Sunday, July 4, 2010

Old Pepper - A Brief History of the Carroll Wholesale Liquor Enterprise

The firm of Carroll & Carroll dates back to 1859. John Carroll established a fledgling wholesale liquor house @ 50 N. 1sr St. in S.F. The business grew, and in early 1860, John took on his son Richard T. (R.T.) Carroll as book-keeper. 1869 saw R.T. functioning in the capacity of full partner. In 1870 Richard T. entered into a partnership with Richard Brainerd, and the firm was launched as Carroll, Brainerd & Co. In 1874, Richard T. Carroll bought out Brainerd’s interest and the firm was renamed Carroll R.T. & Co. They were located at 305 – 307 Front St. (in the heart of the S.F. wholesale liquor district) at this time. They moved to 328 Sansome in 1879 and remained there until 1882.

The firm prospered and in 1882 R.T. decided to expand the business. He took on John Abrams and George L. Carroll (a relative; either brother or son of Richard) as partners in order to infuse more cash into the business. In 1882 they moved to 3 – 5 Front St., remaining there until 1887. The company was renamed Carroll, Abrams & Carroll, and remained so until 1887. In 1887 Abrams sold his interest to the two Carroll’s and the firm became Carroll & Carroll. In 1888 a move was made to 109 Front St., where they remained for one year. 1890 saw a move to 306 Market, where they remained until 1901, at which time they relocated to 120 Front St. The firm continued doing business as Carroll & Carroll until 1902, when they decided to call it quits; (good timing as the Great Earthquake and Fire of ’06 was on the horizon). The firm was sold to McDonald & Cohn in 1902, ending over a half century of presence in the S.F. wholesale liquor scene.

From what we know, based on existing labeled bottles, billheads and letterheads; their sole brand was "Old Pepper" whiskey. Pepper was purchased in bulk from the Jas. E. Pepper distillery located in Lexington, Kentucky. A total of three embossed molds were used over the years. One slug plate that was fairly non-descript, and two that are fairly ornate. All are scarce, with the slug plate (oldest) being the scarcest.

Some of the Pepper Distillery variants (B-637) are quite crude and are early enough (ca. 1888 - 1905) to warrant the longstanding rumor of the existence of a glop top. This particular example has a notably crooked neck, is hammered with whittle, has color striations worthy of a post on the glop top site with the other "swirlys"at this time and appears to be days away from having an applied top.

The other variant (B-638, dating ca. 1890 - 1902) is almost always neatly made but on rare occasions has been seen in colors approaching lollipop yellow. It too, is rumored to exist with an applied top.

Oddly enough, Carroll Rye (which one would naturally associate with this company) was actually distributed by Louis Taussig & Co.; also a San Francisco firm that was in business from 1856 though 1918, when closed down by the Volstead Act and prohibition.

Happy 4th!

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