Friday, April 13, 2012

Braunschweiger; The final chapter.

Here's a quick summary of what we've covered to date; the salesmans sample, family history and dysfunction, evolution of the business, brands, and his Oak Valley Distilling Co. of Covington Ky. (or not).

We'll finish up with an encore presentation by Herman Jr., take a peek  at some of their paper and advertising, have a look see at some of the glass produced to hold and sample their wares, view the Great 1906 Earthquake and Fire first hand, and finally bid adieu to one of the greats in the western whiskey saga.

On September 18, 1905 Herman Jr. once again in a drunken rage, makes an appearance. With Herman Sr. on his deathbed, Jr. enters and trashes the residence, breaking a window and cutting his arm. He is treated and booked, yet again.

Braunschweiger employed a number of different bill heads and invoices over the years. Stacks of barrels with the company's brands burned into the ends, and a depiction of the Extra Pony squat quart were recurring themes, as was a litho of their location on Drumm Street.

An ornate "calling card" was also produced. These were considered a must have in the sales arsenal of every successful whiskey drummer. One of these was, no doubt, used by the gentleman who spirited the salesmans samples around Nevada, California and Idaho at the turn of the century. Oh, and there's that pesky Oak Valley Distilling Co. poking up it's head again~

No self respecting saloon back bar would be replete without a back bar sign and matching etched shot glasses for the brands at hand. And so, Braunschweiger obliged. A huge and ornate sign was produced to help along the sales of the Golden Rule brand. Notice the dapper gentleman filling the genteel lass's glass while she gazes longingly into his face. Yep, I can hear it now; "My dear lady, finished already? Do have another shot..."

I can't help wonder if the diminutive glass she's holding also advertised the brand. Actually, it didn't, since there are no documented examples of a Golden Rule shot. There are however, a handful of other Braunschweiger glasses.

Another rare piece of advertising medium is the reverse glass painted sign shown here. An absolutely over the top addition to any advanced western whiskey collection!

As mentioned, numerous brands were marketed by Braunschweiger, and fortunately for collectors, most all were sold in embossed bottles.

The firm couldn't have chosen a worse location to do business out of as the morning of April 18th , 1906 will attest to. According to fire records;




"Crossing to the other side of Market Street, and returning back to the Ferry district, a fire whose origin, around California and Davis Streets, has not been determined to our satisfaction, rapidly devoured the Hanford Block, which occupies most of the block bounded by California, Market and Davis Streets; it crossed California Street, and Drumm Street, and burned along the north side of Market to the East. About ten o'clock it had reached the Terminus Hotel, a large brick building which had recently been built. Fire also started in a building on Davis Street near Clay, reported by a fireman as the Armour Packing House, and rapidly spread East. Before noon the buildings opposite the Ferry Buildingalong East Street, from Market to Clay had all been burned."


Photos of the area on the morning of the 18th plainly show the inevitable just before noon as the inferno barrels toward #5 Drumm Street.

After the earthquake, the family and the company endeavored to keep their head above water in Herman Sr's absence. Unfortunately, Braunschweiger & Co., like so many others, fell victim to unscrupulous insurance companies who skipped on their obligations to pay for damages suffered by their insureds. Rhine & Moselle (of Strasburg, Germany) was one of many foreign insurance carriers who defaulted in part or entirety. According to the Report of Special Committee on Settlements Made by Fire Insurance Companies in Connection with the San Francisco Disaster;

exhibits a very bad record. Its policies contained an earthquake clause and the company denied liability and withdrew from the State refusing to pay any except claims of $500 or less on which it offered 50 per cent. Gross loss was about $4,500,000."                    

No amount of litigation seemed to help. The attorneys seemed to be the only ones benefiting from the tragedy. Some things never change...

And so, on a winters day in late December of 1906, with a complete lack of fanfare, Braunschweiger & Co. quietly shut their doors forever and disappeared into the pages of history.

Again, my sincere thanks to Rich L., Mike D. and Ken S. for their generous help in providing photos and access to many of the rarities pictured in this article. And again, a heart felt thank you to Jeff Lawrence for sharing the salemans samples and their provenance. Without your help, none of this would have been possible~

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