Posted in Genealogy, Jewish Gen, Michlosky

Bottling Whisky in 1880 Pennsylvania – Michlosky History

Dollar Weekly News (Wilkes-Barre) 7 May 1887

I found some entertaining newspaper articles from the 1880s about Jacob Michlosky (1852-1900), [1] J’s Great Great Grandfather, and one of his businesses.   Jacob immigrated to the US from Eastern Europe in about 1870 and lived in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.[2]   The first article I found was from 1887 (below) that discusses a court proceeding in regards to Jacob’s ‘Quart License Application’.[3]  The District Attorney  and City Attorney were his counsels and they presented evidence to show ‘the applicant was a proper person.’ Their argument also included information that Hungarians, Polanders and prominent people in town patronize his place and ‘bring their little jug’ to have it filled. Then there are two women who argue against him,  testifying that they have witnessed a lot of people leaving his place drunk! One of these women was Mrs. Hughes – who afterwards Mrs. Michlosky testified that ‘in fact’ Mr. Hughes had come in to get a quart of whisky but she didn’t give it to him because he had no money! Jacob also included in his testimony that he did not sell Liquor on Sunday except for one day when Mrs. Vanarsdale had the cramps.  The sub heading of the newspaper page was ‘The Women’s Temperance Union of that borough present in a body some lively and interesting testimony.’  There was a full page of articles about the temperance movement arguing against hotel, restaurant and quart license applications! It must have been a lively day at court! [3]  

I found another instance Jacob was listed under the Restaurant and Quarts applicant list.  The newspaper says that a Quart License is a license to ‘sell liquor buy the Quart and as bottlers’. [4] The newspapers  also talk about increased patronage, patrons going Jacob’s to fill up jugs.[5]  It sounds to me that he was running ‘jug house’ or bar at his home.  He did not have a restaurant license in 1887 but later his sons Joseph and Harry ran a restaurant – it could be the same place, the jug house could have evolved into a restaurant [6] (which later evolved into a successful banquet hall run by Harry and Joseph according to newspaper announcements[7]). I’m assuming our ancestor was running a neighborhood bar, maybe even a distillery where he lived in the Heights of Wilkes-Barre (the Jewish neighborhood at that time) in the time of the temperance movement.[4][8]

Wilkes-Barre Semi Weekly Record, April 1887 [4]
The Sunday Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA), June 1887 [5]
In doing a little research, I found out that bottling/jug houses/bars were common before 1900, as glass bottles were too expensive for whisky producers before the invention of automatic bottling machines.  Hand blown bottles were fragile and rarely used.  Instead, consumers would bring their own bottle, flask or jug to purchase whisky from the barrel wherever it was sold locally like the one pictured below (The same for other goods such as sacks for flour, barrel for lard, ect).[9][10]  I also read a few articles that mentioned that Pennsylvania was famous for its Rye before Prohibition (1919) and that whisky distillers survived during the time of the temperance movement and prohibition by promoting the drink as an important medicine – as in the article of J’s Great Great Grandfathers court proceedings.[11][3]    


  1. Jacob Michlosky, Holche Yoscher Cemetery; Hanover, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, USA. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current
  2. 1900 Federal Census Records; Year: 1900; Census Place: Census Place: Wilkes Barre Ward 9, Luzerne, Pennsylvania; Accessed Ancestry.Com
  3. ‘Granting License; Orphans Court, Saturday’ Dollar Weekly News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) 7 May 1887, Sat • Page 8
  4. ‘License Applications to run hotels, restaurants and to sell liquor buy the Quart and as bottlers.’ Wilkes-Barre Semi-Weekly Record – 22 Apr 1887, Fri – Page 5
  5. The Sunday Leader  (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) 19 Jun 1887, Sun • Page 8
  6. ‘Business Men’s Gossip’ Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) 28 Mar 1904, MonPage 2
  7. ‘Hampton Hall: Amusement Hall employees guest of their employers.’ The Wilkes-Barre Record  (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania) 28 Dec 1914, MonPage 11
  8. Levin, Marjorie, The Jews of Wilkes-Barre : 150 years (1845-1995) in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania: Wilkes-Barre, Pa. : Jewish Community
    Center of Wyoming Valley, 1999.
  9. ‘History of Spirits in America.’ Distilled Spirits Council of the United States [Accessed November 2016] 
  10. Oatman-Stanford, Hunter. ‘Drunk History: The Rise, Fall, and Revival of All-American Whiskey’ 12 August 2015; Collector’s Weekly [Accessed November 2016]
  11. Veach, Michael.Dating Old Whiskey Bottles from the 19th Century.’ The Bourbon Review; 15 February 2016; 
  12. Note to do further research on Jug House and vario
    us articles on Tippling House and context of selling liquor in 1880s
  13. Note to do further research at the ‘Orphans Court’  and ‘Quarter Sessions’ records in Luzerne County, PA
  14. Notes for further research: in newspaper articles in 1888-1889 appears to be a rivalry with a A.Rush Pembleton, various incidences wgere each are witness against each other in liquor cases



4 thoughts on “Bottling Whisky in 1880 Pennsylvania – Michlosky History

  1. Great post! Although it’s hard to imagine people coming in to fill up their jugs with whiskey today, the practice has been revived in Brooklyn today. My son-in-law goes to a place with a “growler” for beer. Apparently that practice was common in NYC in the mid-19th century.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thats so fun to know! I wonder if you had ancestors that did this as well. I was just at RootsTech and CeCe Moore gave a fascinating talk on genetic DNA – about how we know physical traits are passed down but what else is? She gave a few stories on relatives who did not know each other liking the same things and descendants finding out they had the same skills as their ancestors (it was a question to us – is it a coincidence or are these things also in our DNA)


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