What does this database contain?
In the years before prohibition, virtually every liquor dealer worth his
salt plied his or her customers with proprietary brands of whiskey, gin and
rum. Often these beverages were little more than raw alcohol with
added flavor and color (often toxic in nature: read a blender's recipe book), but the more expensive brands were blends of whiskies from
respected distillers. The distillers themselves also bottled
proprietary brands which were sold through the mail and liquor
wholesalers. Given that even the smallest towns in the US had several
liquor dealers, this meant that the number of brand names in use at this time
was in the tens of thousands. There was considerable overlap in usage -
for example, most dealers created brands that they labeled "Monogram"
or "Old Reserve", but many more brand names were unique. This
database is a compilation of those brands and matches them with their original
How was the database compiled?
Nowadays, brands and trademarks are routinely documented and are
protected by law. In the 1800's, there was no such law. Similarly,
there were no laws governing the quality of liquor being sold to the
public, much of which was of low quality and routinely adulterated. Some
whiskey was of excellent quality, however, and the distillers and blenders who
manufactured these bona fide spirits became understandably protective of
their brands upon which their reputation was based. Some
attempted to protect their brand names by registering them with the US patent
office and these records have survived to this day. But in the final
decades of 1800's, William Mida saw a need to produce a more easily
accessible record of trademarks and compiled "Mida's National
Register of Trade Marks - Spirituous and Malt Liquors and Wines".
Mida was the editor of a trade publication and was himself a blender and
wholesaler. The Register was comprised of two volumes, dating to around
1895 (Vol. I) and 1900 (Vol. II). In 1905, the US Government enacted a
national trademark law and in the year that followed, hundreds of brands were
submitted and registered by the patent office (read
more about Mida and the history of whiskey trademarks). This database includes data
from from all of these sources.
The database also contains information gleaned from all of
the paper (letterheads, billheads, promotional materials) and other advertising
from the old industry. Letterheads often proudly displayed
trademarks and brand information, while sales leaflets showed pictures of the
bottles alongside prices. Bottles, jugs, and shot glasses
that have survived from this era often reveal information about a brand and owner and all of this information has been used in compiling the
The work continues.
Most of the original work on compiling this database was done by Bob Snyder,
founder and curator of the "Snyder Whiskey Research
Center". Bob made his accumulated data available to us
through the release of "Whiskey Brands", a loose-leaf ring
binder containing 96 pages listing 7,648 brands and their owners.
This information was converted to electronic form by
Howard Currier. The pages of Whiskey Brands are not numbered,
but the listings are grouped in several distinct sections according to how and when the
brands were researched. Howard created section and page identifiers
for his own copy and his conventions have been preserved and perpetuated here.
This allows one to refer back from the electronic database to the relevant page in Whiskey Brands.
The key is as follows (section cover pages are ignored):
Whiskey Brands Registered by the Government From 1870-1919
Whisky labels registered with the US Patent Office for years 1875-1919.
Unregistered Whiskey Brands Used by the Industry From 1870-1919. (Researched 1970-1985)
Unregistered Whiskey Brands Used by the Industry From 1870-1919. (Researched 1985-2002)
Another short list compiled in 2002
Additional Brands Researched 2003
These additional 440 Whiskey Brands were gleaned from William Mida's Register of Trade Marks for Spirits
published about 1895.
Steve Abbott independently published a small booklet entitled "California Whiskey Trademarks, 1864-1916."
It contains brands registered with the state of California, many of which were not included in Whiskey Brands. Brands in
the database that came from Steve Abbott's work are tagged with an "sa##" identifier.
As of today, the database contains 10,904 listings. New brands are added
continually, using the same types of research material used by Bob Snyder,
including letterheads, billheads, advertising flyers, bottles and shots.
As Bob notes in Whiskey Brands (see p. sy01), "There is no stopping
place in collecting Whiskey Brands".
YOU can help! Just send whatever information you have (scans
or copies of the original material is preferred so that it can be filed for
future reference, but we'll take whatever form it comes in). You WILL be credited. Contact the
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