View Full Version : Whiskey As Viewed in 1865 in Brooklyn, NY

01-16-2008, 06:51
I tend to put my historical-related posts on an another board but thought I would mention here an article I found in a digitized Brooklyn newspaper from 1865, available online. The reasons are both the interest here expressed continually in Irish whiskey (which I share) and the observations on contemporary U.S. whiskeys.

The article, which starts off by noting that, "whiskey is a fruitful theme for discussion either from the moral or commercial point of view", described the founding in Brooklyn of the first distillery in the U.S. to make Irish whiskey. Distillers were being brought in from Ireland to ensure authenticity. The writer seemed sympathetic to whiskey but noted he was writing not just for those who have an "interest" in whiskey but also for the "temperance folks" and in light of the revenue importance of the subject.

The author wrote that unlike wine, whiskey is made from grains and grains everywhere (he said) have the same taste, so whiskey can be made anywhere to taste in a given style (perhaps debatable, but that was his view).

He said the reason whiskey in the Irish style (and he implied the same for Scotch) had not previously been made in the U.S. was that it could be imported more cheaply. He said that cost increases during the war (Civil War) made it profitable to make Irish whiskey in the States. He noted that attitudes against whiskey did not prevent it being used via taxation to finance war-related activities.

He also noted, and it is one of the early consumer-oriented views of whiskey I have found, that U.S. whiskey is comprised of "Bourbon, Monongaleha, rye, etc"., is made from corn, wheat or rye or a combination of two or more these, and (this is what I found most interesting) "differ in no material respects". He wrote that the names Bourbon and Monongahela (an extinct form of rye whiskey, mainly) arose because that is where the whiskeys were first made but that despite the different names they are now made indifferently from any of the grains mentioned which explains the range of qualities and flavors available. He seems to be saying that some bourbon may be made mostly from rye, say, which will liken it to a Monongahela whiskey made from rye, and some Bourbon will be made from corn mostly as some Monongahela may be. So, he is not saying the all whiskeys taste alike - he specifically alluded to the range of qualities and flavors available - but rather that one could not count on designation alone for a specific type of flavor and quality. Looked at broadly, Pennsylvania rye from, say, the 1970's, isn't all that different from Wild Turkey rye of today, I think that is what he meant.

I am not sure if the venture succeeded although a company making (probably an unpeated) malt whisky, Duffy's, was very active in the later 1800's and was headquartered in Rochester, NY.

Although the author covered his bases, I think he was a kindred spirit, and his fellow Brooklynite Walt Whitman would have approved no doubt that words written from Long Island 140 years ago can speak to us so clearly today.


01-17-2008, 14:57
Great article...considering the Civil War had just ended, the South was in a large state of destruction, millions of wounded men..both psychic and physical North and South..laudenum and alcohol addictions were probably becoming severe social problems..(even cocaine or heroin abuse could have started)....so the debate between consumer use, tax revenue and total abolition was primed to start.

01-22-2008, 16:57

I loved looking over the old news stories....I could read them all day.

One of interest was a testimony that Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey cured a gentlemans "consumption"....(cough, cough...TB)....he is on his 3rd bottle and feeling great!

01-22-2008, 17:41
Thanks and for those interested, dial into www.brooklynlibrary.org

On the left is the link to the digitized Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Type whiskey in the search box (or other words attuned to your interests) and enjoy.

I particularly enjoyed the stories on The Doors' song about whiskey bars.


P.S. Re that last comment: just kidding. :)

01-23-2008, 21:15
OK, I'm glad you were kidding, because you had me confused; the archive only goes to 1902, and Brecht and Weill wrote the song in 1927.

I haven't found that article yet, but I love some of the prices in adds: Overholt rye for $1 a bottle, while a case of bordeaux wine is only $2.49. Quart bottles all!

I love the ads for Old Crow. They stood by their product! The Duffy's Pure Malt Whiskey patent medicines are great, too. I guess the pure food and drug act hadn't been passed yet.

01-23-2008, 21:30
The article was written in the January 18, 1865 issue of Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

If you insert "whiskey" in the general search box (the box that seaches at large through the newspaper as opposed to by date), it is the first story to come up.

After reading countless whiskey stories in that paper, it is my favorite.


02-02-2008, 14:52
Great article...considering the Civil War had just ended ... laudenum and alcohol addictions were probably becoming severe social problems ... (even cocaine or heroin abuse could have started)

Well, just to pick an off-topic nit or two (but this is a history section), laudenum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laudenum) (tincture of opium (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium)) and alcohol addictions were certainly possibilities in 1865. But probably not cocaine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocaine), which was isolated only in 1860, and definitely not heroin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heroin), which was synthesized in 1874, but which had to wait 23 years before popularization, when its synthesis was rediscovered by a Bayer (Germany) chemist.

Ironically, both cocaine and heroin were touted at first as cures for morphine and opium addiction.

All in all, I'll take whiskey, thank you.

Nice discovery, Gary.



02-02-2008, 15:03
Jeff, thanks, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle is an amazing resource also for contemporary beer information, I have summarised some of it in a recent thread on SB, and would be interested in any comments.