Hiram Walker was born on July 4, 1816 in East Douglas, MA. As a young man, he worked in a dry goods store in Boston, but ca. 1838 traveled to MI and settled in Detroit. Here, he established a successful grocery business.
In 1856, Walker bought a 468 acre tract of land in Walkerville, just across the Detroit River in the Canadian province of Ontario. Here, he built a flour mill and distillery. The location was shrewd given the rising tide of Prohibition in the US, but he maintained his residence and business outlet on the Detroit side of the international border.
The distillery was functional by 1858 and in 1859 Walker hired John McBride to act as a salesman for the endeavor. McBride became a partner in the newly formed "Hiram Walker & Co." in 1863 and he remained until 1867.
In 1871, the name changed to "Hiram Walker & Son", reflecting the addition of Hiram Walker's son, Edward Chandler, to the business, and in 1873, another son (Franklin Harrington) joined and the company became "Hiram Walker & Sons." The company was famous for its brand "Walker's Club Whisky", a light blend that was so popular with the US consumer that competitors forced legislation forcing country of origin to be displayed on the bottle label. Walker thus changed the name to "Canadian Club" and the brand became even more successful, to the point where his competitors started labeling their product as Canadian and forcing Walker to fight them in court and in the press on the basis of fraud.
Hiram Walker retired in 1895 after being paralyzed by a stroke; he died in 1899. The business stayed in the family however, with Edward Chandler serving as President from 1899-1915; Franklin Hiram, James Harrington and Harrington Walker presided in the years that followed.
In 1926, control of the company was sold to Harry C Hatch, the new owner of the Gooderham & Worts distillery of Toronto. Business boomed during Prohibition, even though production was limited to medicinal spirits. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, a new plant was constructed in Peoria, IL.
The company used the brand names:
"Biltmore", "Canadian Club", "Canadian Club", "Gold Capsule", "Hiram Walker", "Imperial", "The Epicure", "W", and "Walker's Father Time."
Business name timeline:
Hiram Walker & Co. (1863-1867), Hiram Walker & Son (1871-1872) Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. (1873-1901), Hiram Walker Co. Ltd., (1902-1915), Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd. (1916-1926)
24 Atwater e. (1898-1900), 188 Jefferson Ave (1902-1905), 52-54 Shelby (1908-1916)
Business category timeline (abbreviations decoded below):
Years that company appeared in directories
Years directories were consulted
Detroit directory notes
The images below are thumbnails linked to listing pages containing larger, more detailed images and links to related material.
Click on the thumbnails for more information.
1898, 1900, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1908, 1910, 1912, 1916
1890, 1892, 1894, 1896, 1898, 1900, 1902, 1904, 1905, 1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1916
W = wines & liquors, wholesale; W-R =wines & liquors, wholesale and retail, I = Importer, G = wine grower (1892), D = distiller (1902)
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