“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.