Back in the 19th century, before the government had a trade mark registration system, the spirits industry would register their trade marks in the trade magazines. Mida’s Criteria of Chicago and Bonforts’s Wine and Spirits Circular of New York were the two major trade magazines that would serve this purpose. The prospective spirits brand would be submitted to the magazine; if there were no other businesses using that name it would be published, most often with an illustration of the barrel head brand or label, but sometimes simply the name. Even after the government started registering trademarks in the 1880s, companies would still send the trademark to the trade magazines for publication. In 1899, Mida’s Criteria published a book with their trademark registrations to the public. This made it easier for people to know what was already registered and in use in the market.

I have a photocopy of this book. An original is in the collection of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown. This is a very good source of information on brands. The registration gives the date when the trade mark was first used and the company that has registered the trade mark. This information can help date the age of a brand. It is interesting for example that Four Roses dates their brand to 1888, but in Mida’s National Register Paul Jones registered it as being in use since 1869. The Mida’s date is probably the accurate date since he created the brand in 1869 in Atlanta, after the American Civil War. 1888 is the year that they registered it with the United States Government after Congress created a registry. Four Roses is going with the official government registration rather the brand’s creation. They could legitimately claim another 19 years to their trademark.

The book is good for researching other brands for possible use. Many of the brands in the book are long gone from the market. There were many interesting brands in 1899 that would make good names for artisan distillers today. Of course, there are others that are not such good choices. From a random page in the book, page 85, there are eight registrations. They are:

  • Walnut Hill Woodford County Pure Rye
  • Carlisle Standard Sour Mash Whiskey Frankfort Ky.
  • University Club Hand Made Sour Mash Kentucky Whisky
  • Crystal Springs Distilling Co. Sour Mash
  • Kentucky’s Corn Flower Hand Made Sour Mash Whisky
  • Garland O.D. Fire Copper Bourbon
  • Old Jug Old Fashioned Whisky
  • Original Frazier Hand Made Sour Mash Whiskey

Three of the trade marks, Carlisle, Crystal Springs and Garland are registered by Geo. T. Stagg Co. with Carlisle in use since 1880 and the other two new in 1899. Two of them. University Club and Kentucky’s Cornflower, registered by Nathan F. Block in 1891. C.M. Graves & Sons registered Walnut Hill as in use since 1889, J & A Freiberg registered Old Jug as in use since June 1891 and Mayer Bros. & Co. registered Original Frazier in 1899.

This random page shows the range of names registered and who registered them and how old they were when the book was published in 1899. Buffalo Trace could easily revive any of the Geo. T. Stagg brands and have a legitimate claim to their heritage. The other brands could even be used by new distillers or revived by an existing company. I could easily see Woodford Reserve bringing back a Walnut Hill rye whiskey with its heritage in Woodford County. The book has 203 pages of registered trademarks. Not all are original, as some brands have multiple registrations as they changed designs, but there are still plenty to choose from when researching a new brand. There are also 9 pages of gin trademarks, 12 pages of “Sundries” that include brandies, bitters, tonics, Liqueurs and cocktails amongst other things, 15 pages of wines and 39 pages of malt liquors.

The book is a very good research tool. Whether you are looking for the heritage of and existing brand or looking to revive an old brand, Mida’s National register is a place to start. It is also good for research brands of old spirits companies, but it is hard to use for that purpose. The index is by brand name and not company, which means you have to look at every page and the registration to find the company. However, once a company is found it also gives the location of the company such as Geo.T. Stagg, Frankfort, Ky.  This is one of the most used resources in my archive.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach