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shoshani

Old Fitzgerald *before* S. C. Herbst

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shoshani

I'm sort of noodling around Google Books, looking at 19th century publications trying to learn what I can about the earliest origins of Old Fitzgerald.

I think I found something.

http://books.google.com/books?id=7L0oAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA111&dq=jno.+e.+fitzgerald&hl=en&sa=X&ei=_umUUrGtOsamygHywoDYCw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=jno.%20e.%20fitzgerald&f=false

The Report of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue for the year ended June 30, 1891, which is linked above, lists the Jno. E. Fitzgerald Distilling Company as a DBA of J. Swigert Taylor, RD 53 in Millville, Woodford County, Kentucky.

This same J. Swigert Taylor (son, if I recall correctly, of Col. E. H.) also had E. H. Taylor, Jr. and E. H. Taylor, Jr. and sons listed as DBAs.

RD 53 became DSP 19 after Prohibition. Simply put, at least in 1891 Old Fitzgerald was owned by, and produced at, Old Taylor. This information continues until the report of 1896, where it stops.

Then in 1901, John E. Fitzgerald 15 year old Bourbon and Rye were being advertised as being available on the best railroad dining cars, by the S. C. Herbst Importing Company. http://books.google.com/books?id=3n7NAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1450&dq=jno.+e.+fitzgerald+bourbon&hl=en&sa=X&ei=W_SUUqWsAvHeyQHA64CgDA&ved=0CE0Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=jno.%20e.%20fitzgerald%20bourbon&f=false

So now I'm trying to figure out when Herbst got Fitz from Taylor, and indeed whether J. S. (or E. H.) Taylor created the brand or bought it from someone else.

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shoshani

I just found an 1890 report that shows J. E. Fitzgerald distilling as a DBA of J S Taylor, while E H Taylor was a DBA of Geo T. Stagg. http://books.google.com/books?id=wOYoAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA107&dq=jno.+e.+fitzgerald+bourbon&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Y_aUUpmvNOjIyAHW5IGgBw&ved=0CGIQ6AEwBzgU#v=onepage&q=jno.%20e.%20fitzgerald%20bourbon&f=false This is now the earliest reference I've been able to find mentioning John Fitzgerald whiskey and who was distilling it.

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mosugoji64

Very cool! Thanks for sharing the information.

Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk

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squire

The brand was owned by Herbst from the beginning who created the label naming it after an employee, Jno. E. Fitzgerald, who managed one of Herbst's warehouses in Milwaukee, WI. Taylor (and others) made the whisky for Herbst under contract using their standard rye recipe Bourbon mash bills.

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squire

There are invoices from the late 1880s showing Old Fitzgerald whisky made by Taylor being sold to Herbst. The original concept was a high quality, exclusive whisky to be sold only to private clubs, Railroad and Steamship lines for their first class passengers. Herbst was a savvy guy with the money and marketing muscle to make such a brand happen.

Pappy, no slouch at marketing himself, recognized the quality reputation of the Fitzgerald brand.

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shoshani
The brand was owned by Herbst from the beginning who created the label naming it after an employee, Jno. E. Fitzgerald, who managed one of Herbst's warehouses in Milwaukee, WI. Taylor (and others) made the whisky for Herbst under contract using their standard rye recipe Bourbon mash bills.

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squire

I'm not entirely clear on whether Fitzgerald worked for Herbst at one time (believe so) or was assigned to his warehouse but it would appear he was a colorful character, apparently Herbst liked him.

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bourbonv

Shoshani, You have it backwards - DBA "Doing Business As" in this case was Taylor making whiskey for Herbst. The Taylor-Hay collection at the Filson has a contract for Taylor to make whiskey for Herbst, so it was a long term relationship. Herbst did not purchase the Old Judge distillery until the late 1890s when Bonded whiskey came about.

I did some search on the census records and found John E. Fitzgerald in Milwaukee as a "Boiler maker". I suspect he worked as a maintenance man for Herbst as the warehouses were probably heated.

Mike Veach

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squire

Glad you chimed in Mike, did Herbst register the Old Fitzgerald brand in 1884?

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shoshani
Shoshani, You have it backwards - DBA "Doing Business As" in this case was Taylor making whiskey for Herbst. The Taylor-Hay collection at the Filson has a contract for Taylor to make whiskey for Herbst, so it was a long term relationship. Herbst did not purchase the Old Judge distillery until the late 1890s when Bonded whiskey came about.

I did some search on the census records and found John E. Fitzgerald in Milwaukee as a "Boiler maker". I suspect he worked as a maintenance man for Herbst as the warehouses were probably heated.

Mike Veach

Yeah, that's what I meant. The records indicate that Taylor was doing business as John E. Fitzgerald and a few other names. I worded it backwardsly.

All I can find about John E. Fitzgerald in Milwaukee are the following, which I also found a bit fascinating. He may well have lived up to the name "Larceny".

He's listed as an Internal Revenue gauger, first district, Milwaukee, in a few government publications from the early 1870s.

He was indicted in 1876 on conspiracy to defraud the government in the manufacture and sale of whiskey, along with four brothers who were rectifiers plus a United States storekeeper. A pithy mention is made here: http://books.google.com/books?id=ZgI0AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA82&dq=treasury+gauger+fitzgerald+milwaukee&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Hi6VUqj2DqTqyQGTkIGYCg&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=treasury%20gauger%20fitzgerald%20milwaukee&f=false

And testimony in the case, in which Fitzgerald testified that he had lived in Milwaukee for the past fifteen years, and was employed as a United States gauger from September 1869 until May 1875, with at least one suspension and restoration noted in 1872 or 1873, can be read here: http://books.google.com/books?id=EE9HAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA229#v=onepage&q&f=false starting at the bottom of the page. (The case starts before this and goes on, but this is John E. Fitzgerald's actual testimony.)

That's all I've wrung out of Google Books so far, but I find it fascinating in itself.

Edited by shoshani
Clarity regarding "storekeeper"

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shoshani

If you (Prof Veach or otherwise) clicked that second link and are scratching your head wondering where the Fitzgerald testimony is...I linked the wrong one. Same trial, though. The link I meant to put is http://books.google.com/books?id=2aEFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA193#v=onepage&q&f=false . Sorry about that!

Edited by shoshani

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cowdery

That's really something, shoshani. Congratulations. An important find.

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shoshani

Thank you. I was a bit floored when I came across it; I was not expecting it at all. So, first thing I did was share it here.

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squire

Good find none the less, and interesting.

I believe the reason we have different stories about Fitzgerald was due to marketing. Fitzgerald was known to pilfer from honey barrels and it became such a joke in the Herbst organization that good barrels were called "Fitzgeralds" and for that reason I believe Herbst choose to name his exclusive brand Fitzgerald, being as it was the best of breed. Of course marketing men eventually had to come up with a story and Fitzgerald alternatively became a Treasury Agent, a Security Guard, a warehouse manager or a distiller depending on who wrote the copy. As these stories circulated well meaning people repeated them and that's how the confusion over who was the real Fitzgerald came about.

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shoshani
I believe the reason we have different stories about Fitzgerald was due to marketing. Fitzgerald was known to pilfer from honey barrels and it became such a joke in the Herbst organization that good barrels were called "Fitzgeralds" and for that reason I believe Herbst choose to name his exclusive brand Fitzgerald, being as it was the best of breed. Of course marketing men eventually had to come up with a story and Fitzgerald alternatively became a Treasury Agent, a Security Guard, a warehouse manager or a distiller depending on who wrote the copy. As these stories circulated well meaning people repeated them and that's how the confusion over who was the real Fitzgerald came about.

This is the part that confuses me the most, now. Because with this trial testimony, John E. Fitzgerald becomes a shoe that doesn't fit. His trial record doesn't indicate warehouse access, only collection of taxes among various distillers and rectifiers, all of whom are named and none of whom are Herbst. Fitzgerald held his job as Treasury gauger from 1869 until 1875, when he was fired and indicted for playing a role in the Whiskey Ring scandal that rocked the administration of President Grant. This is at least nine years earlier than the first recorded use of his name as a whiskey brand, if I recall correctly.

Whether he served any prison time, I've been unable to determine. But Old Fitz apparently also had a hand in banking at least, before he became a gauger. There is a John E. Fitzgerald who shows up in the 1880s as an Internal Revenue collector in Boston, a presidential appointment, but I have no idea if this is the same person. I would tend to doubt it, since Old Fitzgerald lost his gauger job in disgrace, yet on the other hand why would someone without any experience be appointed?

Answer one question, five more come up. Why is research like this? :rolleyes:

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squire

I believe Fitzgerald went to work for Herbst after leaving government service. The Old Fitzgerald brand was registered by Herbst in 1884, nine years after the 1875 trial. 1875 was also the year the Whiskey Ring was exposed in which 238 revenue agents nationwide were indicted and 110 convicted. The testimony in the link clearly show Fitzgerald probably had enough political connections to be reemployed.

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shoshani

There's a part of me that thinks that naming a whiskey "Jno. E. Fitzgerald" so soon after the indictment seems kind of...well, brazen, in a "give the government the bird" sort of way. But yeah, his testimony shows political connections that impress even cynical modern Chicagoans like myself, and we've seen it all.

I'm starting to consider the idea that maybe Herbst and Fitzgerald knew each other off-duty, or Herbst owed Fitz a favor or something, and so Herbst employed him, or named the whiskey for him, or both, after a respectable distance in time. It could be that Herbst made the warehouse-pilfering story up while keeping the grain of truth that Fitz had been a treasury gauger, because Fitzgerald's actual exploits in the Whiskey Ring would still have caused embarrassment to others in the trade.

My understanding of gaugers (from Gerald Carson) is that they oversaw the weighing of the grain and adherence to the mashbill, observed the filling of barrels and executed the branding of information on the heads, and then when the barrels were pulled for sale or bottling they measured what was left inside. The warehouses themselves were under the charge of a government guard called the storekeeper, whose job it was to make sure no one, not even the distillery owner, got into the warehouse without the gauger being present. Theoretically at least, no gauger could get into the warehouse without the storekeeper's awareness. Or, if pilfering were taking place, collusion.

The one certainty is that John E. Fitzgerald couldn't possibly have built a distillery in Kentucky in 1870 (the year the Jno. E. Fitzgerald distillery is said to have been established; conveniently also the year S. C. Herbst Importing Company was founded) while simultaneously serving a federal appointment as treasury gauger in Milwaukee from 1869 to 1875.

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squire

That was actually the Old Judge distillery (owned by Herbst) and became known as the Fitzgerald distillery because that was it's most well known brand. For the same reason the Blanton distillery would be called the Ancient Age distillery after it's most well known brand.

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