The History of Schenley

The following is a series of 7 (long form) posts- all posted on Facebook between June 9th and 15th, 2024.

Schenley. An Intro.
Part 1

The most interesting part of Schenley’s history, to me, is the part that takes place before Prohibition. The genesis of the whiskey giant was centered in a small, unincorporated community in Gilpin Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. The name of the village (and the woman it was named after) would remain with the company long after its expansion into other states and countries. In fact, most of the history whiskey enthusiasts connect to Schenley relates to the company as it existed AFTER Prohibition. As a researcher of Pennsylvania rye whiskey history, it is impossible to ignore Schenley, largely because it controlled so much of the state’s whiskey stocks and has ties to so many of the products connected to the old distilleries and brands that were founded here by other men. It’s important to remember that Schenley’s whiskey empire was much more than bourbon- though that fact seems to get lost in the histories written about the company. National Distillers and Schenley were a diarchy of whiskey power in the United States in the 1930s, outshining their large Canadian competitors, Seagram’s and Hiram Walker, but there’s a lot more to its story. Let’s look at Schenley this week. While no longer with us as a company, its influence upon the distilling industry through its ambition and business strategies continues to affect brands and businesses today. The history of Schenley, in all its corporate iterations, still has a lot to teach us….so we should take more time to look at and understand its history.

Schenley. What’s in a name?
Part 2

Unless you’re from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, chances are the name “Schenley” conjures images of whiskey bottles and old advertisements. Schenley, after all, remains one of the most famous names in American whiskey history. The company was among the “Big Four” distilling companies to own most of America’s operating distilleries and mature whiskey stocks after Repeal and helped to shape the liquor industry’s landscape over the last century. The origins of the name “Schenley”, however, have been buried by the brand’s ubiquity. The men that launched the company and the community that built (and rescued) the distillery site in Schenley, Pennsylvania are often glazed over to tell the story of Schenley’s bourbon distilleries or Cincinnati’s own Lewis Rosenstiel, one of the most influential men in the whiskey industry after Prohibition. Schenley, like National Distillers, became a corporation with so many subsidiaries that its origins lost all relevance. But, like many of my fellow whiskey geeks out there, these are the details I’m after. Today, let’s look at the name “Schenley”. While the company’s original name was Schenley Distillers Limited, the land on which the distillery was built was already named Schenley- its post office was called “Schenley Station” after the railroad station that serviced the oil companies that established themselves there in the 1870s. The valuable land belonged to an incredibly wealthy woman whose married name was “Schenley”…and, honestly, someone should make a miniseries out of this woman’s story!
Portrait of Mary Elizabeth Croghan Schenley
Mary Elizabeth Croghan Schenley was a Pittsburgh heiress whose name graced a whiskey empire. Born into wealth, Mary was the daughter of Col. William Croghan, Jr. of Louisville, Kentucky and Mary O’Hara, the original heiress of Pittsburgh. Mary O’Hara’s father (Mary Schenley’s grandfather) was James O’Hara, a frontier businessman and owner of vast amounts of real estate in and around Pittsburgh. Mary O’Hara died when her daughter was just a child. William Croghan, left a widower, raised little Mary in Pittsburgh, giving her a fine education and sending her to a boarding school in Staten Island, NY. While away at school, 15-year-old Mary met and fell in love with 43-year-old Captain Edward Wyndham Harrington Schenley of the British Army. They eloped, causing a huge scandal and nearly shocking her father to death (He reportedly had a stroke!). Schenley was considered a fortune hunter and his marriage to Mary was his third. The couple lived abroad in London and had 11 children together while Mary’s inherited real estate in Pittsburgh continued to earn her about $800,000 per year (It’s hard to fathom how much that might be worth today…). Captain Schenley died in 1878, but the estate’s income only increased as the city of Pittsburgh prospered. The following decade saw Mary making large charitable donations and selling pieces of real estate back to Pittsburgh, her mother’s/grandfather’s hometown. One of her most historically popular real estate donations was the 300 acres in the Oakland section of the city that would create Schenley Park. Even today, many landmarks in Pittsburgh still bear her name. Several direct sales of Mary’s ancestral land were sold to oil and coal speculators. One of these tracts was about 30 miles northeast of the city at the intersection of the Kiskiminetas and Allegheny Rivers. Some of the land near Schenley Station (Allegheny Valley R.R.) was purchased by the Penn Oil Works and the North American Oil Company, but another piece of that Schenley-owned property was acquired by men looking to build a distillery.
We’ll talk about these men tomorrow!
Schenley. Foundations in Pennsylvania.

Part 3

Most references state that Schenley Distillery was founded in 1888, but that seems unlikely. The Pittsburgh Press reported the following in February of 1892:
“S.W. Sinclair, of New York City, was in McKeesport yesterday looking for a site on which to build a distillery. Mr. Sinclair was in McKeesport some years ago on a similar errand and was much surprised to find that McKeesport had grown so large. It is expected that a building will be commenced in the spring.”
It is unclear who the “S.W.” was in this report (Perhaps a typo? Nothing unusual about that, after all), but the Sinclaires of New York were indeed scouting for a site on which to build their distillery. Frank Marvin Sinclaire, Thomas Robertson Sinclaire (Frank’s uncle), and Henry Bischoff, bought the land in Schenley, but continued to maintain their business remotely from New York. If they were still assessing the site in 1892 to begin construction of their new distillery in the spring, the 1888 “founded by” date for Schenley is likely connected to the Sinclaire Bros. in New York and NOT to the distillery itself in Pennsylvania. Frank was also joined in the business by his younger brother of 8 years, Harry Thomas Sinclaire. Frank and Harry Sinclaire were sons to Francis Savage Sinclaire, owner of the Sinclaire Oil Company and president of the Sinclaire Rectifying Machine Company in New York City. Their uncle and business partner, Thomas R. Sinclaire, had been working alongside their father at the Sinclaire Rectfifying Machine Company.
The commonly repeated tale of how the Schenley plant was founded is shrouded in marketing legend:
“Chemist Frank Sinclair found an underground stream above the junction of the Kiskiminetas and Allegheny Rivers in Pennsylvania. With his charcoal expertise, Sinclair concluded that this stream water was ideal for making whiskey. He acquired the land from Mary Schenley and with his brother Harry Sinclaire & Henry Bischoff, began what later became known as a Schenley distillery.”
(Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. Her people, Past and Present, 1914.)
Frank certainly had knowledge of chemistry, but the combined experience of the Sinclaire family, the desire to be near Freeport and Pittsburgh, and the accessibility to coal and oil likely had greater influence over the decision to build in Schenley. In New York’s 1892 census, Francis S. Sinclaire is listed as a “manufacturer”, Frank M. is listed as an “agent” and Harry as a “broker.” As far as Frank finding an underground stream, there were many opportunities for testing water underground in Gilpin Township because coal tunnels, which were a part of his business, littered the landscape. The Schenley facility was erected in 1892, but the first mention of Schenley Distillery being assigned a gauger to oversee operations was in March 1893. Schenley Distillers Limited joined the ranks of many other newly established distilleries in Pennsylvania that were operating separately from, or, more accurately, “in spite of” the Whisky Trust.

The distillery was no small thing. We’ll look at specific details about the distillery itself tomorrow.
Detail of “Allegheny Township, Leechburg Above” From Armstrong County 1876, Pennsylvania, Published by Pomeroy, Whitman & Co. in 1876. Allegheny Township becomes Gilpin Township 2 years after this map was created. Note the location of Schenley Station near the mouth of the Kiskiminetas River. Schenley Distillery was built in 1892 beside the railroad station. Over time, Schenley Distillery begins to stretch along the bank of the Allegheny River into Aladdin borough.


Schenley. The Original Distillery…Until Prohibition.
Part 4

The original distillery in Schenley, Pennsylvania was no small thing. Henry Bischoff and the Sinclaires designed their distillery to manufacture massive amounts of sweet mash, Pennsylvania rye whiskey for the New York market. (Henry Bischoff was president of the H. & H. Reiner Company, a large wholesale liquor firm in Brooklyn.)

This ad was placed in 1918 as H & H Reiners was selling off its stocks before Prohibition, but it illustrates the company’s address and legitimacy in Brooklyn as a liquor wholesaler.

It’s important to note that Schenley Distillers Limited was not the only distillery being built in 1892 by liquor men that wanted to be free of the price gouging and oppressive tactics being foisted on the industry by the Whiskey Trust. The distillery needed to manufacture enough whiskey to satisfy market demand for their products, so its construction was ambitious in scope. A 30,000-bushel capacity grain elevator was built beside the tracks of the Allegheny Valley Railroad to easily receive bulk grain shipments. An iron-clad barrel house was placed beside the grain house for barrel delivery and branding. The still house was 4 stories tall: Gearing and the beer well were on the ground floor; The beer still and doubler, yeast room, mash floor, and grain mill (with double rollers) were on the 2nd floor; Ground meal storage, scales, and a laboratory were on the 3rd floor; Cleaned grain was received and sifted (before being loaded into the hopper and gravity fed to the mill below) on the 4th floor. The distillery’s capacity began operations at 200 bushels mashed per day and was run on a daily schedule for 10 months of the year. The still house was surrounded by three single story additions: A fermenting house with 14 fermentation tubs, a cistern room, and a large boiler house. The property also included a modern drying facility to convert spent mash into dried cattle feed. Both cattle and fowls were raised on site. The two original bonded warehouses were soon joined by another pair of warehouses just a few years later; Warehouse 1(A) was 50’ x 82’, 4 stories, and held 4500 barrels; Warehouse 2(B) was 98.6’x100’, 5 stories tall, with 15 tiers of patent racks holding 12,000 barrels; Warehouse 3(C) and Warehouse 4(D), which were added in 1903, were identical to 2(B). Each 5-story warehouse had a rope and pully hoist with an engine that helped to load barrels into the buildings. All warehouses were steam heated. The distillery had a private water system that could draw water from the Allegheny River or from deep wells below the building. In the 1900 census, Frank is listed as a “distillery manager”, Henry Bischoff is listed as a “distiller”, and Harry as “salesman” for the company. (Thomas R. Sinclaire is listed as “retired”.)In 1903, the investment of new capital fueled the facility’s expansion, bringing the facility’s mashing capacity from 200 to 500 bushels per day and prompted the partners to change their firm’s name to the “Schenley Distilling Company”. The company was nearly a decade into production and the future looked bright! Unfortunately, the distilling industry is riddled with tragedy, and Schenley’s distillery was no exception.

On April 18, 1907, the Schenley distillery was destroyed in a fire. The fire was first noticed in the fermenting house, but the flames quickly spread and overwhelmed the plant. Though the warehouses were spared, approximately $50,000 in damage was caused. Insurance coverage allowed for a swift rebuild to take place. A 5th warehouse was added. The following year, Frank Sinclaire became a widower after his wife, Justine Onderdonk Fullerton, died at the age of 37. In 1910, at the age of 50, he remarried to Henry Bischoff’s 21-year-old daughter, Marie M. Bischoff. Henry Bischoff also re-married in 1908 to Marie C. E. Reiners. His first wife (and his new bride’s late, older sister), Hermine H.R. Reiners, passed away 2 years earlier in 1906.
Osborn’s Annual Guide to Agencies, page 118, Published by Alfred F. Osborn, New York, N.Y., 1907.
On May 23, 1912, fire struck the distillery again. Two great warehouses were reduced to ruins. The cause was believed to be the spontaneous combustion of whiskey from a leaky barrel onto “sweepings” on the fourth floor of “warehouse C”. Harry Sinclaire, then vice president of the company, claimed that their losses would reach $1,000,000 on the buildings and their contents. The flaming whiskey pouring from warehouses 3(C) and 5(E) reportedly formed a flaming lake around them, making it impossible to save the 2 warehouses and forcing the firefighters to focus their efforts on saving the other buildings on site. Hoses were lent to aid the firefighting efforts by the Guckenheimer Distillery just down the Allegheny River in Freeport. The town of Schenley was mainly composed of workers from the distillery and their families, so many of the 150 inhabitants of the town rushed to help extinguish the flames. The warehouses and the 4,000 barrels lost were fully covered by insurance.
The Schenley plant continued to operate at full capacity until 1916 when they slowed down and began to run lighter. By 1917, the passage of the Food and Fuel Act caused the plant to cease operations with the rest of the country’s distilleries. In 1918, though the plant was closed, its drying facility was used in an emergency effort by the food administration to help dry a portion of Pittsburgh’s corn supply which had become damp and was beginning to rot. Local gas companies also utilized Schenley’s gas wells until Prohibition.
Here’s where it gets tricky…and the Schenley name and its history take a new course. More tomorrow…
The Morning Herald (Uniontown, Pa) Dec 13, 1916


Schenley. A Company Built to Withstand the Whiskey Trust Loses Its PA Roots…And Finds Its Corporate Future, Ironically Through the Trust.
Part 5

1918. Thus ends Schenley Distillery’s connections to its founders.

When Henry Bischoff died in 1941 at the age of 79, his obituary centered around his life as a retired distiller and his association with H. & H. Reiners & Co. and “the old Schenley Distilling Company”, even though he had been removed from the latter for over 2 decades. The obit described his career:
“Mr. Bischoff started his business career with the Reiners concern as a boy and eventually became its head. He then decided to enter the distilling business and founded the plant at Schenley, Pa., which continued until the advent of prohibition. The firm then was sold. It had no connection with the present Schenley Distillers Corporation.” (The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 9, 1941)

That last sentence is telling. One can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for Mr. Bischoff to watch the company he built thrive in the hands of another man without any recognition whatsoever.
While the Schenley Distilling Company was officially closed in 1918 and its owners were busy selling off as much of its whiskey stocks as possible before the 18th amendment went into effect, they were not alone. Large scale auctions to sell off whiskey stocks and distillery properties were underway, and everything was selling for pennies on the dollar. The Joint Resolution which would lead to the 18th amendment had been approved in 1917, and the vultures were circling. The distillery in Schenley, PA would be bought by a man named Daniel K. Weiskopf in 1918. But who was this guy?
Daniel K. Weiskopf had been in the business of buying distillery properties for the Whiskey Trust since the 1890s as head of the Distillers Securities Corporation, a subsidiary of the American Spirits Manufacturing Company (aka the Whiskey Trust, which would later become the more well-known American Medicinal Spirits Company in 1927). Weiskopf, a Cincinnati businessman, became well-versed in the buying and selling of distillery properties for the Trust throughout the early 1900s. He formed his own company called the Republic Distributing Company, supposedly “separate” from the Trust and based in Cincinnati, Ohio. In early 1918, Weiskopf made a fortune for the Distillers Securities Corporation by selling 25,000 barrels of bourbon whiskey to the British government for the war effort. By November of 1918, he was representing his own company (Republic Distributing Company) while buying and selling dozens of distillery properties at public auctions, most of which were properties being unloaded by the Whiskey Trust before Prohibition. He was positioning his own company to profit from the production of industrial alcohol and gunpowder during the war effort. Weiskopf had many friends among the elite of the whiskey industry, among them David I. Johnson of Cincinnati. Johnson was a liquor dealer and president of the Susquemac Distilling Company in Cincinnati. The two men had served on committees together and overseen production allotment assignments for the distilleries belonging to the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Company (a large subsidiary of the Whiskey Trust/American Spirits Manufacturing Co.) in 1914. When D.I. Johnson died in 1918, his company was left in the hands of his sister’s son, Lewis Rosenstiel. Rosenstiel, like so many other owners of distilling companies, sold off his shares in his uncle’s Susquemac Distilling Company to the American Spirits Manufacturing Company- very likely directly to D.K. Weiskopf.
When the Schenley Distillery became available for sale in 1918, Weiskopf purchased the Pennsylvania distillery, but it was just one among many other distilleries. It is unclear why the Schenley site held such an important role in Weiskopf’s portfolio, but it likely had to do with the fact that Pennsylvania whiskey distilleries had been universally “unavailable for purchase” by the Trust (or its associates). Ownership of distilleries or warehouses in the Monongahela Valley had been reserved for Pennsylvania’s distillery owners, and “carpetbaggers” had, historically speaking, not been tolerated in Western PA. The fact that Weiskopf was able to purchase the Schenley site may have been a “foot in the door” toward ownership of valuable PA rye whiskey stocks that had not previously been available. Weiskopf moved his company’s headquarters to New York City and began to plan for the new normal that Prohibition would create.
In January of 1920, with the first day of bone dry national Prohibition just days away, Daniel K. Weiskopf and several representatives from the liquor trade (R.A.Wathen, A.J.Sunstein, E.V. Dougherty, etc.) were made part of a small committee of distillery property owners seeking relief from the federal government, petitioning to allow owners to sell (or redesign their plants for industrial use) and to be allowed to sell their own tax-paid liquor stocks. The country officially went dry on January 17th and Weiskopf knew what the Trust knew- that mature stocks of whiskey were incredibly valuable and that the consolidation and control of those stocks would be VERY advantageous. In 1920, whiskey barrels were marooned in warehouses all over the country- even the stocks that had been consolidated by folks like Weiskopf and Rosenstiel would have to sit until regulations were drawn up on how they could be sold legally.
On August 23, 1920, D.K. Weiskopf partnered with Lewis Rosenstiel. Together, they incorporated the “Schenley Products Company” in New Jersey. Rosenstiel was a young, ambitious liquor executive that had formed his own company called the Cincinnati Distributing Corporation. He had been groomed by his uncle and was poised to take advantage of the situation created by the 18th amendment. Just as Weiskopf had been consolidating and selling distillery properties, he and Rosenstiel would continue to do so through their New Jersey holding company. Now, all they had to do was secure the legal rights to sell the mature whiskey they had been stockpiling…
On February 17, 1922, as part of a US Treasury Department appropriation bill, the Concentration Act was signed into law. 26 bonded warehouse locations were assigned to act as secure locations for the nation’s mature liquor stocks. (Read more about this HERE) Schenley was not listed among the 26 chosen locations so Rosenstiel’s Cincinnati Distributing Corporation partners balked. As members of the syndicate dropped out (namely, D.K. Weiskopf), Rosenstiel was able to secure his position as president of the Schenley Products Company. If Rosenstiel could find a way to license his warehouses at Schenley, he could secure his investments. But how?
More on Lew Rosenstiel and his solution tomorrow.

Schenley. The Warehouse Loophole.
Part 6

The first few years of Prohibition saw Lew Rosenstiel buying and selling whiskey through his and D.K.Weiskopf’s holding company, the Schenley Products Company. One of Rosenstiel’s notable early sales took place in 1923 when Rosenstiel moved a large quantity of whiskey that he purchased several years earlier from the Midway Distillery, otherwise known as the S.J. Greenbaum Distillery. The whiskey was all privately owned, but it was being stored in Rosenstiel’s warehouses and its owners were delinquent in paying their storage fees. (Honestly, who could blame them with Prohibition turning their investments into financial burdens.) Section 33 of the Act of March 11, 1909 stated warehouse owners could recoup losses from delinquent storage payments by selling off privately owned property within their warehouses as long as the owners were first informed of the sale. After the Concentration Warehouse Act of 1922, many legal notices (like the one attached below) began showing up in newspapers. Long, itemized lists of whiskey stocks were published in newspapers across the country to give private owners a “fair” 10 days’ time to settle their debts and reclaim their whiskey before the auction date. Usually, when you come across a long list of whiskeys in a newspaper under the heading “Legal Notice”, you can assume that the warehouse company listed planned to purchase all that whiskey outright through its own auction and relocate everything to a secure concentration warehouse of their choosing- usually their own. In Rosenstiel’s case, he had nowhere to put any of his whiskey because he had failed to secure a coveted concentration warehouse permit! His consolidated liquor stocks that were sitting idle in his warehouses in Schenley needed a legal loophole…and Lew Rosenstiel had finally found one in Pittsburgh.

By 1924, the owner of Joseph Finch Distillery (Sol Rosenbloom) sold the distillery and its concentration warehouse permit to Schenley Products Company.* The permit was finally in Rosenstiel’s possession, and he was able to transfer the Joseph Finch Distilling Company’s name and its permit to his own facility in Schenley. He hired Harry E. Wilken as his head distiller to manage the plant. The Finch Distillery in Pittsburgh was left to be dismantled. The appropriation of Finch’s consolidation permit was the move that secured Rosenstiel’s historically significant future in the liquor industry. A few years later, he secured 240,000 cases of Old Overholt Pure Rye Whiskey and 120,000 cases of Large Pure Rye Whiskey, two of the largest purchases of whiskey during the Prohibition era. Five years after taking control of Joseph Finch, Rosenstiel purchased the George T. Stagg distillery in Frankfort, KY. With twice the output capacity of Joseph S.Finch (Schenley), the purchase of Stagg was significant. At the time, Schenley was one of four locations in Western Pennsylvania where bonded liquor was being stored. The federal government, concerned about the likelihood of illegal raids, devised and installed a “tear gas” protection system to thwart thieves.

When the American Medicinal Spirits Company was organized in July 1927 to consolidate disorganized units competing for the liquor trade, they offered Schenley Products Company the opportunity to merge. Rosenstiel refused and set his sights on expansion. As the “Roaring 20’s came to an end, the government’s medicinal whiskey stocks had dwindled and the need to bring distilleries back online became a possibility. By 1930, Rosenstiel was in a perfect position to be granted a permit to produce 600,000 gallons of medicinal rye whiskey.

More on this tomorrow.

*Why the heck would Sol Rosenbloom, the world’s largest liquor distributor in the late 19-teens, sell Joseph S. Finch and Company to the Schenley Products Company you ask? Good question! Rosenbloom was leasing the property from the Pontefract trustees (Elizabeth and John Walker). They consented in writing on March 1, 1916 to transfer its lease to Sol Rosenbloom. When Rosenbloom took over, there remained almost 9 ½ years on the lease. In 1917, the US government shut down distillery production across the country and Rosenbloom began to see that the burden of taxes on the 50,000 barrels still in the warehouses at J.S.Finch and Co. were unsustainable. He still believed that liquor dealers like himself would be saved by an eleventh hour move of the government to halt the implementation of Prohibition. But to be safe, on January 2, 1920, he quickly loaded train cars with whiskey from his S. Rosenbloom & Co. warehouses in Pennsylvania and Kentucky and sent them to Atlantic ports where he had ships waiting. The deadline to transport liquor out of the country was January 5th. He planned to transport half a million gallons of whiskey worth over $15 million to Germany, France, Bermuda, Cuba and Canada. After Prohibition went into effect, Rosenbloom made plans to liquidate his business. Part of this liquidation was selling the permit he secured and the whiskey that remained at J.S.Finch to Lewis Rosenstiel. If it weren’t for Sol Rosenbloom’s choice to transfer his permit and get out of the liquor business, Schenley as we know it would not have existed.
As a side note and an admission of bias, my favorite pre-Pro distillery in Pennsylvania was the Finch Distillery. The fact that Rosenstiel left it to be dismantled and tossed all that history to the wind is tragic. It is also why I do not see Rosenstiel as a great hero of American whiskey, though he is an incredibly interesting and pivotal historic figure. He was an incredibly savvy businessman that made a great deal of money during a unique time in American whiskey history. But, as I said, more on this tomorrow!
Schenley. Post Repeal.
Part 7, the finale

It’s too much to get into Rosenstiel and Schenley Product Company’s efforts to bottle their medicinal whiskeys during Prohibition. Suffice it to say that Schenley, with its large stocks of whiskey secure in its warehouses, bottled that whiskey, regardless of its provenance, under its own labels. With a bit of sleuthing and research, one could study the back labels and tax strips of surviving bottles belonging to Schenley’s medicinal whiskey brands (Golden Wedding, Stagg, OFC, etc.) and discover who actually made the whiskey within. In most cases, it was not Schenley. What’s important is that Rosenstiel, with his foot in the door as a concentration warehouse owner, was a shoo-in for consideration by the Treasury Department to receive a license to distill whiskey in 1929. The Schenley plant was dusty and shuttered, but it was intact, which was more than could be said for most of the distilleries in the United States. In 1930, it was one of four plants assigned to manufacture 700,000 gallons of rye whiskey to replenish dwindling medicinal whiskey supplies for the US. The rye distilleries chosen for licenses were:

  1. Schenley Distilling Co.
    The plant in Schenley was operated as the Joseph E. Finch Distilling Co.
  2. Large Distillery
    This distillery had been active from 1920 to 1922 and was an unofficial concentration warehouse with 20,000 gallons of whiskey stored that had been produced during those years.
  3. A.Overholt & Co. at Broad Ford
  4. Baltimore Distilling Co.
    This distillery was owned and operated by the American Medicinal Spirits Company.

Just before Prohibition was lifted, the Schenley Distillers Corp. was incorporated in Delaware on July 11, 1933, with executive offices at 350 Fifth Ave., New York. It functioned as a holding company until September 30, 1938, when New Jersey based Schenley Products Co., Inc. was dissolved. While Schenley Products Company had been functioning as the operating company when it was absorbed by Schenley Distilling Corp., the latter took on its functions as well as its assets. After Repeal, Schenley was one of four companies, which later came to be later known as the “Big Four”, that owned 72% of the aging whiskey stocks in the United States over 4 years old. 22 companies produced 90% of the nation’s liquor in 1934. Schenley operated 5 of those 22 plants, and they, alone, produced 15.84% of America’s whiskey. The company was the second largest producer in the country, second only to Sam Bronfman’s J.E. Seagram’s. Those 5 were Joseph S. Finch & Co. (aka the Schenley Distillery) in Schenley/Aladdin, Pa., George T. Stagg in Frankfort, Ky., Old Quaker Co. (W.P.Squibb) in Lawrenceburg, Ind., James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, Ky., WHO IS THE 5TH?

Outline of acquisitions from 1933-1943:

July 1933- The entire capital stock of Schenley Products Company

July 1933- W.P. Squibb Distillery Co. acquired. The distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana was refurbished and re-established as the Old Quaker Co. (Schenley subsidiary) on November 20, 1933.

July 1933- assets of James E. Pepper & Co. The dismantled distillery was refurbished. It was re-established and began operations on October 25, 1934.

1935- The New England Distilling Co. (est. 1885) was acquired by Schenley Products Co. Schenley Distillers Co. absorbed the company on Sept. 30, 1938

January 1, 1937- Bernheim Distilling Co. acquired (stock acquisition). Bernheim applied for and was granted an amendment to its distillers permits, amending its name to “also doing business as Shaw’s Pure Malt Distilling Co., also doing business as Kentucky Par Distilling Co., also doing business as I.W.Harper Distilling Co., also doing business as Robert Morris Distilling Co.”

May 22, 1940- assets and business of Oldtyme Distillers Corp.- This corporation operated much like Schenley with a holding company (Oldtyme Distillers Corp.) and an operating subsidiary (Oldtyme Distillers, Inc.). The operating subsidiary owned Monticello Distillery Co. in Cedarhurst, MD and Kentucky Valley Distilling Co. in Limestone Springs, KY. Schenley acquired these assets with their purchase of Oldtyme Distillers for $5,935,335. In 1944, the name Oldtyme Distillers was changed to Three Feathers Distributors, Inc.

January 6, 1941- Cresta Blanca Wine Co. (Livermore, Calif.) acquired through stock by Schenley Import Co. (Schenley subsidiary) for $299,362.33.  A corporation under the same name was established in Delaware to operate the company and several other wineries.

May 1941- inventories of bulk whiskeys, trademarks, and good will of Merchants Distilling Corp., a case goods business, for $3,600,000.

July 1941- assets and business of John A.Wathen Distillery Co.- Wathen was a Missouri based corporation that rebuilt the Wathen Distillery after 1934. Within a few months, the property was transferred to George T. Stagg Co. (Schenley owned) and then to Associated Kentucky Distilleries Co. in Oct 1941.

November 1, 1941- assets and business of Buffalo Springs Distilling Co. in Stamping Ground, KY. This distillery operated under the name Green River Distilling Co.

September 18, 1942- assets of Colonial Grape Products, Co. in Elks Grove, CA. Proprietorship was transferred to Cresta Blanca Wine Co., Inc (Schenley owned)

Sept. 21, 1942- Pan American Distilling Co. acquired through stock purchase.

October 1941- Dubonnet, Inc., a wine blending house, is incorporated as Dubonnet Corp, Inc.  Schenley becomes owner of all class A stock and Dubonnet Wine Corp. retains all class B stock. A rectifying house and bottling plant are operated in Philadelphia, PA and a winery in Lodi, CA.

November 16, 1942- Roma Wine Co.  in California acquired for $6,400,000. In January 1943, Roma Wine Co, Inc. was incorporated in Delaware.

November 24, 1942- assets of Central Winery, Inc. for $3,800,000. (2 bonded wineries and one fruit distillery) Their St.Helena, CA property was managed by Cresta Blanca Wine Co., Inc. (Schenley owned). Their Kingsburg, CA were operated by Roma Wine Co.,Inc. (Schenley subsidiary)

November 28, 1942- Blue Ribbon Distillers Co. was acquired by Bernheim Distilling Co. (Schenley subsidiary) Proprietorship was transferred to George T. Stagg (Schenley owned) the following month.

December 1, 1942- George Benz and Sons, Inc., a Minnesota rectifying plant and warehouse, acquired by stock purchase for $5,500,000.December 1942- L.E.Jung & Wulff Co. of Louisiana. The assets were transferred to the Steinhardt Co.,Inc. (Schenley subsidiary)  which changed its name to L.E.Jung & Wulff Co., Inc.

December 15, 1943- Blatz Brewing Co. (Wisconsin) acquired for $6,000,000.


World War II brought rationing and a call for distillers to transition into making industrial alcohol for the war effort. Schenley’s J.S. Finch plant operated throughout the war making industrial alcohol for the war effort. They even made penicillin at their Old Quaker facility in Indiana for commercial distribution. SchenLabs Pharmaceuticals, Inc., whose creation was largely due to a new post-war marketplace, was incorporated in Delaware in 1945 (trademarked in 1959). Schenley Distillers Corp. continued to acquire new and more diverse assets as the market adapted and fluctuated. Schenley Industries was born from the old company in 1949.

Lewis Rosenstiel, the man that made the Schenley Distillery an internationally recognized household name, retired in 1968, selling his interest in his company to the Glen Alden Corporation. He died in 1976. Schenley’s long and complex history finally came to an “end” when it was sold to National Distillers in 1987. It was 5 years short of the company’s distilling legacy reaching its centennial (100 years old). The Joseph S. Finch Distillery in Schenley continued to make whiskey for Schenley Distilling Corp. until the mid-1970s. It then transitioned into a highly automated and modern packaging plant for many different products: whiskeys, bourbons, Canadian whiskey, scotches, gins, tequilas, and rum. Some of their brands were Schenley Reserve, Schenley Gin, Schenley Vodka, Coronet Brandy, Canadian MacNaughton, Grande Canadian, J.W.Dant Scotch, Cruzan Rum and Ole Tequila, all of which were available at Pennsylvania Liquor Stores in the late 70s and early 80s.  The plant covered 60 acres stretching along the Allegheny River through Schenley and Aladdin. It employed 400 people with a $4,000,000 payroll. Its federal, state, and local taxes amounted to $105,000,000 in 1975.

Hope you enjoyed the write up! Cheers! That said, I may need a day off…