United We Stand Whisky

Provenance: Ken Schwartz Collection

Our amber, slug plate, applied top “United We Stand Whisky “bottle is extremely rare and is represented in only a very few collections. Most have been found or dug in the Portland, Oregon area. Look closely at the glass striations and swirls in our museum example.

“United we stand, divided we fall” is a phrase used in many different kinds of mottos, most often to inspire unity and collaboration. The phrase is also on the emblem of the State of Kentucky which is where bourbon came from for so many western brands.

One of the earliest western liquor firms to take advantage of the Kentucky bourbon and the saying “United We Stand” was Wilmerding and Co. of San Francisco. Their bottle was embossed ‘UNITED WE STAND, OLD BOURBON WHISKEY, WILMERDING & CO. SOLE AGENTS, SAN FRANCISCO’ and was introduced in the late 1870s.

Julius Clute Wilmerding was noted as being in California as early as 1848 and eventually found himself in partnership by the name of Wilmerding & Kellogg in January 1869. See museum examples of McKennas Nelson County Bourbon and C. W. Stuart’s Extra Kentucky Whisky.

Wilmerding & Kellogg then admitted a new partner by the name of John Tuthill Haviland in January 1875 and the partnership was re-titled as Wilmerding, Kellogg & Co. In October 1877, Calvin W. Kellogg relinquished his partnership status and the company name was changed to Wilmerding & Co. During these business partnerships, good old Kentucky bourbon was packaged and sold to the populace in California and new growth areas like Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.

Our museum example is embossed ‘UNITED WE STAND WHISKY, CHARLES KOHN & CO., PORTLAND, OR., AGENTS FOR NORTH WEST COAST’ within a slug plate rectangle in six lines. The first three lines of copy are slightly arched down at text ends and read, “United We Stand” (1st line sans-serif, “We” is smaller), “Whisky” (2nd line serifed copy), “Charles Kohn & Co.” (3rd line sans-serif), the fourth and fifth lines are straight line horizontal sans-serif copy and read, “Portland, Or.” (4th line), and “Agents For” (5th line). The 6th line reads “North West Coast” is wavy sans-serif typography.

Charles Kohn

In 1883, Charles Kohn of Portland, Oregon introduced his brand United We Stand Whisky. You will see both spellings of Whiskey (or Whisky) depending on the brand. Both are correct.

Charles Kohn was one of the most prominent citizens of the Pacific Coast. He was born in Wallisch bergen, Bohemia in 1848 and immigrated to California in 1868, entering what was then known as Union College, to complete his education. In 1865, he became connected with the firm of Marcus, Kohn & Co., wholesale and retail clothiers. In 1869, he entered the great commercial house of Wilmerding & Co. as a traveling representative, remaining with that firm for many years. In 1883, he established the wholesale wine and liquor house of Charles Kohn & Co., in Portland, Oregon. His brother Napthally was his partner. They secured suitable offices in the old O.S.N. Co. block, at No. 41 Front Street.

Kohn’s wholesale house was both successful and long-lived, spanning over 27 years in Portland. The firm would relocate to Third and Pine Street where they were located most of that period. Charles Kohn died suddenly of a heart attack on September 21, 1910, just after returning from a business trip to San Francisco. He had amassed a small fortune from his great business years.

There is another embossed United We Stand slug plate bottle embossed ‘UNITED WE STAND WHISKEY, C J STUBLING, DISTRIBUTER, THE DALLES, ORE.’ We have pictured it further above next to our museum example and Wilmerding example.

Primary Image: The United We Stand Whisky bottle imaged on location by Alan DeMaison, FOHBC Virtual Museum Midwest Studio

Support: Reference to WesternWhiskeyToolTopGazette.com and Bruce Silva

Support Images: All other bottle images courtesy Jeff Wichmann and American Bottle Auctions

Support: Reference to Whiskey Bottles of the Old West by John L. Thomas, 2002

Support: Reference to Eric McGuire for Wilmerding information.

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