Sunday, January 29, 2023

The Sattler Saga: Love and Liquor in Duluth

Let’s set the stage.  Shown below are pictures of the principals.  Left is Mary Agnes Maloney, a pretty young woman, 19, of Irish Catholic heritage.  At right is Joseph D. Sattler, 24, a dapper young Jewish immigrant from Bohemia. They had met in Duluth, fallen deeply in love, but found their families adamantly opposed to their marriage.  It was a “Romeo and Juliet” story set in the Upper Midwest.   What were the lovers to do?

The setting and dialogue for this melodrama was provided by a Duluth newspaper in January 1891 under the headline:  “An Elopement That Causes a Sensation in Two Duluth Families.”  The news story related the scene:  “About a week ago two young ladies sat in their room.  One was tall and beautiful [Mary Agnes], the other of medium height and rustic beauty.  The soft glow of a shaded light lit the room, and the two fair intruders chatted in a whisper. The taller of the two was in the house of her parents, while her companion was a visitor from Dakota.”

“‘Will I do it?,’ impulsively asked the Duluth girl.  ‘You should.  You will not be the first girl that ran away and got married, and as you know, I think it is so romantic and just too lovely for anything to run away with a lover.  And then too, when it gets in the paper it makes such charming reading.  I think all such marriage quite cute.  You could come to our home in Dakota and everything could take place.  Then you could write home and tell them all.  Yes, do run away.’”

“Her companion did not speak, but a quiet smile played about her mouth.  After a while she said:  ‘Well I love him, although my Ma doesn’t.  But Ma can’t understand that we love differently now from what they did in her time.’”  Thus were the plans for the elopement hatched.   On the pretext of a simple visit to the Dakota girl’s home in Grand Forks, Mary Agnes contacted Joseph to meet her there.  Working in his uncle’s Duluth store, Joseph announced he was going to Chicago for a holiday. Instead the young man hurried to Grand Forks.

Although the wedding initially was to take place in a home, the marriage license above indicates the ceremony occurred on January 13, 1892, in Grand Fork’s St. Michael’s Catholic Church, conducted by the pastor, Father Edward Conaty.  When the word reach the couple’s families in Duluth, the newspaper reported” “There was war all around today, and the young couple may be allowed to repent at leisure.  Most of the hostility comes from the fact that Joe is a Hebrew and his wife a gentile of the Roman Catholic persuasion.”

Despite an inauspicious start to the marriage when Sattler was forced to wire relatives for money just to bring his new bride and himself back to Duluth from Grand Forks, the groom was a young man with ambition and prospects.  Born in Radkovnik in 1868 in the Bohemian section of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sattler at about nine years had immigrated into the United States, arriving in New York City with family members aboard the Steamship Oder, shown here.

After receiving his education in New York schools, by 1890 Sattler moved to Minnesota to go to work as a clerk in a major Duluth department store owned by his uncle, Ignatz Freimuth.  Shown here, the store was one of the city’s largest and most prosperous, offering the young immigrant opportunities for advancement.  Instead, following his marriage and its new familial responsibilities,  Sattler began planning to strike out on his own.  By 1902, he had achieved sufficient resources to open a liquor house at 20 East Superior Street, below, in the Duluth business district.  He called it “Sattler Liquor Company, Importers, Distillers, Wholesale Liquor Dealers.” His flagship brand was SaddleRock Whiskey.

Meanwhile on the home front,  the marriage of Joseph and Mary Agnes seemed to move smoothly as their respective families eventually came to accept the reality of their union.  Although their first child, a boy, died at after one month in 1893 and was buried in the Catholic cemetery, a healthy girl was born in June 1897. A family photo shows the couple with their new daughter, Marie Therese.  A son, Arlayne, was born in 1905.

Sattler’s liquor house appears rapidly to have been successful.  He was able to give employment to his brothers.  Jacob B. Sattler was named treasurer and Emanuel Sattler vice president.  Outgrowing the Superior Street location, he moved his liquor business to  214-216 West Michigan Street into a three story building that also contained a cigar company on the third floor.  

The future, however, would bring setbacks.  In January 1906 a fire of unknown origin broke out on the second floor, occupied by Sattler.  Quick action by the Duluth Fire Department limited damage to the liquor house. The greatest damage occurred to an elevator shaft and stairway on the second floor and the third floor.  It wiped out the cigar company.  The loss to Sattler was estimated at $15,000 (today close to a half million dollars), said to be fully covered by insurance.

That setback was followed two months later by a robbery committed by a very unusual burglar, identified as Albert Schultz, 24.  When arrested Schultz  was carrying a letter apparently intended for Joseph Sattler.  According to press accounts, in it the burglar “expressed dissatisfaction that the Sattler Liquor Company’s champagne stock was depleted before he got around.  That revelation drew laughs from the grand jury that then indicted him on a second degree burglary charge.  Schultz pled guilty and went to jail.

In June 1907, the marriage that had caused Duluth headlines came to a halt after  16 years with the Mary Agnes’ untimely death at age 35.  Earlier the press had noted her ill with quinsy (strep throat). Indicative that consternation over her marriage had abated, local press reported that she visited often with relatives and:  “Her death will be mourned by a wide circle of friends.”  She was buried in Duluth’s Catholic cemetery adjacent to her infant son.

In 1909, possibly wanting a mother for his 12-year-old daughter, Marie, and 5-year old son, Arlayne, Sattler remarried at age 40.  His second wife was Jewel A. Sattler, a Michigan-born woman.  The 1910 census found the family living on East 9th Street in Duluth with a servant and a boarder. The house is shown here as it looks today.  A genealogical site indicates that Sattler may have wed a third time, a woman named “Minnie,” but I can find no evidence of the marriage.

In 1915, after some 13 years in the liquor trade, Sattler declared bankruptcy and shut the doors on his business.  Not long after, accompanied by his family, he moved to Wisconsin as an executive of the Milwaukee Knitting Mill Company. In June 1916 Sattler died there at the age of 48.   Although reported to have been in bad health, the immediate cause of his death was not reported.  Sattler’s body was returned to Duluth where he was buried in Temple Emanuel Cemetery. 

The difference in religious affiliation that had made the elopement of Mary Agnes and Joseph a newsworthy sensation in Duluth in 1891 by all appearances had not been a major problem in the Sattlers’ married life.  In death the difference did.  Mary Agnes is buried in a Duluth Catholic cemetery, Joseph is interred in the Jewish burying ground. Several miles separate their graves. 

Notes:  This post would have been impossible without a website entitled “Old Newspaper Articles: The Sattler Family,”  a chronological list of articles culled from the pages of Duluth newspapers by descendants.  The site includes more than a dozen articles related to Joseph and Mary Agnes, including the one that opens this post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

John Lynch Served Strawberries & Whiskey

 Foreword:  When I find material on an individual or family engaged in the liquor trade that is well written, I frequently ask permission to incorporate it into this website, with appropriate modifications or additions.  Recently Rick Lynch sent me a piece on his Lynch great grandfather whom I had been researching.  After reviewing Rick’s input I decided that his contribution should be incorporated into my material and images.  Rick agreed and the following is the co-authored result.

John Kennedy Lynch I, shown here, was born in Woodville, Jefferson County, New York, on November 11, 1844. He was the first of the Lynch family line to be born in the United States.  His father, Matthew, born in Limerick Ireland,  emigrated to the United States with his wife, Hannah Kennedy, also a native of Ireland. Matthew died at the age of 55, while Hannah lived to be 82.

Educated in Oswego, New York, in 1864 at the age of twenty Lynch’s entrepreneurial spirit emerged as he opened a retail grocery store on Seneca Street. He conducted his grocery business for nine years  but was not satisfied with the results.  Lynch always kept his eye and mind open for new business opportunities, and soon he became convinced a new chance was to be had in strawberries.

In 1863, Morris Pierce brought a few quarts of strawberries to a local Oswego market to sell. They were “gazed at as a curiosity by hundreds of persons and sold at one cent per berry.” This initial sale established market demand in Oswego for the delicious berries, and soon other cultivators were growing strawberries in the region.

In 1873, Lynch decided to join the strawberry race, and launched a new produce business, cultivating and selling strawberries in Oswego, and beyond. He became largely instrumental in building up the well-known Oswego strawberry industry, and eventually emerged as one of its two leading producers. He was noted as the first strawberry producer to send a shipment of berries by rail in a refrigerated car in 1888.  Lynch sent his shipments to New York City, Philadelphia, and Newark via the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&WRR), using rail distribution to reach a broader market, and his berries gained popularity for their unique attributes, noted for “possessing a flavor and solidity unequalled”.

Lynch’s main competitor was J. Heagerty, and it was noted there was “active competition in buying” between the two. By 1894, over 15,000 36-quart crates were shipped from Oswego to the market, that now expanded to the Boston area as well. The wholesale price was nine cents per quart, which represented a $50,000 annual industry for Oswego - roughly $1.5 million in value in today’s dollars.

As he was advancing in business, Lynch also found time for a personal life.  In 1870, at the age of 28, he married.  His bride was Ellen Wing, 20, a resident of Oswego who had been born in Ireland.   The couple would go on to have ten children over the next 21 years, of whom nine would live to maturity.  In time Lynch would house this growing family in a spacious home on Oswego’s East Eighth Street, one featuring six bedrooms and three baths. Shown here, the building is still used a residence.

As he entered his 30s, Lynch already was an experienced entrepreneur with a reputation as a “man of energy and enterprise” and considered “experienced and reliable in his business dealings”. The strawberry business was going well. With a growing family to house and feed, however, he may not have been content with profitability and looked around for other opportunities.  He found one in selling whiskey.

In 1882, Lynch formed a partnership with Edward V. Mitchell to operate a wholesale liquor store on West First Street in Oswego, purchasing the business from Mitchell’s father for $16,000.  Mitchell apparently was not a great partner, as it was noted he “did not give the attention to the business that it demanded.” Moreover, during the years of their relationship, Mitchell drew out more than $14,000 for his personal use, a large portion of which was used in betting and maintaining fast horses.

Although Lynch himself was interested in owning and racing horses and had won some recognition for his track successes,  Mitchell’s vices eventually became too much.  In June 1892, the pair agreed to end their partnership.  Lynch’s share  bought out for $5,000, paid by Mitchell’s father.  Although the local press wrote that Lynch was retiring from the liquor trade, in fact, he was not done selling whiskey.  In July 1892, just a month later, the press reported the launch of his new business, with the headline “Mr. Lynch Will Go It Alone”. 

With aggressive efforts similar to those he had brought to marketing strawberries, by August 1892, Lynch had obtained a saloon license and eleven days later secured a contract to become the exclusive Oswego distributor for Imperial Beer. Soon after he travelled by horse and wagon as far as Cincinnati and Louisville to establish partnerships with distillers and liquor distributors. His objective, Lynch announced, was to secure “the best line of goods” to merchandise.

The Oswego Palladiam frequently provided updates of John K. Lynch’s business (he was also a frequent advertiser) “J.K. Lynch, the liquor dealer, is driving about town with his  new delivery wagon. The horses and wagon both present a fine appearance.” Just a year after his opening the Oswego Chamber of Commerce in its annual publication recognized Lynch’s success in a “relatively short time,” noting that “his business extends throughout Central and Western New York and portions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”  The Chamber write-up also cited the size of Lynch’s store and basement warehouse, the quality of his stock and the efficiency of his staff which included two “on the road” representatives. 

Lynch was the distributor for many popular liquors from his 101 East 
First Street business location, including advertising a substantial array of  national brands, among them:  Ryes: Old Horsey, Mount Vernon, Guckenheimer, Finch’s, Old Overholt. Bourbons: Meadow Run, Old Kentucky, A. Kellar, Lenox, Hanning, Chimney Corner.  Blends: Old Mountain, Mechanics Club, Hawthorne, Silver Creek, Monogram.  

He also offered his own house brands, including  “Monte Carlo,” “JKL & Sons Bourbon” and “Lynch’s Malt.” His flagship label was “Lynch’s Golden Wedding Whiskey,”  said to be made by “wedding” five whiskeys, primarily bourbon and rye, into one distinct blend.  The label was a direct aping of the most popular “wedding” whiskey of the time,  Finch’s Golden Wedding.  Lynch’s version is believed even to have used a similar bottle style.

Much of Lynch’s “house” whiskey came in ceramic jugs ranging in size from half gallons to full gallons and larger.  Shown here are examples of his containers.  At top left is an example of a “scratch jug” in which the label has been directly scratched into the brown Albany slip glaze.  This was considered the most primitive way of advertising the origin of the contents.  Many Eastern distillers and dealers, Lynch included, preferred a cursive over-glaze labeling method shown right above and below.  After a jug had been partially fired, a label would be applied with a special stylus, often using a cobalt blue “ink.”  Because script was done by hand and by various pottery workers, no two jugs look exactly alike.  Today collectors find this a valuable trait.


By 1913, Lynch’s business was thriving and expanding. He purchased a large bottling plant across the road from his liquor house. It allowed him to bottle Crown Beer under his own label, advertising as the “local agent” for Bartels Brewing Company, the Syracuse brewery that produced it.   As shown here, bottles bearing the embossing of “John K. Lynch” can be found in both amber and clear.   He also advertising vigorously in newspapers and periodicals and through shot glasses bearing his name and brands.  In turn the local press celebrated Lynch with a caricature and a verse:

As he aged, Lynch could look to a career that, as one newspaper put it: “In business and in a social way,  he has been prominent for many years, and as to know him was to like him, his friends were legion….He was a liberal contributor to charity and to every cause that would tend to the improvement of Oswego.”  He could also bask in the affection of his many children, their spouses and a host of grandchildren.  The marvelous family photograph below, likely taken at Christmas 1914, shows a grandfatherly Lynch, age 70, sitting with a toddler on his lap while across the room, Grandmother Ellen, holds two.  What pride he must have felt to be surrounded by so handsome a family.

Thought to be in good health by acquaintances, news in February 1916 that Lynch was ill with pneumonia came as a surprise in Oswego, turning to shock two days later when he succumbed to his illness at age 72.  After a funeral Mass at his parish church, Lynch was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery.  Surrounding his burial site today are the graves of his widow, Ellen, their son, John Patrick Jr. and other family members.

Until his 1916 death, Lynch had operated his liquor house for 30 years.  Along the way his son John Kennedy Lynch Jr., had joined his father in business, After his father’s death, Lynch Jr. continued to operate the business under the same name.  He had only five more years before National Prohibition was imposed on January 1, 1920, a devastating blow for the alcohol manufacturing, distribution and retail industry.

Shown here, despite Prohibition Lynch Jr. tried to keep the business going. In January 1920, he was reported offering to sell his whiskey for medicinal purposes, still legal with a doctor’s prescription. Local drama erupted over this issue. Druggists in Oswego had refused to put whiskey on their shelves. Local doctors, after posting a $1,000 bond, had obtained permits to prescribe whiskey as a medicinal.  With no drugstores providing it, however, their patients had no place to obtain spirits. Doctors and druggists both were decried for “passing the buck.”


Lynch Jr. stepped up to announce he had applied to the Collector of Internal Revenue for a permit to wholesale liquor for non-beverage purposes. Local press reported that Lynch had fifty barrels of whiskey in bond, “which by the way would have netted him a profit of about $20,000, had the the war-time prohibition ban been lifted.” The whiskey cost him about $1.50 per gallon to produce, and the tax on non-beverage liquor added an additional $2.20 per gallon. Lynch Jr. estimated he could sell his whiskey for medicinal purposes for “around $2 per quart” ($8.00 per gallon).  It appears his request was denied buy authorities and after 35 years in the liquor trade, the Lynch liquor house closed its doors permanently.

Lynch Jr., like his father, was well connected socially and politically. The local press credited him with being responsible for bringing then presidential candidate, Franklin D Roosevelt, to Oswego for a campaign stop.  He also served a term on the Oswego Board of Health and subsequently was named City Chamberlain, a highly responsible post.  As Chamberlain, Lynch Jr. collected all taxes, water and sewer charges and other fees and rentals owed the city.  He also was charged with enforcing the collection of delinquent property taxes and liens due the city and responsible for receiving, holding and disbursing city funds.

Lynch Jr. also had a private life.  In April 1922, he married Helen Genevieve Troll, who was described in the press as “a charming and accomplished young woman, a talented musician, and possessed of many graces and a winsome personality which has endeared her to a wide circle of friends.”  Over the next 15 years they would have four children.

In 1921,Lynch Jr. decided to apply his well-honed business skills to a new product — the automobile.   Aggressive in business like his father, in April 1921 he launched a new  auto dealership, called the J. K. Lynch Sales Company. The first vehicle he offered was the Republic Truck, somewhat ironically a vehicle commonly used pre-Prohibition to transport beer.  In 1923, Lynch Jr. also became a dealer for the popular Willys-Knight Overland, built in Toledo, Ohio, then one of the nation’s largest automobile manufacturers.  Although Prohibition ended in 1934, Lynch Jr. declined to re-enter the whiskey trade, well satisfied to sell motor vehicles.

Notes: Rick Lynch, co-author of this post, and his wife Gia in 2020 founded Everwild Spirits, a craft bourbon distillery and bistro in downtown Sandusky, Ohio. Keeping alive the Lynch family tradition, the couple feature their own brands of whiskey, including “Seeker’s Wheated Bourbon.”  The establishment also offers other beverages, appetizers and desserts.  I also am indebted to Rick’s mother, Judy Lynch, for her help in filling in and correcting details of the family story.






Saturday, January 21, 2023

Robert Service: Poet Laureate of the Saloon

Who was Robert W. Service, that he should be considered the poet laureate of the saloon?   Why would an English-born bank clerk, wannabe cowboy, and California bordello go-fer be so honored?  The answer lies in Service, shown here, having written what is arguably the best loved, most quoted, verse in the English language set in a drinking establishment.  The poem is “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” and the site was the Malamute Saloon.

Service, whose 148th birthday was celebrated on January 16 of this year, began life in Preston, Lancashire, moving to Scotland as a child where eventually he was employed in a Scottish bank.  Struck with wanderlust, when he was 21 he traveled to British Columbia, Canada, reputedly sporting a Buffalo Bill outfit and dreaming of becoming a cowboy.  Service drifted around North America, living in Mexico and the American West, then returned to Canada where he found work as a teller in a Vancouver bank.

All the time Service was writing verses.  It was only when his bank sent him to the Whitehorse branch in the Yukon, however, that he found his true calling.  Whitehorse was a frontier town, less than ten years old.  Located on the Yukon River, the settlement had begun as a camp for prospectors on their way to join the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1890s.  In Whitehorse, Service lived in a rustic forest cabin outside town.  Although the mining fever had subsided and mired in the dull world of banking, the poet wannabe listened avidly to stories of earlier wild and rowdy times and dreamed of having participated.

Returning from a walk one night, Service heard the sounds of revelry from a saloon, and the phrase, "A bunch of the boys were whooping it up" popped into his head. Inspired, he ran to write it down (reputedly almost being shot for a burglar).  By the next morning "The Shooting of Dan McGrew” was complete:

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;

The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;

Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,

And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

This poem has inspired many illustrations, re-printings and even motion pictures since it was written well more than a century ago.  My Father, for whom it was a favorite piece of verse, could recite it from memory, often with dramatic embellishments.  In a low growl he would intone the final words of the avenging stranger who had entered the saloon:  “But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,That one of you is a hound of hell . . .and that one is Dan McGrew.”  No matter how many times I heard him recite that line, it never failed to give me goosebumps.

It was Service’s father who was responsible for his poetic fame.   When Robert had collected enough poems he sent them to his elder then living in Toronto.  He wanted a few booklets published for friends. Instead, His father, sensing their worth, gave them to a local publisher who also saw their commercial value and printed them as “Songs of a Sourdough.”  The American version was issued as “The Spell of the Yukon.”

Service’s book was an instant hit with the public, eventually meriting multiple printings in the United States, Canada and England.  The London publisher went through 23 printings by 1910 and 13 more by 1917.  The verses eventually earned in excess of $100,000 (equivalent to $2.5 million today).  “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” was printed solo and became the basis of two early motion pictures, as shown below.

Service’s poetic works never achieved literary approval and were often disdained by the critics.  He himself called them simply “verse.”  During his 84 years, Service published novels, articles and many more poems, but it was the burst of creativity that he achieved in a two month period in Whitehorse that has caused him to be quoted and remembered year after year.  It is amazing how quickly he composed his verses.  

He said about “Dan McGrew”: "For it came so easy to me in my excited state that I was amazed at my facility. It was as if someone was whispering in my ear.” (Remember this was after someone had tried to shoot him.)  Service continued: "As I wrote stanza after stanza, the story seemed to evolve itself. It was a marvelous experience. Before I crawled into my bed at five in the morning, my ballad was in the bag.”

Although Service in other works occasionally characterized saloons as places of camaraderie, they usually were pictured in more dismal terms.  An example is his verse entitled “New Years Eve,” telling the story of a down-and-out alcoholic seeking to cage drinks on December 31 in a New York City “watering hole”: “They’re playing a tune in McGuffy’s saloon, and its cheery and bright in there….I’ll just go over and slip inside — I mustn’t give way to despair.”

Once inside and starving, the man hallucinates about a past joyous New Year’s Eve filled with love and music.  At midnight amid the celebrating, saloon patrons attempting to rouse the derelict discover he has died.

In his latter years Service and his wife lived in France where his poetry took a much more upbeat tone.  The Paris bistro, a near equivalent of a saloon as a hangout, was a favorite subject that he celebrated in verse after verse.  Living comfortably from the proceeds of his pen, Service died in France in September 1858 at the age of 85.  Shown below is his grave monument in the village cemetery at Lancieux, Brittany.  Should you visit, be sure to hurry afterward to a local bistro and raise a glass to The Poet Laureate of the Saloon.

Note:   The Malamute Saloon, depicted above, was not the site of the poem but just the reverse.  Erected circa 1906, the name was inspired by Service’s offering.  My guess is that the word “malamute,” a native Yukon sled dog, appealed to the poet for its alliteration.  Located in Ester, Alaska, eight miles west of Fairbanks, the saloon remains a popular tourist attraction.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Enlisting Uncle Sam to Sell Whiskey

In the pre-Prohibition era, it was not unusual for distillers and dealers to conscript the familiar figure of Uncle Sam to merchandise their whiskeys. Shown below are examples of trade cards and newspaper ads exploiting the old gentleman’s image in the cause of selling liquor.

There was a good reason to enlist Sam: In 1897 after a Congressional investigation uncovered massive counterfeiting and adulteration of whiskey nationwide, the Bottle in Bond Act was passed and signed into law by President Grover Cleveland. It permitted the marketing of whiskey that would be sealed in bonded warehouses and and sold under proprietary names with a guarantee of integrity from the United States Government.

“Bottled in bond” or “bonded” whiskey was (and still is) whiskey that was produced according to the guidelines set forth in that more-than-century-old statute. The requirements are: 1) whiskey must be stored in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years before bottling; 2) it must be legally defined straight whiskey and distilled in a single season by a single distillery, and 3) it must be bottled at one hundred proof (50% alcohol).

The government then certifies that the whiskey was bottled at this proof; it also vouches for the aging period. The federal guarantee is symbolized by sealing the whiskey with a green strip stamp on each bottle. In exchange for meeting all these requirements, distillers do not pay taxes on their whiskey until it is bottled and removed from the warehouse for sale. Treasury agents are assigned to distillery warehouses to insure the rules are followed.

In a day when trust in government ran higher than today, the federal guarantee was seen as something to be exploited in merchandising by canny whiskey men. How better to take advantage of “bottled-in-bond” than by appropriating the national symbol?   Roll out Uncle Sam!

A W.H. McBrayer trade card depicted the opportunity in vivid colors. Uncle Sam stands in front of a bonded warehouse, key in hand, as workers withdraw crates of Cedar Brook Hand Made Sour Mash Whiskey. A second Cedar Brook ad has the old gent and his key riding a flying bottle of whiskey and the motto: “Way above everything on earth.” This Lawrenceville, Kentucky, distillery was founded in the late 19th Century by Judge W. H. McBrayer. After his death in 1887, the Judge’s estate went to his grandchildren and their father, D. L. Moore, ran the distillery. The Kentucky Whiskey Trust bought the plant about 1900 and under various managements continued production until Prohibition.

A trade card from the Thompson Straight Whiskey Co. of Louisville, shows us Uncle Sam “Catching the Fakir.” He is peeking through a door leading to a workroom in which a whiskey “rectifier” is pouring a number of suspicious ingredients, represented by bottles on the wall, into a stoneware container. The inference is that Sam will arrest the fakir. Thompson also tells us: “ Uncle Sam says: The Label must tell the truth so always read carefully the label.”  Thompson was in business from 1910 to 1918. The company used the brand names: "Country Club", "Forelock", "Lucky Stone", "Old Kentucky", "Old Medicinal Corn", "Old Mountain Corn", "Thompson Old Reserve", "Thompson Select", "Thompson Straight", "Very Old Special", and "White Bird Gin.”

Steinhart Bros. in an 1890s ad portrayed a distinguished looking Uncle Sam pointing to one of the many brands they featured as wholesale liquor dealers. It is “Roxbury Rye,” a Maryland-made whiskey of which they had purchased an entire years supply. This firm was highly successful and grew to have outlets in many sections of the Big Apple. Founded in 1872 Steinhardt Bros. succumbed with Prohibition.

The trade card of Uncle Sam holding some bottled-in-bond whiskey in glass containers with one hand and a wooden barrel with the other is presumably from the R. Mathewson Company of Chattanooga. Little appears in normal sources but my surmise is that this brand was produced by the Rufus Rose family of “Four Roses” fame during a brief period 1907-1910 when son Rudolph moved their distillery from Atlanta to Chattanooga. “ R. Mathewson” was Rufus’ first initial and middle name.

The Clarke Brothers, Charles and Chauncey, inherited a distillery business founded in 1862 by their father in Peoria, Illinois, After his death they incorporated the company under their own names. For a time following the passage of the Bottle in Bond Act, they claimed that their whiskey was distilled by the U.S. Government. Probably warned off that approach they subsequently featured Uncle Sam in their advertising, emphasizing, more factually, that the Feds had set a seal on every bottle.

Guckenheimer Distilling of Pennsylvania often alluded to the bottled-in-bond character of its whiskey. In one ad Uncle Sam is shown holding a scale to demonstrate that Guckenheimer Pure Rye Whiskey has a balance of quality and purity.  A second ad claims that “Uncle Sam stands behind it,” an outright falsehood since bonding was in no way a guarantee of whiskey quality or safety. This Pittsburgh firm was founded by Asher Guckenheimer in 1857. His liquor became a leading national brand after winning top prize at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago. Following his death family members carried on the business for several years after Prohibition until 1923.

The final example deviates from the mantra of “Uncle Sam guarantees whiskey quality.” The image advertises “Five Jacks” brand from I. Michelson & Bros. of Cincinnati. It is trying to make the point that their whiskey is one “for All Nations.” Uncle Sam is leading the way for Britain’s John Bull, others dressed in national clothing, and a donkey to endorse it. The Michelsons, whiskey blenders and distributors, were in business from 1898 until 1918.

Today we are accustomed to seeing Uncle Sam represented in a number of poses, both commercial and patriotic. Since Prohibition, however, the old gentleman has been strikingly absent from whiskey merchandising even though “bottled-in-bond” has continued unabated.

Note:  More complete profiles of these whiskey organizations may be found on this website:  McBrayer, Oct. 2, 2011; Steinhardt, Oct 1, 2012; Clarke, June 20, 2011; Guckenheimer, April 15, 2012, and Michelson, April 11, 2015.