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Louis Forman business papers
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Louis Forman business papers

Accession 2290

Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library


PO Box 3630
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807
302-658-2400
research@hagley.org

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-04-14T09:56-0400

Finding aid prepared using best local practices and Describing Archives A Content Standard

Cite items for this collection in the following format:
[Description and dates], Box/folder number, Louis Forman business papers (Accession 2290), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807

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Descriptive Summary

Title: Louis Forman business papers
Dates: 1784-1989, bulk 1940-1970
Accession Number: 2290
Creator: Forman, Louis, 1908-2002.
Extent: 2.5 linear feet
Language of Material: English
Repository: Hagley Museum and Library: Manuscripts and Archives Department
Abstract: Louis Forman (1908-2002) was a liquor broker and operated the Michter’s whiskey distillery in Pennsylvania. The collection, which focuses on the development and marketing of Michter’s whiskey, with a secondary emphasis on Forman’s liquor brokering business, primarily consists of advertising campaign materials and artwork, business plans and forecasts, deeds, contracts, information on brewing and distilling processes, union contracts, testimonial letters, and other correspondence.
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Administrative Information


Access Restrictions

Some records closed for 25 years from date of creation.

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Biographical Note

Louis Forman was born in Camden, N.J., on December 25, 1908. He entered business as a small-scale liquor broker in Philadelphia after the repeal of Prohibition as Louis Forman & Company, Inc., and also did business as the Philadelphia Brokerage Company. The latter business was incorporated in Pennsylvania on July 17, 1941. While making a survey of licensed American distilleries in 1937, he happened upon a small distillery in Schaefferstown, Lebanon County, Pa., which dated back to the mid-eighteenth century.

This distillery had been established by John Shenk, a Swiss Mennonite farmer, in 1753. The distillery eventually passed to Shenk’s son-in-law John Kratzer. It remained in the Kratzer family until 1861 when Abraham Bomberger purchased it. Bomberger had ties to the Shenk family, having married John Shenk’s great-granddaughter Elizabeth. The Bomberger family owned the distillery until it was bought by Ephraim Sechrist in 1920. The distillery ceased operations in 1919 due to Prohibition and it remained closed until Sechrist sold the distillery to Louis Forman in 1942.

Forman was drafted into the military in August 1942, and uncertain whether he would survive the war, he sold the distillery. Subsequently, it became the property of the Logansport Distilling Company, which in turn became a subsidiary of the big Schenley Distillers Corporation in the late 1940s.

By then, Forman had returned from the war and began to expand his liquor brokerage. In 1947, he formed the Distillers Warehouse Company and purchased a bonded liquor warehouse at Cheswick, Allegheny County, in the section of western Pennsylvania long known for its distilleries. Forman transferred the assets of the Philadelphia Brokerage Company to the Distillers Warehouse Company in April 1950, and the former company was renamed the Highspire Distillery Corporation on June 13, 1951, and The Holiday Company on November 16, 1953. Forman started marketing his own “Holiday” brand of whiskey in 1952.

In the meantime, Forman had regained control of the old Bomberger distillery in the spring of 1950. While renovating the property, he discovered some of Bomberger’s old records in the attic of the old house that had been the original distillery. Consulting his master distiller C. Everett Beam, of the famous Kentucky family that produced “Jim Beam,” Forman decided to cultivate a premium niche market by making old-fashioned pot-still mash whiskey. This traditional method could not be adapted to mass production. Forman would market the whiskey under the name “Michter’s”, which sounded vaguely Pennsylvania Dutch but was actually formed by combining the names of his sons Michael and Peter. He packaged it in old-fashioned white china crocks, and only when customers seemed more interested in them as one-time collectibles did he add a line of conventional glass bottles. Although the new operation had no other connections to the Bombergers beyond the recipe and site, Forman made much of its association with the Colonial past, the Pennsylvania Germans, Washington at Valley Forge, and the Liberty Bell in his advertising. The Schaefferstown distillery was the smallest commercial distiller in the U.S. and the first distillery to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Unfortunately, Forman began his first batch of Michter’s in 1951, and by the time it had aged the requisite six years, the country was in recession, and the whiskey market was glutted. Forman lost full control of the distillery to Pennco Distillers, Inc., but kept the formula and stock. Pennco did contract distilling for large liquor companies, but Forman was able to distribute Michter’s as a specialty item. Through his brokerage business he also distributed other liquors, tried to import French wines, and was an early importer of Japan’s “Suntory” whiskey.

Forman organized Michter’s Distillery, Inc., in 1975 with the backing of some Lebanon County businessmen and was able to purchase the Schaefferstown facility at the foreclosure sale of Pennco Distillers. Michter’s closed in the early 1990s, and Louis Forman died on January 23, 2002.

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Scope and Content

The collection, which focuses on the development and marketing of Michter’s whiskey, with a secondary emphasis on Forman’s liquor brokering business, primarily consists of advertising campaign materials and artwork, business plans and forecasts, deeds, contracts, information on brewing and distilling processes, union contracts, testimonial letters, and other correspondence. One report describes the efforts of the big distillers like Seagram and Schenley to monopolize the market by either purchasing independents like Forman or driving them out of business. A large block of correspondence deals with a liquid density meter that Louis Forman designed and hoped to market and a smaller amount on his interest in a process for suspending fine coal in oil as a fuel for use in his distillery.

Forman also collected genealogical and historical information about the distillery, its early owners and the Lebanon-Lancaster County region; the Shenks family; and the famous Beam family of distillers.

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Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by subject.

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Separated Material

Louis Forman photograph collection (Accession 2007.222), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

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Series Descriptions and Inventory

Box
1 Advertising campaigns, 1956-1970
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1 Alcohol & Tobacco Tax (Label approval), 1968
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1 Allstate - Hearing record re Louis Forman accident, 1982-1985
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1 Brewing and distilling processes, undated
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1 Business plan - Six-year approach, 1978
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1 Cancelled debenture bonds, 1951-1957
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1 Cancelled financial statements - Provident Tradesmens Bank & Trust Co., 1956
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1 Cheswick, PA property - appraisal for insurance, 1946-1947
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1 Cheswick, PA property - deeds & lease agreements, 1946-1957
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1 Cheswick, PA property - plan of property, 19 January 1947
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1 Contract cancellation - Coates Board and Carton Co., Inc., 16 November 1961
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1 Contract cancellation - Kirks Pure Rye Distillery Company, 23 August 1957
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1 Contract - Cummins Distilleries Corporation, 11 October 1935
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1 Contract - Adolph Hirsch, 28 April 1950
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1 Contracts - Hunter-Wilson Distillery Co., Inc., 1948, 1951, 1954
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1 Contracts - Logansport Distilling Company, 1942-1954
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1 Contract - Medley Distilling Company/Renfield Importers, 31 January 1959
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1 Contracts - Metal Tube & Capsule Company, Ltd., 1957
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1 Contract - Old Discovery/Kirks, 1951 September
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1 Contract - Potter Aeronautical Corp., 27 October 1958
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1 Contracts - Schenley Distillers Corporation, 1946, 1948
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1 Contracts - Unions, 1954-1956
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1 Correspondence with The Rt. Hon. Ernest Marples, M.P., 1968
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1 Department of the Treasury/Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Newsletter, 1980 August
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1 Distillery industry information, 1940-1980
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1 Environmental articles and papers, 1938, 1970, 1977
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1 Fluid coal patent - correspondence with George A. Smith, Jr., 1977-1980
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1 Genealogical and historical information, 1784-1989
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1 Highspire Distillery Corp. (formerly Philadelphia Brokerage Company) minute book, 1933-1953
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2 Joseph E. Seagram & Sons Inc. operating procedures for foods & feeds,, undated
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2 Letter from G. Kaganton to W. C. Roxby, 1952 Februray 4
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2 Letter from Prime Minister Mayato Ikeda to Keizo Saji re marketing Suntory
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2 Whiskey in the United States, 24 August 1962
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2 Letter re competitors efforts to monopolize industry, 12 August 1956
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Brooks Instrument Company, Inc. correspondence, 1960-1961
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Busser, Smith and Harding correspondence (patent file), 1961
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Correspondence, 1958-1970
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Franklin Institute correspondence, 1959-1970
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Franklin Institute progress reports, 1955-1956
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Information Research Associates, Inc. correspondence, 1969
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Magazine article, undated
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Potter Aeronautical Corporation photos and maximum security system, 1960
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2 Liquid Density Instrument: Reports, 1972-1974
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2 Michter's Advertising, 1958-1968
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2 Michter's Advertising and promotional ideas, 1968, 1970
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2 Michter's Fan mail, 1958-1969
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2 Michter's Pamphlets, 1958; 1965
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2 Michter's Promotional folder, undated
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2 Microfilm index list - Forman & Co. records (List of microfilm reels, for records from 1943-1949), 18-Apr-52
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2 New account - Girard Trust Corn Exchange Bank, 1957
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2 Office lease in Girard Trust Co. Building, 1959-1960
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2 Production processes - Distilled spirits, undated
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2 Savings account - Louis Forman and/or Marion S. Forman, 1939-1977
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2 Schaefferstown, PA property appraisal, 1966
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2 Script for tours of Michter's distillery, undated
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2 Unused contracts - re New Frontier Limited, Quality Distillers Limited and L. Forman, undated; 1964; 1966
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1 Book of unassigned stock certificates for Highspire Distillery Corporation, undated
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1 "Holiday Business" All Year Through (promotional brochure), undated
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1 Article from Philadelphia Daily News about Louis Forman, 8-May-67
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1 Article from The Washington Daily News about Louis Forman, 8-May-67
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1 Photo of a whiskey bottle and glass in a box, undated
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1 Photo of Michter's Pot Still Whiskey jug and box, undated
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1 Photo of Michter's Pot Still Whiskey jug, undated
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1 Layout for Michter's Whiskey ad, undated
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1 Layout for ad (four glasses are in the drawing), undated
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1 "If all liquor dealers...," undated
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1 Layout for Michter's Whiskey ad (job no. 4406), undated
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1 Layout for Michter's Original Pot Still Whiskey logo design, undated
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1 2 copies of contract agreement form used by Louis Forman & Company, Inc., undated
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1 Label for Michter's Whiskey bottle, undated
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1 "Just think how happy...," undated
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1 Layout for ad (bottle and still, and Amish-style design Christmas ornament drawings), undated
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1 Drawings and sketches for containers of "Eve's Apple" and "Bourbon & Cider" containers, undated
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1 Layout for Michter's Whiskey ad, undated
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1 Layout for Michter's Whiskey logo design, undated