Saturday, January 29, 2022

A Fated Steamboat Could Not Sink John Murphy

On April 1, 1865, the steamboat Bertrand struck a submerged log in the Missouri River about 25 miles upstream from Omaha, Nebraska, and within ten minutes sank in twelve feet of water.  No one died but almost the entire cargo was lost including hundreds of bottles of whiskey and alcoholic tonics bound for a Helena, Montana, store owned by John T. Murphy, shown here. Such a devastating loss might have discouraged another man, but Murphy was steadfast.  He simply re-ordered his liquor and other supplies and went on to become a multi-millionaire.

Murphy’s march to economic prominence began modestly when he was born in 1842 on a farm in Platte County, Missouri, the son of William S. and Amelia Tyler Murphy, both originally from Pennsylvania.  His family was able to send him to a private school until he was 17.   Then drawn by the news of gold strikes Murphy headed West, settling initially in Denver where he clerked in a store.

That was the last time Murphy ever worked for someone else.  As one biographerput it:  “It seems John Murphy was one of those rare individuals who could touch anything and turn it to gold.”  By 1863 he had moved to Nevada City. Colorado, where he opened his own store, one selling liquor among other supplies.  Sensing the end of the gold mining boom there, Murphy loaded a wagon with merchandise, including whiskey,  and headed 800 miles northwest to Virginia City, Montana,  Gold had been discovered there in May 1863.  Within weeks Virginia City had become a boomtown of thousands of prospectors and fortune seekers in the midst of a gold rush. 

Aware of the transitory prosperity of such towns, Murphy next set his sights on Helena, Montana.  Shown here, Helena was the site of The Last Chance Placer Mine, one of the most famous gold deposits in the western United States. It is estimated to have yielded gold worth $3.6 billion in today’s dollars  By 1888 an estimated 50 millionaires lived in Helena, boasting more per capita than in any city in the world.  The city eventually would become the capital of Montana and  Murphy’s home for the rest of his life.

With local partner Sam Neel, Murphy opened a general store in Helena.  A photo of the establishment indicates it was a “false front” structure on the main street where the owners could watch the ox-drawn Conestoga wagons rattle through town. To fetch supplies Murphy floated down the Missouri River on a flatboat to Nebraska City, Nebraska, a commercial center for goods brought by steamboat via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.  There he ordered merchandise to be transported overland to Helena the following spring.  Continuing downriver to St. Louis, he ordered more goods to be shipped by steamboat to Fort Benton, a port on the Upper Missouri River, then to be carried overland 130 miles to Helena. 

The Bertrand

Stowed aboard the ill-fated Bertrand, Murphy’s supplies ended at the bottom of the Missouri River.  In 1968, more than 100 years later,  private salvagers discovered the wreck in an area of the river managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior.  Since the boat was found on government property the recovered artifacts were relinquished to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for permanent preservation. More than 10,000 cubic feet of cargo and over 500,000 artifacts were recovered from the hold during excavation and now are on display at the museum of the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa.

Consignment records indicate that a considerable quantity of the whiskey and other liquor on board, including alcoholic bitters, were destined for Murphy & Neel in Helena.  The whiskey bottles long since have had their labels washed away.  They largely are un-embossed and identifying the brands is impossible.  In contrast the bitters bottles have distinctive shapes and are embossed. Illustrated here, they held “Drake’s Plantation Bitters,”  “Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters,” “Kelly’s Old Cabin Bitters,” and “J. H. Schroeder Stomach Bitters.”   The first three brands through national advertising likely had a customer base even in far off Montana.  The fourth bitters was less well known, the product of a Louisville wholesale liquor house.

During this period, Murphy was engaged in a courtship with Elizabeth Morton, the daughter of William and Adaliza Thornton of Clay County, Missouri.  Although John was eleven years older than Elizabeth neither were young at the time of their marriage — the groom 57; the bride, 46.  They married at her home and left for Montana the following spring.  They would have four children.  Of Elizabeth, a newspaper obituary said:  “It is allotted to few to have more friends than Mrs. Murphy.  Those who knew her best, loved her best.  She was one of the most unselfish of women.  Her life was one succession of good deeds.”

Murphy, Neel & Co. flourished during the late 1860s and the 1870s.  As indicated by a letterhead the company was dealing in staple and fancy “Groceries, Provisions, Wines, Liquors, and Cigars.”  The owners advertised as sole agents for Miller’s “Chicken Cock” whiskey from Bourbon County, Kentucky, a popular nationally sold brand. [See post on J. A. Miller, August 8, 2015.]  Day to day management in Helena fell to Sam Neel, with help from a third partner, W. W. Higgins. 


Thirty-two years younger than Murphy, Neel rapidly became known as “one of the most successful and able businessmen of the western country,” according to a biographer.  Recognizing the talent of his partners, Murphy created general stores in Deer Lodge in the name of Murphy, Higgins  Co. and Fort Benton as Murphy, Neel & Co.  In 1882 Murphy teamed with Edgar Maclay to open  hardware stores in Helena and Fort Benton under the name Murphy-Maclay, expanding two years later to a third store in Great Falls, Montana.  Murphy and Neel eventually built a new Helena headquarters for their operations, shown below.

His sprawling retail empire brought forcefully to Murphy’s mind the need for improved freighting services over a large section of western Montana.  Under the aegis of Murphy, Neel & Co. he created the Montana Freight Line.  It was aimed at serving local business needs and moving supplies and equipment to the state’s burgeoning mining camps.  The Union Pacific railroad about 1878 had bought a small Mormon-initiated railroad in Utah and extended it to Butte, Montana, to service the copper mines there.  Murphy advertised that his freighting service could carry cargo, including ore, bullion and wool,  from across Montana to the railhead.  His ox and mule trains were said to have the capacity to haul 400,000 pounds per trip. Filling a definite and growing need, the Montana Freight Line again demonstrated Murphy’s “Midas touch.”

Now among Montana’s richest businessmen, Murphy expanded his activities into banking, helping to organize the Helena National Bank in 1891 and a year later creating the Montana Savings Bank.  His mining interests included investments in the Poorman, Jay Gould, Rumley and Silver Bell mines. From his winter home in Fort Meyers he is reported to have invested in Florida citrus farming. 

Murphy’s most notable enterprise was raising livestock.  In October 11, 1911, with three partners he formed the Powder River Land & Cattle Co., with ranch operations on more than 24,000 acres in Custer and Carter Counties, Montana, and other pasturage in South Dakota. There he grazed herds varying in size from 2,300 to 13,000 head.  The operation was incorporated as the Seventy-Nine Ranch with its “79” brand.  Murphy became known as the greatest of Montana’s cattle kings.  George T. Armitage, a cowboy on the “79,” wrote about his experience.  According Armitage, Murphy remained “a shadowy figure” to the many cowboys who worked on the huge ranch.

In his later years, through death Murphy lost some of those closest to him.  In 1897 after a short illness that initially did not seem serious, his wife Elizabeth succumbed to a malady described in the press as “brain fever.”  After a few months, Murphy married again.  She was Clara Cobb, originally from Providence, Rhode island.  Several years later a young son died, followed by his partner, Sam Neel, still only 34 years old.  After what a biographer called “a long and exhausting career,” John T. Murphy himself died in May 1914 and was buried beside Elizabeth in Helena’s Forestvale Cemetery.

Over his lifetime, Murphy, the Western tycoon, had carved out an empire of productive enterprises that made him one of the richest men in the West.  More than a century later the raising of the Bertrand confirmed the principal beginnings of his wealth — selling whiskey and other forms of alcohol.

Notes:  This post was drawn from a variety of sources.  Chief among them were “The Steamboat Bertrand and Missouri River Commerce” and “A Study of 19th Century Glass and Ceramic Containers,” both by Roland R. Switzer;  “Progressive Men of Montana, Illustrated,” A. G. Bowen & Co., 1902; and George T. Armitage, “Prelude to the Last Roundup: the Dying Days of the Great 79,” Montana, Vol II, No. 4. Historical Society of Montana.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A Trio of Famous Bartenders


Foreword:  In the years before National Prohibition a handful of American bartenders had a distinct impact on the liquor trade and the drinking habits of the drinking public. Among them, three stand out:  one for inventing, or at least perfecting, a Southern whiskey tipple;  two others for codifying the ingredients for favorite cocktails and offering “codes of conduct” for those making and serving drinks over the bar.  Brief stories on each man follow.

Born a slave about 1808, Jim Cook  was allowed by his owner to be hired out, although the practice was forbidden by Virginia law.  Cook went to Richmond and became a bartender at the Ballard House Hotel, shown here.  Before long the enterprising black man was carving out a high profile career for his ability to craft mint juleps. 

His reputation spread across America and even overseas when Edward, Prince of Wales, the playboy son of Queen Victoria who later became King Edward VII, visited Richmond.  As one reporter noted:  “Having heard that Richmond boasts the best compounder of cooling drinks in the world, the prince undertook to try one.”  Cook provided a tasty julep piled high with ice.  Edward was so impressed with the drink that he ordered two more before leaving town the next morning.  Followed by American and British reporters wherever he went, the prince’s favor made Jim Cook famous.  It is said that the only thing his royal highness later recalled of Richmond was Cook’s julep.

Now a kind of local celebrity, Cook was reported by Richmond newspapers as having left town during the Civil War and making a living by giving anti-Confederate speeches in Washington, D.C.  When the war ended and Union troops entered Richmond Cook soon was back in the city, a freed man, presiding over the bar at the Franklin House Hotel and mixing up mint juleps.  Some Richmond residents resented his support of the Union.  Cook was arrested and accused of stealing money from the Franklin House.  Only upon receiving good character references from the proprietor was the black bartender released from jail.  Cook promptly left Richmond.

At that point Jim Cook faded into the mists of time. He may have settled in Burkeville, Virginia, about 55 miles southwest of Richmond.  A New York Times reporter writing about traveling in the South by rail got off a train at that small town and found that a saloon at the depot, run by “a gentleman of color who rejoices in the name of Jim Cook.”  The newsman wrote that the proprietor had a well-patronized establishment and a card behind the bar that read ”The celebrated new drink by JIM COOK.”  The trail ended there.


From an inauspicious beginning in San Francisco, German immigrant Harry Johnson became one of the best known bartenders in America, operating drinking establishments across America while dispensing wisdom on bar-keeping and supplying dozens of drink recipes.  Johnson published one of America’s first bartender’s manuals, gaining recognition as “The Father of American Bartending.”  A unique aspect of Johnson’s manuals was the drawings of cocktails and other libations, some reproduced here.

Restless and wanting to see more of America in 1868 Johnson cashed out of San Francisco and headed east for Chicago.  There he opened a saloon of his own, one he later claimed was “generally recognized as the finest establishment of the kind in this country.”  Modesty was not a strong trait in Harry.  Something of a celebrity in Chicago, Johnson gave lectures, wrote articles and published drink recipes in local newspapers.

As his reputation grew Johnson was invited to participate in a national bartending competition in New Orleans.  The judges asked him to make a dozen whiskey cocktails all at one time.  The German immigrant is said to have placed 12 glasses in two rows of six each and then built a pyramid, apparently similar to one shown here.  “He mixed up the cocktails and strained them using a pair of large glasses without spilling a drop.” That agility won him first prize, $1,000 in gold coins and a silver tumbler and spoon. Johnson subsequently crowned himself “Champion Bartender of the United States.”

Throughout this period Johnson was writing. His “New and Improved Bartender's Manual, or How to Mix Drinks in the Present Style” was published in 1882. The manual provided hundreds of cocktail recipes.  Johnson has been credited for the first martini recipe. In earlier editions he called it a “Martine” and included a drawing of it both “on the rocks” and “up.”  Throughout the rest of his life he continued to run saloons and update his drink manuals.  He died in New York City in 1933 about the age of 88.

Johnson’s rival for bartending recognition was William T. Boothby, a flamboyant San Francisco politician, saloonkeeper, and author of his own set of “drink books.”  By 1891 Boothby was tending bar at the swanky San Rafael Hotel in the nearby town of the same name.  Self-described as the “Presiding Deity” of the Rafael barroom, he decided, wisely as it turned out, to publish a drink recipe book aiming it at “all students of mixology.”  Calling himself “Cocktail Boothby” and the “Standard Authority,”  he advertised with the line:  “Bar-Keepers – You're Not In It If You Don't Read Cocktail Boothby's 'American Bartender’”.  An early edition is shown here.

In truth, at this time Boothby did not have a significant amount of bartending experience or know many drink recipes so he included other material.  His cocktails ranged from an “Absinthe Bracer” using the green liqueur and a raw egg, to the “Zsa Zsa Cocktail,” concocted of Dubonnet sweet wine, dry sherry and orange bitters.  Boothby’s first manual also contained advice on how to rescue punky beer and methods for artificially aging liquor, using, believe it or not, pickled cucumbers and Seville oranges.  That 1903 publication was followed by other editions, each longer than the one before.

Boothby continued as Frisco’s premier bartender until National Prohibition shut down all production and sales of alcohol.  Even then he found it hard to stop, continuing to serve drinks “under the counter” at the Orpheum Theatre Annex to his old customers. He was arrested there in 1922 for violating the Volstead Act and paid a fine.  Members of his loyal following stepped in to find him jobs, including one as a steward at the St. Francis Hotel.

In his mid-60s Boothby was diagnosed with cancer and died of the disease in August 1930, at the age of 68. His funeral was thronged with mourners, including an estimated 100 bartenders from across America, many of them grateful for mentions in his books.   Although Boothby did not live to see Repeal, his drink manuals survived and provide the foundation for the hundreds that have followed.

Note:  Longer articles on each of these bartender “whiskey men” may be found elsewhere on this website:  Jim Cook, June 30, 2020;  Harry Johnson, November 21, 2020;  William Boothby, January 1, 2020.

Friday, January 21, 2022

The Changing Face of a “Whiskey Baron”


Arguably, the most important figure in the history of American distilling was Col Edmund H. Taylor Jr. of Kentucky.  During his 92 years (1830-1923) Col. Taylor came to epitomize the whiskey industry and became its chief spokesman to American presidents, the U.S. Congress and other high government officials.  Because he insisted that his portrait and signature be prominent on all his products, it is possible to track Taylor’s career through his changing public face.

The earliest picture I can find of Col. Taylor is from a trade card early in his career, a time of trial.  It is the face of a early middle aged man considered a rising star in Kentucky distilling.   Taylor, however, was squeezed financially in the Panic of 1873 and resorted to fraud, reported selling rights to 7,014 barrels of whiskey when only 4,722 barrels were aging in his warehouse.  Exposed and owing the equivalent of $11 million in current dollars, Taylor was bailed out by rival George Stagg who took over his distilleries and relegated him to being a hired hand.

Eventually paying off his debts, Taylor broke from Stagg and with his sons, built a new distillery he called “The Old Taylor Distillery Co.” in Frankfort, Kentucky.  By  this period,  the Colonel had donned spectacles and assumed the chastened look of someone who has “learned his lesson” and was seeking to regain legitimacy among his peers.  This likeness eventually would find its way onto an advertising watch fob and to the sides of cases of his straight Kentucky whiskey.

Taylor’s return to “whiskey baron” status inevitably brought him into conflict with  Stagg who had kept Taylor’s name because of its stellar reputation for bourbon.  When the Taylors opened their new facility, Stagg sued to stop them using their family name on their whiskey.   Over the next months, a legal battle was waged that ended in the Kentucky Supreme Court with a partial victory for the Taylors.  They could continue to use “Old Taylor,” but Stagg’s “Taylor” products were still allowed on the market.  Thus the emphasis emerged on using the Colonel’s face and signature to proclaim the “genuine” bourbon.  Shown here is a 1903 ad in the Wine and Spirit Bulletin declaring that only the real “Old Taylor” would carry the Colonel’s picture and script.

This introduced the era of Taylor’s aggressive look.  Characterized as “hard to get along with” and often “downright cantankerous and hard-nosed,” the distiller in this photo clearly is making a statement, squinting his eyes at the photographer and turning his mouth downward.  He was now at the top tier of Kentucky distillers and not to be trifled with.  This photo later would be translated into a digital image only slightly less intimidating.

Taylor also was having an impact in Washington, D.C.  A friend of the Secretary of Agriculture, Kentuckian John Carlyle, he played a major role in the shaping and passage of the “Bottled in Bond Act of 1897” and later in gaining support for passage of the first Food and Drugs Act.  He was lobbying Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and later William Howard Taft to declare blended whiskeys as “artificial,” a battle he ultimately lost. The Colonel Taylor shown here may reflect the demeanor of “respectful persuasion” he likely adopted when visiting the Nation’s Capitol.

As he approached an advanced age, a clear effort was made to sweeten Taylor’s image.  In the photo here, his mouth is turned down but the squint is gone.  In formal dress, the white bowtie softens his physiognomy.  Here Taylor seems to be telling us he is “The Elder Statesman” of the liquor industry.  His company used a similar photo on a paperweight.

Another late photo also emphasizes a more benign temperament for Taylor. He has been though a lifetime of struggles and surmounted them them all to emerged in his “golden years” respected by his peers and listened to by people in high places.  The flower in his button hole, likely lily-of-the-valley, bespeaks banking of a fiery temperament in favor of a gentle glide into old age.

Even in death, however, Colonel Taylor could not escape reproductions.  Shown here is a plaque at the present day Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.  it commemorates the O.F.C. (Old Fashioned Copper) Distillery founded by Taylor in 1870.  The face on the metal sign clearly is taken from the “aggressive” Taylor of late middle age. It even reproduces Taylor’s necktie.  If possible, it is even more baleful a look than the original.

A final look at Edmund H. Taylor, Jr., was provided in a post-Prohibition Christmas advertisement for Old Taylor Bourbon.  The theme is that while the distiller was usually hard to get along with, at the holidays a genial Taylor “gathered his loyal employees around him, and as the bottle of Old Taylor passed among them, he.d tell them, one by one how much he had appreciated all they had done.  And he’d allow himself a small smile of satisfaction.”  Presumably the portrait of Taylor shows that “small smile.”  My thought is that the distiller’s satisfaction instead may stem from being able to satisfy his staff with a swallow of  liquor and skip Christmas bonuses. 


Monday, January 17, 2022

The Hilbert Brothers Sold “Municipal Whiskey”

 San Francisco newspapers dubbed it “municipal whiskey,” a blatant aspect of the rampant corruption instigated by top city officials and marketed by Christian Hilbert, shown here, and his brother Fred, local saloonkeepers and liquor dealers.  Then came the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. The Hilberts’ world turned upside down.

The Hilberts misadventures would have been far from in their minds when they emigrated from their native Hamburg, Germany, to the United States.  Although the time frames are a bit confusing, my surmise is that the brothers arrived together aboard the SS Suevia in 1882 when Fred was 19 and Christopher was 15.  They headed for San Francisco where Fred was listed in 1888 as working for Hildebrandt, Posner & Company, wholesale liquor dealers.

Two years later the Crocker Langley directory records the brothers running their own saloon and liquor store, located at the northwest corner of Seventh and Bryant.  After two years at that address, indicating some success, they moved to 101-103 Powell Street.   It is speculated that there the Hilbert’s splurged on creating attractive highly embossed bottles and flasks for their whiskey, likely “rectified” (blended) in their own quarters. 


They also issued shot glasses bearing their initials that were given to favored customers such as saloons, restaurants and hotels selling their liquor.  They advertised as “Pacific Coast Agents” for Wilson Whiskey, a well known product from the Ulman, Goldsborough Company of Baltimore. [See post on this firm Feb. 24, 2017.] Below are trade cards issued by the distillers bearing the Hilbert name.

For all the fancy bottles and advertising ware, including bar tokens, evidence is that business was not going well for the Hilberts.  The San Franciso Call on October 1, 1896, carried an ad listing for sale their “old-established liquor store and bar.” That offer apparently drew no buyers and by the following January, the brothers were offering their grocery and bar enterprise for a three year lease at a measly $750 annually.  The photo below of their establishment, known as the Coronado Bar, discloses what must have seemed to the Hilberts as the answer to their financial woes.  It is the man standing at the far left.

Abe Reuf

He was Abe Reuf, the political boss of San Francisco. Born Abraham Rueff from French-Jewish parents, he was a bright student and, when barely fourteen, began studying at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in classical studies. While attending the university, Reuf developed an interest in fighting the rampant corruption that was endemic to local politics and helped form a “Municipal Reform League.”  But a love for money and power later took him to the “dark side” of the spectrum.  Electing his own man, “Handsome” Eugene Schmitz, a violinist and union chief, as mayor in 1901 Ruef was prepared to accrue as much graft as possible.  He made the Hilberts a proposition that amid their financial woes the brothers accepted.

The brothers hired Reuf as their attorney at the then princely sum of $500 a month ($16,500 equivalent today).  Subsequently Reuf’s name on their business card was larger than their own.  They also made Mayor Schmitz a silent partner in their operation, paying him a commission of $50 ($1,600 equiv.) for every barrel of whiskey sold.  In return the Mayor and his agents pushed the saloons of San Francisco to buy whiskey solely from the brothers through their newly named Hilbert Mercantile Company.

Mayor Schmitz

Both Colliers and McClure’s magazines, known as “muck-raking” (read “investigative”) journals published expose’ articles on the Ruef-Schmitz cabal. McClure’s explained the liquor scheme:  After the Hilberts made contracts with Eastern distillers for cheap whiskey at 52-85 cents a gallon, the Mayor and his henchmen forced local saloonkeepers and brothel owners to pay $3.50 a gallon for the substandard booze to avoid trouble.  A portion of the profit was kicked back by the brothers to city officials.  The Hilberts did not always require cash for their whiskey but also took promissory notes for sales. They then sold the notes at discount through San Francisco banks. 

Because of evident ties to City Hall the Hilberts’ liquor became widely known as “municipal whiskey.”  Christopher and Fred may not have cared; the money rolled in.  As McClure’s noted:  “The saloonkeepers, of course, dared not refuse to take the Hilbert whiskey, because their licenses had to be renewed every three months and if they should insist on their right to buy where they chose, they might be forced out of business.”

That situation changed drastically on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, with the great San Francisco earthquake and devastating fire.  Some believe the Hilbert Mercantile Company was among those businesses destroyed in the conflagration; others are not so sure.  Mayor Schmitz tried to put the best face on the catastrophe by piloting a street car through the wreckage, a stunt that briefly made him popular.  There was, however, no way of restoring the “municipal whiskey" scam.  When the promissary notes came due, Hilbert Mercantile Company declared bankruptcy leaving holders “high and dry.”

As criminal investigations against Reuf and Schmitz began, authorities wanted to talk to the Hilberts.  The press reported that Fred had left California and was traveling in Germany with Schmitz.  Christopher was known to have retreated to his wife’s home in Suisun, California and had told friends that the couple were off for a pleasure trip to the Philippine Islands, then a U.S. possession.  Although speculation was that the younger Hilbert actually was seeking to join his brother and Schmitz in Germany, Christopher spent the next two years in the Philippines and apparently never returned to San Francisco.

Fred eventually came back to California but dropped out of sight.  Before the earthquake and fire he had been recorded living in San Francisco with his wife Amelia and their two daughters.  In the 1910 census the family was still there.  Fred, however, was absent from the home.  He resurfaced in Vallejo in 1915.

Meanwhile, Schmitz and Reuf were convicted of extortion and bribery in a San Francisco courtroom.  Reuf was sent to San Quentin Prison.  The office of mayor was declared vacant while Schmitz was sent to jail to await sentence. Shortly thereafter, he was given five years at San Quentin, the maximum sentence the law allowed. He immediately appealed; while awaiting the outcome, he was kept in a cell in the San Francisco County Jail.  After having his sentence reversed by higher courts, Schmitz twice ran for office again and was soundly defeated both times.

After returning to the U.S. from the Philippines Christopher Hilbert relocated to New York City working as a commission merchant.  That occupation allowed him to travel widely to Europe and Asia, often with his wife, Marie Robbins, and their two daughters.   Christopher died at the age of 61 in February 1928 at a hotel in Capri, Italy.  Cremated in Rome, his widow had his ashes buried in his natal  Hamburg.   Meanwhile Fred was employed in a variety of occupations that resulted in his family frequently moving around California.  After his wife died, Fred eventually returned to living in San Francisco and died there in 1945, age 82. He was buried in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma.

In contrast to Reuf and Schmitz, despite their active participation in one of San Francisco’s most blatant extortion schemes, inexplicably neither Hilbert brother was ever charged with a crime.  

Note:  An embossed bottle led me to the great amount of information available on the Internet about the Hilberts and their activities in a corruption-ridden San Francisco.  A prime source was material at the “Virtual Museum” of the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors (FOHBC).  The Colliers and McClure’s articles on the Reuf-Schmitz ring were key to understanding how the “municipal whiskey” extortion operated and the integral role played by the Hilbert brothers.