1870: Brown-Forman was founded by George Garvin Brown and his half-brother, John Thompson Street Brown, Jr., operating as J. T. S. Brown & Bro. George Brown had previously worked with a drug company. The firm purchased quality straight whiskies from J.M. Atherton Co., (the Atherton and Mayfield distilleies, the Mellwood distillery in Louisville (RD #34, 5th District), and J.B.Mattingly at St. Marys in Marion county, which they blended and sold in the form of barrel goods as "Sidroc Bourbon", "Atherton Bourbon", and "Mellwood Bourbon". Later they introduced the "Old Forrester" brand (eventually becoming "Old Forester") , named after a Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Old Forrester was sold in bottles to prevent adulteration by unscrupulous wholesalers and saloon-keepers and thereby established a quality brand that the company became famous for.
1872: J. T. S. Brown & Bro. hired George Forman of Paris, KY, as a salesman. Forman later became the company's bookkeeper.
1873: Henry Chambers became a major stockholder in the firm, so it was renamed Brown, Chambers & Co. Chambers was associated with a drug company and had given George Brown his first job. J.T.S. Brown left the partnership sometime soon afterwards.
1876: James Thompson, a native of Ireland and a relative, was hired.
1879: James Thompson and George Forman formed a sales agency to represent Brown, Chambers & Co.
1881: Henry Chambers retired and sold his shares in Brown, Chambers & Co. to George Brown, James Thompson and George Forman. The company was renamed Brown, Thompson & Co., with Forman as a junior partner.
1890: Thompson sold out to George Brown and George Forman in order to buy the Glenmore Distillery from the Monarch estate. The name then became Brown, Forman & Co., Brown owning 90% and Forman 10% of the partnership.
1892: the company was being supplied by the Pleasure Ridge Park distillery of Kentucky's 5th district: see the distillery listing for more details.
1901: George Forman died and his widow sold his share in the company to George Brown and was granted permission to continue the name. George Brown incorporated as Brown-Forman Co., capital $100,000.
1902: The company acquired the Ben Mattingly Distillery at St. Marys, KY and became the Brown-Forman Distillery Co.
1904: George Brown's son Owsley joined the firm. Company letterheads from the time show the board of directors to consist of: George G Brown (President), T T Wallis (VP), Wm B Penwick (Secretary & Treasurer), Fontaine T Kremer (Asst. to the President), Vernon Brown, M MT Alexander, John B Cary and W C Perry.
1917: George Brown died and his son Owsley took over the company.
1920: Prohibition. Owsley Brown secured one of only 10 federal permits that allowed whiskies to be stored and distributed to druggists for medicinal purposes.
Company website: http://www.brown-forman.com
The company used the brand names:
"Beech Fork", "Cloverdale", "Diamond Bluff", "Fox Mountain", "Gilded Age", "Hawthorne", "La Rue", "La Rue's Best", "Major Paul", "Major Paul's Widow", "Mason Rye", "Mc B", "O. S. K.", "Old Forester", "Old Forman", "Old Mason Rye", "Old Polk", "Old Tucker", "Old Webwood", "Russett", "Sidros Bourbon", "Tucker", "Tucker Rye", and "Widow Mc Bee."
Business name timeline:
J T S Brown & Bro. (1871-1873), Brown, Chambers & Co. (1874), Brown, Thompson & Co. (1881-1889), Brown, Forman & Co. (1891-1903), Brown-Forman Dist. Co. (D: 1903), Brown-Forman Co. (1904-1919)
320-322 Main, nr 8 th (1871-1873), 209 Main, nr 8 th (1874), 243 Main, nr 7 th (1881),123-125 W Main (1882-1909), 117 W Main (1909-1919)
Business category timeline (abbreviations decoded below):
Years that company appeared in directories
Years directories were consulted
Louisville 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.
1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1897, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919
1866, 1867, 1869, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1897, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919
W = Wines & Liquors, I = Importers, D = Distillers, R = Rectifiers, DA = Distillerís Agents, B = Brokers (1892), S = Saloons (1905), M = Mail Order House (1915). Listings for wholesalers from 1866 to 1869 and for distillers 1866 through to 1906 were compiled from a typescript prepared by Norma Snyder. 1887 and 1889 wholesaler listings are partial, missing last names in the alphabet, 1890, 1895 missing their entirety. No copies of listings in any category for 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901. 1888 has a partial list of Importers (not found in copies for other years). 1905 copies include Saloons (not incorporated). 1906 is incomplete for distillers, missing wholesalers.
1881 witnessed a major city-wide street reorganization so all addresses change. In 1909, there is a second renumbering and this year shows both old and the new number in brackets.
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