Vol. 4, No. 4, Saturday December 1, 2007

by dick bales

In Historic Shot Glasses (HSG), Barbara Edmonson notes on page 4 that the pre-Prohibition years were the proverbial glory days of the whiskey industry. Prior to January 16, 1920, thousands of both large and small businesses produced thousands of whiskey brands.


The Old and the New  (Part I)

With Prohibition came a dry spell, both figuratively and literally. When the 18th Amendment was repealed effective December 5, 1933, the road was paved for these firms to get back into business. Although many did just that, many, unfortunately, did not. The lean years of Prohibition had shut their doors permanently.

This article concerns those companies that did get back into business. That is, this article will compare the pre-Prohibition and post-Prohibition shot glasses of firms that were in the liquor industry both before and after the Prohibition era.

Note that it is not always easy to identify pre-pro and post-pro glasses. Ms. Edmonson remarks on page 7 in HSG that even she could not always distinguish between the two. She comments that although post-Prohibition glasses are generally thick-walled with even thicker, heavy bottoms, thick walls and a heavy bottom are not sure indications of contemporary production. In addition, the presence of embossed lettering is not always a characteristic of a post-pro glass.

Consider, for example, this Becker Bros. embossed glass. It dates from between 1900 and 1904, the only years the firm was in existence. Thus, it is embossed, but pre-pro.




One of my favorite Illinois glasses is this thick-walled and thick-bottomed (but pre-pro) John Grant bar glass.

And conversely, the fact that a glass is thin-walled does not mean that it is pre-Prohibition. Take a look at this Tennessee Squire glass. It certainly has the pre-pro look to it, but the pre-pro database notes that this is a post-repeal glass, made during the late 1960s by an Italian company for Jack Daniels to honor Tennessee Squire. A set of four gold-labeled glasses appeared on eBay in its original mailer; the mailer was dated Jan 10, 1967.

The Glasses
I wrote about the Chicago firm of Chapin and Gore in my August 2005 column. Compare this company’s embossed pre-pro glass to its post-pro version.

These two Chapin and Gore glasses could not be more dissimilar in appearance. But compare them to the shot glasses of Barney’s Market Club, another Chicago institution.

Its post-prohibition glass is fairly common (left).


But Barbara Edmonson catalogs a barrel-shaped glass on page 199 of Old Advertising Spirits Glasses whose apparent pre-pro design is virtually identical to its post-Prohibition brother (right).


Jack Daniels No. 7 is an institution. Robin notes in the database that no one is sure of the origin of the No. 7 brand name. One story is that seven barrels of whiskey became misplaced. When they were found, the clerk marked "No. 7" on invoices for the whiskey that went out from these barrels, and people began to write back for more of that “No. 7” whiskey.

Here is the glass in both pre-pro ...


and post-pro versions....

And speaking of No. 7: Most post-Prohibition glasses sell for just a few dollars on eBay. An exception to this general rule is the green Jack Daniels No. 7 “Ladies-Gentlemen-(Hog)” glass. Whenever this glass is placed on the eBay auction block, it always results in spirited bidding.

But the concept of showing humorous “small, medium, and (hog)” measurements on shot glasses is not a new one. Many companies did this in the pre-pro years.  The “Baseball Whiskey” glass shown here (above right) is just one of several that are in the pre-pro database.



This database notes that Paul Jones began making whiskey in Georgia in 1865. In 1866 he moved to Louisville and bought out (among other brands) Four Roses.

He continued to make medicinal whiskey during Prohibition. As shown here, Paul Jones whiskey and the Four Roses label remained in existence in the post-Prohibition era.

Chas. A. Zahn Co. began in 1887 as Benzli & Zahn, but changed its name in 1894. Compare these two glasses; Robin comments in the database that the thick-bottomed “cheater” glass may be a post-repeal glass.

The database lists several pre-pro “nightcap” novelty shot glasses. The George Truog glass shown here is probably one of the most desirable. The two other glasses, which certainly appear to be post-Prohibition, also show a figure wearing a nightcap, but this time the illustration is more obvious and direct; the man is pouring a “nightcap” as well.

to be continued...


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