Chattanooga Was a Thirsty Town: the Marble Hall and Fletch Catron

Monday, June 30, 2014 - by Tom Carson

The 800 Block of Market Street of Chattanooga was home to four saloons in 1901.  In an earlier article, The Stag Hotel and Saloon was featured.  This article will discuss what little I know about the Marble Hall and Fletch Catron.

In the clipping files of the Chattanooga Public Library, there is a handwritten listing of Fletch Catron’s occupations from 1896-1914.   In 1896 and 1897, he was listed as a bartender for C. R. Fawkes.  In 1898 to 1904, he is listed as Proprietor of Marble Hall Saloon at 817 Market Street.  The photograph shows the Marble Hall marquee with Fletch Catron at the bottom. In 1904 – 1906, he is still listed as proprietor of the Marble Hall Saloon but also dealer in and bottle of whiskies, wines and liquors.

The clipping files of the Chattanooga Public Library have an interesting undated letter from George W. Wallace of Hixson, TN detailing his recollections of the liquor industry in Chattanooga.  He was a descendent of E.R. Betterton, mayor and owner of White Oak Distillery.

There is one real collector's item of White Oak Whiskey.   Under Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, the Food & Drug Administration was started. They were pressured by the large Bourbon interests to rule that any filtered whiskey was not pure. This barred the small Tenn. industry from labeling their product whiskey.

I had an empty bottle of White Oak labeled E. R. Betterton & Co. (large letters), formerly (very small letters) White Oak Whiskey (large letters). This was used about the last year in office of Teddy Roosevelt.  When William Howard Taft (1909-1913) took office, the Tenn. distillers sent a barrel of their best to the White House.   It was delivered by several Tenn. distillers, and in a few months the Pure Food & Drug Administration reversed their ruling and Tenn. Whiskey again became whiskey.

Fletch Catron was caught in the Pure Food Act and his whiskey bottle shows it.  Right under Corn Whiskey, is GUARANTEED UNDER PURE FOOD LAW. Until the Pure Food Act, the only regulations on alcohol were taxes.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was an act for preventing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating traffic therein, and for other purposes.   The act was geared toward adulterated or misbranded liquors. This brought up the question of definition of whiskey.  I am not sure how long liquor was regulated this way.

Fletch Catron was out of the liquor business before Prohibition hit, but left us nice collectables.

Tom Carson



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