Sunday, July 31, 2022

Womack Bros. Placed Their Whiskey with Care


Analyzing current American whiskey sales, major national brands like “Old Crow” and “Jack Daniels” dominate the market, with only limited competition from  “craft” distilleries. The Womack brothers of Tennessee provide a contrasting example of the liquor trade before Prohibition.  By making a quality product, albeit on a modest scale, the Womacks were able to establish a strong regional customer base for their “White Maple” whiskey by carefully targeting their territory.

Shown above, John Harmon “J. H. ”, left,  & Townsend P. “Ty” Womack,  were born in Lincoln County, Lynchburg, Tennessee, the eldest two sons of B.F. and M.N. Womack, their Tennessee-born parents identified only by initials in the 1870 Federal census.  At that census John was eleven, Ty was four.  Their father’s occupation was listed as farmer.   Of the Womacks’ early activities little is on the record.  

One whiskey historian recounts:  “The Womack’s operated a grist mill in Lincoln County and were contemporaries of the Tolley, Motlow and Daniels families in Lynchburg.  It was from these prominent distilling families that they learned the distilling craft.”  By the late 1890s the brothers, now both in their 20’s, moved approximately 60 miles north from Lynchburg and opened a saloon in Franklin, a larger town and the seat of Williamson County, Tennessee. They called their drinking establishment the White Maple Saloon.

At some point the brothers decided that selling whiskey over the bar was not as beneficial as making the product themselves.  The historian:  “Williamson County, Tennessee has a long and storied history surrounding the production, consumption and sale of whiskey and bourbon. Centrally located in the state, the county encompasses the Harpeth River Valley, an area rich in agriculture. Crystal clear spring water filtered by limestone flows through the lush rolling hills. It is due in part to this unique water source that the singular flavor of Tennessee Whiskey became world famous. Distilling was woven into the fabric of the landscape and became a way of life from the time of the county’s earliest settlers.”

 At the time, there were an estimated nine distilleries in Williamson County, all them likely small farm plants turning out a few gallons a day when in operation.   This was not the model the brothers had in mind.  They constructed and operated a facility, one they called “J.H. Womack & Bro. White Maple Distillery,” capable of making 150 gallons of spirits daily.  It was located on the corner of Boyd Mill and Eleventh Avenue in Franklin.   Indicative of lively sales, both to saloons and directly to the consuming public, are examples below of the several variety of ceramic jugs that the Womacks employed to market their White Maple Whiskey.


The brothers also opened a saloon in Nashville, about 20 miles north of Franklin, to operate as a hub for regional sales. This was a smart marketing move. Nashville gave the Womacks’ rail and road access for soliciting and making sales to a large swath of Tennessee, extending into Northern Alabama.  Their first Nashville address was 217 Broad Street, as shown on one of the several jugs in which the brothers sold their whiskey.  Later Nashville jugs, shown throughout this post, carry the address of 203 Broad Street. John and Ty eventually were joined in business by a younger sibling, William Womack.

Even as they initiated their whiskey-making the Womack brothers must have been aware of the headway prohibitionary forces were making in Tennessee.  Initially those were “local option” bans on alcohol, one of which forced the brothers to close of the White Maple Saloon in 1903.  Their Nashville operation was not affected.   In 1909, however, two new prohibitionary laws were passed in Tennessee.  The first made it illegal to sell or consume alcoholic beverages within a four-mile radius of any public or private school (whether school was in session made no difference). While this bill did not explicitly ban the sale or consumption of alcohol across the state as a whole, the practical effect of the four-mile exclusion did just that. The second law banned the manufacturing of any alcoholic beverages within the state. Governor Malcolm R. Patterson vetoed both bills, but the General Assembly promptly overrode his vetoes.

After only nine years in operation and despite their success, the Womacks were forced to close their distillery at midnight on December 31, 1909.  They may have been among the many Tennessee distillers who ran their last batches until the stroke of midnight. A year later the Womacks sold the site to a local banker. The brothers earlier had anticipated the ban and already were scouting out a new location in Northern Alabama.  A 1904 directory entry indicated John Womack was resident in Gadsden.  In the end, the Womacks chose to relocate in New Decatur (now just Decatur) Alabama, shown below.


For about next five years, until Alabama went “dry” in 1915, the Womacks were able to use their base in Decatur to serve their customers both in Tennessee and Alabama.  My assumption is that they shipped large quantities of their existing whiskey in barrels to the new location, decanted it into jugs like the ones shown here and sent the products by railway express back to customers into Tennessee, a practice protected under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

At some point common sense would suggest the Womacks eventually ran out of their own distillations, yet there is no indication they opened a new distillery in Decatur.  My conclusion is that they were buying whiskey from other distilleries around the South, blending and packaging it in their own ceramic jugs, including the decorative miniature shown right, and selling it under the White Maple name.  Indications are that John was running a sales operation in Nashville, taking the liquor orders, while Ty was fulfilling them from Decatur. 

When their days in the liquor business ended in 1915, the brothers went separate ways.  John, up to that time a confirmed bachelor, married at 51 and moved back to Franklin, where he died in 1929 at the age of 64 and was buried there.  Ty moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to become an automobile dealer.  At 81 he died and was buried in Texas..   Today our only reminder of this once regionally popular whiskey are the pottery containers the Womack brothers left behind.

Notes:  This post, while drawing on multiple sources, is chiefly dependent on an article by Rick Warwick, Williamson County historian, that appeared on the website,  Thanks go to Bill Garland, the guru of Alabama whiskey, for the use of photos of the Womacks' Decatur AL jugs from his informative 2009 book “Alabama Advertising Jugs.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Madison County Distillers v. “Little Beachie”


Related by marriage and operating the only two distilleries in Madison County, Thompson Burnam and W.S. Hume almost certainly were constantly chivvied by other Kentucky whiskey-makers about the benign-looking lady shown here.  Her name was Frances “Little Beachie” Beauchamp, also a native of Madison County, who gained national attention as a powerful voice for Prohibition, leading a successful fight to turn America’s “Whiskey State” dry.

William Stanton “W.S.” Hume had married Eugenia Burnam,  a child of Thompson, and Lucinda Burnam.  Thereby was forged a close bond between father-in-law and son-in law in the Kentucky whiskey trade.  The first indication was in 1868 when the two were joined in a five-person financial group that built Madison County’s first distillery along Silver Creek, shown here, registered as 8th District, No. 541.  The company hired George Stagg as manager and made him a co-owner [See post on Stagg, April 30, 2016].

About 1884, Stagg had departed and Hume took full control of the distillery.  He rapidly built the facility into a major Kentucky whiskey producer. W. S. Hume & Co. had the capacity to mash and ferment 950 bushels of corn daily with a yield of three-and-one half gallons per bushel. This meant that every day in operation the distillery could produce 3,325 gallons.  Hume had warehouse space for 39,000 barrels to age on premises.  With a cooperage on site, he made his own barrels.

The insurance map above demonstrates the large expanse of the distillery, dependent on steam for power and encompassing large pens where cattle were fed the spent mash from the distilling operations.  Note too that the Louisville & Nashville (L&N) railroad maintained a freight depot on premises, adjacent to a large Hume warehouse.

Meanwhile, Thompson Burnam, with a partner, constructed Madison County’s second (and last) distillery,immediately adjacent to Hume on Silver Creek.   Designated 8th District, No. 1, this was a smaller plant but still able to mash and ferment 300 bushels of corn per day and yield three-and-one half gallons per bushel.  Burnam called his distillery and his brand, “Warwick.”

In their cosy and successful relationship, neither Hume nor Burnam likely paid much attention to little Fannie Estill, born in May 1857, an only child growing up on a nearby homestead in Madison County.   They may have noted when at the age of 18 she married 33-year-old James H. Beauchamp, a Confederate veteran and noted Kentucky lawyer.  Sometime after 1880 the couple moved to Lexington.  There in 1886, Francis joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).  After a rapid rise through the ranks she became the elected president of the Kentucky WCTU which she led for 32 of 33 years until her death in 1823.

As one biographer has noted:  Beauchamp was a hands-on leader, and she established close relationships with WCTU women in her state, allowing the organization to grow significantly.  In 1887 there were less than ten local chapters of the WCTU in Kentucky. During her presidency, the number of Kentucky chapters rose to over three hundred.”

Beauchamps also melded the prohibition movement with women’s suffrage, actively advocating that women should vote in school board elections when Kentucky law opened that possibility.  “She mobilized both white and black women, bringing National WCTU President Frances Willard to Lexington in 1895 to speak at St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. The organizational power of Lexington’s black women grew rapidly in these years, so much so that in the fall of 1901 they out-numbered white women in registering to vote for the upcoming Lexington School Board election.”  Frances Willard would give the Kentuckian the nickname “Little Beachie.”

By 1903 Beauchamps had been instrumental in passing a “local option” bill in Kentucky allowing localities to ban the sale of alcholic beverages if voters agreed.  In 1906 she saw the option expanded to counties.  By 1907, 95 of 119 Kentucky counties had voted “dry,” a stunner in a state known internationally for its whiskey production.

By now the Madison County distillers were all too aware of who Francis Beauchamps was.  In addition to being constantly reminded by their fellow Kentucky whiskey makers for their county having given rise to this Prohibition firebrand, they could see that local option was a disaster for sales.  Both men promptly sold out.  By 1905, W.S. Hume Distillers had become a part of the Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Company, New York capitalist-fueled, second major attempt at a Whiskey Trust.  A year later the Burnam, Bennett Distillery with its popular Warwick Whiskey brand sold out to Bernheim Distilling Company of Louisville who operated the distillery until National Prohibition. [See post on Bernheim, Dec. 10, 2014.]

Although it is difficult to tell for sure, my instincts are that the Bernheims may have been responsible for a more aggressive advertising campaign on behalf of Warwick Whiskey, including a saloon sign with a definite Oriental aspect.  A similar source may be behind the advertising material with a distinctly racist approach.  Although “Little Beachie” successfully had sought out African-American women to recruit to her causes, other Kentuckians preferred to objectify blacks in demeaning ways.  

Shown below is a drawing prepared for Warwick Whiskey, part of a pamphlet entitled “The Sage of Silver Creek.”  It depicts an elderly African-American gentleman called “Uncle Rastas” who is fishing and being quoted on the subject of religion, horses and whiskey.  The figure is the stereotyped Southern black whose fracturing of the English language obviously was believed to be a lively source of humor.   And, of course, Rastas heartily endorses Warwick Whiskey.

Meanwhile  W. S. Hume, having sold his successful distillery, was moving on with his life.   With a household that included wife Eugenia and seven children,  about 1880 he had built a mansion home on Silver Creek after tearing down the original brick structure on the property.  He called it “Holly Hill,” shown here as it was later remodeled. 

Tragically, the retired distiller would die in 1906 as a passenger on the ill-fated U.S. passenger steamer S.S. Valencia, shown below.  The ship struck a reef near the west coast of Vancouver Island during a violent storm.  Attacked by vicious winds and unrelenting waves it proved virtually impossible to remove the passengers safely.  Of 108 on board only 37 survived.  Hume was not among them. 


Meanwhile Francis Beauchamps was untiring in her efforts to bring a total ban on alcohol to Kentucky.  Even though still denied the vote herself, Beauchamp stepped into the male realm of politics by chairing Kentucky's Prohibition Party for ten years.  Lobbying state and federal legislators to support a constitutional amendment, her work is said to have gained Kentucky approval for the 18th Amendment that ushered in National Prohibition.  Frances Beauchamps died in 1923 and is buried in Lexington Cemetery with family members.  Madison County has erected a historical sign in her honor.  

A summary comment on the Madison County distillers and the effect of “Little Beachie” was penned by a local historian:  “Both distilleries were closed down when the constitutional amendment on National Prohibition, led in no small part by Madison County’s own Frances Beauchamps, was passed in 1919.  Neither operation reopened when the amendment was repealed in 1933.”   

Note:   This post was researched from a number of sources.  The principal source for information about Frances Beauchamp was an Internet article published by Randolph Hollingsworth on January 19, 2019. 

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Isaiah Rynders and New York’s “MacBeth” Riot

 This is Isaiah Rynders.  Pay no attention to his benign — some might say “honest” — face.  Rynders, who owned multiple saloons in New York City and rose through ruthless tactics to become a dominant political force in “The Big Apple,”  has been identified as an instigator of the Astor Place riot of May 10, 1849.  At least twenty-five persons died in that melee, occasioned by a production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, “MacBeth.”  Many believe Rynders bears the blame.

Isaiah was born in September 1904 in Waterford, New York, a small upstate town on the west bank of the Hudson River.  His father, a farmer, was of German heritage;  his mother Protestant Irish.  Although Rynders later would identify as a farmer, his earliest instincts were to embrace a wilder side of life.  We first find him as a youth fetched up on the Mississippi as a riverboat gambler, handy with a blade and accused of killing an opponent in a knife fight at Natchez.

Perhaps escaping the consequences, Ryners returned to New York State.  His sojourn on the Mississippi had taught him something of water craft and he began operating a sloop called the H. M. Whitney, shown above, carrying merchandise up the Hudson River.  That occupation brought him the title, Captain, that would be his for a lifetime.  He soon abandoned the Hudson to become an enthusiastic supporter of New York’s Tammany Hall, where he established himself as one of the most politically skilled organizers in the city.  

The money to fuel his empire of street gangs was Rynder’s ownership of a network of saloons and gambling parlors that supported his “political club” and generated revenue for the notoriously corrupt Tammany Hall.  Rynders originally  operated from a tavern called Sweeney’s House of Refreshment on Ann Street in lower Manhattan before founding in 1843 a saloon headquarters known as the Empire Club at Park Row, the area shown here.

Having gained a reputation for “rough house” intimidation, Rynders was careful to maintain a more civilized veneer.  He was known to be an eloquent speaker with an educated tongue who often injected lines by memory from Shakespeare’s plays in his orations.  Rynder’s also took a personal interest in a rivalry between two actors known for their stage portrayals as MacBeth in Shakespeare’s tragedy.  The rival thespians were the American leading man, Edwin Forrest, left, and the English actor William Charles McReady.

As one scholar has set the scene:   “Their rivalry had been simmering for several years. Both were international stars, both had toured to each other's countries. Forrest, in 1845, had hissed Macready in Edinburgh. Macready was not too interested in engaging in this rivalry and was trying to avoid it, but Forrest wanted to press his point. So when Macready had his own tour to New York in 1849, Forrest’s followers decided to avenge their hero….”

No one was more partisan against the Englishman than Isaiah Rynders.  The Macready performance was to be held at the Astor Place Opera House, an opulent venue shown here.  The opera house had already elicited the enmity of the Tammany boss and his followers for its elitist nature.  Built two years earlier, the opera house had a dress code aimed at wealthy New Yorkers, charged high prices for admission, and made it evident that common folk should stay away.

The rivalry between two actors took on social and political significance. For recently arrived Irish immigrants trying to survive on the lowest rungs of New York society and carrying personal grudges against the English, Macready came to represent everything hated about the overclasses.   To Macready’s fans, the actor represented the glamour of British society in contrast to the ignorant and impoverished immigrants embracing Forrest.

On May 7, 1849, said to have been orchestrated by Rynders, Forrest supporters disrupted a performance of “Macbeth” at the Opera House, pelting the stage with wilted vegetables and rotten eggs. Scorned and embarrassed, Macready vowed never again to perform in New York and packed his bags to head back to London.  Prominent New Yorkers, including Author Washington Irving, convinced the British actor to stay for one final performance three days later.  He agreed.  The word got around to Tammany Hall where Rynders was waiting.

Apparently angered that his earlier efforts had failed, the saloonkeeper is said to have mobilized  a mob of New York gang members and Tammany Hall regulars supporting Forrest.  They gathered in strength outside the detested Astor Place Opera House in a riotous mood. A police cordon around the building prevented them from entering. As Macready performed his “MacBeth” undisturbed inside, the boiling witches’ cauldron symbolized the sense of danger in the air.  After taking a quick final bow, Macready disguised himself and made a hasty exit through the back door of the theatre.  He never again performed on American soil.

As shown above, outside the Astor Place Opera House, tensions were mounting.  The crowds of demonstrators had grown larger and were pushing hard against the police cordon.  Protestors pulled cobblestones from the street, pelting the police officers while shouting threats to burn the theater to the ground.  As it got dark and officials were making no headway with the rioters, they called for military backup.  Already “standing in the wings” at a nearby stable, members of the state militia marched from Washington Square, ordered to disburse the rioters from around the opera house.  That meant guns.

One account:  “Anger turned to panic as thousands pushed and shoved, pulling in and trampling innocent bystanders in their path. By the time the crowd finally dispersed, at least twenty-five people had been shot and killed, some from stray bullets that hit them inside their homes.”   Watching events unfold from a safe location even a hardened Rynders must have been shaken by the outcome.  His reaction to the carnage, however, has gone unrecorded.

Whatever involvement of the saloonkeeper cum political boss had in the Astor Place riots, the disaster apparently inflicted no permanent damage on his ascendancy.  Rynders was involved in the successful presidential elections of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan in 1852 and 1856 respectively, and in 1857 was appointed by Buchanan as U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of New York.  In the 1860 census, his occupation was listed as “U.S. Marshal.”

Nor did Rynder’s roughneck reputation prevent him from hobnobbing with New York City gentry or at 50 years old marrying one of The Big Apple’s richest heiresses, Phoebe Shotwell, only surviving child of real estate mogul and wealthy importer of tea and spices, John Shotwell.  Through her mother the 20-year-old bride was a direct descendant of English poet Alfred Lord Byron.  Possibly to escape unwanted publicity in New York, the couple married in Washington , D.C. There would be no children.

As a U.S. Marshal, Rynders found himself, possibly for the first time in his life, expected to enforce, not flaunt the law.  Now he was directed to arrest people for offenses he himself once had committed. Things came to a head during the so-called “Dead Rabbits Riot” of 1857 while he was trying to persuade the warring gangs to cease fighting.  Rynders was attacked and pelted with rocks. His reputation as a political strongman in tatters, he was replaced as Tammany boss of the Sixth Ward.

By 1870, Rynders and Phoebe had left New York City and were living in Bergen, New Jersey, where they were running a 100 acre farm raising race horses. According to the federal census that year, their eclectic household of nine included two young women, likely friends of Phoebe; an Irish female domestic servant; three male farm laborers; and a young man identified as a carpenter.  Rynder’s net worth was listed at $32,000, equivalent to $714,000 today.  In the 1880 census, now 75, he was still running the horse farm, assisted by a nephew named Sam Smith.  The household now had four live-in employees, three of them men.

Not long after that census, the aging Rynders with Phoebe moved back to Manhattan, living in the midst of the city where Isaiah had once been a power broker.  There he was encountered on a bus by a neighbor who was a correspondent for the Kansas City Journal.  The journalist recounted in print his conversation with the aged and bitter former political boss.  “No life left,” Rynders complained.  “I wish I was dead….No good to myself or anybody else.  I have outlived every friend I ever had and I have grown old to be neglected by them I have served.”   Rynders alighted at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, shown here, where he spent much of his time in the lobby, apparently looking for old cronies to talk to.

Rynders, age 81, died a little after midnight on January 13,1885.  He had gone out for an evening stroll and shortly after was stricken on the street.  Brought home unconscious by passersby, he died at home.  Newspapers across America carried Rynders’ obituary, one commenting: “There are hundreds of men now living who recall…when this one man seemed absolutely to dictate the vote of New York.”  The “MacBeth Riot” went unmentioned.

Note:  I first was brought to this story of the New York City saloonkeeper and political boss by the book, “American Walks into a Bar:  A Spirited History of Taverns, Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops” by Christine Sismondo, Oxford University Press, 2011.  With further research I found a considerable amount of information online about Isaiah Rynders and his reported role in the New York “Macbeth” riot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Whiskey Men and U.S. Labor Unrest

Foreword:  The 19th Century increasingly was one of labor unrest in America.  Dissatisfaction by workers with pay and employment conditions boiled over into clashes between the laboring population and those who hired them.  Violence often resulted, particularly among miners and longshoremen, occupations that required back-breaking and dangerous work.  Saloon owners often were involved   when their drinking establishments became meeting places for aroused workers and union organizing. 

When Emanuel A. Mitterer left his native home in the Austrian Alps about 1888, he found his way to a gold strike boom town in the Colorado Rockies called Altman.  With a population of some 1,200, Altman was a ramshackle settlement, houses and commercial buildings largely thrown together of rough timbers.  There Mitterer opened a saloon.

While Mitterer tended a busy bar, trouble was brewing in prosperous Altman.  The miners were making $4.00 a day for an eight hour day in the mines — a hefty paycheck in those days.  The wages attracted many jobseekers to the site. Early in 1894 some mine owners took advantage of the labor surplus to mandate that the work day would be increased from eight to nine or ten hours, with no pay increase. Miners were given the option of keeping the eight-hour work day with a pay cut of fifty cents a day. 

The potential decrease brought violence to the Cripple Creek District and particularly to Altman, headquarters of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), a labor union not averse to using dynamite to get its way.  Some mines shut down and others were hit with explosions.  Violent incidents in the vicinity of Mitterer’s saloon multiplied as armed strikebreakers hired by the mine owners made their camp above the town. The ingenious miners rigged up a catapult capable of hurling dynamite into their camp.  The strikebreakers skedaddled.  Colorado’s governor called in the state militia to replace them, the tent encampment shown below.

Miners in Altman responded to the military occupation by barricading Altman and announcing they had seceded from Colorado.  Shown here is a detail of a fund-raising flyer developed by the WFM.  It outlines the grievances claimed by the union.  In the end the mine owners were forced to capitulate completely as lost revenues mounted from gold not being mined.  The miners went back to work, usual hours, usual pay.  Shortly after,  Altman suffered a devastating fire and Mitterer moved on.

Clashes between miners and mine owners in Colorado often involved armed intimidation, “stalag” conditions, shootings, and even murder.  Charles Niccoli, an Italian immigrant saloonkeeper, was in the thick of it all.  Most Colorado miners lived in company towns, renting company houses, buying food and supplies in company stories and drinking at saloons controlled by the company.  Law enforcement officials, school teachers, doctors and even priests all were company employees.  Charles Niccoli likely was not an employee.  His ability to rent the saloon quarters was predicated, however, on his being on good terms with Victor-American Fuel Company.

That mining company had a reputation for paying low wages and a lack of attention to mine safety.  The death rate for miners in Colorado was over twice the national average.  Shown here is a photo of a draped corpse from a 1901 disaster that killed a number of miners.  The political power of Victor-American and other coal companies allowed them to hand-pick coroner’s juries that virtually always absolved them from blame.

In 1913 dangerous working conditions triggered a strike among the miners, many of them members of the United Mine Workers (UMW).  When the strikers set up a camp outside the mine perimeter, Victor-American Fuel imported strikebreakers, largely immigrant labor from Southern and Eastern Europe, many of them Italian.  As the months progressed, violence between the strikers and the company’s militia, sometimes known as “death squads,” escalated.  As shown here, the hired guns were well armed and drove armored vehicles.  

The 1913-1914 Colorado Coal War was one of the most violent events in American history.  The strike resulted in 66 deaths and a number of wounded.  The UMW lost the battle but in a broader sense, it was a victory for the union.  The strike helped to galvanize American opinion and led to reforms in labor relations, ultimately assisting the miners at Victor-American’s facilities and other Colorado mines. 

Through this tumult Niccoli refused to go against the mining bosses — and it cost him when the violence spilled over into his own family.  In October 1915, seven coal miners, armed with guns and knives, stormed into his saloon.  A pitched battle ensued in which one man was killed and Charles’ brother, Frank Niccoli, was stabbed three times in the back with a butcher knife.  Although badly wounded, he survived.

Today in the San Pedro district of Los Angeles a central open space is designated Pepper Tree Plaza.  A metal plaque there identifies one spot as the former site of the Pepper Tree Saloon, a drinking establishment whose place in California history revolves around its role in the formation and development of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Founded about 1890, the Pepper Tree was adjacent to the port of San Pedro and became a favored “watering hole” for thirsty stevedores and other dock workers.  When saloon ownership devolved to Caspar McKelvy,  a former miner who had lost a finger in his toils, he welcomed union organizers to make the Pepper Tree Saloon their informal headquarters.  It is the building touched by the fourth tall mast left below.

Labor unrest was on the increase along the waterfront.  Longshoremen up and down the Pacific Coast were engaging in strikes and other actions, sometimes resulting in clashes with ship owners and police.  As a gathering place for San Pedro’s stevedores, the Pepper Tree became a hotbed of labor activity that sometimes could spill over into violence.   A photo here shows the arrest of a striking dock worker.

With the coming of National Prohibition in 1920, McKelvy was forced to close down the Pepper Tree Saloon.  The space then became a union hall.  In use throughout the 14 “dry” years, the building was the site of the first meetings of the ILWU.  Capable of tying up all West Coast shipping the union became a powerful (and controversial) force.  When the 1890 Pepper Tree building was torn down to create a community plaza, the name was retained to memorialize the historic saloon.

Note:  Longer posts on each of these vignettes appear elsewhere on this blog at Edmund Mitterer, February 14, 2021;  Charles Niccoli, February 2, 2018, and The Pepper Tree, November 25, 2018.