BALTIMORE WHISKEY—SUPER-SIZED

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					      BALTIMORE WHISKEY—SUPER-SIZED
                                             By Jack Sullivan
               {Reprinted with permission from the author and the Potomac Pontil}

   “Do you want to super-size your order?” None         About 1909 the firm moved to the southwest
of us escapes being asked that fast food question       corner of Pratt and Light Sts.
in the new Millenium. In the whiskey trade,                All these locations were in the vicinity of the
however, super-sizing was the norm in the 19th          Baltimore wharves where steamboats regularly
and even into the 20th Century.                         plied up and down the Chesapeake Bay and
   The practice began in the 18th Century when          beyond, carrying passengers and consumer
whiskey was dispensed by merchants to                   goods, whiskey included.
customers who brought their own containers,                Self-described as “importers and dealer,” in
usually jugs, to be filled. In those days bigger        liquors and wine, the Triaca Co. had a strong
was better. It meant fewer                                                   advertising presence and at
trips to the store for                                                       least a regional and even a
replenishment.       So whiskey                                              national market for its
often was taken away in one,                                                 multitude of brands. They
two, three and more gallon                                                   included Old Triaca Club
jugs.     If it could be lifted                                              Whiskey, Special Reserve
when full, that was all that                                                 Celebrated       Rye,      Old
counted.                                                                     Shoreman, Old Pardex, and
   In the 19th Century the                                                   Old Nestor.        Gin brands
practice of bringing one's own                                               were Old Orchard and
jug faded as merchants began                                                 Tipperary Dry.
putting their liquors in their                                                  Triaca          consistently
own containers, usually with                                                 featured its whiskey super-
their name attached and                                                      sized. Gallon jugs were the
sometimes with a statement of                                                norm. Evidence that Triaca
ownership       so    that    the                                            still was super-sizing into the
customer was obliged to bring                                                20th Century is evidenced by
it back for a refill. These jugs                                             the later Triaca Company jug
also tended to be quite large. In the latter part of    that once again is a gallon.
the 1800s, however, the merchandising of                   Even as late as the 1915 when most dealers
whiskey changed.           Glass bottles began to       were putting their liquors into quart glass bottles,
replace stoneware jugs. Containers got smaller.         Triaca continued to advertise its brands in large
Customers gravitated to quarts and even smaller         stoneware containers.
sizes.                                                     Triaca's gallon (or more) jugs from an
   Some distillers and whiskey distributors,            advertisement of that year.           It touts Old
however, continued to sell their products in            Shoreman, Special Reserve Rye, and Old
“super-sized” quantities. Among them were two           Pardex. Some Baltimore collectors, however,
Baltimore outfits: The Triaca Company and               question whether these jugs actually existed
Samuel Bass.                                            outside of the ads since no matching actual
   The name Triaca first appears in Baltimore           ceramics have been found.          But who knows
directories in 1882 under the name of its               what might turn up in some future dig?
founder, Marcello Triaca. At that point the                Triaca Company had a close relationship with
company was identified as a wine and liquor             another Maryland whiskey distributor, Ciotti &
distributor, located at 98 Light St. Wharf and 1        Vincenti Co., and often advertised its products
Camden. By 1890 the firm address had changed            along with its own. Among these were Old
to 300 Light Street and 5 W. Camden. In 1898,           Troy Maryland Rye and Colgate brand, which
Marcello's name had been dropped and the firm           Ciotti & Vincenti registered in 1907. A shot
became Triaca's Exchange, located at 312-318            glass ties them together. The glass touts Colgate
Light Street. Another name change occurred in           as the "best whiskey bottled expressly for family
1906 when it became the Triaca Company.                 & medicinal use." It has the C&V monogram in
the upper left of the glass and "The Triaca         among them were many of the city's liquor
Company" on                                                 wholesalers and distributors. They had
the bottom.                                                 tended to cluster together, often side by
   The shotglass                                            side, along S. Gay Street, Exchange
may provide a                                               Place (300-400 block of Lombard) and
slim clue as to                                             Pratt St. Many of their offices, liquid
where      Triaca                                           inventories and records went up in
obtained        its                                         flames. Bready estimates that 48 of
whiskey stocks                                              some 75 Baltimore wholesalers were
for jugging and                                             burned out.
distribution.                                                  Thus, it is common in Baltimore city
Colgate       also                                          directories to see major changes in
was a brand                                                 locations for whiskey dealers in 1904
name used by                                                and 1905. Yet both Samuel Bass and
the       Federal                                           the Triaca Co. continued unabated at
Distilling                                                  their addresses after the fire, although
Company          of                                         the fire may have been a close call for
Colgate,          a                                         Triaca. A map of downtown Baltimore,
Baltimore-area                                              with the fire area shaded, reveals that
community.                                                  while everything north and east of Pratt
That      distiller                                         and Light burned, businesses like Triaca
may have been                                               that were south and west on Light
at least one                                                survived. Bass's Pratt St. address also
source for the                                              was outside the fire zone.
spirituous                                                     Neither firm, however, could avoid the
liquids being purveyed by Triaca.           Since   disaster that Prohibition wrought on the whiskey
Baltimore boasted many distillers, however,         industry in Baltimore and elsewhere. Both went
Triaca probably had little difficulty getting the   out of business in 1919, never to reopen their
raw supplies for its brands. Compared to the        doors. Whiskey super-sizing also disappeared
name-changing, constantly moving, nationally        with Prohibition. The largest container liquor is
advertising Triaca Co., another Baltimore                                            sold in today is
whiskey super-sizer seems positively dull.                                           the     half-liter.
That was Samuel Bass, self-described as an                                           Unless,         of
“importer and wholesale” liquor dealer. This                                         course,       one
outfit appears to have been content to make its                                      ventures into the
market chiefly in Baltimore. The business                                            hills for a jug of
strategy apparently worked. The Bass firm                                            moonshine.
shows up first in city directories in 1894. Its                                         **********
address in that year was 2 W. Pratt St. and it                                       Material for this
remained under the same name and at that                                             article     comes
address for the next quarter century.                                                from a variety
   Sam Bass resembled Triaca in the                                                  of        sources,
preference for putting his whiskey into large                                                including
jugs. The firm used a variety of containers                                          Baltimore city
with a range of labels. Given its highly stable                                      directories. A
history, Samuel Bass does not seem to have                                           key source was
been bragging.                                                                       Jim      Bready's
   Both Triaca and Bass avoided one of the                                           article entitled
great disasters to have befallen the Baltimore                                       “Maryland Rye:
whiskey trade: The Great Fire of 1904. From                                          A Whiskey the
February 6 to 8 of that year, a major                                                Nation       Long
conflagration in the downtown and wharf area                                         Fancied -- But
claimed 140 acres, more than 70 blocks.                                              Now Has Let
Destroyed were 1,526 buildings. More than                                            Vanish,”      that
2,500 business were burned out. The guru of         appeared in the Winter 1990 issue of the
Baltimore whiskey, Jim Bready, notes that           Maryland Historical Magazine.

				
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