Saturday, July 31, 2021

Whiskey Men & “Murder Most Foul”

 Foreword: In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the ghost of the poisoned king of Denmark tells his son of his killing, terming it, “Murder most foul.”  Whiskey men have been involved in homicides that might be similarly described, as bystander, victim or perpetrator, as related in the brief stories to follow.  The three incidents are linked by the reality that justice was not done in any of them.

The whiskey jug displayed here bears the stamp of a man whose life became entwined with the murder of the New Orleans police chief;  the arrest of colleagues, including his brother,  and the largest lynching of white men in the history of America.  He was Antonio Patorno, politician, militia captain, saloonkeeper and liquor dealer. 

Whatever sense of satisfaction Paterno felt as a leader of a significant portion of the Italian community in New Orleans, the year 1890 would change everything.  New Orleans was undergoing a period lawlessness, corruption and unrest.  On the night of October 15, as the New Orleans police chief, David Hennessy, was walking home he was gunned down on the street.  As he lay dying he is reputed to have whispered, “The dagoes did it.”  A mass arrest of Italian-Americans and Italian migrant workers followed.  Many were Paterno’s friends and adherents.

From his position of leadership, Patorno vigorously argued against the arrests.  At the same time he deplored the Hennessy murder.  He told a Daily Picayune reporter that as a New Orleans citizen and merchant he would do all in his power to “support and protect the honor and welfare of the city.” Among those taken was his brother, Charles, who is said to have had a strong resemblance to Antonio. 

After a New Orleans jury failed to convict the first nine men on trial, a lynch mob broke into the jail and shot on the spot or took out and hanged eleven men, all Italians.  They included those tried and acquitted, those on whom the jury had deadlocked and others who were awaiting trial. Only eight of the nineteen arrested survived the lynch mob.  Among them was Charles Patorno.

The lynchings caused an international incident.  The Italian ambassador demanded that the U.S. government take action to protect Italians and provide restitution.  There were rumors of war between Italy and the U.S.  The threat passed when President Benjamin Harrison ordered a U.S. government award of $25,000 (equivalent to over $600,000 today) to the families of Italian citizens who had been lynched.  The perpetrators of the lynchings went free.

When National Prohibition arrived in 1920, Leo Salamandra, a successful and wealthy Trenton, New Jersey, liquor dealer still had thousands of bottles of valuable whiskey on premises — but was forbidden to market it legitimately. For months he anguished about what to do.  Late in 1921 Salamandra determined to sell the stash to a gang of New York bootleggers.  It cost him his life.

Through intermediaries, likely fellow Italians, he made contact with a New York City gang headed by Meyer Lansky who ran a prominent bootlegging operation.  Salamandra presumably made a deal to sell 51 cases of whiskey to the gangsters, worth in today’s dollar more than $600,000.  The conspirators agreed to the liquor handoff near Kingston, New Jersey, about 14 miles north of Trenton. There the money was to be turned over.  

On the night of February 13, 1921, with Salamandra and a brother following in their automobile, a truck carrying the whiskey set out from Trenton for the rendezvous.  The liquor dealer apparently was apprehensive about the deal as he and associates were armed with pistols. As they neared Kingston about three a.m. suddenly a Cadillac touring car with four men in it — hired by Lansky — pulled up beside them, pistols drawn, and forced both the truck and Salamandra’s car off the road.  A gun battle ensued. Leo Salamandra was shot five times at close range and died on the spot. 

His killers were never brought to justice. The dots connected back to Meyer Lansky.  Brazenly, Lansky shortly after the killing personally drove from New York City to New Brunswick with cash to bail out two implicated gang members.  The official investigation into the events that fatal night has been characterized by one observer:  “There was lots of lying…by both sides and the truth was never fully determined.” 

When describing Lemuel ”Lem” Motlow, the nephew of Jack Daniels and eventual owner of Daniels’ distillery, a company website mentions his service in the Tennessee legislature and his reputation as a businessman, concluding that he was “known to be a fair and generous man.”  What it fails to mention is that in 1923, Motlow, shown here, shot and killed a man in cold blood and got away with it by playing “the race card.”

Whether Lem was a habitual drinker seems unlikely but the stress of suspicion and a court appearance in St. Louis on charges of bootlegging early on March 17, 1924, may have encouraged him that afternoon to drink heavily with friends.  Drunk and packing a pistol, Lem boarded the Louisville & Nashville night train returning to Tennessee and the now-shuttered Jack Daniels Distillery.   

Tired, Motlow headed for a Pullman berth.  A black sleeping car porter named Ed Wallis asked Motlow for his ticket.  When Motlow was unable to produce one, Wallis refused him a berth.  Motlow became enraged at being balked by a person of color.  Hearing their argument, Conductor Clarence Pullis, who was white, tried to intervene.  As the train slowly made its way through a downtown tunnel toward the Mississippi, Lem reached for his pistol, apparently to shoot Wallis.  In his drunken state, he fired two shots, one errantly, the second striking Pullis in the abdomen.

Taken off the train, Pullis died in a local hospital, leaving his widow and two minor children.  Motlow was charged with murder.  St. Louis newspapers gave the story front page treatment.  Local sentiment ran high against the Tennessee distiller.  As a wealthy man Lem had ample resources at his disposal.  He hired a phalanx of top lawyers as his defense team.  They built their case on Wallis being black.  

No subtlety attended the defense making race the issue. In closing arguments one of Motlow’s lawyers declared:  There are two kinds of (blacks) in the South. There are those who know their place ... and those who have ambitions for racial equality. ... In such a class falls Wallis, the race reformer, the man who would be socially equal to you all, gentlemen of the jury.”  The all white, all male jury took little time in bringing a verdict of “not guilty.”  The foreman told reporters:  “We didn’t believe the Negro.”  Jurors shook hands with Motlow as he left the courtroom on December 10, 1924 — a free man. 

In each of these three cases “murder most foul” went unpunished. All the killers went free.  Only one perpetrator was tried and by virtue of a racist defense, acquitted.  Not only was justice “blind” in each incident, it was entirely absent.

Note:  Longer vignettes on each of these whiskey men may be found on this site:Antonio Paterno, September 2, 2018;  Leo Salamandra, November 10, 2019; and Lem Motlow, November 26, 2019.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Hynes of Haverhill Was Lord of Labels


The photo below of a dingy storefront hardly seems that it could have been the place of origin for some of the most attractive whiskey labels in pre-Prohibition America.  It depicts a window and door of a saloon and liquor store owned by Edward F. Hynes of Haverhill, Massachusetts, a whiskey man whose imagination in labeling his liquor belied his dreary surroundings.

During the 18th and most of the 19th Century Haverhill was an important industrial center, with woolen mills, tanneries, ship building, and the manufacture of hats and shoes.  Early in the 20th Century, even before other New England cities, its economy began to falter.  Shown below is its main street, Merrimack Avenue, the location of Hynes’s enterprise.

Born in Ireland about 1864, Hynes at the age of 19 immigrated to the United States in 1883.  He likely had relatives in Haverhill, where he located for the rest of his life, becoming a citizen in 1888.  His first three years in the city have gone unrecorded but we can assume that he must have been engaged in the liquor trade, likely working for another Irish-American saloonkeeper and learning the business.   By 1887 Hynes had opened a liquor store at 137 Merrimack Avenue and a saloon he called E. F. Hynes Grill & Bar.

He also began creating his own brands of whiskey, not as a distiller but as a “rectifier,”  someone buying “raw” whiskeys by the barrel from a variety of distillers and blending them to achieve a particular color, taste and smoothness.The process has been described as an “art form,” requiring the same delicacy of palate as a wine taster.  Hynes then took the “art” one step further by bottling his liquor under more than a dozen names in attractive labels of his own design.

Among Hynes’ brands were: “ Black Bird Rye Malt Whiskey,” "Cream of Malt,” "E. F. Hynes Pure Grain Alcohol,”, “Two Stamp Whiskey,” “Greenbrier,” "Hob - Nob,” "Howard Whiskey,” "Landmark Whiskey,” ”Old Parish Rye”, “Everett Springs,” “Waterford Straight Whiskey,”  “Refreshmenter Rye,” and "Top Notch Rye.”  It is interesting that the Irish immigrant did not bother with the expense and effort to trademark any of his labels.  Hynes did, however, emboss his name on his bottles, thus identifying the origin even if the paper label was lost.

The flagship of Hynes’ whiskeys was “Old Parish,” a name suggesting a church-y identification that may have been aimed at enraging the prohibitionists.  It is the only label to bear the owner’s signature.  Old Parish also contained the image of a shield with crossed battle axes rampant and the motto “Purity Paramount.”  Although the label indicated that this was a trademark, since there is no record of Hynes ever having registered it with the federal government, the assertion would have been useless if the name had been pirated.  Fortunately, it was not.  Among his many brands, Old Parish is his only whiskey for which I can find advertising shot glasses.

Hynes would have been just another saloonkeeper selling whiskey on the side had it not been for the attractive, well-designed labels he used on his many brands of liquor.  Shown here are a selection that demonstrates the reason why the company’s labels and bottles are sought by collectors.

Throughout the growth and success of his enterprises, Hynes was having a personal life in Haverhill.  At the age of 40, following a pattern of many Irish to marry late, he wed Ann, a woman five years his junior who was born in Massachusetts of Irish heritage.  There is no indication of children,  With his growing wealth Hynes was able to move Ann into a large home at 10 Park Street.  Built in 1900, the house is shown here as it looks today.  It was spacious enough that the Hynes could accommodate a live-in servant or two.


Records indicate that Hynes’ hobby was breeding and showing dogs — appropriately Irish terriers.  The pedigree listed for his top canine offers a glimpse into just how Irish these dogs could be.  Hynes “Darby,” born in April 1903 was accorded this ancestry:  “By Mulvaney out of Peggy, by Norfolk Spike out of Biddy, by Barney’s Brother out of Biddy Malone.”  That background should have been enough to qualify Hynes' terrier for the Order of Ancient Hibernians.

With the coming of National Prohibition in 1920, after 32 years in business, Hynes was forced to close his saloon and liquor sales.  Subsequent listings in Haverhill directories and the census indicate that the whiskey man, just 56 years old, retired.  With him went all the brands of whiskey he had named along with their distinctive labels.  Since none were revived after Repeal, all Hynes artifacts must be considered over 100 years old and “antiques.”  “The Lord of Labels” Edward Hynes died in 1929 and was buried in Mount Benedict Cemetery in West Roxbury.

Notes:  Special thanks to Peter Samuelson of Intervale, New Hampshire, a noted collector of labeled whiskeys, for the picture of the Hynes Old Parish flask, thus providing the inspiration to devote a post to Hynes and his attractive liquor labels. After this vignette had been posted Mr. Samuelson sent me another photo of a Hynes jug from his collection.  This one is branded "Old Black Pete" Whiskey and shows an elderly black man standing in cotton field.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

This Batman Flew on Louisville Liquor

Long before comic book hero Bruce Wayne decided to don the “Caped Crusader” costume to fight crime in Gotham City, a Kentuckian described as being “pulchritudinous in features and magnificent figure” was flying high in Louisville as a crusader for quality liquor.  Shown here in winged caricature is Thomas J. Batman, known to some as “Brandy King of the World.”

Born in Louisville. Kentucky, in February 1853, as Thomas Kirwin, the boy was far from any kingdom at his birth.  His mother, Mary Ann Batman, died within a year of his birth, only 22 years old.  His father, Patrick N. Kirwin, an immigrant from Ireland, married again several years later and sired five more children before he died in June 1865 when Thomas was just 12.  Orphaned, the boy then went to live with his maternal uncle, Thomas Batman, who formally adopted him in 1876.  In gratitude, Thomas took his uncle’s surname. 

According to local directories, Stepfather Batman was a printer.  Thomas’s birth father, however, had been employed in a distillery in a city where the whiskey industry was a major economic engine.  The young Batman gravitated toward the liquor trade.  By the age of 23 he had accumulated enough knowledge of the business and sufficient resources to strike out on his own.  With two associates he founded T. J. Batman & Company, Wholesale Whiskeys, located at 37 Fourth Street below Main Street, the latter avenue also known as “Whiskey Row” because of the offices located there of many of America’s leading distillers and liquor wholesalers.

By this time Thomas had married, wedding Elvira Thompkins of Louisville in August 1876.  They would go on to have nine children together over the next 20 years of whom eight lived to maturity.  A photo of the family shown above discloses the middle age couple, with Elvira still an attractive woman, surrounded by a comely group of their children.

Batman’s initial stab at establishing a liquor business apparently was not a complete success.  By the mid-1880s, he had closed the wholesale house and was working as a partner of T. H. Sherley, an established “Whiskey Row” commission merchant at 125 West Main Street.  The Sherley company specialized in the purchase and sale of Kentucky whiskeys, as well as conducted a brisk business in apple and peach brandies, as indicated by an 1888 advertisement.

Sherley, formerly an officer in the Union Army, also owned the Crystal Springs Distillery located the corner of First Street and Ormsby Avenue in Louisville.Listed in Federal records as Registered Distillery #3, 5th District, the plant figures in an 1886 photograph uncovered by Michael Veach, whiskey guru of Louisville’s Filson Historical Society.  Shown below the photo displays the assembled employees of the distillery.  Among other elements, Veach pointed out:  1.  The misspelling of “crystal” on the wall.  2. Employees each seeming to hold the tools of their trade, including African-Americans on each side with shovels. 3. The plant mascots were dogs.  To that I would add that every man and boy is wearing a different hat, an interesting display of headgear variety.

Veach speculated about the two men standing immediately left of the date on the wall, believing that the man with the full beard is Sherley and to his right with the handlebar mustache is Tom Batman.  While the author says he is “not sure,” my analysis is that Veach has made a correct identification.  After Sherley retired in 1901, Batman bought out his share of his partner’s holdings.  He seems to have sold off the distillery, thereafter concentrating on the brokerage business from his “Whiskey Row” headquarters.

Given the honorific title of “Kentucky colonel” by the state governor apparently for his business prowess, Batman was pictured and extolled in the influential Whiskey & Spirits Bullletin in 1904:  “Our friend, Colonel Thomas J. Batman, has always had the apple brandy market of the country in his grasp, so much so, on numerous occasions, he has been dubbed ‘The Brandy King,’ but lately he has been spreading out.  He is now posing as one of the heavy whisky brokers of the trade and has been instrumental in engineering some very important whisky deals.  The colonel says brokerage business in the whiskey line reaches into every part of the country, and is now larger than his brandy business.”   As indicated by the caricature that opens this post, Thomas J.’s visage was a familiar one in whiskey circles.

With his growing prosperity, Batman was able to move his large family into an imposing house at 1143 South First Street, shown here.   Still standing in Louisville, the large dwelling is distinctive for its six Ionic columns flanking the front porch.  But sorrow was destined to visit the Batman home.  After 35 years of marriage, Elvira died in June, 1910 at the age of 56.  She was buried in the family plot in St. Louis Cemetery with her grieving spouse and children gathered around.  All of them except the youngest, daughter, Kirwin, 14, had reached their majority.

Not quite four years later, in February 1914, Thomas Batman remarried.  His bride was Libbie Kirwan, born in Louisville in 1868 and 15 years younger than her husband.  From her maiden name we can surmise that Libbie likely was a cousin.  The couple were married in a quiet ceremony in St. Francis Roman Catholic Church by Father Thomas White.  According to a press account, immediately after their marriage the couple left for a trip to the East Coast.

As his children grew to maturity Batman began to take them into his business.  Thomas J. Jr., was the first, prompting his father by 1912 to change the company name to ”T. J. Batman & Son.”  Later Batman created a new business involving Junior and A. S. Batman, likely Anna Batman, his eldest daughter.  It was called the Frishe Distilling Company, an enterprise on which little information exists.

In time becoming an elder statesman of the Kentucky liquor industry, Batman must have experienced with concern the growing clamor for National Prohibition as state after state and locality after locality went dry under the relentless pressure of the Prohibition lobby.  It would appear that he continued to do business from his offices in the downtown Tyler Building until 1920.  After that Batman fades from Louisville’s business scene and its city directories. 

In retirement Batman lived long enough to see prohibitionary fervor wane and the impending revival of the liquor industry.  As he aged, he had suffered multiple heath problems, diagnosed as heart disease and hepatitis.  In early 1933 Thomas Batman, while under a doctor’s care, continued to decline and died at home on March 29, 1933, at the age of 80. He was buried at St. Francis Cemetery next to Elvira. 

Note:  This post was drawn from a wide range of sources, from which two stand out: The Whiskey and Spirits Bulletin that regularly featured Batman in its articles and Michael Veatch’s “Images of the Past,” an online article that featured the photo of the Crystal Springs distillery staff.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Goldberg, Bowen Co.: From Ashes to “World Reach”


The sign left is brim full of confidence.  Goldberg, Bowen & Company  in 1915 were proclaiming the specialty grocery and liquor firm  a “Master Grocer” with a “The World Our Field.”  The claim was backed up by illustrations of goods delivered by ship and rail from all over the globe.  Many San Franciscans, however, could remember when Goldberg, Bowen posted a quite different sign on the burned-out shell of its headquarters.  During the early years of this business few would have predicted its ultimate success and longevity.

The company originated about 1881 with the merger of two established San Francisco firms. Bowen Brothers had started as fruit merchants but expanded into speciality groceries.  Nearby, Lebenbaum & Goldberg were operating as liquor, wine and tea merchants.  Consolidation created Goldberg, Bowen & Lebenbaum. The company was listed local business directories as “Importers of Wines and Liquors and Commercial and Retail Grocers.”  As short-lived as this trio was destined to be, it early contracted with a German glass factory for a series of clear bottles topped by a logo, shown here.

By 1885 Lebenbaum had left the organization, bought out by the Bowens, Charles and Henry.  The new organization was renamed Goldberg, Bowen & Co. Running the enterprise was Jacob Goldberg, an immigrant from Poland, listed in directories as president and general manager.  The company advertised in San Francisco “Blue Book” that their groceries “make food a pleasure worth while….”   A writer for the San Francisco called the two company stores, located at 242-254 Sutter and 426-432  Pine Street “a paradise for the bon vivant.”  A calendar caught the celebratory flavor of the company. 

In 1906, this “paradise” became an inferno as the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 turned Goldberg, Bowen’s Sutter Street headquarters into a burned out shell amidst acres of rubble, as shown below.  The disaster also was reduced to ruins the nearby stables where the partners kept the horses used to pull their wagons and delivery carts.  I can find no information on the fate of the horses, although many in San Francisco are said to have been killed by falling bricks from the earthquake.

The sign visible on the side of the building above made clear that despite the blow the disaster had leveled on them, the partners were determined to press on.  It read: “Goldberg, Bowen and Co. Grocers Will Open a Grand New Store, Van Ness & Sutter. Present Location 2829 Cal. St., Cor. Haight & Masonic.”  The second store, apparently untouched by the fire, is shown left, the name in large letters on the side.  

True to their pledge by 1909 Goldberg, Bowen was back in business at the old address, with a building, bigger and better than the one before.  Shown here, it still stands at 242 Sutter.  The company eventually would have four stores, including one in Oakland. Goldberg, Bowen was on its way to “World Reach.”

Goldberg, Bowen offered a full line of whiskeys, featuring imported Scotch brands, well-known American labels like “Old Crow” and an impressive number of proprietary “signature” brands.  The partners were careful to register trademarks for most of their labels after the U.S. Congress progressively tightened the laws against brand infringement.  Their whiskeys with dates of their registration were "Bull Dog Rye” (1906), “Old William Penn Malt” (1906), ”Early & Often Whiskey” (1908), "Pride of the Golden State” (1913),” Imperial Whiskey (1914), "Old Mellow Rye” (1914), and "Traveler Club(1915).”

Goldberg, Bowen were not distillers.  They were buying raw whiskey from distilleries elsewhere in America and shipping it into their headquarters.  There they employed “rectifiers” who blended the products to achieve a particular taste, smoothness and color.  The multitude of brands meant that their crew of blenders was highly skilled.  The company apparently was not particular about the quality of bottles used.  Shown here right is a clear flask, possibly a pint, that displays poorly blown glass.  An amber quart is more presentable.  The small bottle below was called a “Quiet Smile” flask; three of them filled with whiskey sold for 50 cents.

The profitability of the business was indicated in 1905 when Jacob Goldberg moved his wife, Kate, born in New York of Polish immigrants, and their five children, Sol, Harry, Cherney, Renne, and Zelda, into one of San Francisco’s most notable frame mansions at 1782 Pacific Avenue.  Built in 1876, the house from the street appears to be two stories but because of the slope on which it was built, is three stories at the rear.  Purchased by the Goldbergs in 1905, Jacob added a new wing, replaced the carriage house with a larger one, and remodeled the interior.  Undamaged by the 1906 earthquake and fire, it was owned by the family until 1936.  Today it is a San Francisco landmark.  

Jacob Goldberg lived just long enough to see National Prohibition imposed on the United States, dying in 1920 at the age of 76 or 77.  He was buried in the family mausoleum in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park (Section F, lot 555) in Colma, California, just outside San Francisco.  Other family members over time would join him there.  Because of its trade in a variety of speciality groceries, Goldberg, Bowen successfully continued in business despite the loss of its liquor sales.  With Repeal the company again sold alcoholic products.  It shows up in San Francisco directories until 1974.  Having survived the San Francisco earthquake and fire, National Prohibition was just another bump in the road to “World Reach.”

Note:  This post was drawn from a variety of sources.  Among them was the blog western and its post of December 1, 2009.