“BB” (Bluthenthal & Bickart) Extra Superior Whiskey (Four Aces Whiskey)

 

The initials “B-B” embossed on the subject bottle represent the last name of proprietors Aaron Bluthenthal and Monroe L. Bickart. Their business, Bluthenthal and Bickart, was established in Atlanta, Georgia  sometime in the 1880’s. First listed in the 1887 edition of the Atlanta city directory with an address of 46 Marietta Street, the entry was included under the heading “Changes, Corrections and New Names Received Too Late for Regular Insertion.” This leads me to believe that 1887 was likely their first year of operation. In further support of this assumption, the earliest newspaper advertisements that I can find began appearing the following year in several October, November and December, 1888 editions of the Atlanta Constitution. Calling themselves “wholesale liquors and direct importers,” this initial advertisement included a second Atlanta address, possibly a retail location, on South Forsyth Street.

Another early Constitution advertisement, this one in their November 12, 1889 edition, pointed out that you could pick up your Cuban cigars there as well.

What put B & B on the map however was certainly their liquor business. This full page advertisement that appeared in the Georgia Pharmaceutical Association’s 1892 Annual Meeting Report, mentioned that they were associated with three distilleries at the time; two in Kentucky and one in Georgia.

The advertisement went on to mention whiskey brands Canadian Club, Old Oscar Pepper and Four Aces, all of which were advertised in the Atlanta Constitution during the 1890’s. Typical advertisements for “Canadian Club,” and “Old Oscar Pepper,” are shown below.

 

The company’s “Four Aces” brand made its appearance sometime in the early 1890’s. While it didn’t mention “Four Aces” by name, this initial advertisement that appeared in several March, 1891 editions of the Atlanta Constitution, left little doubt as to what image they wanted you to associate with their “Extra Superior Whiskey.”.

Within a year or so they were referring to it as “Four Aces” whiskey in their Atlanta Constitution advertisements.

four aces beats everything – our “four aces” whisky likewise beats everything:

More than just liquor dealers, the growth of B & B’s  business through the early 1890’s  is evidenced by two items that appeared in the Atlanta Constitution in the late spring of 1892. The first, published on May 19th discussed their import business.

One of the largest packages of sherry wine that was ever brought to the south, was landed through the Atlanta custom house yesterday. It is a “double butt” of extra pale, dry Manzanilla, coming direct from Cadiz, Spain to the Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart of this city. The capacity of the cask is over three hundred gallons, and its weight is about three thousand seven hundred pounds. It took a large double wagon to haul it from the car. The package is so enormous that it is quite an object of interest to everybody, nothing like it having been seen heretofore.

The Messrs. B & B are very enterprising merchants, and in their thrift and energy, have achieved a brilliant success in the wine and spirit trade. The importing business is one of the most important branches of their line, and they have a great many foreign connections, and buy all their European wines, gins, brandies, etc., direct from the first hands. Messrs.B & B have done a great deal to enhance the receipts of the Atlanta custom house, and to place this port in a good comparative position with the other southern ports of entry.

The second item, published a month later on June 15th, announced that they were in the beer business as well. It also suggests they likely had some influence on the Constitution’s copy writer.

Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart familiarly known as “B & B.,” have just received the agency of Schlitz’s famous Milwaukee beer, and are making arrangements to supply the people with it throughout this part of the country.

These gentlemen are pushing, energetic and active, and since coming to Atlanta have made a splendid business record. Now that they have absolute control of this brand of beer, it is reasonable to suppose, and is confidently predicted, that the sale of the Schlitz goods will be greatly increased.

That same month Bluthenthal & Bickart’s name was prominent in this June 19, 1892 Schlitz advertisement in the Atlanta Constitution.

Sometime in the early 1890’s they also established an Ohio branch located at 220 E. Front Street in Cincinnati.

By the turn of the century B & B was the largest dealer of its kind in Georgia, with its business extending throughout the south and as far north as Washington D. C. Notwithstanding, by 1907 the business was being threatened by Georgia’s upcoming prohibition legislation. The situation at the time was succinctly summed up in this quote by Bluthenthal’s son, Felix, that appeared in an August 3, 1907 Baltimore Sun story.

The law is so drastic and sweeping that there is no possible escape for the liquor dealer but to leave the State. While there had been local opposition in several counties of the State for some time, no one dreamed a few months ago that there was any strong sentiment throughout the State for prohibition. However, during the past few months such a temperance wave has swept over the State that it could not be counteracted.

At the time, Felix Bluthenthal was in Baltimore scouting out a new location for the business. Within two weeks, an August 20, 1907 story in the Atlanta Constitution announced that the firm had selected a site and was fully committed to Baltimore.

Driven from its home by the prohibition legislation in the State of Georgia, the large wholesale liquor house of Bluthenthal & Bickart, of Atlanta, Ga., has decided to move to Baltimore, and has made a long term lease with the trustees of the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the large building in course of construction at the corner of Exchange Place and South Street…

It will be occupied in its entirety by the liquor firm, which will make the building the largest whisky warehouse in the city…All of the heads of the departments are to be moved to Baltimore, with their families, making about forty people in all. The company will need 100 local employees, most of whom will be women and girls.

The importance of the acquisition to Baltimore cannot be overestimated. Last year the products of the firm exceeded $1,000,000 and indications this year are that this figure will be surpassed. Baltimore is now to be the distributing point for this immense production and the effect will be felt in all branches of trade.

In January they were in the process of moving when a January 11, 1908 story in the Baltimore Sun provided this description of their new home.

Messrs. Bluthenthal & Bickart, the wholesale whisky dealers, who were compelled to leave Atlanta Ga., because of the passage of the prohibition law, are occupying their new quarters at the southeast corner of Lombard and South Streets.

While some finishing touches are to be made to the handsome structure which has just been built, Mr. Monroe L. Bickart, of the firm says the firm is now ready to take care of all orders…

The building is six stories, of fire-proof material, and contains 50,000 square feet. The main offices of the firm are on the first floor. They will be fitted in handsome quartered oak. The bottling department is on the second floor. It is supplied with every modern device needed for the business. The third and fourth floors contain 32 large tanks in which whiskies are put through the blending processes. The tanks vary in size from 1,000 to 2,000 gallons each. All mixing is done with filtered air. The air is pumped through water and is free from impurities before it reaches the blending tanks.

The storage room and the room for aging whiskies will be on the top floor. The basement has been planned so that it can easily be transformed into a wine vault. The finest wines carried in stock by the firm will be placed in this vault…The firm will employ in all departments about 150 persons.

Around the same time, their Cincinnati branch disappeared from the Ohio directories so it appears that the company opted to consolidate both operations in Baltimore. That year the Baltimore directory listed Aaron Bluthenthal as president and his son Felix as vice-president. Monroe Bickart was named secretary and treasurer.  

This photograph of their Baltimore home, circa 1910, is courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

Almost immediately after they were settled, B & B newspaper advertisements for their “Mark Rogers” brand began appearing in the Baltimore Sun. The ads referred to the address of their new building as simply “the great big house,” Baltimore.

Over the next several years, an unscientific review of their newspaper advertisements suggests that their market had expanded up the east coast, reaching as far north as the New England states of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In 1910 the company made what the Washington Post described as:

One of the biggest whisky deals ever made in America.

The July 30, 1910 edition of the Baltimore Sun described the deal like this.

The conditional sale of about 15,000 barrels of whisky by Messrs. Charles A. Webb, Sullivan Pitts and S. Johnson Poe, receivers of the Roxbury Company, to Bluthenthal & Bickart, the well known liquor dealers for about $345,000 is said to be the largest sale of its kind yet made in this city. The whisky is to be paid for in cash upon the ratification of the sale by the United States Court.

The purchasers are to have the right to use the name of the Roxbury Distilling Company and the brand Roxbury in bottling the whisky in bond.

Shortly afterwards, newspaper advertisements for Roxbury Rye can be found along the entire east coast and throughout much of the midwest. Remaining optimistic with regard to prohibition, as late as May 31, 1914 the company was advertising for a salesman in the Boston Globe.

Nevertheless, by the late teens the ads had dried up and Bluthenthal & Bickart was no longer listed in the Baltimore directories, a victim of national prohibition.

While prohibition put an end to Bluthenthal & Bickart, the “Four Aces” brand managed to survive when Canada’s British Columbia Distillery Company acquired rights to the name sometime in the late 1920’s.

Not surprisingly, by the early 1930’s the brand was making its way back into the United States, albeit illegally, as evidenced by this dramatic episode described in an April 11, 1931 Chicago Tribune story.

Boston Mass.. April 10. – Five men on a scuttled speed boat were captured under machine gun fire in Nantucket Sound, it was revealed today when coast guard patrol boat S-13 brought captives and liquor to the Woods Hole coast guard house.

The capture followed a mile chase during which two rounds, 78 shots, were sent by the pursuing guardsmen, disabling the fleeing craft. The scuttling followed.

The five were on the speed boat Hit Her, a twin screw craft that was a sister ship of her captor, the former rum runner Tramp.

More than 800 cases of Four Aces whisky and a quantity of other liquor valued at $25,000 were aboard the craft, coastguardsmen reported.

As prohibition came to an end the British Columbia Distillery Company registered the “Four Aces” name with the U. S. Patent office and they began distribution legally in the United States.

According to court documents (California Wine & Liquor Corporation vs. William Zakon & Sons, Inc., Supreme Jusicial Court of Massachusetts) U. S. distribution was originally split between two companies.  Much of the country was handled by the Standard Wine and Liquor Company who was described in one 1940 news item as “one of the largest liquor distributers in the middle west.” The exception was the New England States, whose rights were held by the California Wine & Liquor Corporation. In spite of their name, they were located at 43 – 47 Lansdowne Street in Boston as evidenced by this November 23, 1934 advertisement in the Boston Globe.

Bottles produced during this time appear for sale quite regularly on the internet.

Two years later, still located on Lansdowne Street, this May 5, 1937 advertisement suggested that the California Wine & Liquor Corporation had reorganized under the name of the “Four Aces Liquor Corporation.”

Soon after, a September 14, 1937 story in the Boston Globe announced the Four Aces Liquor Corporation had just introduced a blended whisky under the “Four Aces” name to go along with the bonded whiskey.

INTRODUCE FOUR ACES BLENDED WHISKY HERE

George Kravit, treasurer of the Four Aces Liquor Corporation, said yesterday that in addition to Four Aces bonded whisky, it has placed on the market Four Aces blended whisky, a blend of straight whisky. The blend is aged in the wood and is all whisky. It is on sale at leading package stores, clubs, taverns and restaurants…The Four Aces Liquor Corporation is at 43 Lansdowne St., Boston.

Bottles associated with their blended whisky have also recently appeared for sale on the internet.

After this I completely lose track. Sometime in the late 1930’s the Four Aces Liquor Corporation disappeared from the Boston directories and was replaced at the Lansdowne address with another liquor business called United Liquors, Ltd. While it’s possible that United Liquors took over distribution of the “Four Aces” brands in New England, I’ve been unable to make a definite connection.

Similarly, I’ve been unable to definitively connect the Standard Wine and Liquor Company with the “Four Aces” brands in other parts of the country. That being said, the “Four Aces” name continued to appear in liquor store sponsored newspaper advertisements up through the early 1970’s. In fact, this 1972 advertisement in Troy, New York’s Times Record indicated that at some point the brand name was expanded to include Vodka and Gin as well as Whiskey.

The bottle I found is mouth blown with a tooled brandy (or mineral?) finish. The embossed insignia just below the shoulder matches exactly the insignia displayed in the March 1891 Atlanta Constitution advertisement.

 

A labeled example of the bottle is displayed on a tin advertising sign recently offered for sale on the internet.

 

On a final note: Unlike others presented on this site, this bottle was not found in the Long Island bays. Instead, it belonged to John, the brother of one of my wife’s life long friends. An avid collector, John passed away several years ago. This post is dedicated to his memory…God Bless.

I. Goldberg, 171 E. Broadway, Houston Cor. Clinton St., 5th Ave. Cor. 115th St., New York City, Graham Cor. Debevoise St., Pitkin Cor. Rockaway Ave., Brooklyn.

The New York City wine and liquor business 0f Isaac Goldberg began in the mid to late 1880’s at a single Manhattan location. By the time National Prohibition was enacted it had grown to include store locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx as well as a Brooklyn distribution center.

According to 1910 census records Goldberg, a Russian Jew, immigrated to the United States in 1885. He was first listed in the New York City directories in 1888 with the occupation “wines,” at 138 1/2 Division Street in Manhattan. At the time he was associated with his brother-in-law, Phillip S. Spero of Philadelphia, manufacturing wine for religious purposes.

In 1889 Spero was on trial in Philadelphia for selling the wine, some of which had fermented and contained 16% alcohol, without a license. The coverage of the trial in the May 19, 1889 edition of The (New York) Sun included some background and the early history of the business.

Phillip S. Spero of 701 South Sixth Street was yesterday brought into the Old Court House and tried before Judge Finletter on the charge of selling Passover wine without a license. Spero is a Russian Hebrew and has been in this country only three years. He is in partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. Isaac Goldberg of New York City, engaged in the manufacture of what the Hebrews call “raisin wine” or “Passover wine,” which is used in the Hebrew-Russian ceremony three times on their Sabbath (Saturdays) and during the whole time of the Passover. The cannons of the church require that the wine be unfermented.

Lawyer Singer of the firm of Furth & Singer, represented the defendant. He called the accused, who testified through interpreter Samson, that he had been in the country only three years, and that he formerly lived with his father in England, from whom he obtained the recipe for making the wine. He had made it in England after his father died, and when he came to this country he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, Isaac Goldberg of New York, for the purpose of manufacturing and selling this wine to the Russian Hebrews in New York and Philadelphia. He said the wine was not intoxicating, and he had no intention of breaking the law.

His brother-in law, Goldberg, next took the stand and told how the wine was made. He said it was made of California grapes, raisins, sugar, blackberries and water. He did not know whether it fermented or not.

The jury found Spero guilty but recommended mercy. The Sun story went on to say:

Mr. Singer, counsel for the defendant, made an appeal to the court for mercy on the ground that the law had not been violated knowingly or with any intent to break the law. He stated that the defendant had given up the business after the arrest, and if the Judge would discharge him on his good behavior there would be no further cause of complaint.

Assuming Spero held to his word, this marked the end of the business in Philadelphia, however, it was apparently just the start in New York where it would continue up until the start of National Prohibition.

As early as 1890 Goldberg’s clientele had certainly begun to expand beyond New York’s Russian-Hebrew community. That year he was listed at 7 Allen Street, with an occupation that now included both “wine” and “liquor.” The next year he relocated to 133 East Broadway where he remained listed as a wholesale liquor dealer through 1901.

In 1902 he moved his operation to 171 East Broadway and the following year he listed his second Manhattan location, a store at 3 Clinton Street. By the end of the decade he had added another Manhattan store at 1390 Fifth Avenue (1905), as well as two in Brooklyn; one at 1691 Pitkin Avenue (1907) and the other at 28 Graham Avenue (1909). Each of these branch stores was located at an intersection corner in an obvious effort to maximize street-level visibility.

Goldberg’s business was unique in that a significant portion of his work force was deaf. A March 18, 1907 story picked up by several different U. S. newspapers provided some details.

Isaac Goldberg, a wholesale liquor dealer of 171 East Broadway, who is prominent in charitable movements on the lower East Side, says he has solved one problem of labor.

In his bottling department the entire force of workmen are mutes and Goldberg says that they accomplish three times as much work and are 50 percent less troublesome than twice their number of ordinary workmen. Goldberg inaugurated the reform several weeks ago. About six weeks ago, Hyman Sadolsky, 16 year old, mute, went into Goldberg’s place and asked for assistance. He made known to the proprietor that he was anxious to get employment, and Goldberg resolved to try him. He was put to work in the bottling department where conversation is detrimental to the best interests of the establishment.

After the boy had been there a week Goldberg found that he did a great deal more work than anybody else in the shop, and resolved to get more like him.  There was some trouble at first between the boy and the other employees, but as a vacancy occurred it was filled with a deaf mute, until finally the entire department was operated by mutes, there being fifteen in all.

Referred to as the “Lead Pencil Club,” another story, this one published in the July 5, 1907 edition of the The Sun, related the meaning behind their name.

The reason for the name the “Lead Pencil Club” is that everyone goes about his business with a lead pencil behind his ear and carries a book. When the boss wants to send a messenger in a hurry somewhere he puts down a few words on a piece of paper and if the workman wants to ask a question down comes his pencil and he writes a question on a piece of paper.

The group even had its own internal organization within the business and was certainly treated with respect. The July 5th Sun story drives home both points with the following description of their 4th of July festivities.

The Lead Pencil Club, which is made up of deaf mutes who are employed in Isaac Goldberg’s wholesale wine and liquor store at 171 East Broadway, celebrated the Fourth quietly.

Twenty of these deaf mutes started the day by a feast in the basement of the store. At the head of the table sat the president, Abraham Eiseberg, and Sam Rosenberg, the vice-president, who read the Declaration of Independence by signs. When he showed them by signs and motions July 4, 1776, all the deaf mutes raised flags and waved them.

After the feast the deaf mutes went to Staten Island for a baseball game with the employees of Goldberg who can talk. The deaf mutes of Goldberg beat the employees who can talk by a score of 8 to 1.

It appears that the business peaked in the early-teens having added two locations in the Bronx at 878 Prospect Avenue and 1575 Washington Avenue as well as what was referred to as a distribution department on 41st Street in Brooklyn. It was around this time that the business incorporated in New York as I. Goldberg, Inc., with $100,000 capital. The 1915 N.Y.C. Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Isaac president, with sons Joseph, Samuel and Shepard named vice president, treasurer and secretary, respectively. Two years later Shepard was listed as the president and Isaac was no longer included in the company listing having either passed away or retired.

Prohibition almost certainly put an end to the business at which time the sons apparently scattered. On October 24, 1918 the New York Times published an announcement that two of Isaac’s sons, Shepard and Samuel, had incorporated a food product company under the name I. Goldberg’s Sons using the 171 East Broadway address. I Goldberg, Inc. remained listed at the Pitkin Avenue address but by 1920 their occupation was changed to “drugs.”

The bottle I found is a mouth blown fifth or quart. The main body includes eight flat panels deisgned to accommodate embossing. Five of these panels include the company name, I. Goldberg as well as the company’s three Manhattan locations (171 E. Broadway, Houston cor. Clinton St. and 5th Ave. cor. 115th St.) and two Brooklyn locations (Pitkin cor. Rockaway Ave. and Graham cor. Debevoise St.). This dates the bottle’s manufacture to no earlier than 1909 when they began including their second Brooklyn location, Graham Avenue, in the Brooklyn directories.

Three panels on the bottle are vacant suggesting that it was made before the first Bronx location was listed in the directories, sometime around 1913. This narrows the bottle’s manufacture to the roughly five year period between 1909 and 1913.

On a final note, the bottle also includes an embossed statement on the shoulder indicating that the company was established in 1873.

It’s likely that Goldberg took some marketing liberties utilizing this 1873 date, as he’s apparently referencing back to the wine making days of Phillip Spero and his father in England.

 

John Fennell, Boston

Beginning in 1879 John Fennell managed a wholesale wine and liquor business in Boston Massachusets. He owned the business for over 30 years from 1886 to 1919.

Census records indicate that Fennell was born in Ireland sometime in the early 1850’s and by the mid-1860’s had relocated to Canada where he became associated with Thomas Furlong. Furlong ran a wholesale and retail liquor business in St John, N. B. where he was listed in the St. John and Fredericton Business Directory as early as 1862. That directory also included an advertisement touting  his wines, liquors and a product called “Allsop’s Ales.”

When Furlong opened a branch location in Boston he named Fennell as his manager. The notice announcing the opening of Furlong’s Boston branch appeared in the March 14, 1879 edition of the  Boston Globe.

MR. THOMAS FURLONG, the well known wine merchant of St. John, N. B., has opened a branch of his establishment at 161 Devonshire Street and 22 Arch Street, under the management of Mr. John Fennell, who has been with Mr. Furlong for twelve years, and in whom he reposes every confidence. He has just issued a neat and comprehensive catalogue, embracing the wines of Spain, Portugal, France and Germany… Mr. Furlong has had experience of twenty-five years in the wine trade, and his selections can be relied upon as of the very best.

It wasn’t long before Furlong was advertising in the local newspapers. Advertisements for “Furlong’s Irish Malt Whiskey” began appearing as early as the March 30, 1879 edition of the Boston Globe.

The Boston branch continued to operate under Furlong’s ownership and Fennel’s management up until October 16 1886 when Furlong turned the business over to his long time manager. Fennel announced the change in ownership in the October 17, 1886 edition of the Boston Globe.

161 DEVONSHIRE STREET, October 16, 1886.

Mr. Thomas Furlong has relinquished the wine and spirit business carried on by him at 161 Devonshire and 22 Arch Streets, Boston, through me and under my superintendence for a number of years past. I have, therefore, the pleasure of announcing that I have opened at the old stand, and that in the future the business will be conducted as heretofore, but in my name solely.

My stock of wines, Cognac brandies, whiskeys, etc., is a very extensive one; and all goods being personally selected, I am in the position to give my customers, as in the past, the same pure and reliable goods at reasonable prices. Soliciting a continuance of the support given in the past, I am most respectfully,

JOHN FENNELL

An advertisement that appeared in several 1893 editions of the Fall River (Mass) Daily Herald provided a general overview of Fennell’s wine and liquor menu along with his related sales pitch.

FINE WINES – Having visited most of the wine-producing districts of Europe last summer, and personally selected a large line of fine wines, that are not held at fancy prices, but are honestly graded according to age and quality, I would call particular attention to my stock of sherries and ports. They embrace every variety, from the sound young wine to the rare old vintage of 1847, and ranging in price from Eight to Fifty dollars a dozen and from $2.50 to $10 a gallon.

OLD BRANDIES – have been selected from leading houses of Cognac, and I am in a position to offer my customers pure and reliable goods from the celebrated vintage of 1858, costing $48 per dozen, and fine champagne brandies from $6 to $14 per gallon.

PURE WHISKIES – that are stored in sherry wine casks have a mellowness not found in other whiskies, and being honestly aged are free from those heating qualities usually found in so called old goods. Buying all whiskies from the distillery direct, I can sell fine goods from $8 a dozen up to the celebrated O.F.R., costing $30, and ordinary and special, in wood from $8 to $10 pre gallon.

As evidenced by this March 24, 1887 Boston Globe advertisement, he also continued to sell the same “Allsop Ales” that Furlong marketed back in 1862.

Up through 1902 the company address continued to be listed as 161 Devonshire and 22 Arch Streets. Actually one location, the building occupied the short block between Arch and Devonshire with addresses on both streets. Then, sometime in 1903 or 1904 their address changed to 177 Devonshire and 38 Arch Street.

Fennell’s 1904 liquor license notice described the property like this:

No.s 177 Devonshire St., 38 Arch St., and elevator entrance to cellar at 40 Arch St. in said Boston, in two rooms, first floor, cellar for stock only, of said building.

The company remained at that location until, according to this May 29, 1919 story in the Boston Globe, they closed the doors for good, a victim of Prohibition.

Prohibition claims its first victim in Boston today, when John Fennell will lock up for all time his long-famed wine shop at 175 Devonshire St. and 34 Arch St…”Prohibition is coming and you can’t stop it,” mused Mr. Fennell yesterday amid the mellow atmosphere of jugs, dust laden bottles and ambrosial liquids. “It’s coming like a great wave headed for the bow of a ship and its going to break soon. But it’s going to miss me.”

Here’s some information. Whisper it about. In the past year $200,000 in liquor has passed out of the Fennell shop – and not all, certainly, for immediate consumption. Are the bugs loading up?

“Why look here,” said the veteran liquor merchant, “six weeks ago I said to myself I never could unload my stock by this time. But here I am cleaned out. Not a bottle in the shop.”

Nine years later John Fennell passed away while on a trip to England. According to his obituary published in the June 2, 1928 edition of the Boston Globe:

Mr. Fennell went to England in April and was taken ill on the trip across. He recovered while on a visit to relatives in Liverpool but then had a sudden relapse and died Thursday.

The bottle I found is a cylinder that likely contained a fifth of whiskey. Blown in a three piece mold it’s embossed John Fennell, Boston, so it was likely manufactured no earlier than 1886 when Fennel took over the business.

Note:

Fennell’s obituary stated that he was born in St. John, N.B. This conflicts with census records from 1880 through 1920 that list his birthplace as Ireland. For purposes of this post I chose to accept the census records.

Montauk Wine & Liquor Co., 2043 Fulton St., Brooklyn, N.Y. & 96 Village Avenue, Rockville Centre, L.I.

 

The Montauk Wine & Liquor Company was apparently active from the late 1800’s until at least 1917 or 1918. Their Brooklyn address was 2043 Fulton Street in the East New York section.

The company was not listed in Brooklyn’s general directories but was listed in Lain’s Brooklyn Business directories and later, the Brooklyn Phone Books from 1899 to 1917. They were not listed in the 1892 Business Directory suggesting that they started in business sometime between 1893 and 1898 (I don’t have access to the business directories for those years). At times they were listed under the heading “Wine & Liquor Dealers – Wholesale” and other times under the retail heading of “Wines, Liquors and Lager Beer,” and still other times under both headings.

The company was apparently quite small, incorporating with capital of $3,000. in 1908. Their incorporation notice, printed in the January 25 edition of the (Brooklyn) Daily Standard Union named A. DeWillers and Isaac Weinoten of Brooklyn and Isaac Sobel of New York as directors. By 1914, the Brooklyn and Queens Copartnership and Corporation Directory named Max Weinstein as the sole director, with no mention of the original 1908 directors.

The company maintained a liquor tax certificate at the 2043 Fulton Street address up through at least September 30, 1916 and was still listed in the February 1917 Brooklyn-Queens section of the NYC Telephone Book. They were not listed in 1920 suggesting that they did not survive the advent of Prohibition.

Ultimately the corporation was included on a list of 2266 Brooklyn corporations dissolved under a proclamation signed by Governor Alfred E Smith on January 13, 1926. The list appeared in the March 9, 1926 edition of the Brooklyn Standard Union under the following heading:

PROCLAMATION STATE OF NEW YORK EXECUTIVE CHAMBER ALBANY

Pursuant To section one hundred and seven of the stock corporation law, as added by chapter three hundred and nine of the laws of nineteen hundred and twenty-four, I, Alfred E. Smith, Governor of the State of New York, do proclaim and declare the corporations named in the following list, which has been transmitted to me by the Secretary of State, are dissolved and their charters forfeited by reason of their failure to report as required by the statute aforesaid.

The company also included the Rockville Centre, Long Island address of 96 Village Avenue on the embossing of the bottle I found.  I haven’t been able to connect the Montauk Wine & Liquor Company name with this Rockville Centre address, however that address did maintain a liquor tax certificate for several years in the mid-teens (1911 to 1917) under the name Meyer Hecker. It’s possible that Hecker was Montauk’s Long Island agent during part or possibly all of their existence.

On September 1, 1917, Meyer Hecker’s name was included on a list of businesses that were refused a liquor license for the upcoming year beginning October 1, 1918. Regardless, it appears that several members of the Meyer family continued to operate the business, albeit illegally, at 96 Village Avenue up through at least 1920. A story in the May 14, 1920 edition the Brooklyn Standard Union described a federal raid on their operation at that time.

Prohibition agents Connolly, White, O’Leary and Scanlon visited the wholesale liquor house of Herman Hecker, 96 Village Avenue, Rockville Centre, and seized tweet-five barrels and 117 cases of Gugenheimer bonded whiskey and arrested the proprietor and his son, David Hecker.

The arrest was made because of an alleged sale of a quart of wine, for which a marked bill was given as payment. Following the alleged illegal sale, the son, David Hecker, was charged with possessing the liquor, in that he took the quart of wine and wrapped it up for delivery.

The revenue men then entered and seized the entire stock found on the premises and will bring action against another twenty-five barrels of bonded whiskey in Government storehouse for violating the dry law.

Federal Commissioner McCabe held father and son for hearing later.

The case was included in a “Listing of Cases Disposed of Since the Volstead Law Went Into Effect” that was printed in the April 3, 1921 edition of the Brooklyn Standard Union. It indicated that David Hecker had been acquitted but that Meyer Hecker, obviously still head of the operation, had received a jail sentence of 15 days. (The list did not include Herman Hecker.)

The bottle I found is a flask roughly one pint in size. It exhibits both the Brooklyn and Long Island locations of the business. Mouth blown it was likely made on the earlier side of the 1899 to 1917 period that the business operated legally.

Stewart Distilling Company

  

The Stewart Distilling Company was in business from 1909 until the mid-1920’s but the company’s roots date back much earlier to an Irish immigrant named Robert Stewart. According to 1900 census records, Stewart was born in 1836 in County Antrim, Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1854. His July 10, 1901 obituary in the Baltimore Sun stated:

When a lad of 18 years he came to this country and settled in Baltimore. In 1886 he started a distillery in Highlandtown.

Between 1887 and 1894 Robert Stewart was listed with the occupation distiller in the Baltimore city directories. His distillery was located at the southeast corner of Bank and 5th and the office was at 32 S Holliday.

In 1894 his business incorporated under the name “Robert Stewart Distilling Company” The incorporation notice was printed in the January 15, 1894 edition of the Baltimore Sun.

Certificate of the incorporation of the Robert Stewart Distilling Company was put on record in the clerk’s office at Towson. The company is formed to continue the distilling business already established by Robert Stewart at Canton. The capital stock is $125,000, in shares of $100 each, and the directors are Robert Stewart, Benjamin Bell, Isaac W. Mohier, Jr., Diedrich Wischhusen and Thos. W. Donaldson.

During this period, the distillery produced a whiskey called “Robert Stewart Rye.” Their agent, at least in New York, was the well established firm of H.B. Kirk who included their brand in several of their advertisements between 1893 and 1895. This December 6, 1893 advertisement in the New York Times stated that it was “bottled at the distillery,” and referred to it as the “Best Eastern Rye.”

Robert Stewart continued to run the business until December, 1897 when he sold the business and retired. The December 31, 1897 edition of the Baltimore Sun ran a story announcing the sale.

A Highlandtown Distillery Sold

The Robert Stewart Distilling Company have transferred to Daniel H. Carstairs and J. Haseltine Carstairs, of Philadelphia, the plant and equipment of their distilling business and three lots of ground on Bank Street and Eastern Avenue. The price paid is not stated. A mortgage for $40,000 for part of the purchase money has been given.

Another story, this one in the January 14, 1898 edition of the Baltimore Sun provided some additional information:

The distillery has a capacity of 1,200 or 1,500 gallons of whisky daily, which will be increased to about 3,000 gallons daily by an addition to the plant now in course of construction.

The Carstairs Brothers served as proprietors of the distillery between 1898 and 1908 which was still listed at Bank and 5th in the Baltimore directories. Many of their early 1900’s advertisements included an aerial view of the distillery, which I assume by this time included the additions mentioned in the 1898 story above.

At the same time the Carstairs Brothers were managing the distillery they were also managing the firm of Carstairs, McCall & Co., a business that their family had been connected with as far back as the late 1700’s. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the company was heavily involved in the wine and liquor trade as importers, exporters and wholesale dealers.

A story on Carstairs & McCall in the October 6, 1908 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer described the early history of the business.

The present firm style was adopted in 1867, in which year the late James Carstairs and John C. McCall associated themselves as general partners. They were both recognized as imminently enterprising and progressive men of affairs, and under their aggressive management the interests of the house were considerably broadened and extended. The death of Mr. Carstairs, in 1893, was followed by that of Mr. McCall, in 1894, since which time the business has been conducted under the management of Messrs. Daniel H. Carstairs and J. Haseltine Carstairs, sons of the late James Carstairs, who entered the firm in 1885, and representatives of the fourth generation of the Carstairs family in continuous connection with the house.

The Philadelphia headquarters of the firm were located at 222 South Front Street for many years, but were removed in September, 1904, to the commodious and modernly equipped four-story and basement double building now occupied at 254-256 South Third Street. New York offices are maintained in the Park Row Building.

The story went on to say that while the distillery of the firm was located in Highlandtown, the business was done altogether in Philadelphia. This leads me to believe that while they may have been separate business entities, Carstairs Brothers and Carstairs & McCall were in effect operating as one.

During this period they called their whisky “Stewart” Pure Rye Whisky.” A January 12, 1905 item printed in the “Wine & Spirit Bulletin” described it like this:

Carstairs Bros. – A Fine Whisky

The absolutely essential elements for a fine blending whisky are a heavy body and strong character and flavor. The same characteristics are equally attractive, after proper aging, in a fine bar whisky.

Among the best in this line either for blending or bar use or for bottling in bond is the “Stewart” pure rye whisky, made by Carstairs Brothers, of Philadelphia Pa., at their distillery at Highlandtown, a suburb of Baltimore Md.

The Carstairs Brothers are gentlemen of a remarkably high order of intelligence and ability and character. They, as well as their goods, are thoroughly reliable, which fact will be attested by the trade at large wherever they have had dealings and that covers nearly every section of the country where fine rye whiskies predominate.

The 1908 Philadelphia Inquirer story called Stewart Pure Rye Whiskey their oldest and most well known product and demonstrated that it had grown quite a bit since being acquired by Carstairs.

It has a production of over 15,000 barrels per year and is sold all over the United States. A market for it abroad has rapidly increased of late years and many barrels are forwarded to London, Paris and Bremen every year.

Sometime in early 1909 a newly formed company called the Stewart Distilling Company was incorporated in Pennsylvania to consolidate the operation of Carstairs Brothers’ Stewart Distillery and the business of Carstairs, McCall & Co. A story in the April 25, 1909 edition of the Baltimore Sun covered the new corporation’s acquisition of the distillery.

The Stewart Distilling Company, of Pennsylvania, has purchased from Messers. Daniel H. Carstairs and J Haseltine Carstairs, of Philadelphia, trading as Carstairs Brothers, the distillery at Highlandtown, located on Eastern Avenue and Bank Street. The conveyance was recorded yesterday at Towson.

The deed transfers 13 lots, 10 in fee and 3 leasehold: also the entire plant, machinery, tools, etc., office fixtures, furniture, whisky brands and trademarks known as “Stewart” brands, formerly owned by the Robert Stewart Distilling Company.

Four days later the Philadelphia Inquirer covered the acquisition of the facilities owned by Carstairs, McCall & Co.

The two buildings at 254-56 South Third Street have been conveyed by J Haseltine Carstairs to the Stewart Distilling Company for a consideration recited as nominal. On a combined lot 50.10 x 180 feet the buildings are four-story brick structures assessed at $30,000.

The new corporation remained under control of the Carstairs brothers with Daniel serving as president and J. Haseltine serving as vice president and treasurer.

The company remained listed at the former Carstairs, McCall & Co., South Third Street address through 1918, changing their Philadelphia address to 301 Bellevue Court Blvd. in 1919. In New York their address was listed as 21 Park Row in 1909 and 1910 and 2 Rector Street from 1911 to 1919.

The brand I see advertised the most during this period was called “Carstairs Rye.” A series of advertisements printed in several of the NYC newspapers over the course of 1911 mention that its “the oldest American Whiskey,” dating back to 1788, which is certainly a reference to the first generation of Carstairs.

A labeled bottle found on the internet confirms that they continued to produce the Stewart brand as well, now called “Stewart Pure Old Rye”

By 1921 the Stewart Distilling Company was no longer listed in Philadelphia but the distillery in Baltimore survived for several more years.

On April 22, 1919, a “liquidation sale” was held at the distillery to dispose of the entire plant, including real estate and equipment as well as the trade name of “Stewart Pure Rye.” Notices announcing the sale were printed in several April editions of the Baltimore Sun.

The day after the sale a story in the Baltimore Sun announced that J. Haseltine Carstairs had purchased the plant in an effort to protect his own interests.

Philadelphian Buys Plant to Protect Interests

J. H. Carstairs, of Philadelphia, was the purchaser of the plant of the Stewart Distilling Company, Eastern Avenue and Fifth Street, at Highlandtown, at public auction yesterday afternoon for a consideration said to have been $125,000. The property has said to have been acquired by Mr. Carstairs to protect his own interest, the transfer involving no immediate solution to the future of the big plant.

The property includes four blocks of ground, with nine bonded and free warehouses, , besides the equipment, and is said to have been appraised at $1,150,000 before adverse legislation closed its doors.

Edward Brooks, Jr. attorney for the Stewart Company, said yesterday that after July 1, should the Prohibition law go into effect, a portion of the floor space will continue to be devoted to the storage of liquor now on hand. It is possible, he said, that the remaining buildings will be torn down to make room for improvements for some other line of business.

Sometime in 1921 it appears that the business was reorganized and the Carstairs were no longer involved. In 1922, the Stewart Distilling Company was listed in the Baltimore directories with Arthur Benhoff named as president. A year later in 1923, Robert Pennington and Vincent Flacomio were listed as president and secretary-treasurer respectively.

During this time the distillery may have been producing whisky for medicinal purposes but it was certainly storing liquor in their warehouses. This was evidenced by an incident that occurred in February, 1923 that was covered in newspapers across the country. A condensed version of the story was printed in the February 8, 1923 edition of the New York Daily News.

Discovery that bootleggers have got at least 100 barrels of whisky by tunneling from an unoccupied house to the Stewart Distillery was made today when a bootlegger had bared the plot to authorities. The tunnel is 150 feet long and large enough for a man to crawl through. Barrels in the distillery warehouse were tapped and the liquor pumped through a one and a half inch hose to containers in the unoccupied house.

The Baltimore Sun covered the story in much greater detail and actually provided a sketch associated with the theft.

According to a story in the April 18, 1924 edition of the Reading (Pa.) Times this wasn’t the only whisky vanishing from the Baltimore distillery.

Indictments charging two distillery officials with illegal sale of liquor were returned by a special federal grand jury here today.The men indicted were Jacob Katz, vice president and manager of the local warehouse of the Stewart Distillery, Baltimore, and Morris G. Waxler, local manager of the Sherwood Distillery.

The indictment against Katz contains thirteen counts alleging illegal sale of 3,000 cases of whisky and twenty-five barrels in September 1922 and with maintaining a nuisance where the whisky was stored…

Ultimately the end of the distillery came in the mid-1920’s. A story in the August 5, 1925 edition of the Baltimore Sun, stated the distillery property changed hands again.

Title to the old Stewart Distillery property on Bank Street between Fifth and Seventh Streets was conveyed by the Stewart Distilling Company to W. Guy Crowther, Jacob Ott and Herbert A. Megrow, through the Title Guarantee and Trust Company. The consideration was $75,000.

A month later, this advertisement in the September 6, 1925 edition of the Baltimore Sun announced that the distillery was being dismantled and that much of its contents and equipment was for sale.

Finally a June 15, 1927 Baltimore Sun article stated that the distillery property had been sold sold to the Crown Oil and Wax Company.

The former Stewart Distillery property on Bank Street, including eighteen two-story leasehold brick dwellings at 3804 – 3838 Bank Street and machinery, equipment, lumber, etc., was acquired at public auction yesterday by the Crown Oil and Wax Company. The consideration was $25,000 subject to mortgages totaling $54,566.22. Purchase was from Henry Goldstone, trustee, through Sam W. Pattison & Co., auctioneers. No plans for the property have been made by the purchasing Company, it is said.

The last listing I can find for the Stewart Distilling Company was in the 1926 Baltimore City Directory. As far as I can tell, their corporate charter was ultimately forfeited for failure to pay franchise taxes in 1925 and 1926.

Toward the end of Prohibition several different organizations were planning to revive some of the well-known Carstairs trade names. One, actually calling themselves the “Stewart Distilling Company,” was chartered June 14, 1933, and another calling themselves the “American-Stewart Distilling Company,” was a revival of the previously forfeited Stewart corporate charter.

D.H. and J.L. Carstairs brought suit to restrain them and two other companies, the “Carstairs Rye Distilleries, Inc.,” and the “Maryland Stewart Distillery Company” from using the Carstairs trade name.

An article in the March 15, 1934 edition of the (Allentown Pa.) Morning Call announced that the U. S. District Court of Maryland had ruled in favor of Carstairs in the case against Carstairs Rye Distilleries. I have to assume that they ultimately came down with similar rulings against the other companies as well because all three were included on a list of delinquent corporations that had forfeited their charters that was printed in the February 11, 1937 edition of Baltimore Sun.

The Morning Call article summarized the situation like this:

Carstairs rye whiskey, a favorite with drinkers since colonial times, is off the market unless the famous Philadelphia family bearing the name decides to re-enter the liquor business.

Based on this advertisement for Carstairs Rye, “Back In Baltimore Again,” that appeared in the September 6, 1934 edition of the Baltimore Sun  the family did re-enter the liquor business as Carstairs Bros. Distilling Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There’s no mention of Stewart.

The bottle I found is machine made with what looks like a double ring lip. It’s embossed with this rather awkward phrase in small letters  around the shoulder:

“LICENSED ONLY FOR USE ON PATENTED VALVE MECHANISM HERE OF BOTTLES WHEN FILLED BY US. RE-USE PROHIBITED. STEWART DISTILLING CO. ONE FIFTH GAL.”

The bottle is consistent with the non-refillable bottle that the company introduced in 1914 calling it “The Supreme Achievement of Standardized Quality, insuring delivery of contents unchanged to the purchaser.”

    

This most likely dates the bottle no earlier than 1914 and and no later than 1919 and the start of Prohibition.

 

 

 

United Wine & Trading Company – Pearl Wedding Rye

The United Wine and Trading Company was in business from 1899 through the early 1920’s. A news item in the June 30, 1899 edition of the Boston Evening Transcript announced the start of the company and the reasoning behind it.

Several hundred New York liquor dealers formally organized a combine yesterday and pledged themselves to support a movement which practically looks to the elimination of the middleman. Presiding officer Henry von Minden said:

“This movement will spread to other cities and in time it will control the trade permanently and effectively.”

He also announced that the capital stock of the company would be $700,000, of which about $300,000 is already subscribed. The company is to be known as the United Wine and Trading Company, and its purpose is to establish distilleries and manufacture spirits for its stockholders and for the trade. No one except retail liquor dealers are eligible for membership, and the maximum stock which any one person can hold is $2,000, the minimum is $500. The actual business of the company will be directed by a board of twelve, and in addition to dividends, it is expected that subscribers will also receive rebates.

A July 5, 1902 news item in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stated that by then the company had 305 stockholders.

The business was listed in the New York directories at 424 Greenwich Street from 1900 to 1906 and at 321 West 13th Street from 1908 to 1919.  A complete listing of the directors was included in this 1902 advertisement (I count 13 directors not 12).

Henry von Minden served as president of the company from its onset until his death on December 7, 1918.

On November 28, 1899, several months after their incorporation, the company registered the label for Pearl Wedding Rye Whiskey and one other brand, Old Reliable Rye Whiskey, with the United States Patent Office.

This September 27, 1902 advertisement printed in the “Tamany Times,” a local N.Y. political publication, described Pearl Wedding Rye like this:

Pearl Wedding Rye Whiskey, Extra Special, is guaranteed to be more reliable and uniform in quality than any other whiskey offered to the public; its reputation for purity and excellence will always be sustained. It is made by a process employed only in the distillation of the finest whiskies and is from eight to ten years old, being thoroughly matured before it is bottled and placed on the market.

I can’t find many newspaper advertisements for Pearl Wedding Rye but apparently they used other advertising media such as billboards. This item, which appeared in the October 1902 edition of “The Advisor,” a magazine dedicated to the interests of advertisers, implied that the company advertised quite a bit.

Pearl Wedding Rye Goes

Before Pearl Wedding Rye was advertised its sales were 200 cases a month. Now more than 2000 cases are sold each month. Advertising did it.

One advertising poster, depicted likenesses of ex-Senator and ex-Governor of New York, David B. Hill; Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, the current Senator from New York, Chauncy Depew, New York City Mayor Seth Low and New York County District Attorney, William Travers Jerome, all supposedly at a banquet and drinking a toast with Pearl Wedding Rye.

The ladies of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.) filed a protest against the advertisement and all the participants denied that they had endorsed the brand but the entire saga had made the newspapers and attracted lots of attention. To capitalize on all the publicity, the company republished the poster in newspaper advertisements under the headline “W.C.T.U. Conflicts with U.W.T.C.” and included the following announcement:

The ladies of the W.C.T.U. have filed their protest against the use of the above poster by the United Wine and Trading Company, proprietors of Pearl Wedding Rye Whiskey.

They have decided that the poster pictures are remarkably lifelike portrayals of five prominent Americans and that the pleased, satisfied expression which illumines their faces is particularly to be condemned.

One young woman proposed that the W.C.T.U. draft resolutions requesting its members to boycott Pearl Wedding Rye, but after a portentous silence the motion was hurriedly withdrawn.

Much more was said, which serves to provoke the query, Why do many of our greatest statesman, judges and army and naval officers drink Pearl Wedding Rye?

The answer is simple.

A “man who knows” knows best a good whiskey.

Pearl Wedding Rye is a most perfect whiskey and a healthful stimulant, free from fusel oil, delicately flavored, rich and mellow with age.

It is worthy of statesmen, worthy of the army and navy, worthy of the judiciary.

It bears the endorsement of some of our most famous physicians because of its medicinal qualities. It is an almost infallible cure for gout and rheumatism, and used as a preventative will invariably ward off attacks of colds and la grippe.

A bottle of Pearl Wedding Rye kept in the house and judiciously used will save many a doctor’s bill.

Those are some of the why’s.

The company was still listed in the directories during the first few years of Prohibition; in 1922 at 276 West 11th Street (with Hyman Reber named as president) and 1925 at 348 West 14th Street. After that I can’t find a listing for them.

According to streeteasy.com the building at 321 West 13th Street was built in 1907. That makes the United Wine & Trading Company an original occupant.

Zillow.com states that the current building at 424 Greenwich Street was built in 1915 so it doesn’t date back to the business.

The bottle I found is a half-pint mouth blown flask with screw threads and a ground finish. Remarkably, the cap was still attached and in relatively good condition.

Pearl Wedding Rye was sold in three sizes: Quart (or Fifth), pint and half-pint. The shape and cap design of the half-pint bottle I found matches the smallest of the three labeled bottles in this advertisement from several 1903 editions of “The Wine & Spirit Bulletin.”

     

Booth’s Distillery, London England, High & Dry Gin

 

According to “Difford’s Guide,” the relationship between the Booth family and gin can be traced back to the establishment of their London distillery in 1740.

The Booth family, who moved to London from north-east England, were established wine merchants as early as 1569. By 1740 they had added distilling to their already established brewing and wine interests and built a distillery at 55 Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell, London…

During the 19th century Sir Felix Booth set up another distillery at Brentford and grew the business into the largest distilling company in England…

After the death of the last male Booth family member in 1826, the firm became an independent limited company. In 1937, Booth’s joined the Distiller’s Company Ltd, the interests of which would evolve into part of the conglomerate we know today as Diageo.

Booth’s gin is not currently listed as a brand on Diageo’s web site, apparently having gone out of production just recently.

It’s not clear when Booth’s gin first began appearing in the United States. The earliest U. S. newspaper reference for Booth’s gin that I could find is in a December 4, 1871 story in the Buffalo Daily Courier highlighting a local business called P.J. Hanour’s. It mentioned that “Holland” gin and Booth’s “Old Tom” gin were both available by the case at Hanour’s. Based on this story, its safe to say that Booth’s “Old Tom” gin was certainly available in the U.S. by the early 1870’s.

The December, 1887 edition of Bonfort’s Wine and Spirit Circular listed the firm of Purdy & Nicholas as the U.S. agent for Booth & Co.’s “Old Tom” gin.

An import company, the business was a partnership of John F. Purdy and George Stevenson Nicholas. According to Purdy’s obituary the company was established in 1857, so while it’s not clear when their relationship with Booth’s began, it’s possible that Booth’s U. S. presence dates back that far.

Always located at 42 Beaver Street in lower Manhattan, Purdy & Nicholas was listed in the New York City directories from 1862 up until 1888. According to an item in the September 12, 1894 issue of the New York Times, the partnership was dissolved on September 1, 1888. Subsequently, Nicholas continued to run the business, first as a sole proprietor, then, sometime around 1908, as G. S. Nicholas & Co. and finally in 1919 as G.S. Nicholas & Son. Throughout this time the business remained listed at the Beaver Street address.

By the early 1900’s, in addition to “Old Tom” their Booth & Co. imports also included Booth’s “Dry” gin. A 1902 advertisement in Life Magazine named G. S. Nicholas as the sole agent for Booth’s Dry Gin.

And the brand was included in the company listing under gin, printed in the January 1, 1903 edition of the Wine & Spirit Bulletin.

By 1908 the brand name “High and Dry” gin began to appear in the U. S. as a Booth & Co. product. That year, the June 17 edition of “Printers Ink” announced that the firm of H.B. Humphrey  had been hired to place advertisements for the brand.

A year later G. S. Nicholas & Co. included the Booth’s “High and Dry” brand along with Booth’s “Old Tom”in an advertisement published in the June 22, 1909 edition of the New York Times.

In 1919, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory named G. S. Nicholas & Son as the agent for Booth Distillery, Ltd., confirming that their relationship remained intact right up to the start of National Prohibition.

Booth’s High & Dry gin continued to be available in the U. S. during Prohibition albeit illegally. One story in the (Wilmington Delaware) Evening Journal described a shipment that originated in Canada.

Eighteen days ago a fourteen ton, two-masted schooner cleared from the little port of St Pierre Miquelon, a French possession near Newfoundland, with a crew of seven and assorted choice liquors valued at upwards of $200,000 aboard.

Search of the schooner was made during the night. Bottles, cases and kegs of liquor were found in two hatches covered with bags of coal.

The small schooner is (now) berthed at a Delaware River pier in Philadelphia, heavily guarded. The cargo of liquor lies in concrete vaults of the U. S. Customs Department.

A list of the illegal cargo was provided in the story and it included “28 gallons of Booth’s High and Dry gin” and “62 cases of Booth’s High and Dry gin.”

Apparently Booth’s “High & Dry,” in addition to being smuggled in, was also being counterfeited in this country. A story in the April 7, 1928 edition of the Decatur (Illinois) Herald referred to one illegal operation, tongue in cheek, as the “Decatur Branch” of the Booth Distillery, complete with a still, bottles and labels.

Police Friday raided the “local branch” of a London, England, distillery: makers of Booth’s “High and Dry” Gin, and other fine imported liquors. A new 50-gallon still was confiscated.

Swooping down on the cottage in 2129 North Church Street, they found John Alexander and his wife Sadie, in charge of the premises with 80 gallons of raw alcohol ready to be converted into choice imported liquors.

Bottles, labels, corks and seals were ready. Recipes for mixing a widely assorted list of liquors were found.

Booth’s London distillery, as described by the labels for use on the “imported” dry gin, made in Decatur, was established in 1740. The British lion appears on the label as a trade mark. The label is a work of art, printed in four colors.

Another label found is intended to give the information that the liquor manufactured in Decatur’s branch of Booth’s English distillery is imported by the “Henry Hollander Co., Inc.” under a special permit. Caution is given that it has been permitted in this country for medicinal purposes only and that “sale for use for other purposes will cause heavy penalties to be inflicted.”

The still was in the basement. It gave appearance of being recently installed. Under order of Chief Ed Wills, it was wrecked.

After Prohibition ended, Booth’s “High & Dry” gin began to be produced in the U.S. by Park & Tillford Distiller’s of New York City. The “High & Dry” label from the 1930’s included the following:

product of U.S.A. distilled and bottled by Park & Tillford Distillers, Inc. at New York, N.Y., under the supervision of Booth Distillers, Ld, London.

Other 1930’s advertisements explained that reducing the price by eliminating the import tax was the reasoning behind the change.

This is the same gin when imported retails $3.50 to $4.00 per fifth bottle. But it is now being distilled by the Park and Tillford distillers in New York City by the Booth’s distillers of London, England, same formula, same gin, but eliminating import tax, thereby bringing the price down compared to ordinary gin.

This advertisement from 1935 bore this out, listing the price of a fifth at $1.45.

By the mid-1950’s, Booth’s “High & Dry” gin was being produced in Linden New Jersey by the Distillers Co., Ltd.; W. A. Taylor & Co., was named as their sole distributor in the U.S and the bottle design had completely changed but this 1959 advertisement showed that their marketing strategy had remained pretty consistent.

They still stressed their English heritage.

It is good to know that when you buy Booth’s “High & Dry” Gin in the United States you are getting gin made according to the same formula as the Booth’s “High & Dry” purveyed in Britain. It is the only gin distilled in U.S.A. under the supervision of famous Booth Distilleries, Ltd., in London, England. Give Booth’s a try.

And price was still a major factor.

I’ve found a total of three bottles from the Booth’s Distillery, all machine made.  Two are square shaped “High and Dry Gin” bottles. One includes  “High & Dry Gin,” the British lion trademark, “Booth’s Distillery London England” all embossed on one face. The other is simply embossed “Booth’s High and Dry Gin”

They don’t include the typical post-prohibition embossed phrase (federal law forbids the sale or reuse of this bottle). As a result these bottles were most likely manufactured after 1908 when the brand “High & Dry” began to appear in the U.S and before the end of National Prohibition.

This is further supported by the embossing: “B & CO.LD.,” found on the base of each bottle.

Originally I thought that this stood for Booth & Co., however, I now think it’s the makers mark for “Bagley & Co., Ltd.,” an English glass house, that was in business from 1898 to 1962. The company manufactured bottles from 1898 to the late 1920’s or early 1930’s after which they ceased bottle production and focused on tableware. According to the U.S. Society of Historical Architecture they were one of the first users of automated bottle machinery in England and probably had the capability of making machine-made narrow-mouthed bottles as early as 1907.

This puts the range of production between 1908 and the early 1930’s and means that the bottles could have been legally imported by G.S. Nicholas or they could have entered the country illegally during Prohibition.

The third bottle has a hexagonal cross section and is embossed “Booths Distillery Ltd. London” The embossing does not include a brand name and there’s no makers mark on the base. It likely dates from the same time period as the others and may have contained the other brand Booth’s was advertising in the United States in the decade prior to Prohibition, “Old Tom Gin.”

Peter Dawson Ltd., Distillers

Peter Dawson was third generation of a family of Scottish distillers that began with his grandfather sometime in the first decade of the 1800’s. According to Whisky.Com, he established Peter Dawson Ltd., in Glasgow in 1892. A distilling and blending company, between 1893 and 1924 they were associated at various times with a number of Scottish distilleries including Convolmore, Towiemore and Balmenach.

According to the 1920 edition of “Harper’s Manual – The Standard Work of Reference for the Wine & Spirit Trade,” the business incorporated in 1911 with Peter Dawson and W. Campbell named as Managing Director and Secretary respectively. The Harper’s listing also mentioned three brands: “Dawson’s Extra Special,” “Dawson’s Old Curio,” and “Dawson’s Special.”

By 1925 they had been purchased and were operating as a subsidiary to the “Distillers Company, Ltd.” Guinness acquired the Distillers Co. in 1986, and they merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. Today, Diageo’s web site does not list Peter Dawson as one of their scotch brands.

It appears that the Peter Dawson brands began appearing in the United States sometime in the early 1900’s. On June 16, 1903 they registered their label with the United States Patent Office (10,105) and their newspaper advertisements began appearing in 1909. The first one I could find was in the January 14, 1909 edition of the Chicago Tribune.

The Dawson taste for old scotch whisky is the cultivated taste. Peter Dawson Scotch Whisky is bottled in Scotland and has a flavor that will be a revelation to you. Kindly but firmly refuse substitutes at bars, hotels, cafes and on trains.

Like most European based whiskies, the Peter Dawson brands continued to make their way into the United States after the start of National Prohibition. An article printed in the March 10, 1925 edition of the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune described a confiscated shipment of Peter Dawson Scotch.

Ten quarts of Peter Dawson Scotch liquor, shipped out of New York City to F.J. Alder of Casper Wyoming, was yesterday seized by federal prohibition officers. No such man at the address has been found.

The liquor, shipped by express, was packed in a wooden shoe box which had been filled with sawdust and tin packing strips had been nailed around the box to reinforce it.

C.F. Peterson and Otto Plaga, federal agents, confiscated the shipment and sent it to headquarters of the department at Cheyenne.

Following the end of Prohibition, Julius Wile Sons & Co. was appointed as Dawson’s United States distributor. The following advertisement appeared in the December 11, 1933 edition of several U.S. newspapers.

Wile was still listed as their agent and/or distributor on advertisements as late as 1971.

Julius Wile Sons & Co. was a wine and spirits importing company that dated back to 1877, so it’s possible that they also served as Peter Dawson’s distributor prior to National Prohibition but I haven’t been able to verify (or refute) this.

The Peter Dawson Scotch bottle was a unique design that included “brambles” and  “dimples” on the shoulder and near the base but leaving a smooth area in between for the label. An April 10, 1924 advertisement in the The (London England) Guardian focused on their unique bottle design.

The Whisky bottle that gives you inside information.

Old masters, bank-notes, and the labels on valuable commercial commodities are so easily imitated nowadays that extra precautions are often necessary.

In the case of Peter Dawson, it has been found imperative to adopt, in addition to the label on the bottle, a distinguishing mark which will at once defy imitation and protect both the public and the blender.

That is the reason why “brambles” and “dimples” have been grown upon the “P.D.” bottles. It is strange but true that these “brambles” and “dimples” will only grow upon bottles containing whisky that’s genuinely old and mellowed in wood.

Seek out the “P.D.” bottle that “brambles” with pride and “dimples” with pleasure. It will give you reliable inside information of a “special” nature.

As far as I can tell, the “brambled” and “dimpled” bottle design began appearing in newspaper advertisements in the early 1920’s and the design remained relatively unchanged (other than the finish) well into the 1980’s and possibly longer.

The bottle I found is a machine made quart that exhibits the Peter Dawson “brambles” and “dimples” and matches the bottle in the 1924 advertisement, including the finish.  The base is embossed “Peter Dawson Ltd., Distillers.”  It doesn’t include the typical post-prohibition embossed phrase: “federal law forbids sale or reuse of this bottle.” As a result, the bottle was most likely manufactured overseas in the 1920’s and smuggled into the United States during Prohibition.

Steinhardt Brothers & Co., The Kintore

 

Steinhart Brothers & Co. were importers and wholesale liquor dealers based in New York City from the mid-1870’s up to the start of National Prohibition. Four Steinhart brothers: David, Henry, Lewis and Morris were the proprietors of the business and later members of the Strasser family also got involved. The early years of the business were profiled in a booklet entitled “A Souvenir of N.Y.’s Liquor Interests” published in 1893.

Steinhart Brothers & Co., Importers and Wholesale Liquor Dealers, Nos. 299 and 301 Patchen Avenue, Corner Chauncey Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.; 121 and 123 Hudson Street, Corner North Moore. – This representative establishment, one of the most progressive, popular and reliable concerns engaged in the great wholesale liquor trade of New York, was founded in 1872, by Lewis Steinhart, the firm becoming Steinhart Brothers in 1878 and in 1887 the present firm was organized, the individual members being Lewis Steinhart, M. Steinhart, H. Steinhart, D.G. Steinhart and A. Strasser. The copartners are all natives of New York, members of the Wholesale Liquor Dealers Association and are energetic, enterprising business men, favorably known in trade circles. The firm opened an uptown branch at Nos. 207 and 209 East 120th Street in Harlem, in 1891, buying out the house of Carson & Carroll. The Brooklyn branch was secured in 1888, the firm succeeding Aug. Immig, who had been established twenty-one years. A bottle and small package business is done at the branches; at the main store the trade is exclusively wholesale. The latter premises comprise a store and basement fully equipped with every facility for the storage of heavy stock carried, the handling and bottling of goods, the firm making a specialty of wines and liquors of their own bottling. A staff of 100 hands in all is employed in the various departments. Steinhart Brothers & Co. are general dealers in all the leading brands of wines, liqueurs, cordials, bitters, gins, brandies, champagnes, rums, Irish and Scotch, rye and bourbon whiskies, both of foreign and domestic manufacture, selling the same in bond and tax paid. They are sole agents in the United States and Canada for the original and only genuine A.E. Boonekamp Maag Bitters, established and invented at Antwerp Belgium in 1815. They are also agents for the Dr. Harter Medicine Company, of St. Louis Mo., manufacturers of Dr. Harter’s Wild Cherry Bitters, for medicinal use. Both of these bitters are popularly known and need no praise, their excellence having been fully demonstrated. Those ordering goods from this house will receive honorable and liberal treatment.

The NYC directories of that era confirm, clarify and add to the early history. Lewis (sometimes named Louis) is the first Steinhart brother that I can find with the occupation “liquors,” supporting the fact that he was the founder of the company. He’s was listed in the 1875 directory with two locations, 143 Broome and 107 Columbia. Morris and Henry follow Lewis at 143 Broome in the 1877 and 1878 listings respectively. Around this time the brothers apparently had a short term business relationship with Bernard Hartman that is not mentioned in the profile. In 1879 and only that year, both Hartman and the firm of Steinhardt & Hartman are also listed at the 143 Broome address with the occupation liquors. David Steinhardt is first listed in the 1884 directory.

The first company listing I can find for Steinhardt Brothers is in the 1882 directory. In 1889, the company name changes to Steinhardt Brothers & Co., confirming the reorganization mentioned in the profile.

Between 1875 and the early 1890’s the company maintained many different addresses within Manhattan. The primary ones included:

  • 143 Broome Street: 1875 – 1883
  • 458 Greenwich Street: 1879 – 1890
  • 87 – 93 Hudson Street: 1879 – 1888
  • 121 Hudson Street: 1893 – 1896
  • 315 Bowery: first listed in 1886 – 1898
  • 134 Mott Street: 1898 – 1902
  • 209 East 120th Street: 1892 – 1900

The profile mentioned branch locations that did a retail package business and a main wholesale location. Of the above locations, it’s not clear to me which was which.

The profile also mentioned the opening of a Brooklyn location in 1888. A copartnership notice regarding the Brooklyn operation dated February 1, 1889 was included in the August 6, 1889 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

To Whom It May Concern – Steinhart Bros. & Co., of New York and Edward Strasser of Brooklyn, have formed a copartnership to carry on a liquor business corner Patchen Ave. and Chauncey St. under the firm name of Steinhart Bros. & Co.

This appears to be the time that the Strassers got involved with the business.  At the same time that Edward joined them in Brooklyn,  Adolph Strasser was listed for the first time at each of the Steinhardt Bros. Manhattan addresses. The NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories in the early 1900’s list nine principals: Lewis, Morris, Henry and David J. Steinhart; Edward, William W. Joseph A. and William Strasser and Louis Fletcher. By 1908, the business was listed as a New York Corporation with Lewis Steinhardt – president, William Strasser – treasurer and Joseph Strasser – secretary.

In 1900, Joseph Strasser was the firm’s advertising manager. In an interview published in the January 24, 1900 issue of the “Printers Ink” he talked about the firm’s approach to advertising. The interview focused on another of the firm’s brands, “Roxbury Rye” but still gives a good idea of their general thinking. Portions of the interview follow:

“What was your initial advertising step?” was the next question.

“About the very first was the adoption of street cars and the elevated roads. We have been liberal and rather constant patrons of these ever since starting, using both single and double cards, as well as station display, and we have also used theatrical programs extensively from the first.”

“Did you not go into the newspapers?”

“Only very limitedly. I consider dailies the mediums for telling the public more about the special merits of an article. For this purpose we employed what we consider even a better way, since it is more personal, more direct and allows us to say more than we could say in limited space. We circularized – sending out in addition to the educational matter, fine lithographed cards and elegant glass signs. These were, of course, directed to dealers entirely.”

Beginning in the early 1900’s the business had two primary locations, 29 – 31 Ninth Avenue and 2207 Third Avenue and by 1915 they were down to just the Ninth Avenue address. Around this time, Joseph Strasser replaced Lewis Steinhardt as president. Henry Steinhart was vice president but the other Steinhart brothers were no longer listed.

The 1919 Copartnership and Corporation Directory still listed them at the Ninth Avenue address but in the 1922 Directory it was stated that they were “in liquidation.”

After National Prohibition, it appears that the Steinhart name resurfaced in a company called Steinhadt Company, Inc., located at 644 Greenwich Street. The president was listed as Fred Steinhardt who had previously served as the Secretary of Steinhart Brothers & Co., in the mid to late 1910’s. The business applied for several liquor brand trade marks in 1934 including Golden Elk, DuBarry and Littlemore, but I can’t find any information on this company after the mid-1930’s.

According to the Tamany Times “The Kintore” brand was introduced into the United States market in 1897.

The Kintore brand of Scotch whiskey was introduced into the market at the beginning of the year by Messrs. A. Halliday & Co., No. 17 Harrison Street, this city.

It is a very high class Glinlivet production, distilled near the town of Kintyre, warranted ten years old, and a pure distillery whiskey. It has been tested by the best connoisseurs, and the unanimous verdict was, that it is the best in its line.

It is finding it’s way rapidly into the hands of the leading clubs, hotels and dealers throughout the large cities, and a great future is predicted for it. Messrs. Acker, Merrill & Condit, Park & Tilford, and the leading grocers, gave it a place at once, and are selling it freely upon it’s merits.

Thirteen years later, in 1910, the NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory stated that “The Kintore’s wholesale dealer, A. Halliday & Co., was “in liquidation, so it’s very possible that Steinhart Bros. picked up the Kintore brand right around this time.

After Prohibition, the Schenley Import Corp., New York appears to have taken over as the product’s importer.

The bottle I found is actually a one quart ceramic jug that includes Steinhardt Brothers & Co. written in script. This puts the jug’s manufacture sometime between 1910 and 1919 if I’m right about Steinhart picking up the brand after A. Halliday’s liquidation in 1910.

I also found a machine made flask (7 oz) for another Steinhart brand, Littlemore Special Blend. The 1934 trademark application for Littlemore states that the name was in use dating back to 1907 so it also fits the pre-prohibition time frame.

 

Old Parr

old-parr  old-parr1

“Old Parr” Scotch Whiskey was introduced in 1909 by the Greenlees Brothers of London. The design registration no. 547348 embossed on the base of the bottle dates to between August 10 and August 17, 1909.

Geenlees Brothers, was included on a list of distillers in an 1874 publication called “London and Suburban Licensed Victuallers Hotel and Tavern Keepers” so the business dates back to at least that far. In 1919 they merged with William Williams & Sons Ltd, builders and owners of the Glendullan Distillery, to form MacDonald, Greenlees & Williams (Greenlees belonged to Alexander & MacDonald at that time). This company listed three brands in a 1924 overseas advertisement: Claymore, Old Parr and Sandy MacDonald (Sandy Mac).

old-parr-ad

MacDonald Greenlees & Williams joined Distillers Company Ltd in 1925, shortening their name to Macdonald Greenlees in the process. Ultimately they ended up with Diageo.

The Old Parr brand took its name from old Tom Parr, reputedly the oldest man in Britain. Supposedly he lived for 152 years and at the age of 122 married for the second time. Charles I arranged for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey in 1635. Some say his records were confused with his grandfathers but I like the original story so I’m choosing to ignore this!

It’s not clear to me who distributed Old Parr in the United States from 1909 to the start of Natinal Prohibition in 1919. In 1894 Thomas N Dwyer & Co, located at 40 Barclay Street, was listed as the sole agent for Greenlee Brothers but by the early 1900’s they were not listed in the NYC Directories.

During Prohibition it appears that Old Parr illegally entered the United States via Canada in significant numbers. This 1925 news item in the Bridgeport (Conn.) Telegram describes a confiscated shipment of Old Parr that arrived from Halifax. Dated June 11, New Haven Conn., the story reads:

The Baltimore First, hailing from Halifax and captured off New London June 2, was brought into the city dock here today with her own cargo, 1500 cases of Old Parr Scotch and rye whiskey because of the shortage of space in the New London storehouse.

At the end of Prohibition Old Parr was rapidly available again legally. In fact, this December 11, 1933 newspaper advertisement that appeared in several large city newspapers including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore, made it pretty clear that they were accepting orders prior to Prohibition’s official end.

Orders will be accepted from the trade for shipment of the above brands to States where and when the sale of liquor is legal, subject to import quotas.

According to scotchwhisky.com, Old Parr is still sold today in Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and parts of Latin America, especially Columbia.

The bottle I found is a classic Old Parr bottle; square with rounded edges and distinctive dimpled sides. It’s design hasn’t changed much since it’s inception in 1909 and over the years actually played a role in their advertising. This 1941 advertisement had the heading “An Old-Fashioned Bottle and An Old-Fashioned Reason”

In this streamlined age, there is sound thought behind the determination of Macdonald Greenlees of Leith, Scotland, to continue to ship Grand Old Parr Whisky to all countries of the world in the old-fashioned untippable bottle.

In far-off lands where house servants do not always read english labels, the squat brown flagon serves to identify at a glance this famous product from Scotland. The bottle is the guarantee of the genuine imported Grand Old Parr Scotch Whisky.

The bottle I found is mouth blown, making me think that it arrived here legally between 1909 and 1919 or illegally during prohibition. It does not have post-prohibition markings (federal law forbids…). One bottle chat-room connects it with the 1919 to 1925 MacDonald, Greenlee & Williams era but I cannot confirm this.