Friday, September 16, 2011

Whiskey in a Full Metal Jacket










In December 2010, this blog featured eight metal teapots issued by whiskey distillers and distributors to advertise particular brands. Subsequently additional metal containers issued by the whiskey trade have come to light. In addition to teapots they include metal jugs and metal pitchers. Nine are displayed here, along with information about their origins.

We begin with the jugs and a metallic container that advertises Hinkel Pure Rye. It was as the product of the Mathias J. Hinkel Co., located at several addresses in Cleveland, Ohio, including 461 Pearl (1892-1905), 1778 W. 25th NW (1906-1908), and 814-820 Prospect Av. SE (1909-1919). Since the jug does not bear an address, it is impossible to date it exactly.

Hinkel himself was a native son of Cleveland, born in 1867, who left school at the age of twelve to work as an office boy at Edwards, Townsend & Co, eventually rising to the position of manager of the liquor department. In 1892 he struck out on his own, establishing a wholesale liquor business. Eventually it became one of Cleveland’s largest.

The second jug comes from Sandusky, Ohio, bearing the name of August Guenthur. Guenthur was a self-described wholesale dealer in “fine whisky etc.” The metal container advertises Old Jug Rye, which was a proprietary brand produced by J. & A. Freiberg of Cincinnati. Brothers Joseph and Abraham Freiberg traced the origins of their firm back to 1866. Among a blizzard of liquor brands, their “Old Jug” was the flagship. They issued their own metal jug for Old Jug Whiskey, shown here, but in other instances allowed their dealers to add their own names, as August Guenthur did.

The fourth jug hails from the Kentucky Liquor Company. Despite its name, it appears that this vessel was the product of a liquor company in Chicago. Very little appears about it in the public record, but the firm shows up in city directories, located at 295 Wells Street, from 1892 to 2896.

Whiskey Teapots

Three additional whiskey teapots are shown here. The first is from “Old Elk.” the flagship brand of Stoll & Co. of Lexington KY. The Stoll family, operating under this name, established the Commonwealth Distillery in 1880. There followed a number of ownership changes in which family members took varying roles, including a time when the company became part of the notorious “Whiskey Trust.” In 1902 James Stoll reformed the company and acquired control of several Kentucky distilleries, making it the largest distilling concern in the state. When James Stoll died in 1908, family once more turned over their interests to the Trust.

M. H. Chamberlain & C0. of Detroit saw a real opportunity in issuing a silver plated teapot. Their flagship brand was “Chamberlain’s Silver Rye” and the metal container was appropriate advertising. This firm was founded in 1879 and existed into the early 1900s. Warehouse records show that the company was obtaining whiskey over the period 1901-1904 from the Burks Spring Distillery in Kentucky. Michigan was the first Midwest state to vote Prohibition in and led to the demise of M.H. Chamberlain & Co.

The third teapot is from a firm that had outlets in Fond du Lac and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “Tom Benton” was its flagship brand with others being “Crystal Brook” and “Rosehill.” The originating firm may have been Rahte, Haas & Watke (1891), with the partners eventually going their separate ways, at least two of them, including Albert Watke whose name is on this teapot, claiming the Tom Benton brand.

Metal Pitchers

Two metal pitchers issued by whiskey outfits conclude this post. The first advertises the Zeno brand from one of the feuding McBrayer family. One of the clan's 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. This jug, however, may have come from another distillery using the McBrayer name, something that fueled intra-family lawsuits.

The final item is a highly decorated silver plated pitcher bearing an embossed crest and the name Gannymede “76” Rye. It is from Cincinnati, an advertising item issued by Sigmund and Solomon Freiberg, brothers from the Ohio whiskey dealing family and related to J. & A. Freiberg. This company first showed up in city directories in 1899 and from the blizzard of brands it featured appears to have been successful for almost two decades. Gannymede “76” brand was its flagship.

These are just a few of the “full metal jackets” through which American distillers and liquor distributors merchandised their whiskey. A subsequent post will describe and depict others that have come to light.

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