I like old trade magazines. They are full of historical information, old advertising and other useful information. When I find one, I add it to my archive and I copy them and donate the original copy to a public archive such as the Filson Historical Society, The Kentucky Historical Society or a University archive so they will be available to the public for research.
The Spirits Magazine I have here is a photocopy, but the original magazine is at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and at the Filson. In May 1936 there were a lot of distilleries being opened. Prohibition had ended about a year and a half earlier. Old brands were being re-established and new people were entering the business. This issue of Spirits covered a variety of subjects of interest to these newly opened distilleries. This issue contains an article about a regulation designed to prevent overproduction. One article discusses advertising and sales. And there are several articles dealing with the heritage of the industry.
The most commonly viewed article is probably the one titled “Kentucky’s Sons: Family Trees of Noted Distillers.” The list of Family trees is interesting. The families are as listed in the article: Beam, Bixler, Brown, George G., Brown, J.T.S., Coffey, Cummins, Dant, Dowling, Hawkins, Hayden, Hollenbach, Ice, Johnson, Labrot, McGill, McGowan, McKenna, Medley, Ripy, Thompson and Wathen. Each family tree is accompanied by a couple of paragraphs about each family’s history and then a section titled “Vital Data”. This last section deals with where this family was distilling in 1936.
There are other articles of historical note. One of my favorite articles is titled “A Kentucky old timer looks at his contemporaries”. It is an interview with A. L. Hinze, the President of the K. Taylor Distillery. He briefly discusses some of his memories of people in the industry in pre-Prohibition days, some of which were still in the industry in 1936. Here is what he had to say about Julian Van Winkle:
“Then, there is the able and many-sided Julian van Winkle., who is at the head of the fine, new Stitzel-Weller distillery. He is a master salesman, a prince of a good fellow, and a thorough whisky man. He is one of the best distilling authorities in the country, notwithstanding the fact that he shocked all of Main Street prior to prohibition by wearing a bright red straw hat in the dead of winter.”
Other articles of historical interest include “Kentucky’s Technique – Then and Now”, “Biographies – An Historical Background” and “Packaging Art – Good and New Designs in the Spirit Ware”. These articles help give the background of many brands of the day. All very interesting reads for a historian of the whiskey industry.
The magazine also has many advertising pages with most of the distillers placing ads for their brands. These advertisements showcase bottle designs, label designs and the marketing themes of the day. They often include images of the newly opened distillery as well. Anyone looking to revive an old brand, even if the magazine does not have an advertisement for the brand, it would do well to look at this issue’s advertising to see what was being produced in the 1930s.
Old trade magazines are great sources of history. If you have an interest in the subject, then I would highly recommend making a trip to the Filson or the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History and looking at this particular issue. It will be worth your time.
Images from the archives of Michael Veach