Welcome to the Straightbourbon.com Forums.
Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,075

    1933 Fortune Article on End of Prohibition and Publicker

    A 1933 issue of Fortune magazine assessed the state of the U.S. liquor industry as it entered the post-Prohibition era. There were around 20,000,000 gallons of whiskey in the warehouses. Most had been distilled since 1929 under special permits (available to some companies which already owned whiskey stocks, the new production was intended to replenish inventories for the medicinal spirits market). Of the 20,000,000 gallons, only about 3,000,000 were pre-Prohibition whiskey.

    The article projected that most of this whiskey would be “cut”, i.e., the old and newer whiskeys would be combined and alcohol and flavouring added to make blended whiskey. It was noted that much of the pre-1920 whiskey market was composed of such blended whiskey and the reconstructed industry would follow suit in this regard. It was noted nonetheless that some pre-Prohibition whiskey would be sold on its own in 1934, especially under old brand names that had been hallowed for quality. I have seen mid-1930’s ads vaunting the last of such uncut, pre-Prohibition whiskey. It was projected that the shortage of straight whiskey would cease by the later 1930’s, i.e., once the new production furiously underway had aged a sufficient time.

    Of the 20,000,000 gallons, half was controlled by National Distillers which emerged out of the pre-1920 “whiskey trust” and which had also become a producer of industrial alcohol and food products. During the 1920’s, it absorbed the largest medicinal spirits supplier, AMS, and this potent combination produced National Distillers which endured as we know until 1987. One–quarter of the gallonage was controlled by the emerging liquor empire of Schenley. The rest was spread amongst a series of smaller companies of which Publicker of Philadelphia, PA was one. (Thus, it was not Publicker which controlled the 25% as I suggested earlier, but rather Schenley).

    Fortune devoted a separate story to Publicker, profiling a company which sought to become a major force in the emerging legal liquor business. Publicker was the name of two brothers in Philadelphia who before World War One were engaged in different aspects of alcohol production. One became a distiller after initially selling liquor removed from the staves of used whiskey barrels (it was done by a steam process). The other brother was involved in producing alcohol for industrial purposes. One of the Publickers had a son-in-law, Simon Neuman, who became the President of the Publicker which emerged from the Volstead era.

    The story in Fortune focused mostly on the plans of Publicker to age whiskey faster than normal through some kind of special process. Its chief chemist, Dr. Carl Hamer, was working on a method in which much hope was placed. The story did not disclose the details which no doubt were secret.

    On another website, it has been suggested the process subsequently was used in the production of whiskey blends but not to make straight whiskey – this makes sense since with the benefit of history we know that to date no substitute has been found for the process of aging spirits for years in wood to achieve the desired maturation results.

    Thus, while to all appearances the secret Publicker process did not produce what was expected, at least for straight whiskey, the company nonetheless grew into a large and respected producer both of straight and other whiskeys and numerous other forms of liquor. Also, as has been explained in other threads on this site, it continued and expanded its production of alcohol for industrial purposes. The name Continental Distilling for the beverage alcohol operations was already devised in 1933 and is referred to in the story.

    The Fortune piece indicates that Publicker intended to create new brand names for its whiskey, unlike, say, National Distillers which had collected famous old names such as Old Gran-dad, Old Taylor, Old Overholt and Mount Vernon and re-established them as quality straight whiskeys. Dave gave the example of Rittenhouse rye, named after Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

    It is interesting to consider what Fortune thought would occur in the repeal era in terms of U.S. liquor consumption patterns (i.e., in general). It was projected wine would become a major drink, as it did ultimately although it took longer than I think the Fortune writers thought might happen. They did accurately predict the high quality of American wine production, stating it would compete with all but the best vintages in France and Germany (probably still true). They accurately predicted that beer would remain a mainstay American drink. They predicted that gin would grow by leaps and bounds due to its popularity in the 1920’s, as it did until partly eclipsed much later by vodka, and that the taste for imported Scotch would grow. I don’t think they saw though how big Canadian whisky would become. The writers seem to have regarded it as the same as the native American bourbon and rye and felt that tariff barriers would prevent it from becoming a force in the American whiskey market. However, Canadian whisky grew quickly after repeal despite the tariff. Canadian producers cleverly positioned their blends as quality beverages which appealed to those of refined taste due to their mildness and lightness. Of U.S. straight whiskey and the blended derivative, Fortune assumed they would be the mainstay of the U.S. liquor business for many years. Indeed this did occur, for some four decades. Still, I think Fortune in 1933 would be amazed at how straight and blended whiskey have fallen off the perch as the main form of liquor consumed in America and become a smaller, specialty market (fortunately rebounding now to a degree).

    In 1933, liquor meant, simply, whiskey; now, that has changed.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 02-27-2008 at 09:38.

  2. #2
    Disciple
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Royersford
    Posts
    1,967

    Re: 1933 Fortune Article on End of Prohibition and Publicker

    Great Stuff Gary Thank You, there were two Publicker Brothers Harry the one who steamed the Drinking Whiskey out of the staves and was the Father inlaw of Simon Neuman and Philip Neuman was the other Brother. Publicker as you say grew into a giant Company and had 5,000 world Wide Employee's just before I went to work for them. Si Neuman was an amazing Man with allot of Vision and those of us that worked for Publicker credit Him with the good days the Company had. Once he was gone it was all downhill! Also as you have told us they sat down and came up with their Own special names for their Whiskeys in the ealry days another one was Cobbs Creek Blended which was named for Cobbs Creek in Phila and who can forget Philadelphia Blended Whiskey. I talked to a former Kinsey Office Clerk about a month ago and He said he was there till the end and that once Mr Neuman died in 1976 it was all downhill he was the driving force Behind the Continental Distilling Corp and the Person who's Idea it was to build Stills In Scotland and start bringing Scotch here and Bottling it in Linfield Pa. He Named His Home After his Most famous Scotch brand his Home on the Main Line near Phila was Called Inver House! My Friend Ken told me he had talked to Mr Neuman a couple of times when He visited the Plant and said He was truly an Amazing Man with many Ideas all the time to get things going. Thank You Gary For telling us about this Article I have enjoyed very Much reading what you have written.
    Dave Z

  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,075

    Re: 1933 Fortune Article on End of Prohibition and Publicker

    And thanks in turn for that additional information, Dave, most interesting.

    Gary

  4. #4
    Disciple
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Royersford
    Posts
    1,967

    Smile Re: 1933 Fortune Article on End of Prohibition and Publicker

    Quote Originally Posted by dave ziegler View Post
    Great Stuff Gary Thank You, there were two Publicker Brothers Harry the one who steamed the Drinking Whiskey out of the staves and was the Father inlaw of Simon Neuman and Philip Neuman was the other Brother. Publicker as you say grew into a giant Company and had 5,000 world Wide Employee's just before I went to work for them. Si Neuman was an amazing Man with allot of Vision and those of us that worked for Publicker credit Him with the good days the Company had. Once he was gone it was all downhill! Also as you have told us they sat down and came up with their Own special names for their Whiskeys in the ealry days another one was Cobbs Creek Blended which was named for Cobbs Creek in Phila and who can forget Philadelphia Blended Whiskey. I talked to a former Kinsey Office Clerk about a month ago and He said he was there till the end and that once Mr Neuman died in 1976 it was all downhill he was the driving force Behind the Continental Distilling Corp and the Person who's Idea it was to build Stills In Scotland and start bringing Scotch here and Bottling it in Linfield Pa. He Named His Home After his Most famous Scotch brand his Home on the Main Line near Phila was Called Inver House! My Friend Ken told me he had talked to Mr Neuman a couple of times when He visited the Plant and said He was truly an Amazing Man with many Ideas all the time to get things going. Thank You Gary For telling us about this Article I have enjoyed very Much reading what you have written.
    Dave Z
    Gary one more thing it is always so amazing how way back people could start with nothing and end up so Big. Harry Publicker started the whole thing sreaming Staves to get whiskey out and later Him and His brother ended up creating one of the most Prolihic Producers of Industrial and drinking Alcohol of all time. Today it would be imposible with all the Gov regs you could not even get it started. Again I want to thank you very much for the artical about all this, it is a way to keep History alive for people in the Future to know!
    Dave

  5. #5
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,075

    Re: 1933 Fortune Article on End of Prohibition and Publicker

    No problem, I'll see if I can pull more out for you. The articles in Fortune on the 1930's liquor business were written at a time when people admired enterprise, ingenuity, risk-takers, despite the depradations caused by the Depression.

    E .g., the article ends like this: "Messrs. Neuman and Publicker and Haner and Marks think they have something there and Distillers and Walker and Schenley say 'Shucks'. Nobody knows whether the public is going to swallow artificially aged whiskey, bottle and all, or whether it will be drunk only by cabbies and cooks. Nobody, in fact, knows anything at all about it, except it hasn't killed Dr. Haner yet. But the Publicker people expect to spend their $2,000,000 [probably more like $20,000,000 in today's money] in six months of bombshell advertising and by the end of that time they ought to know. Maybe Si Neuman's whiskey will revolutionize the industry. Or maybe Si Neuman is crazy".

    Well, neither proved to be the case which didn't stop Publicker from becoming a powerhouse business for decades.

    We live in a different time today, more complex surely, more regulated, cynical, and more conservative (in many ways) than the era captured so well in the snappy prose in this Fortune piece from 1933.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 03-07-2008 at 17:04.

 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Looking for People that worked for Publicker Ind
    By dave ziegler in forum History
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-26-2006, 18:11
  2. Some help on AMS Special Reserve 1933
    By jsgorman in forum History
    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 07-22-2006, 20:24
  3. Fortune Brands Buys.....
    By bobbyc in forum Industry News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 02-11-2006, 16:02
  4. Fortune Acknowledges Makers Buyout
    By bobbyc in forum Industry News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 07-23-2005, 14:16

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Back to top