Barrel Series – Out of the Ashes, the Wolford Z – Whiskey
23 September 2016 (R•092416 – Z Solved)
I guess my biggest question here would be why Jacob A. Wolford would put a “Z” on his figural barrel whiskey bottle? Does it mean Zebra, Zorba, Zion, Zipper or something else? Who knows? Mr. Wolford was born in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1846 and was married to a woman named Mary who was three years older. Maybe her maiden name started with a “Z”? They lived in Chicago, Illinois as Wolford came to Chicago from Buffalo, New York in 1869.
Update: The letter Z is a stock market ticker symbol for miscellaneous or the month December for futures trading. – Marianne Dow
Update: I think the following articles will explain the “Z” that is embossed on the WOLFORD bottle. – Best Regards, Corey Stock
In 1870, Jacob was a young twenty-five and conducted a saloon called Wolford’s on Clark Street near Foley’s Billiard Hall. This site would eventually become the Grand Opera House which was built upon the original site of Bryan Hall and Hooley’s Opera House.
J. A. Hamlin and brother (L. B. Hamlin) purchased the property in January, 1872 and erected the first building that was completed upon that block after the Great Chicago Fire. In 1873, the Hamlin Brothers built upon the rear lot what was subsequently known as Foley’s Billiard Hall, which was at the time the largest billiard hall in the world, containing thirty tables on one floor. In 1874, the billiard hall property passed out of the hands of Mr. Foley into the hands of Hamlin Bros., and the billiard business was discontinued after a few months and the hall re-constructed, with an additional building added to the east end, and for some two years was occupied as a garden, after the style of Gilmore’s Garden of New York, with fountains, waterfalls, vocal and instrumental music, and all kinds of refreshments.
Wolfords chief patrons at his saloon were traders on the Chicago Board of Trade, which was then a block away. This relationship would pave the way for his occupation in later years as Wolford was an original member of the Board of Trade which was established in 1848. The Board of Trade is one of the world’s oldest futures and options exchanges.
The Temperance Movement gave Wolford some problems at his saloon and the adjacent billiard hall so he opened up a liquor store at 123 Clark Street in 1872.
Wolford also had to deal with The Great Chicago Fire which was a conflagration that burned from Sunday, October 8, to early Tuesday, October 10, 1871. The fire killed up to 300 people, destroyed roughly 3.3 square miles of downtown Chicago (see map below) and left more than 100,000 residents homeless. The above is an artist’s rendering of the fire, by Currier and Ives; the view faces northeast across the Randolph Street Bridge.
Wolford ordered his figural barrel bottles in amber from A & D H Chambers (Alexander and David. H Chambers) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1871 or 1872. Both bits of information are embossed on the bottle which also has this really cool glass screw thread stopper.
I can only find two visual references of this bottle so it must be pretty rare. Te above example is a low resolution image from the 1st Chicago Bottle Club. The example below was offered in the recent Glass Works Auctions, Session 1 from the great Bob Ferraro Collection. Bob (pictured above) is known as Mayor Ferraro and the “Barrel King”. Many times I would come across an obscure barrel only to find that Bob would have an example. You can actually see Bob’s example at the 2 o’clock position in the above picture.
We can find many references for Mr. & Mrs. Jacob A. Wolford in the society pages of the Chicago Daily Tribune in later years as Wolford made a fortune in his wholesale liquor business. As noted earlier, he is best known as a pioneer with the Chicago Board of Trade. Mrs. Wolford would later have a clock tower built in her husbands honor after his death in late 1917. The tower was built in 1931 and stands today. It is pictured below with a story of her inspiration.
Wolford Clock Tower: From A Chicago Firehouse: Stories of Wrigleyville’s Engine 78 – Karen Kruse, Arcadia Publishing, Apr 12, 2001
1870: Jacob A Wolford, Saloon Keeper, 25, Birth Year: abt 1845, Wife: Mary, Birthplace: Baden, Germany, Home in 1870: Chicago Ward 1, Cook, Illinois – 1870 United States Federal Census
1871-1878: Listed in Chicago city directories, Jacob A. Wolford, Liquors, 123 Clark Street (also 223 Washington 1871), Chicago, Illinois
1872: Notice: Jacob A. Wolford will Open His New Establishment
1879-1880: Jacob A. Wolford, Wholesale Liquor Merchant – Annual Report of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago
1882: Jacob A. Wolford, living 217 Dearborn Avenue, Chicago – Chicago, Illinois City Directory
1884: Jacob A. Wolford, Commercial Merchant, 65 Chamber Commerce, house 217 Dearborn Avenue – Chicago, Illinois City Directory
1886: Commercial Merchant, house 552 N. State – Chicago, Illinois City Directory
1894: Jacob A. Wolford, 8 Board of Trade Building – Chicago, Illinois City Directory
1899: Mr. & Mrs. Jacob A. Wolford, 552 N. State Street, left on Wednesday for Virginia Hot Springs, Lakewood, New Jersey, and Old Point Comfort – Chicago Tribune
1918: Obituary in Chicago Daily Tribune on o2 January 1918.