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The Social History of Bourbon

The Social History of Bourbon

Gerald Carson
FOREWORD BY MIKE VEACH
Copyright Date: 1963
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcq33
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    The Social History of Bourbon
    Book Description:

    The distinctive beverage of the Western world, bourbon is Kentucky's illustrious gift to the world of spirits. Although the story of American whiskey is recorded in countless lively pages of our nation's history, the place of bourbon in the American cultural record has long awaited detailed and objective presentation. Not a recipe book or a barman's guide, but a fascinating and informative contribution to Americana, The Social History of Bourbon reflects an aspect of our national cultural identity that many have long suppressed or overlooked. Gerald Carson explores the impact of the liquor's presence during America's early development, as well as bourbon's role in some of the more dramatic events in American history, including the Whiskey Rebellion, the scandals of the Whiskey Ring, and the "whiskey forts" of the fur trade. The Social History of Bourbon is a revealing look at the role of this classic beverage in the development of American manners and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2658-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Foreword to the New Edition
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    The Social History of Bourbon is the first scholarly examination of the distilling industry in the United States. When Carson wrote it in the early 1960s, Prohibition was still part of the living memory of many Americans, and the bourbon industry was enjoying a strong market. In his own way, Carson was exploring a new frontier.

    More than just a history of distillers, The Social History of Bourbon is the story of the saloon and the impetus to close down this uniquely American institution. Carson recognizes that Prohibition, on the surface a movement to stop the drinking of alcohol, was...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    G. C.
  5. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
    G. C.
  6. Chapter 1 DRINKS AND DRINKING IN EARLY AMERICA
    (pp. 1-10)

    LONG before recorded history, primitive man discovered that the molecular readjustment of the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms in a watery solution of fruit pulp which had been allowed to stand, produced a beverage which made the world seem a wonderful place. Fermentation was regarded, literally, as a gift from the gods, and seems to have been arrived at by widely separated peoples who used whatever was at hand that would take on the new and magical charm not present in the fresh juice. Dates and honey were tried with satisfactory results, the palms of the tropics, mare’s milk and,...

  7. Chapter 2 WATERMELON ARMIES AND WHISKEY BOYS
    (pp. 11-23)

    WHEN one recalls that the President of the United States, the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Treasury and the governors of four states once mobilized against the farmers of western Pennsylvania almost as large an army as ever took the field in the Revolutionary War, the event appears at first glance as one of the more improbable episodes in the annals of this country. Thirteen thousand grenadiers, dragoons, foot soldiers and pioneers, a train of artillery with six-pounders, mortars and several “grasshoppers,” equipped with mountains of ammunition, forage, baggage and a bountiful stock of tax-paid whiskey, paraded over...

  8. Chapter 3 BOURBON’S COUNTRY COUSIN
    (pp. 24-32)

    DOWN-RIVER from Redstone Old Fort the pioneer settlers from Pennsylvania and the upper valley of Virginia, Catholics from Maryland who knew the art of distilling Maryland rye whiskey, floated to Kentucky with their burr-mills and copper stills. They were raising their cabins, cultivating a corn patch, setting up furnaces and stills when American Independence was barely won and when that sound in the velvety Kentucky night might be either the hoot of an owl or an exchange of signals among skulking Indians. Other movers gathered at the Blockhouse in the Holston section of North Carolina to “settle out” in the...

  9. Chapter 4 THE FIRST TRUE BOURBON
    (pp. 33-49)

    SOME time around 1776 Elijah Pepper settled at what came to be known as the “Old Pepper Spring” near Lexington, Kentucky, on the Frankfort Pike. There he built a log cabin distillery about 1780. Elijah was followed by a son, Oscar, and then a grandson, James E. Pepper, who became a great name in distilling annals. The family continued in the business until 1900, maintaining the trademark “Old 1776” and flaunting the advertising slogan, “Born with the Republic.” Outside observers have viewed the historicity of this claim with reserve, and have said that Elijah’s first run of corn juice was...

  10. Chapter 5 A NAME WITH A MELODY ALL ITS OWN–KENTUCKY
    (pp. 50-61)

    THE people who before 1789 came over the trace from points on the Ohio River or walked out to Kentucky from the Yadkin and the Holston rivers had something to escape from—the post-war depression, the weak Confederation, taxes, the political and economic ascendancy of the federalists. They had something to search for—land. These pilgrims sought, too, that earthly paradise, perhaps, which ancient chronicles had variously located and now was reliably reported by wandering hunters and surveyors to be Kentucky, a vale of loveliness. As an Ohio boatman expressed the garden myth to Charles Fenno Hoffman, the poet and...

  11. Chapter 6 THE DARK AGE OF AMERICAN DRINKING
    (pp. 62-70)

    SHREWD and readable Anne Royall, who earned her living in the second quarter of the last century by traveling widely in the United States and publishing accounts of her observations of men and manners, wrote repeatedly of encountering everywhere among the ordinary people a firm determination to enliven all huskings, housewarmings, christenings, hay mowings, eye-gougings and dull Sundays with immoderate drafts of American whiskey. In Washington City, two hundred workmen were employed on the construction of the Capitol of whom, she estimated, “there are perhaps not half a dozen sober men,” while the premises swarmed with “abandoned females” who sold...

  12. Chapter 7 WHISKEY IN THE CIVIL WAR
    (pp. 71-80)

    IN troubled times men seek the solace of religion or strong drink, or both. When the northern volunteers started out for camp in 1861 some turned to their Bibles and meditated upon the ends of man. But the majority were in more festive mood. As soon as home was well out of sight, one sergeant of the Second Massachusetts wrote to his mother, “the band boys handed around the whiskey bottle.” Army life brought many soldiers into contact with spirituous liquors for the first time and their experiences during “the quadrennium” undoubtedly widened the demand for hard liquor in the...

  13. Chapter 8 GOLDEN YEARS OF THE BOURBON ARISTOCRACY
    (pp. 81-93)

    A FEW of the antebellum whiskey-makers survived the destruction and confusion of war, such as the Dants, the Wathens and the Beams. The majority disappeared from the distilling scene because of death and wounds, because the old homestead was in ruins, because the distillery had burned down or because the family capital had been put into Confederate bonds. Speculation in whiskey and whiskey properties had risen to dizzy heights. Ownership of existing blocks of whiskeys, rights to old and honored names, sites of distilleries, all changed hands rapidly under the pressures and opportunities of new times.

    New firms began the...

  14. Chapter 9 DRINKING DOWN THE NATIONAL DEBT
    (pp. 94-101)

    UNDER the Constitution of the United States, Congress has power to levy every kind of tax, direct and indirect, at a specific rate or ad valorem; that is, in proportion to value. The only limitation placed upon this taxing power is that direct taxes shall be uniform throughout the United States, and that they shall be apportioned among the states. In practice, the national government obtained its revenues before the Civil War chiefly from customs duties levied upon foreign commodities rather than from internal imposts. From the time when President Jefferson’s administration repealed the taxes which had provoked the Whisky...

  15. Chapter 10 MOONSHINE AND HONEYSUCKLE
    (pp. 102-113)

    EVERY so often for a generation after the end of the Civil War a fellow who lived back on the ridge would come into town to liquor up and enjoy county court day or to renew his mortgage. And he would hear about how there was some kind of new federal law against “makin’ ” under which some of the boys had been “penitentiaried.” This was hard to swallow especially, as was often the case, when the blockader had fought to preserve the U.S. government, which now said that he could turn his corn into hogs but not the white...

  16. Chapter 11 THE GREAT WHISKEY STEAL
    (pp. 114-127)

    A SHODDY episode in the moral history of whiskey became a matter of public knowledge in the mid-1870’s. In this affair the United States Treasury was raided by its own high officers as well as minor functionaries who got their pinch, too, as a result of a cozy arrangement with large distillers in various urban centers who turned out “crooked” whiskey.

    The federal excise tax on liquor had no more than gone into effect than a suspicion arose that distillers and rectifiers were cheating on their payments. Increasingly, during the administration of Andrew Johnson, rumors were flying around Washington of...

  17. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  18. Chapter 12 THE HIGHWINE TRUST
    (pp. 128-136)

    THE sacred word “trust,” as used in the seventy-first Psalm, and as applied by the courts to the protection of widows, orphans and all who are weak and dependent, acquired a new and disturbing meaning in the last two decades of the nineteenth century when the trust became a subtle legal shelter for commercial combinations or cartels aiming at monopoly. The device of the trust came into general use after the Standard Oil Company had developed it as a means of eliminating competitors. Whiskey quickly followed the lead of oil, and the “Whiskey Trust” in the late 1880’s and early...

  19. Chapter 13 WESTWARD THE JUG OF EMPIRE TOOK ITS WAY
    (pp. 137-148)

    RED liquor accompanied the westering Americans in their occupation of the North American continent in such bounteous quantities—by bottle, jimmy-john, cask and barrel—that Mark Twain once suggested the line stamped on the back cover of Bancroft’s History of the United States, “Westward the star of empire takes its way,” would better reflect the American experience if rendered “Westward the jug of empire …”

    Bullwhackers, traders, trappers, hide hunters and soldiers, sod busters, gold seekers—they crossed the Mississippi, left behind the old civilization of the eastern forest region, settled the short grass plains, pushed on to the land...

  20. Chapter 14 A SOFA WITH EVERY CASE
    (pp. 149-162)

    THERE was little point in the distilling industry’s arranging for a well-developed “Miss Bourbon” to smile prettily, wear a tiara and wave her jeweled scepter over a barrel of whiskey during all those long decades when American whiskey was without identity. Promotional gimmicks and advertising, therefore, were not an important factor in moving wet goods to the thirsty until the beginning of the present century. Advertising meant “business card” announcements of names and prices, novelties such as art calendars, bar glasses, match boxes, pocket diaries and similar give-aways which were passed out to the trade. Bar whiskeys carried the label...

  21. Chapter 15 BUT–WHAT IS WHISKEY?
    (pp. 163-173)

    A KENTUCKY distiller of the old school, Colonel Attila Bird, central figure in Irvin S. Cobb’s novel, Red Likker, nourished his prejudices about his colleagues in the liquor business on such disparaging phrases as the “Whiskey Trust crowd,” the “Dutch crowd” in Cincinnati, the “Rectifying crowd” in Louisville. For them he expressed a sweeping contempt, as dealers in bogus wares.

    The old Colonel also recognized the “Canada crowd” and the “Rye crowds” of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Below the Kentucky state line dwelt the “Tennessee crowd.” For these latter groupings Colonel Bird felt a degree of tolerance. They were competitors entitled...

  22. Chapter 16 WHISKEY FUN AND FOLKLORE
    (pp. 174-186)

    “LEGENDS are the salad dressing of history,” wrote the late Gene Fowler, who became the occasion for quite a few legends himself in his newspaper career.

    What follows in this chapter is legend, mostly unverifiable and unlikely. Its matter consists of jesting sayings, fantastic adventures and farcical happenings involving an appreciation of whiskey or the results of drinking it. Its manner is that of the poker-faced blanket-stretchers who sat around the chunk stove in a cozy bar and created a kind of sub-literature for the sheer fun of it. Here is the style :

    “One time there was a fellow...

  23. Chapter 17 THE SWINGING DOOR
    (pp. 187-206)

    SCARCELY a man is now alive who has bellied up to the mahogany in an old-fashioned corner saloon and said to Mike or Otto, “the usual.”

    For more than fifty years over half of the states have been without saloons. Indeed, half of the total geography of the United States was legally dried up as long as seventy years ago. Since few women, other than painted Jezebels, ever saw the inside of a pre-World War I saloon, only a handful of grizzled male survivors remain who can remember the gilt beer sign at the corner, the swinging door screen, the...

  24. Chapter 18 THE ZENITH OF MAN’S PLEASURE
    (pp. 207-217)

    “THERE is nothing like a drink of bourbon to tone up a person,” according to “Pappy” Van Winkle. As a sage of the industry and the Grand Old Man behind Old Fitzgerald sour mash, whose business life-span includes both the modern industry and the memory of the old days before Prohibition, Mr. Van Winkle may possibly lack complete objectivity when he discusses this topic.

    Yet his personal experience only serves to enhance the reputation of his favorite solace which Sir William Osler called, referring to whiskey generally, “the milk of old age.” For ’way back when he was only eighty-six,...

  25. Chapter 19 BOURBON: FROM 1920 TO THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY
    (pp. 218-230)

    AT PRECISELY 12:01 A.M. on Saturday, January 17, 1920, any beverage containing one half of one per cent of alcohol or more was outlawed in the United States, as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution and the act for its enforcement went into effect. The latter measure, known as the Volstead Act, named after Representative Andrew J. Volstead of Minnesota, the devoted “dry” who introduced the bill into the House, provided drastic penalties for making or selling liquor.

    The administration of the law was placed under the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Enforcement machinery was incomplete when Prohibition Eve arrived, but...

  26. CHRONOLOGY
    (pp. 231-234)
  27. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 235-238)
  28. CHAPTER NOTES
    (pp. 239-270)
  29. INDEX
    (pp. 271-280)
  30. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-281)