View Full Version : Distilling Wall of Fame
The Oscar Getz Museum is thisnking about putting up a "Wall of Fame" to honor people who have contributed to the distilling industry to a point that they changed the industry as we know it. What I am about to do is to open a real can of worms by stating who I think should be the first six people to be honored and why. I am also going to name some other people who should be honored in the future. I am also going to ask you to nominate candidates but you have support your nomination with some facts. Once I have a good list then we can put together some kind of committee to decide who will go on the wall.
The people honored will have a plaque with their name, dates (birth and death if known) and their contribtions to the industry. If an image of the person can be found, we wil also have an image on the wall.
Here are my top six choices for the wall:
1) James Crow: His contributions are well known. He brought the industry into the modern world with improved sceintific methods to study the process of fermentation and distilling.
2) George Garvin Brown: His importance is in the marketing revolution of the late 19th century. His creation of Old Forester so that it was sold only in the bottle led to improved quality standards and eventually the Bottled-in-Bond Act.
3) E.H. Taylor: This man was the moving force behind the Bottled-in-Bond Act. Bonded whiskey changed the way the consumer bought whiskey and improved the standard by which whiskey was measured.
4)I W Bernheim: His contribution is not to the industry and the product so much as to the public perception of the industry. He returned to the community with such gifts as Bernheim Forest, Statues in Kentucky and Washington D.C. and even gifts of coal to the poor of Paducah during a severe winter. His generosity earns him a place on the wall.
5) Bill Samuels Jr.: Bill is an ambassador for the industry without equal. His selfless promotion of the industry alone would earn him a place on the wall. He is also a very important factor in the creation of the super premium bourbon market.
6) Elmer T. Lee: Elmer helped create the concept of Single Barrel Bourbon that feuled the growth that has come to the industry in the last 2 decades.
These are the six I wish to honor the first year. Here are some others that should be considered:
1) Oscar Getz: His effort to save the heritage of the industry earn him a place on the wall. I would put him in the first six except that I don't want to appear to play favorites and I don't want people to think that this just some way for the museum to blow its own horn.
2) James E. Pepper: He played an important part in the marketing revolution of the late 19th century by using advertising slogans (Born with the Republic) and strip stamps to seal the bottle with his signature. He was also one of the first distillers to bottle whiskey at the distillery.
3)Mary Dowling: A female distiller who took her Waterfill and Frasier brand to Mexico during prohibition. She definitely deserves some consideration.
4) W L Weller: Not only the founder of the oldest surviving whiskey company he was also one of the founders of the Baptist Orphan's Home in Louisville and played a very active role in the administration of the home.
I am sure you can think of other people and why they should be honored so I will wait now for your replies.
It just seems wrong that neither list contains a member of the Beam family. Honoring Elmer before Colonel Blanton? Do you really think Bill Jr. has done more than his dad? James Pepper more significant than Oscar?
The museum at Old Taylor had a Hall of Fame. Do you know who was in it?
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
Two more to add...
Aeneas(?) Coffey, inventor of the continuous still. There was bourbon before the continuous still, and Lincoln Henderson (surely another candidate) is seeing to it that there will be again (at Labrot & Graham). But the bourbon industry as we know it is a direct result of his invention.
Alexander Hamilton, first treasurer of the brand spanking new United States, who pressured president Washington into sending troops to enforce federal taxation of distilleries. Without Mr. Hamilton's efforts, and the resulting rebellion and westward migration, there would have been no Kentucky bourbon industry at all, and we'd all be comparing popular Pennsylvania and Maryland rye whiskies with histories dating back into the 1700's.
I would like to place in nomination GOD for giving us the ingredients for the water of life. The corn, rye, barley, & wheat. The pure limestone water. The sushine. The white oak trees. The beautiful land we know as Kentucky. His son Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas All.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
You hit the nail on the head Chuck! Sounds like a personal favorites list to me.
Amen, Linn. Merry Christmas, all.
Coffey would be an interesting choice and will be added to my list. Hamilton on the other hand, well I just can not bring myself to honor the man who gave us the tax on bourbon. I would be more inclined to honor Thomas Jefferson who repealed Hamilton's tax. As far as the myth about the whiskey rebellion making the distillers leave Pennsylvania for Kentucky, don't believe it. There were plenty of distillers here before the whiskey rebellion. I'm sorry but I will pass on adding Hamilton to the list.
I am just trying to get together a list for the first people to be placed on the wall. We want to do this nice with a brass or copper plaque and this will be an expensive project. We want to start with 6 and add 2 or 3 each year so our goal is to place the most significant people first. With this in mind yes I would place Elmer T. Lee before Blanton and Bill Jr. before Sr. and James Pepper before Oscar because of their contributions, but this is not going to be for me to decide. We want get a list together and have some sort of selection committee choose the final 6 for the year. That is why I am asking for outside imput. If you can think of a Beam with a contribution that equals or excedes the names I have listed, then give me the name and the contribution. I am not saying you are not right, there probably is a Beam worthy of this honor and should be on the list. But which one? You tell me. I have also left off some obvious choices such as Pappy Van Winkle hoping that you would be quick to add his name. Actually he was on my first list. I will leave it up to you to guess who replaced his name.
Al Hamilton not much different than algore other than Hamilton was brave in battle. Big gov't is better gov't. WRONG! Highr taxes are better taxes. WRONG! How about Arron Burr?
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
Jacob B. Beam
Jacob came to Kentucky over the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap while Kentucky was part of the state of Virginia. He set up a grinding mill and sold his first barrel of whiskey in 1795. Recently uncovered family material indicates he may have been established as early as 1788--or just about the time "bourbon was born". He had a son, David (there were probably more). David had four sons, David M., Joseph M., Jack, and Jacob.
"Jim Beam"-The James B. Beam Distillery;
David Beam son of Jacob--increased the capacity of his father's plant but continued the by-then famous Beam formula.
David M. Beam son of DAVID--The frontier days were waning and the Beam business began a modest but marked expansion under David M.
Col. James B. Beam--The famous Jim Beam, son of David M. He entered his father's distillery business in 1880 at the age of 16. Saw prohibition come and go. Col. Beam links Beam Bourbon's historic past with the present day--having established the family distilling operations in 1935 an heading it for over a decade.
T. Jeremiah Beam--Son of James B. as fifth Generation head of the House of Beam, he supervised the making of Beam Bourbon and contributed to Beam's modern-day growth.
Carl Beam--Fifth generation Beam Distiller was promoted to Vice President of James B. Beam Distillery in 1959 He retired in 1974. I have been told that his brother Earl was his assistant. Earl left Jim Beam and went to work for Heaven Hill when Harry Beam left. Carl's father, Park Beam and Jim Beam produced "Old Tub" Whiskey until prohibition in 1920.
Booker Noe--Cousin of Carl, Master Distiller at the Distillery in Beam, Kentucky.
Baker Beam son of Carl 6th generation Beam.
David Beam brother to Baker 6th generation Beam.
Joseph L. Beam--son of Joseph M.--Joseph L. Beam was a Master Distiller for more than 58 years. He retired from his post at Heaven Hill in 1945. He supervised consruction of Heaven Hill in 1934, was one of its owners and directed its plant operation for 11 years. After retiring from active duty he remained in a supervisory capacity for some time.
One of the first original incorporators of Old Heaven Hill Springs. He sold his shares to the 5 Shapira brothers for $100.00 and 60 barrels of whiskey. After he retired his son Harry took his place as Master Distiller.
American Wine and Liquor Journal November, 1937: Joseph L. had seven sons, and it is these seven, who today are continuing the tradition handed down to them, the manufaturing of Kentucky bourbon. Jospeh Elmo, the eldest of the seven boys is at T. W. Samuels, Deatsville as night distiller (he later worked for Bill Samuels Sr. when he developed Makers Mark). Roy is supeerintendent of Frankfort Distilleries, Louisville. Fredrick Otis is at Buffalo Springs, Stamping Ground. Wilmer is distiller at Burke Springs Loretto, Kentucky. Desmond is with Old Kennebec in Frankfort, Everett is distiller at Salmar in Cleveland, Ohio (he later went to work for Pennco Distillers and developed the renowned Michter's Pot Still Whiskey) and Harry is active distiller at Old Heaven Hill Springs, Bardstown, where his father is now Master Distiller.
They all have worked at many distilleries. Joseph L., Wilmer and Roy worked at the Stitzel Weller Distillery under Julian P. VanWinkle. There is a letter (donated to the Getz Museum from Mrs. Wilmer Beam) written to my great uncle Wilmer Beam, c/o Yellowstone Distillery, 7th Street Road, Louisville, Ky.
November 16, 1956
I saw a notice in the Courier Journal November 14th of your father's death which we all were distressed to hear. He certainly had a long rich life. As you know, he was our Master Distiller at Stitzel Distillery for a number of years, also I recall that several of you younger Beams were also there, and I must say we all enjoyed each other during that stay, and furthermore, I wish to advise, that all the whiskey made during that period, with the exception of the first day, was splendid--really wonderful whiskey. I think it can be truthfully said that your father was the Dean Distiller of his age.
Please pass our kindest regards to all your brothers.
Julian P. VanWinkle, President
Stitzel Weller Distillery
Earl Beam--became Master Distiller at Heaven Hill when Harry Beam left.
Newspaper article about Earl Beam: I came to Heaven Hill 18 years ago. I've never known much of anythin but making whiskey. You might say it's my life. All the Beams, I guess you know, have been whiskey people--my brother Carl is Master Distiller over at the Jim Beam Distillery at Clermont. Jacob Beam was the first in the family, back in 1788. I am the grandson of David Beam, Jacob's son. The first Beam distillery was a small one at Clear Springs. We're of German ancestory. One of the first Beams tried making whiskey at Cumberland Gap, but that's coal and iron country over there and the whiskey tasted terrible, so he pushed on till he came into these parts wher the limestone springs made the best whiskey.
Parker Beam son of Earl Beam--Parker took his fathers place as Master Distiller at Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc. and still holds the position today. His son Craig Beam is now training to become a Master Distiller to take his dad's place.
The Beam family is known throughout the world as The Finest and Best Kentucky Straight Bourbon distillers ever. You might think that the brand should say Beam on the label but a lot of their talents are "probably" still being practiced today in your favorite brand that does not have the Beam name on it.
Jacob Beam 1760-1839 should be one of the first 6 names on the plaque at the Getz. A true Kentucky Bourbon tradition handed down from father to son for many generations.
Mike said, "...Hamilton on the other hand, well I just can not bring myself to honor the man who gave us the tax on bourbon. I would be more inclined to honor Thomas Jefferson who repealed Hamilton's tax."
Now Mike, shame on you for letting your politics interfere with your history! The importance of a person or event isn't determined by whether you like or agree with them. Hamilton's federalism (let's remember, these were the right-wingers, <u>Jefferson</u> was the Democrat!) effectively ended the dominance of the Pennsyvania and Maryland rye-makers and sent the cream of the crop packing for Kentucky (and Ontario as well, I believe).
"... As far as the myth about the whiskey rebellion making the distillers leave Pennsylvania for Kentucky, don't believe it. There were plenty of distillers here before the whiskey rebellion."
Sure, and in Tennessee as well. And Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and lots of places where there aren't any commercial distilleries anymore. Everywhere that grain was grown and milled there were distilleries. They were hardly a significant industry, though. Two things had to happen in order for that to occur. One was that the industry had to include among its more successful members a number of powerful individuals with political leanings, such as those who considered themselves veterans of the rebellion. Once these have become prominent local and state leaders, both the legitimacy and the importance of the industry can be ensured. That's why Kentucky survived Prohibition and Tennessee didn't -- because Kentucky's leaders were proud to be involved with the whiskey business while Tennessee's leaders were ashamed and wanted no part of it.
And, of course, the other needed condition was the utter destruction of what would have been the competition had it been allowed to develop in the region where it was already established and making a world-wide reputation. The rye whiskey industry didn't completely die out in Pennsylvania, of course; rye-whiskey was being made there quite successfully all the way up to, and even after, Prohibition. But by that time the bourbon-makers of Kentucky had had a chance to show the world what this wonderful liquor was and what they could do with it, and that was really all it took.
I feel we already have enough plaques that merely list honorable individuals who we'd like to offer to the world as models to aspire to. As a matter of history, I feel you should elevate your criteria and re-think your position about Hamilton's importance to the Kentucky bourbon industry.
I hope this doesn't seem like "let's all jump on poor Mike" week. Really, I love ya, man. But I've gotta say..
Give 'im Hell, Bettye Jo!! You go, girl! And tell your aunt Jo Beam to whack 'im one next time he shows up at the museum, too!
How anyone can seriously put together a Wall-of-Fame commemorating the most important figures in Kentucky bourbon and not sprinkle it heavily with Beams is completely beyond me.
(P.S. - I sure hope you realize that the scolding here is feigned and in good nature; sometimes that gets missed in the printed words. But, well, you asked for it!)
I think you are over estimating the importance of the rebellion to Kentucky's distilling heritage. As a matter of fact I would be hard placed to name one distiller that can be traced to Pennsylvania that left for Kentucky because of the rebellion. There were several who came to Kentucky at that time but this had more to do with the fact that Kentucky had just became a state and it was suddenly easier to purchase land in Kentucky.
The fact is there was very little impact on the distillers in Pennsylvania. The government for all of its efforts arrested very few people and only two people were ever convicted and they were both pardoned by President Washington. These two were described as one being "a simpleton" and the other "insane". My favorite quote from the rebelion comes from Thomas Jefferson who said that "an insurrection was announced and proclaimed and armed against, but could never be found" (Ford, Jefferson, VII, May 26, 1795). There were farmer distillers in Kentucky at the same time as the rebellion and they too refused to pay their taxes. The rebellion in Kentucky was just as "bad" as it was in Pennsylvania but the government refused to let this become common knowledge at the time because they did not think they could do anything about it. They could not get an army the size that they used in Pennsylvania over the mountains and they were afraid that if they did, The independent minded westerners would simply leave the union and be driven into the arms of Spain. So when you think about it the whole myth about the whisky rebellion does not make sense. Why would distillers leave Pennsylvania over the rebellion to come to Kentucky when Kentuckians were forced to pay the same tax and conditions politically were the same.
I will give Hamilton this much credit for distilling history. The tax was based upon proof to be measured using a hydrometer so it did force distillers to learn to use a hydrometer.
I knew I could depend upon you for this name. Even if you failed to send me some of these names I would have gotten them from Jo. Good work!!
I don't feel like I am being "jumped on". As a matter of fact Boone's reply was what I was looking for in replies at this site. I am trying to give you all a chance to put some imput into this list and to judge what you think is important as a "Wall of Fame" catagory. Even if Jacob Beam does not make it the first year (that is not going to be for me to decide one way or another if I have my way), I am sure he will be there before too many years pass. What I am trying to do is get a good complete list together with the candidates qualifications so that some type of commitee can decide who will be the final six for the first year. You can bet on the fact that people on this list will still be candidates in the following years.
I think Elmer would be embarassed to be put ahead of people like Julian VanWinkle and any number of Beams. Bill Jr., likewise, should be embarassed by receiving recognition he doesn't deserve, but I don't think he is capable of that particular emotion.
Just as a matter of policy, I wouldn't put anyone now alive up there the first year, or maybe ever. This is especially appropriate since this is being done by a museum. It might be different if this were a project of the KDA or DISCUS.
Among the Beams, I would have to say Joe Beam is the most significant, for the reasons Boone mentioned. He and his sons virtually were the distilling industry in the early 20th century.
And has anyone yet mentioned Jack Daniel? Or George Dickel?
Aneas Coffey is a good suggestion.
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
You may be right. Maybe live people should not be on the list at all. Uour other points are also well taken. My plans right now is to make a list of possibilities. The final decision will be made later. (I even put Hamilton on the list for consideration. I do love a good historical debate and John has been arguing his facts fairly well.)
Here's another name to consider: John Bernard Wathen, who ran his family's distillery business from 1863 until a few years before his death in 1919. He and his brothers were responsible for building Old Grand-Dad into a major brand and his sons established the American Medicinal Spirits Company, one of the foundations of National Distillers.
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
Good pick Chuck! I second that nomination.
Have Shotglass. Will Travel.
A very good suggestion. A Wathen should be on the list as well as a Beam but can you think of a Dant or a Medley that really sticks out as deserving. I am sure there are some, but they just don't pop out at me right now.
When I said that I would be opening a can of worms with this subject I should have realised that it was more like a hornet's nest. I have talked with Flaget and she has received quite alot of negative feedback from this site and my posting. We have talked and have decided that as much as we would like to honor distillers for their achievements, it is not politically possible to do so. We can not afford to do more than six or so the first year and do it right and since it can not be done right, we won't do it at all.
I will say that I would like to see all of the people mentioned (with the personal exception of Hamilton) on a wall of fame. It would be nice if we had a budget of a couple hundred thousand dollars to place them all on a wall of fame at the same time, but that just is not going to happen. The positive thing about all of this is that it does show how well read this site is. There were people who were "gun toten' mad" at Flaget that read this site but have never posted anything I have ever seen. All I have to say to them is don't get mad at Flaget about this, focus your anger at me. The wall of fame was my idea and making this posting was also my idea. We wanted feedback and we got it. Your voice has prevailed. So just calm down and don't hurt Flaget.
Oh MY!! Mike, I can't believe this has happened. I sure hope nothing I've posted has fed this idiotic reaction. Please extend my best to Flaget.
Hey folks... get a grip, huh? If this forum isn't good for free discussion then it isn't good for anything. And if your idea of "honor" is to sit back like a whimpering coward without participating and then whine at (or threaten) poor Ms. Flaget at the museum, then you're not welcome to lurk behind my computer screen. Go away, scum! Shame on you!
MY FINAL POSTING UNTIL THIS MESS IS CLEARED UP....
No one should ever do anything to hurt Flaget. A sweeter woman has never drawn breath.
By all means, pick on Mike!
--Chuck Cowdery (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com)
Calm down. There is no reason for you to hold anything against the forum. As I said we will not do the wall of fame so nobody has any reason to get "gun toten' mad" (her words, not mine) at Flaget. The matter is a dead issue.
This is my only post on this subject and since the idea of honoring six persons of distilling fame is dead it is likely to remain my only post.
What is clear to me is that there are many people who've had a major and historic role in the development of bourbon. That would make it hard and politically difficult to pick any six.
Other things are also clear to me. Some people certainly care deeply about bourbon and its history. They care about their family's role in it. And they cared enough to show emotion. Thank God people care. That shows this subject goes beyond corporate business of making money and into the hearts of people who are proud to have had their ancestors contribute. That's not a bad thing. Trust me, I've been involved in the early stages of one industry and no one today even cares to honor the early contribution of those who started. It is great that we can readily identify dozens of people who deserve to be honored for this, one of America's true native products.
It is also clear to me that this forum is not just read by the few people who post. I've always wondered if the 223 registered (the number does keep going up) have mostly dropped out, as I've learned to recognize the dozen or so of us who regularly contribute. This should not be a forum for just a few but should be for the thoughts and interests of many. I'm somewhat glad to know others are involved, even if not posting.
I am also sorry, but not surprised, that some people got emotional enough to show some anger. Hey, there are more than six people who deserve to be recognized and I sure would not want to try to pick six.
So let's try to put that emotion to good use. Let's continue to support the Oscar Getz Museum (I guess my shot glass purchases probably aren't a major contribution) which already honors so many who've made contributions. Let's continue to let authors know when their writing is inaccurate. Maybe some of you have some family memorabilia that the Oscar Getz Museum would love to make public in their collection.
I love bourbon. I've had great enjoyment from this forum. I love the people who care enough to inform people like me. One year ago I could not have named more than six brands of bourbon and could not have helped a single bartender to know better what he or she is serving. You've all taught me a lot. So I love the fact that people care about this product and its heritage.
I now wish peace in this year 2001 among the great family of bourbon creators and lovers. I'm not mad at Mike for trying. Usually out of this comes some good new idea. Edison failed more than he succeeded. Maybe some of you can think of more ways to help the Getz Museum honor those who've created this industry.
Again, I wish each of you a Happy New Year. Thanks for caring!
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