American Medicinal Spirits Company

Digger Odell Publications 2004

The American Medicinal Spirits Company  appears to have been formed around 1920 to meet the need of providing medicinal whiskey to the lame and blind during Prohibition after the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919. The process of consolidation in the liquor industry had started prior to the passage of the Volstead Act.  The smaller companies resisted take-over and often managed to undercut the big companies prices and stay in favor with their local patrons.  Prohibition would deal the death blow to most. The number of distilling establishments in the United States started to decline after hitting a peak number of 965 establishments in 1899.  By 1914, the number had dropped to 434 establishments and throughout the Prohibition years it ranged from only 27-33 distillers.  Among those was the The American Medicinal Spirits Company-one distilling family's answer to the crushing Federal Legislation.  There would be only handful of companies  ready when the ban was lifted to consolidate and dominate the liquor market.   The American Medicinal Spirits Company would be one of them and was one of the few distillers legally selling booze during the prohibited years.

The Loophole

SEC. 6. No one shall manufacture, sell, purchase, transport, or prescribe any liquor without first obtaining a permit from the commissioner so to do, except that a person may, without a permit, purchase and use liquor for medicinal purposes when prescribed by a physician as herein provided, and except that any person who in the opinion of the commissioner is conducting a bona fide hospital or sanitarium engaged in the treatment of persons suffering from alcoholism, may, under such rules, regulations, and conditions as the commissioner shall prescribe, purchase and use, in accord once with the methods in use in such institution liquor, to be administered to the patients of such institution under the direction of a duly qualified physician employed by such institution.

"SEC. 7. No one but a physician holding a permit to prescribe liquor shall issue any prescription for liquor. And no physician shall prescribe liquor unless after careful physical examination of the person for whose use such prescription is sought, or if such examination is found impracticable, then upon the best information obtainable, he in good faith believes that the use of such liquor as a medicine by such person is necessary and will afford relief to him from some known ailment. Not more than a pint of spirituous liquor to be taken internally shall be prescribed for use by the same person within any period of ten days and no prescription shall be filled more than once. Any pharmacist filling a prescription shall at the time endorse upon it over his own signature the word "canceled," together with the date when the liquor was delivered, and then make the same a part of the record that he is required to keep as herein provided.
Volstead Act provisions

Example of Liquor Prescription.

The Wathen Family Business

Otho Wathen was obviously a very talented man. He was a graduate of Notre Dame, class of 1879/80. He and his brother took after their father.  Otho got into the liquor business long before Prohibition. In fact, he came from a long line of Wathens who were early settlers and early distillers in Kentucky.   Members of the Wathen family had been  making whiskey for many many years.  Otho's fore-fathers made whiskey for both sides in the Civil War.  Otho, was the son of John Bernard Wathen, a highly successful distiller in the business for at least fifty years.  So it was no surprise that Ortho and his brother Richard Eugene both followed in their father's footsteps.  Together they ran the distillery in Louisville named the R.E. Wathen Distillery and quickly became successful in their own right. 

The brothers are referred to in a Sermon given in 1933,
"Three years later, (based on the rest of the sermon, it would have been about 1912) we come to Indiana and papa got a job. He (the speaker's father) was a rider, breaking horses for the ranchers, and farmers, and so forth. He come out there to break some hackney ponies for a--a rich man named O. H. Wathen, lives on the Utica Pike. He's a great owner of the Colonels, and also the R. E. Wathen Distillery, and all them in Louisville, and O. H. and R. E. And daddy was breaking saddle horses for him. And then he got hurt, and he went to being a private chauffeur for him."

During Prohibition, under the direction of  Otho and Richard,  the Wathens consolidated operations in Louisville and established the American Medicinal Spirits Company (AMS). At the time, they owned the  Old Grand-Dad brand. as well as  Hill & Hill, Bourbon DeLuxe (which was later owned by National Distillers) and Hermitage brands. The Wathen family sold AMS to National Distillers in 1929.

Word Mark OLD GRAND-DAD  WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1900. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1900 Filing Date January 30, 1925 Registration Date June 30, 1925 Owner (REGISTRANT) OLD GRAND-DAD DISTILLERY CO. CORPORATION KENTUCKY P.O. BOX 665 LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY (LAST LISTED OWNER) NATIONAL DISTILLERS AND CHEMICAL CORPORATION CORPORATION BY CHANGE OF NAME FROM VIRGINIA 99 PARK AVENUE NEW YORK NEW YORK 10016
Word Mark OLD GRAND-DAD: Whiskey. FIRST USE: 1882. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1882 Filing Date November 17, 1960 Registration Date September 19, 1961 Owner (REGISTRANT) NATIONAL DISTILLERS AND CHEMICAL CORPORATION DBA NATIONAL DISTILLERS PRODUCTS CO. CORPORATION VIRGINIA 99 PARK AVE. NEW YORK NEW YORK
Word Mark HILL AND HILL : WHISKY. FIRST USE: 1879. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1879 Filing Date January 20, 1925 Registration Date August 18, 1925 Owner (REGISTRANT) HILL & HILL DISTILLING COMPANY CORPORATION DELAWARE OWENSBORO KENTUCKY (LAST LISTED OWNER) NATIONAL DISTILLERS AND CHEMICAL CORPORATION NATIONAL DISTILLERS PRODUCTS CO. CORPORATION BY CHANGE OF NAME FROM VIRGINIA 99 PARK AVENUE NEW YORK NEW YORK 10016
 

Taken from: THE LIQUOR INDUSTRY By Morris Victor Rosenbloom Published by Ruffsdale Distilling Company 1937 Edition.

National Distillers Products Corp., the largest single unit in the American liquor industry, presents a story of unparalleled progress and expansion. Its development may be traced back to the old "Whiskey Trust" or Distilling Company, which died a slow death during the years immediately preceding Prohibition. Through a series of well-planned moves, by September, 1933, National Distillers, under the names of several subsidiaries, controlled seven distilleries in the United States. Further acquisitions such as that in the firm of Alex D. Shaw & Co., Inc., and National Canadian Distillers, Inc., increased National Distillers' dominance in the American liquor field. Prior to January 1, 1936, National Distillers Products Corp. did not itself own any real property. Since that date, however, the company has become the actual owner of distilleries and other properties of most of the subsidiaries with the intention of eventually being an operating instead of a holding company. National Distillers operates nine distilleries having an annual capacity of about 40,000,000 gallons. These nine comprise the following (with the location and the date of establishment given in parentheses) Large (Large, Pa.; 1765) ; Overholt (Broad Ford, Pa.; 1810) ; Old Crow (Woodford Co., Ky.; 1835) ; Mt. Vernon (Baltimore, Md. ; 1854) ; Old Taylor (Woodford Co., Ky. ; 1879) ; Sunny Brook (Louisville, Ky.; 1892) ; Carthage (Cincinnati, Ohio; 1893) ; Peoria (Peoria, Ill.; 1898) ; Wathen (Louisville, Ky.; 1900). All of the afore-mentioned distilleries are wholly owned with the sole exception of the one at Peoria, which is leased. The warehouses of National Distillers have a total capacity of about 1,350,000 barrels, all owned except 83,000 barrels upon leased premises at Peoria, Ill. On December 31, 1935, more than 900,000 barrels were in storage. With regard to the relative productive capacity of National Distillers, the company stated in their 1935 annual report that "the total production of whiskies in the United States during 1935 was 184,839,630 gallons, an increase of about 70% over the previous year. Your company produced 26,214,124 gallons, or about 14'7o of the total. Total withdrawals of whiskies from bond in the United States during the year amounted to about 62,000,000 gallons of which your company withdrew about 11,000,000 gallons, or about 18%. At the end of 1935, the total stocks of whiskies remaining in bond in the United States were approximately 207,153,540 gallons, an increase of about 125% over the previous year. Of this total, your company owned about 43,000,000 gallons, or approximately 20%, your company's holdings of whiskey having increased 547% over the previous year." National Distillers, according to their comparative consolidated income account for the years ended December 31, 1933, 1934, and 1935, shows a net income in these years of $6,086,906 in 1933, of $11,134,768 in 1934, and of $7,009,238 in 1935. The per share earnings on the company's common stock amounted to $3.13, $5.51, and $3.44 for the same three years, respectively". Besides Seton Porter, who actively heads the company as president, a number of other men have been responsible for the growth of National Distillers. Two of the most important are Daniel K. Weiskopf, vice-president and director, and Otho H. Wathen, president of American Medicinal Spirits and vice-president and director of National Distillers"."

 

No doubt the Wathens and others like them were preparing for the end of Prohibition probably from the day Prohibition started.  By the time the ban was over, the Wathens and their company were in position to share in the Post-Prohibition market.  They owned many well-known names as shown below.  After repeal, supposedly only Richard continued in the business.  However that seems contradicted by the above passage.  Nevertheless, The company named the American Medicinal Spirits Company although apparently swallowed up by the larger National Distillers, maintained the rights to the names of the brands until about 1974 according to the Patent Office Records. 

Brands Trademarked by American Medicinal Spirits Company After Prohibition

Word Mark BLACK GOLD : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1929. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1929 Filing Date October 3, 1933  Registration Date February 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MASSACHUSETTS SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark MOUNT VERNON : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1857. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1857 Filing Date October 11, 1933 Registration Date December 4, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark SPRING GARDEN : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1901. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1901. Filing Date October 11, 1933 Registration Date February 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark BLUE GRASS : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 18670000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1867.  Filing Date October 17, 1933  Registration Date February 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark "CEDAR BROOK" : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1861. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1861. Filing Date October 17, 1933 C Registration Date December 4, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND 7TH STREET & BERATHEINER LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark BOONE'S KNOLL : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 18810000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1881. Filing Date October 18, 1933 . Registration Date February 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY

Word Mark U.S. CLUB : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1889. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1889. Filing Date October 18, 1933 . Registration Date February 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MASSACHUSETTS SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY

Word Mark BOND & LILLARD : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1867. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1867 . Filing Date October 21, 1933 . Registration Date February 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY

COON HOLLOW

Word Mark COON HOLLOW : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1883. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1883 Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING  Filing Date October 21, 1933 . Registration Date February 27, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark BELLE OF NELSON : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1869. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1869Filing Date November 11, 1933. Registration Date August 14, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST. AND BERHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY

Word Mark "TIP-TOP." : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 18850000. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1885. Filing Date November 14, 1933 . Registration Date March 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST. AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark ATHERTON: WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1867. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1867. Filing Date December 2, 1933 . Registration Date March 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MASSACHUSETTS SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark "CRAB ORCHARD" : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1880. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1880 . Filing Date December 9, 1933 . Registration Date February 19, 1935 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark MAYFIELD : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1870. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1870. Filing Date December 9, 1933 . Registration Date April 10, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark CHICKEN COCK : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1860. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1860 . Filing Date April 14, 1934 C.  Registration Date December 11, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
HERMITAGE Word Mark HERMITAGE : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1868. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1868. Filing Date July 21, 1934 . Registration Date January 15, 1935 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST. AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
A.M.S.

 

Word Mark A.M.S. Translations THE TRADE-MARK CONSISTS OF THE INITIALS "A.M.S." WHICH ARE THE INTIALS OF THE WORDS "AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS" CONTAINED IN THE NAME OF APPLICANT. : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1928. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1928 . Filing Date September 20, 1934.  Registration Date December 25, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark GOLDEN PREMIUM: WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1912. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1912. Filing Date September 22, 1934. Registration Date March 19, 1935 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH ST. AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
Word Mark PENWICK: WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1892. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1892. Filing Date April 5, 1935. Registration Date July 23, 1935 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND 7TH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY
KENTUCKY COLONEL Word Mark KENTUCKY COLONEL: WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1892. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1892 . Filing Date December 1, 1933. Registration Date March 13, 1934 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY (LAST LISTED OWNER) JIM BEAM BRANDS CO.* CORPORATION BY CHANGE OF NAME FROM DELAWARE 510 LAKE COOK ROAD DEERFIELD ILLINOIS
OLD CROW Word Mark OLD CROW : WHISKEY. FIRST USE: 1835. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 1835. Filing Date June 11, 1934. Registration Date April 14, 1936 Owner (REGISTRANT) AMERICAN MEDICINAL SPIRITS COMPANY, THE CORPORATION MARYLAND SEVENTH STREET AND BERNHEIM LANE LOUISVILLE KENTUCKY (LAST LISTED OWNER) JIM BEAM BRANDS CO.* CORPORATION BY CHANGE OF NAME FROM DELAWARE 510 LAKE COOK ROAD DEERFIELD ILLINOIS

*The Jim Beam Company purchased several of the names in 1987 including the most famous and oldest of them, Old Crow.

Bottles

One item was sold at auction in the United Kingdom: Special Old Reserve-1916 Fine Old Bourbon. Made Spring 1916, bottled Fall 1933. Produced by Mellwood Distillery Company, Distillery No. 34 5th District of Ky., bottled by The American Medicinal Spirits Company Inc. One pint. Screw cap, paper tax strip printed with dates. Level: 4.5 cm from base of cap. 100 degrees proof Estimated selling price was 140-170 pound sterling and price realized was 200 pounds. ($321 USD). A Similar medicinal whiskey item of the same vintage, one Made Fall 1916, bottled Fall 1933. Fine Old Bourbon, made before Prohibition. Produced by Harry E. Wilken, Distillery No. 368, 5th District of Ky. Bottled by The American Medicinal Spirits Company. One pint. Screw cap, paper seal. Level: 6cm from base of cap. 100 proof brought 130 pounds ($208 USD) Similar item pictured below.  Another example is presently on Ebay with a fair reserve but no bidders. 

Whiskey-Flasche (Medizin) ais der Zeit der Prohibition

Whiskeys Volume 8 Want more?  Check out my Pre-Prohibition Whiskey Bottle Price Guide

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Digger Odell Publications 2004