Chattanooga Was a Thirsty Town

First in a series on Chattanooga beer and whiskey memorabilia

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - by Tom Carson

Chattanooga was an iron and steel town – The Dynamo of Dixie.  It was a railroad town – by 1900 it was served by 10 railroads.

The location, industry and environment made Chattanooga a very thirsty town.  By around 1914 Chattanooga was exporting over 750,000 gallons of liquor per year and beer by the trainload. Around 1909, there were allegedly 109 saloons in Chattanooga.

By that time, there was a lot of pressure to cut down on the number of saloons and the open view of the painted ladies to the public. The smarter saloons were no longer using the name saloon, but fancy titles like the Marble Hall.  The Stag became a men’s only club. There were over a period of a few years no less than 20 “distilleries” or re-branders with operations in Chattanooga. Many are known only by their relics.

Over the next several months, I am going to look at the Beer and Whiskey tokens – especially the distillers and bottlers. I will, when I have it, illustrate collateral material like shot glasses, advertising currency, bottles and other material.

Scott Price Distillery

Saloons and distilleries are often not included in the business directories. Also street renaming complicates things. This makes research a little challenging.  According to pre-pro.com, Scott Price was listed in the Chattanooga Directories at 129 E. Main St (formerly Montgomery) from 1912-15.   According to the 1901 Sanborn-Perris Fire Maps, this was a wholesale liquor dealer in 1901.

On the Scott Price token, the address was 254 Montgomery, which on the 1901 maps was a saloon.  In 1901 the address would have been E. Montgomery. I believe Scott Price was originally a saloon that expanded into wholesale liquor and had to have a second location.

Scott Price was likely a very small distillery operating out of the saloon and later the wholesale liquor business. Although small, Scott Price did a lot of advertising. Note the 1880 dates on the credit certificate. This is the date that I think Scott Price went into business as a saloon. The credit certificate gave you one free quart with each 8 quarts purchased.

From advertising shot glasses on pre-pro.com, Old Scott Pure Corn Whiskey was 4 quarts for $3 prepaid. Scott’s Pure Malt was $3.99 for 4 Quarts Prepaid. 1880 “Old Lookout Quarts for $4 Express Prepaid Club” was 4. The images are from the Ralph van Brocklin collection and posted on pre-pro.com.

The two Scott Price shot glasses are in my collection. The corkscrew reads “Scott Price Distillery / Distiller of Old Fashioned/ Hand Made Corn Whiskey / (unreadable) / Old Scott / Chattanooga, Tenn.”

By far the most common bottle are the Scott Price Distillery / Scott’ Pure Malt embossed bottles. The Old Scott Corn Whiskey had paper bottles and paper does not survive well.

An old letter published on The Chattanoogan.com states: “Morg & Scott Price had a small distillery on Main St. in Chattanooga. They did not bottle whiskey but sold it to barrel houses (a bar with no bottles). They paid Uncle some $250,000.00 for barrels that never went dry; filled in the day time, drained from underneath at night.“  If this is true, they were probably rebranding liquor to fill these orders. It would be hard to imagine them with that capacity.

Georgia went dry in 1908; this caused a boom for business in Chattanooga. Liquor could not be sold in Georgia, but it could be express shipped over the railroads radiating out of Chattanooga. Several distilleries from Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia, either moved to Chattanooga or opened distribution centers here. The jug trade became big business. Many of the companies shipped in quart to 5 gallon jugs. This gave Tennessee the jug reputation.

This article is not a scholarly article with all the footnotes, but is an attempt to add a little information to the history of liquor in Chattanooga. 

Tom Carson

tcarson@ewkm.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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