Schenley Distilleries created a newsletter for their employees. It started at their corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1937. I am fortunate enough to have the bound volume of the newsletter Remarks Of Merit from January 1938 and January 1939. It is a fascinating collection of stories and I thought I would share some of its content on my blog.
One of the first articles in the January 1938 issue reported that Wathen Knebelkamp moves up from being the Chief Distiller (note: not master distiller, a term they did not use in 1938) to the Divisional Manager for Schenley.
Knebelkamp was born near the Athertonville Distillery in Athertonville, Kentucky where his father was the distiller. In 1929, Knebelkamp went to work for American Medicinal Spirits and in 1932 he was in Charge of the Mt. Vernon Distillery in Baltimore. In the fall of 1933, Wathen moved back to Louisville and went to work under his father at the Sunnybrook Distillery. In 1934, Knebelkamp joined the newly created Bernheim Distillery as their distiller. Schenley purchased Bernheim in 1937 and in 1938 they placed him in charge of all of the Kentucky distilleries which included the Geo. T. Stagg and James E. Pepper Distilleries. As a side note, after the war Knebelkamp left Schenley to become the General Manager of Churchill Downs.
An article from the March 1938 issue is about the three generations of workers at the New England Rum Distillery in Covington. The New England Rum Distillery survived Prohibition by making denatured rum for the use of flavoring cigarettes. Schenley acquired the distillery in 1937. The three generations discussed are William Blank,Jr., who was the Distillery Supervisor, the position his father, William Blank Sr. had held for years. William Jr.’s son Arthur Blank worked as Assistant Supervisor under his father. The article includes a history of the family involvement at the distillery.
In May 1938, an article titled “Continuity” was published about Frank G. Stagg, the son of George T. Stagg, who was still working at the Geo. T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort and George L. P. Squibb, the son of Fredrick Sqibb, who owned the Old Quaker Distillery starting in 1871. The article gives the history of their family involvement in the distilleries.
Not all of the articles focus on the executives of the Schenley distilleries. There is an article from June 1938 titled “Federal Agent”. This article is about Captain Paul J. Heckert, the Captain of Security at the Jos. S. Finch Distillery in Pennsylvania. Before coming to work at the Finch Distillery, Heckert was a bodyguard for President Hoover. The article tells Heckert’s story and includes a reproduction of an autographed photograph of president Hoover.
The December 1938 issue has an article titled “Happy Days Are Here Again” that discusses the prosperity brought on with the Repeal of Prohibition. The article was written to celebrate the fifth anniversary or the passage of the 21st Amendment. It had been a hard five years with whiskey shortages hamstringing the growth of Schenley, but finally, the Company had four year old whiskey in plentiful supply and indeed, “Happy Days Are Here Again”. The article discusses how the company was growing and investing in the future.
These are just a few of the main articles found in the newsletters. There are many more articles describing the people and distilleries that made up the Schenley Corporation at that time. There are news articles reporting on some of the fun activities of the employees. This included baseball, basketball and leagues created for the employees. Schenley had trophies made and held tournaments between the distilleries. News also included many obituaries of employees. All told, these articles are for all employees – executives and workers, men and women. It is a very good newsletter for a very progressive company that would become the largest spirits company in the United States after the war. Full of history and interesting to read.