This is a corporate history commissioned by Brown-Forman for their centennial celebration in 1970. The hired John Ed Pearce, a local journalist, to write the book and allowed him access to private family papers and interviews with family members. The result is a history that is more than a marketing book. It is out of print but you can find copies in used book stores from time to time.  It was given to Brown-Forman employees and the best place to find a copy will be in Louisville. If you find it, get it. It is a truly great history of a fine Kentucky distilling company and family.

Nothing Better In The Market by John Ed Pearce. Louisville,Ky.: Brown-Forman Distillers Corporation, 1970. Contents, Acknowledgements, Bibliography, Illustrated, pp.96.

This book was published by Brown-Forman to celebrate their 100th Anniversary in the business. In most cases this would mean written by the marketing department and full of fluff. That is not the case in this book. They hired John Ed Pearce to write the history. He was a noted newspaper reporter with the Courier-Journal and he wrote an honest history of the company.

The book starts with George Garvin Brown’s early history and how the company was formed when George Garvin went into business with his half-brother J.T.S. Brown and they created the Old Forrester (two “r’s” originally) brand. The company evolves as JTS Brown sold his share and other partners joined – including Brown’s cousin James Thompson who later founded James Thompson and Brother, before it finally became Brown-Forman.

There were tough times when Brown went bankrupt and had to struggle to get by, but managed not only to pull himself out of debt but to pay back those he owed money to during his bankruptcy. It discusses Prohibition and Brown’s reply to the issue and the company doing business during prohibition selling medicinal alcohol. His sons took over the company after his death and led the company to its centennial in 1970 when the book was written.

This book is one of the better examples of a corporate history. It is honestly written and with great illustrations of people places and advertisements. This book should be added to a good bourbon library.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller