Peter Jablonski - Table of Contents

The History of the Whiskey Business in Buffalo, New York
By Peter Jablonski (E-mail)

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E. N. Cook and Co.

E. N. Cook and Co.

Charles Person's Sons

Charles Person's Sons

Charles Person's Sons

Charles Person's Sons

Charles Person's Sons

Charles Person's Sons

Charles Person

Bernhardt Bros.

J. Christ Bernhardt

Gillig and Bernhardt

Gillig and Sons

Bernhardt Bros.

Malone Building

John F. Malone

Reardon and Malone

F. Malone

John Grimm

James M. Merritt

James M. Merritt store

A. J. Wolkowiak

A. J. Wolkowiak store

Detail - A. J. Wolkowiak store

According to an 1887 book The History of Buffalo, there were only 3 distilleries in New York State in 1887 and two were located in Buffalo. The third was on Long Island.

The government was taxing 90 cents per gallon and forcing companies to manufacture 80% of their capacity whether for a loss or profit. This necessitated many of them to shut down. Many of the vacated buildings became warehouses. Because Buffalo was a grain terminus, the two largest in the state were located here. In a pooling agreement, the other distilleries were concentrated in Kentucky, Illinois, North Carolina, and Georgia with a scattering in a few other states.

The first still on record here was built in a little frame shanty on the Seneca plank road, about five years after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1826. There may have been others but this was the first of its kind to be dignified by the name of distillery, and it was the only one so called for a number of years.

The property came into the possession of Thomas Clark in the 1840's, and he erected a large frame building which served as a malt house. In 1862 when Congress first passed a law imposing tax on distilled spirit, Mr. Clark was producing 1,000 gallons per day. The Old Red Jacket Distillery, as it was called was named in honor of the most distinguished of visitors, the celebrated Seneca Indian chieftain.

The second distillery was built by Mr. George Truscott at the corner of Pratt and William Streets just before the Civil War.

Thomas Moore purchased it under the operation of the internal revenue law and in May 1872 Mr. George Farthing assumed an interest, the firm being named Thomas Moore's Son and Co. In 1883, the government took possession under a warrant for failure to maintain the stipulated eighty percent of the total capacity of the distillery. This claim was compromised by paying a large sum of money to the government.

The property was sold and operated by E. N. Cook and Company. For many years the distillery paid $30,000 a month in taxes. In a word, the distilling industry of Buffalo and Western New York was comprised within a single name, that of E. N. Cook and Company. The rest of the dealers were whiskey wholesalers.

Charles Person and Sons

One cannot talk about the history of the whiskey business in Buffalo without mentioning one of the most prominent wholesaler dealers in fine wines and liquors, Charles Person and Sons.

Charles Person emigrated to the United States in 1840 from Alsace, France, and settled in Buffalo. Person's stores were located at 390 and 392 Elm St. between Genesee and Tupper. The premises occupied were 50 by 100 feet, five floors, and contained the finest facilities for handling the firm's immense trade which extended beyond Western New York into Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio. The sign on the store read "rectifier" as well which would imply that they not only sold whiskey, they distilled it. Perhaps they received a semifinished product and purified it before it was sold.

They were famous for their Buffalo Club Whiskey and were the sole proprietors of Person's Kraeuter Bitters.

The business was established in 1850 and closed during Prohibition never to reopen.

A 1898 Biography of Erie County lists the brothers in the business:

Based on the large number of stoneware advertising jugs that are around today, one gets the sense that they were a successful business in Buffalo. Other advertisement items such as openers, tip trays, and lighters are less prevalent.

The grave of Charles Person who died in 1885 is located in Forest Lawn Cemetery where many of Buffalo's prominent citizens were buried. It is an obelisk, above average in size and is made of Medina sandstone .

Bernhardt Bros. Beer, Wines, and Liquors, at Washington St. in Buffalo were importers and wholesale dealers in foreign and native wines and liquors. Office and stores were located at 297, 299 and 301 Washington St.

The firm started in 1848 as Gillig and Bernhardt. In 1886 it became Bernhardt Bros. after the retirement of Gillig.

See also: Poster at Old Editions Book Shop and Café - "A. Baetzhold, Importer of and Dealer in Wines and Liquors, Nos. 567, 569, and 571 Michigan St., cor. Cypress, Buffalo, N.Y."

Illustrations supplied by the author
Page by Chuck LaChiusa
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