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Liquor, 1898


This document, which I think is a list of liquor wholesale prices from 1898, is quite interesting. You probably need to click on it to read it.

First, what the hell is Missouri wine? And does it come in a mason jar?

Second, I found the beer list and prices both pretty interesting. $4.25 a case seems steep for the late 19th century. And while some of the beers are long gone, others are recognizable–Anheuser-Busch, Schlitz, Blatz. Given the number of local breweries active at this time, it’s interesting to see bigger companies already taking over large parts of the market.

I was also somewhat taken at the differences in the “rectified whiskeys” by the number of “X”s on the bottle. It reminds me of drinking moonshine in cartoons with the XXX to note the whiskey jug.

Much on here you’ll probably find interesting. Worth a click on the image.

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  • OzarkHillbilly

    I predict a thorough thrashing from the Missouri Wine Industry. (some of them are actually quite good, or at least to this uneducated palette)

  • OzarkHillbilly

    Oh, one more thing, only our ‘shine comes in mason jars.

  • Ronnie P

    Catawba and Concord…those care truly domestic wines.

    • Ronnie P

      “are” not “care”

  • Superking

    Another Ozark hillbilly here. Missouri has long had wineries around the east central part of the state where a lot of German immigrants settled in the mid 19th century. See Hermann, Missouri. I believe we produced more wine than any other state until California came online in the 1950s and 1960s.. The Norton is Missouri’s grape and makes a damn fine wine.

    • Michael Dietz

      I have ancestors from the Palatinate (Forst an der Weinstrasse) who settled in the Franklin area in the early 1840s. Some of their descendants continue in wine-making in Missouri to this day.

      • DrDick

        Likewise an Ozark hillbilly. Most of the Missouri wine I have tried is pretty sweet, but it has been a long time since I had any, so they may have changed. FWIW Arkansas also produces wine (also generally sweet).

    • Tom Allen

      From Wiki: “In the mid-1880s, more wine was produced by volume in Missouri than in any other state. Before Prohibition, Missouri was the second-largest wine-producing state in the nation.”

      I’m from southern Iowa and grew up not far from the Amana Colonies, founded by the Pennsylvania Dutch, so I really shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I am, mildly. Certainly the Amanas and the region in general produces its share of wine now, but I didn’t know it used to be so dominant, in volume at least.

  • Alan Tomlinson

    I suspect, but have no evidence other than my experience in Europe, that beer may have come in pint or even quart bottles and that this may account for the relatively high prices.


    Alan Tomlinson

    • Halloween Jack

      That was my thought, too.

  • Theron

    Plus unless I misunderstand, there was $1.50 refund for sending back your empties.

  • Some of the high price was because of taxes. Pre-Prohibition alcohol tax made up big portion of the federal governments revenue.

  • Nick

    If you find Moscato insufficiently sweet, you will enjoy Missouri wines. Otherwise, not so much. Come give a talk at WUSTL or SLU and you can try some for yourself.

    • c u n d gulag

      I’ll have to try some if I can find some.
      As and alter boy in the Russian Orthodox Church, my Priest used to let me sip at the leftover wine.
      Manischewitz, if you can believe it!
      Yes, the people who brought you pogroms, loves them some sweet wine.

      I’ve long suspected that telling people that dry wines are the best is some hoax the French have pulled on the world.
      As far as I’ve read, wines were always sweetened throughout history.
      So I can see the French selling their sour swill and laughing at the world, while they save the sweet stuff for themselves, or dump some honey in their Cab.

      Of course I’m not saying that’s true. But it would be just like them…

      • OzarkHillbilly

        I too had heard it was MO rootstock. Gonna look up the Texas connection right now.

  • blowback

    FWIW, claret is an English word for wines from Bordeaux, but then many wine makers used traditional names for wines that were not local. Thus, you would have found American and Australian burgundies and American champagne (oops, you still do).

  • c u n d gulag

    I wonder if a gallon of Ginger Cordial, washed down with a couple of gallons of Catawba wine, are what fortifies Peggy Noonan’s courage before she makes her TV appearances?

    Me, I’d never heard of “Sweet Mash” before.

  • Ken

    It was also Missouri wineries that saved the French wine industry in the late 1800s. An imported aphid was destroying the French vines, but the Missouri roots were resistant to the pest. The solution was to graft the French vines onto Missouri rootstock.

    • My understanding is that that was Texas rootstock, but I think that all American rootstock is phylloxera resistant — they got the bug from us, and it almost wiped out the entire European wine industry. I’ll have to look it up; likely it was a mixture of TX/MO rootstock. But it’s true about the MO wine industry being the largest pre-California-book.

      Of course, they also smoke tobacco out of corn, so go figure.

      Norton is foul, btw. IMO of course, but the traditional pejorative description is “foxy” fwiw (not ‘sexy’ — more like ‘like licking a fox’). Native American grape varietals aren’t of the same “noble” order as the European varietals — different sub-sepcies/strain. I’d go look up the Latin names but 1) you all don’t care, and 2)I’d have to get up.

  • UberMitch

    It’s definitely worth springing the extra quarter per gallon for XXX rectified whiskey over XX.

  • INotI

    Sure, I’ll take a gallon of cherry cordial.

  • efgoldman

    Never heard of rectified whiskey before. Had to look it up.

  • thebewilderness

    Pottery was more common than glass at that time.
    The beer in bottles were generally quarts, so that might explain the price.

  • Scott P.

    There are lots of Missouri vineyards. You’ll find wineries all over the state.

  • Bill Murray

    Also, who were the Dick Brothers of Quincy?

    • UserGoogol

      Apparently Matthew, John, and Jacob Dick of Quincy, Illinois. Founded in 1857, very successful for a while, then bankrupted in 1951.

  • LeeEsq

    Eric, the late 19th century is when the giant modern corporation started to arise. Of course it makes sense that the big corporate breweries would begin to dominate the market. They also had a very intelligent marketing idea, they used to own neighborhood saloons that would exclusively sell their products sort of like how movie studios used to own chains of movie theaters. Still, I heard that the beers produced by the big corporate breweries were better than they are now.

    • Hogan

      I would have thought that kind of centralization came later with agricultural products. Were there any national beer brands in 1898? All of those listed started out in the Midwest (St. Louis, Milwaukee, Quincy), and the Ballantine (Newark, NJ) page on Wikipedia says it was twice as large as Anheuser-Busch in 1879.

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  • Jonathan

    As per the cost, the value of a dollar didn’t really change between the 1890’s and the 1930’s. Nearly constant, progressive inflation is an invention of the 20th century. It is a product of the third industrial revolution that coincided with the spread of electrification. Much like the earlier industrial revolutions were tied to water wheels and the spread of steam engines.

  • Paul W

    The price list is really interesting, thanks for posting it. However, your strange attitude about Missouri is disturbing. Upon seeing something you were ignorant of, maybe instead of posting a flip and dismissive comment about part of the US you are unfamiliar with, you could have taken this as an opportunity to learn something about the truly interesting history of Missouri wine (and other midwestern wines), the devastating effect of Prohibition, the current state of the industry, and the unique wines that are to be found throughout the country. That could have been a really interesting post (or series of posts) with some actual value, rather than a potshot at the midwest that reinforces all the worst stereotypes about liberal commentators.

    • This doesn’t make me want to try Show-Me-State wines. Or whines.

    • Is it true that Missouri is an Osage word for “fly-over state”?

  • Carl Wohlt
  • We are curious as well as considering what you will be covering right here.

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