently was not successful.  Within several years the Miami Distilling Company disappeared from directories.  Once again he persisted.  With the assistance of his two sons, Harry and Edward Junior, Pattison purchased the Turner-Look Company of Cincinnati.  This firm was a “rectifier”  (blender) and wholesaler of whiskey and other liquors.  Pattison subsequently retired from the liquor business leaving it to his sons. Harry, shown here, became company president.  The boys changed its name to Pattison Brothers Kentucky Bourbon Distilling Co.  About 1912 they established a second liquor house in nearby Covington, Kentucky, issuing shares of stock toward its incorporation.  They specialized in mail order sales, advertising widely.

Pattison Brothers issued a blizzard of whiskey brands.  Those included “Beechmont,” "Bunker Hill,’ ”Clovertop,” "Coon Club,” "Deerford Rye,” "Earth's Best,” "Fallbrook Rye,” "Fremont Rye,””Fresco Rye,” "Green Ridge Rye,” "Heron's Pure Malt,” "Jim Town,” "Kentucky Jewel," "Margrave Penn Rye,” "Martha Hill Rye,” "Miles Standish,” "Old 101,” “Old Sarabie," "Old Anderson County,” "Old Bradlee Rye,” "Old Cooper,” "Old Larabie Rye,” "Old Licking Club,” "Old Orchard Rye,” "Old Tom Jarrett Rye,” ”Our Pet Bourbon Old 66,” and "Owl Grove.”  Of these brands, the company trademarked only Beechmont — and not until in 1914.  Shown here are shot glasses issued for two company whiskeys.

Meanwhile, the founding father was enjoying retirement, living in the pleasant family home at 954 Hawthorne St., Cincinnati.  From there he could watch his sons succeed, building on the foundation he had laid by his perseverance.  The photo that opens this post was taken of Pattison, now a widower, for a passport as he was about to embark on a pleasure trip to the Bahamas and Cuba.  He had never been out of the country before.   

Not long after, this “Founding Father” would witness the imposition of National Prohibition when all his family’s liquor interests summarily were to forced shut down.  He died in 1927 at the age of 88 and was buried in Cincinnati’s Spring Grove Cemetery next to his wife, Mary Josephine.  After a lifetime of striving, Edward Pattison was at rest.

Note:  Establishing a timeline for Edward Pattison's career has been difficult since the sources from which the information is drawn are often vague on dates.  I am hopeful that a sharp-eyed descendant will see this piece and provide such corrections as may be required.  Posts on other distillers mentioned here can be found thus:  James Gaff, July 8, 2018;  Max Fleischmann, March 29, 2012; and Turner-Look, December 4, 2017.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Giovanni Piuma: Immigrant Kid to Italian Knight


When he died, Los Angeles newspapers addressed Giovanni Piuma as “Cavaliere,” as befitting a man who had gone from impoverished immigrant youth to Italian royal consular agent for Southern California, a confidant of Italian King Victor Emmanuel, and Italian knighthood.  Piuma’s rise had been fostered by his businesses, making wine and selling whiskey.

Piuma was born in April 1864, the son of Francisco and Rosa Peluffe Piuma, in Vado Ligure, a coastal town near Genoa in northwestern Italy.  A photo from his youth shows him doing a roof repair with his father at the family home.  At the age of 20 he left Italy in 1884 and headed for Los Angeles where he found a “small but vibrant” community of Italians, then known as “Wine Street.”  Piuma then began almost a decade working in the area as a grocer and liquor dealer

In 1887, Giovanni married Maria Toso, like him a recent immigrant from Italy living in Los Angeles.  Over the next 14 years she would bear him seven children, four daughters and three sons.  This growing family may have provided some of the impulse for his undertaking new endeavors.  After obtaining American citizenship in 1890, Piuma took a lease on the basement of an adobe house, shown left, for a wine-making enterprise.   The rent was $35 a year and two gallons of wine delivered to the homeowners monthly.  A sign on the roof read “G. Piuma Winery.”

The next few years would bring some bumps in the road for Piuma.  A dispute involving the lease on his Piuma & Company grocery store threw him into a local court in September 1899.  Piuma went to see the judge in the case and when he left, with “old country” ways apparently having come over him, he left $50 on the  judge’s desk.   He lost the case anyway, lucky not to be charged with bribery.   The headline in the Los Angeles Times read:  “Justice Not for Sale:  Futile Attempt of Litigant to Bribe a Jurist.”

Piuma also was subjected to authorities seizing of cases of liquor from his store that did not bear the required revenue stamps.  Later his liquor license would be revoked by Los Angeles authorities “because of crimes committed in the vicinity of the winery,” located in the adobe house.  Despite these setbacks, Piuma experienced considerable success as a grocer and vintner. His liquor, wine and grocery store expanded considerably.  Shown above is an interior photo showing barrels and bottles of wine and liquor.  Piuma in a dark suit stands among his sizable staff.  He was featuring his own brands of whiskey, including the labels shown below.  

About 1910 Piuma moved his wine-making to a new and larger location north of downtown Los Angeles.  This winery and brandy distillery was a far cry from his adobe basement.  An artist’s drawing from a port wine label, shows a large building, with chimney spewing smoke, indicative of internal activity.  Around the structure are arrayed modes of transportation:  horse-drawn wagons carrying away barrels of wine, an engine on a railroad spur with open boxcars, and at far right a motorized vehicle.  This winery was a first class operation, Piuma’s illustration tells us.

As the Italian businessman was rising in wealth, he also was establishing a reputation for leadership in his Italian community and in Los Angeles as a whole.  Piuma gained considerable prestige when he was appointed by the Italian government as consul for Los Angeles. In this role he was charged with looking after Italian residents of Los Angeles, including arranging burials in the homeland, and assisting Italian tourists, especially those in trouble.

Piuma is credited with making some 18 trips to Italy during his lifetime.  Remember this was an era before airplanes could hop the Atlantic in a day.  Piuma’s trips meant continental train rides and weeks aboard ships, or an even longer water route “Around the Horn.”  On two trips the vintner/liquor dealer was ushered into the presence of King Victor Emmanuel, who eventually would bestow on him the title “Cavaliere” (knight), bestowing the medal shown here.

Piuma’s interests ranged well beyond just his Italian compatriots.  He was a founding member of the Los Angeles Liberal Alliance, founded in 1905 for the stated purpose of bringing together all the city’s nationalities in an organization dedicated to instilling fealty to the American flag.  As one writer has put it:  “It sought to promote citizenship through the preamble to the Constitution, specifically the famed words about the “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The Alliance also emphasized “important questions concerning the ballot.”  Shown here is the emblem of the organization.

Although California had stayed “wet” until the end, National Prohibition in 1920 brought an end to both Piuma’s winery and his liquor sales. Piuma, still only 56, retired to concentrate on his consular work.  A son took over, reverting to wholesale groceries with a specialty of imported Italian olive oil.  With the rise of Mussolini and fascism in Italy, Piuma resigned his consular office and went into full retirement. He lived long enough to see the end of National Prohibition and Piuma family members again began selling whiskey and wine. A photo taken sometime after 1934 shows the interior of the post-Prohibition store, replete with liquor bottles.

When Piuma died in June 1938 at the age of 74, the Los Angeles printed a long obituary, addressing him as “Cavaliere.”  After a funeral conducted under the auspices of the French Masonic Lodge, he was interred in a mausoleum in Forest Lawn Cemetery.  Although Piuma is said to be a little known figure today in Los Angeles, his leadership during a period of intense immigration from all over Europe, including Italy, was important in the city for forging a sense of American identity.  

Note:  My path to Giovanni Piuma began by seeing the whiskey labels shown above.  They led me to an article on the Internet called ”A Pressing Matter:  A Lease of the Temple Adobe at Old Mission with Winemaker Giovanni Piuma, 10 September 1893” by Paul Spitzzeri,  Despite the seemingly narrow scope of the title, Mr. Spitzerri provides a considerable information about Piuma, as well as several of the photos found here.  Sentences above in italics are direct quotes from his article.  Other information about Piuma was found on and several other sites.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Saloonkeeper Sam Stout & The Banker’s Murder


Pursuing the idea that every whiskey container holds a story, the mini-jug shown here opened a tale of murder that rocked Waupaca, Wisconsin, for decades as investigations continued and suspects were brought to trial.  Among them was Samuel L. “Sam” Stout, the saloonkeeper responsible for the “Merry Christmas” giveaway.  Was Sam a killer?  Some still think so.

On Saturday night, October 7, 1882, in Waupaca, Wisconsin, Henry C. Mead, shown here, was brutally murdered in his local bank, with money and records taken from an open safe.  Initially suspicion fell on strangers in town but they eventually were cleared.  After an ensuing decade the Waupaca district attorney brought charges against a group of cronies, including Sam, who were known to congregate at Stout’s Saloon. 

Stout was born in Tioga County, Central Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Samuel and Sarah (Chase) Stout.  The family was English in origin, likely descended from migrants from New England and the western part of New York related to the English Puritans of colonial New England.  When young Samuel was about 10 years old, his father moved the family to Wisconsin where land was cheaper and established a farm.

When he was 21 Sam married Merora Strobridge from Trenton in nearby Dodge County.  At the time of his trial the couple had five children.  The oldest, Estella, was 22 years old followed by Albert at 21.  There followed three sons, Charles, Hugh, and David, only 22-months when his father was arrested.

After initially working in agriculture, Stout tried out a wide number of occupations, he said at his trial.  They included working on a riverboat as deck hand and pilot, felling and sawing timber, working in masonry, and raising and selling livestock.  

It likely was his experience working in two nearby New London, Wisconsin, hotels that he picked up bartending skills and an interest in the liquor trade.  That led him to operating a saloon of his own in Waupaca, where he lived for 30 years.  The town is shown below.

Stout’s saloon was one long building with three low partitions.  The front room was a bar, a pool room came next and the back room held a lunch counter and a liquor store.  On the night of Mead’s murder, Stout said, he had locked up the saloon about 10 o’clock, walked downtown when he was approached by a number of customers asking him to open again for beers.  He complied and others dropped by. “Always kept a light burning,” Stout remarked.  “After we had been in a few minutes I told the boys it was time to go home.”  Stout said when he got home his children were in bed but his wife was sitting up with a sick child. 

Meanwhile that same evening, not far away, Henry C. Mead as usual was in his bank, shown right. Unmarried and with no local family, the banker, shown here, spent most of his waking hours there, sleeping at night on a cot in a small room in the back.  Considered miserly in his personal habits but a “soft touch” for local charitable causes, Mead, shown here, was owed substantial amounts of money by a number of Waupaca residents, among them some noted for rowdy and dissolute behavior.

As was his custom when Mead was working he kept the door to his small vault open.  In addition to cash the vault also held papers recording debts owed him.  

When Mead failed to show up for a meal on Sunday, people went look for him and came upon a horrendous scene.  The banker’’s body was on the floor next to his desk.  Mead’s face had been blown away by a shotgun blast. “The room was spattered with blood, the floor streaked with gore, and pools of blood had collected against the baseboard,” reported the Waukesha Republican. The vault had been looted of money and records.

Suspicion first fell on three “drifters” who were arrested on a tip that they had shown up in Stevens Point with rolls of cash.  The case against them failed against ironclad alibis.  Attention went to locals being responsible when some of the contents of Mead’s record box, shown here, later were found in a Waupaca alley.  Years went by.  A $2,000 reward was offered.  

By 1892, the district attorney thought he had enough evidence to charge a group of local men with the murder.  Meeting in the Waupaca courthouse, shown below, a grand jury issued indictments against three men for murder and five others as accessories.  Among those arrested for murder was Sam Stout, whose saloon stood not far from Mead’s bank.

The theory of the crime was that a group of conspirators had gathered in Stout’s saloon, likely with the intention of rendering Mead unconscious and raiding his vault of money, but more important, evidence of their indebtedness.  Entering though a window in the rear, they had clubbed the banker from behind, but failed to knock him out.  As Mead rose he recognized his assailants.  Now in peril of discovery, an intruder who had brought a shotgun fired pointblank at the banker’s head, killing him instantly and creating the gory scene.

When asked if he had killed Mead, Stout denied it categorically.  He knew the two men arrested with him, but denied he had ever met Mead.  In an effort to sway the jury to conviction, the prosecution had the banker’s skull dug up and shown in the courtroom where it caused a sensation.  As shown here in a photo, held by the district attorney, the entire front of Mead’s face was missing.  As the press had a field day, the trial dragged on in summer heat for six week.  In the end the prosecution had only circumstantial evidence and dubious witnesses.  It look the jury of local merchants and farmers only 24 minutes to declare the defendants not guilty.  Stout went free and continued to operate his saloon until his death.

For decades afterward speculation about who had killed Banker Mead was rampant in Waupaca and elsewhere in Wisconsin.  In 1929, a story in the Milwaukee Journal sought to bring an end to speculation.  It  reported that a former sheriff, since deceased, in 1907 had obtained a deathbed confession from one of the three men, a confession later confirmed by the daughter of another one of the accused.  Since the only one to die in that timeframe was Sam Stout, the finger of guilt pointed squarely at him.  But again, this was hearsay, not proof.

Stout died in May 1907 and was buried in a family plot in Waupaca County’s Lakeside Memorial Park.  His widow, Merora, joined him there two years later. Shown above are their gravestones.  Sam’s is at left next to the urn.  Both are heavily covered with lichens.  Interred not far from the Stouts is Henry Mead, his skull later returned to his remains.  A large granite monument has been raised in the banker’s memory. 

Note:  Although it was the holiday mini-jug that first impelled me to seek out its origins, research soon led me to two books on the subject.  In his “Myths and Mysteries of Wisconsin” (2012), Michael Bie devotes a chapter to Mead’s death.  A more important source was “The Headless Banker:  The Murder of HC Mead - As Waupaca Saw It, by June Johnson (2001).  Shown right, this is a 561-page tome that contains all the local stories, official papers, and other documents related to this case.  It is from that source that many of the illustrations come.  Unfortunately, I can find no photo of Saloonkeeper Sam Stout.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Whiskey Men of the Gold Rush


Foreword:  Where gold was discovered in North America, whether in the American West, Alaska, or the Yukon, a rush of expectant miners could be expected as thousands of men from all over the globe undertook “moiling for gold,” in the words of Poet Robert Service.  Among those men were some fortune seekers who would discover in time that gold more easily gotten in selling liquor to other miners than in hacking at the ground.  Presented here are brief stories of three such “whiskey men,” — Italian, French, and Irish — who made that transition.

It may have been an ad like the one shown above that first lured Bernardo Levaggi from his native town of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy, to California to search for gold. The results of his twelve-years’ experience in mining is unclear, but he found prosperity in the whiskey trade when he went to San Francisco in 1874 to open a saloon. 

That enterprise led to mercantile activities with his sons that increasingly featured liquor. By 1910, Levaggi & Company had outgrown its original quarters and moved to a three-story building at 333-339 Clay Street in San Francisco  With the move the  abandoned the grocery department and concentrated on liquor.   It was reported that they had become the West Coast representatives of “several large Eastern distilleries.”   The firm issued several of its own brands, including “Royal Life Whiskey,” “High Life,” “Old Silver Creek,” “N.A. Hawkins,” and “Clermont.”  Levaggi also claimed owning the Clermont Distilling Company at Clermont, Kentucky.  In reality his company was getting and blending product from a variety  of distilleries. 

As National Prohibition began to draw a noose around the liquor trade,  Levaggi & Co. in permissive California continued to thrive.  In 1919, however, probably seeing the coming end of the liquor business, the Levaggi and his sons branched out into other areas.   In 1919 they set up a dehydrating plant for making dried fruit and  also became well known in the Bay Area as importers, according to one account, “…Building up  a large and important business.”  

Looking out from Belle Isle, France, where he had been born in 1815, Fortune Chevalier dreamed of striking gold in California.  According to accounts, Chevalier hatched a plan to get to California on the pretext of providing window glass for buildings for the boomtowns springing up on the West Coast.  He recruited a team of fellow craftsmen, bought a large stock of window panes, and in 1852 took the long sea voyage across the Atlantic, through the wild seas off the southern tip of South America, and then north in the Pacific to San Francisco.  He apparently hoped that while his companions were occupied in hanging windows, he could sneak off and pan for gold in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  It didn’t work.  Upon arrival his men had the same idea, abandoned Chevalier and the glass, and headed for the gold fields themselves.

The next few months apparently were lean ones for Chevalier.  If he tried panning or mining for gold, he apparently soon was discouraged.  In the mid-1850s, the Frenchman surfaced in Placerville, California.  There in 1857 Fortune went into the liquor trade as the F. Cavalier Company.  Within a year or so he moved his enterprise to Sacramento.  Chevalier carried on business there for more than a decade. Among his featured whiskey brands were “Hebe,” "Old Emmet” and “Relief.” 

 Apparently because of the expanding nature of his business over much of the West Coast, in 1870 Chevalier made a final move to San Francisco.  With his brother, Albert, he set up a wholesale liquor house.  He also bought an interest in the Castle Distillery in Kentucky and established the firm as the sole West Coast agents for “Old Castle” a brand name that Chevalier later bought outright.  He registered the name in 1872 and again in 1905 after Congress strengthened the trademark laws.

As his wealth grew large Chevalier bought a vineyard near St. Helens, California, in the foothills of Napa County.  There he built an imposing barn and a chateau, shown here, to rival those of his competitors in the neighborhood.  According to accounts Chevalier’s land was 40 acres of which about 25 were “under vine.”  His private roads were lined with olive trees and extensive gardens with winding paths along terraces, pools, and stone stairways.  There Fortune produced his Chateau Chevalier wines, according to one account “well known and appreciated locally as well as in the eastern states.”

Fortune Chevalier went almost halfway around the earth seeking wealth in the gold fields but instead found it in the gold coins he extracted from those who purchased his wines, cognacs and liquors.  Fortune had found his fortune.

Burned out of his home and business by the massive Pittsburgh fire of 1845,  Ireland-born Michael Kane traveled a long, rough, and sometimes discouraging road to California to find gold.  In the aftermath of the fire, Kane, who seemingly had a knack for impressing the Pittsburgh political and social elites, formed a joint venture of local young men, many the sons of the wealthy, for the purpose of traveling to California to mine for gold.  Kane called it the Pittsburg & California Enterprise Company.  Each participant in the wagon train paid $260 (equivalent to about $5,700 today) to provide funds for wagons, mule teams and provisions.  Families were left behind.

After a rough crossing of the West, Kane staked a claim in an area known as “Mud Springs” (now El Dorado) four miles south of Placerville.  That and subsequent digs seemingly were unsatisfactory as ensuing months found Kane moving from place to place.  By winter 1851, however, he was digging for gold near a California town called “Rough and Ready” and making $10 a day (equivalent to $220). Earning enough money to return to Pittsburgh, he gathered up his family  there and returned to California.

In San Francisco during the early 1860s Kane bought a one-third interest in an established liquor house.  When the other owners by 1872 had left, Kane, now thoroughly familiar with the liquor business, brought in a new partner, a fellow Irishman named Fergus O’Leary.  The company became Kane, O’Leary & Company.  Soon after, the partners made a move to a more upscale location at 221 and 223 Bush Street in San Francisco’ financial district.  Shown here, it was located on the ground floor of the Brooklyn Hotel.

There Michael and his partner offered up a number of brands, including "Morning Glory,” "Old Cabinet,” "Old Judge,” "Old Kentucky Club,” and “Paragon,”  “Double Refined Old Bourbon,” “Hunter’s Wheat Whisky,”  “Kentucky Farm Bourbon,” and “Copper Double Distilled Rye.”  These were packaged in glass bottles, usually amber in color and in sizes varying from quarts to pints and half-pints, as shown here. 

After years of lucrative business selling whiskey, Kane understood he had found a surer way to strike gold.  At age 65, however, the Irishman decided he had money enough to retire.  Indicative of his wealth, Kane purchased as a home for his family a mansion considered the finest residence in Alameda, California.  It was there across San Francisco Bay south of Oakland, that Michael Kane, 82,  died a wealthy man in November 1899.

Note:  More complete stories of each of these three “whiskey men” may be found on this website:  Bernardo Levaggi, August 18, 2012; Fortune Chevalier, June 11, 2017, and Michael Kane, June 23, 2019.