When I first started as an Archivist at United Distillers in the early 1990s, on top of my list of things to do was find historical sources of information on the whiskey trade. Some of the best sources were the publications of Criterion Press, founded by William Mida. I am grateful to have found an excellent article on Mida titled “Whiskey al a Mida: Law and Trademark” where you can learn more about Mida’s history.

William Mida was born in Poland in the year 1839. He came from a wealthy Jewish family and was well educated in Czarist Poland and Germany. He spoke five languages including English. He became involved in the failed 1863 rebellion of the Poles against the Russians and was captured and imprisoned. After being freed he worked briefly as a gun runner and revolutionary agent. In the year 1867 he comes to America. After brief stays in New York, Cincinnati, and St. Louis he ends up in the liquor trade in Chicago in 1873. He was a rectifier of whiskey with his brands of Relish and Mida’s Confidential.

In 1883 Mida publishes a book titled “Mida’s Handbook for Wholesale Liquor Dealers”. It was a success and started his career in the publishing business. This included a semi-monthly trade magazine titled “Mida’s Criteria” which reported not only on the industry news but also dedicated space to businesses that wished to register their trademarks. Mida firmly believed that registering trademarks and protecting them was needed for the growth of the industry. He publishes a volume of these trademarks in 1893 with a second volume in 1895 and a combined printing of both volumes in 1898.

Mida would also print a yearly “Financial Index” of the industry. In these books he listed every state in alphabetical order and then listed every liquor business in that state by city or county, once again in alphabetical order. At the beginning of the book was a scale that would list the value of the company from AAAA to H. The H rating meant the company was worth $1,000 – $2,000 while a AAAA rating meant it was worth over $1,000,000. If they were a distiller he would list the DSP number of their distillery or distilleries. If they were wine merchants, grocers or rectifiers, he would also list that fact.

Other publications produced by Mida were similar to his first publication. They were aimed at people in the liquor industry and explained the rules and regulations of the industry. These volumes were very useful at the time but of course Prohibition and the re-writing of the rules and regulations at its end make these early volumes only of interest as historical references. William Mida died in 1915 and his son Lee Mida took over the business. He too published a book on regulations at the end of Prohibition and started the trade magazine once again, but it was a short lived enterprise.

I have photocopies of many of these publications. The originals are at places like the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and the defunct United Distillers Archive. There are other originals of several of his financial Index books at The Filson Historical Society. These publications give a researcher a great deal of information on the liquor trade of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mida was well known at his time but almost forgotten today except for a few scholars of whiskey history and bottle collectors looking for information on old labels.