BRADDOCK MARYLAND RYE's label stated that the distillery was located in Cumberland, Maryland, which was almost correct. It was really in Lavale, about two or three miles west of Cumberland proper, on the old National Road. The first distillery built here was that of Clabaugh and James, as early as 1836. It wasn't particularly successful and the plant spent most of the next forty-seven years as a chemical factory. In 1883 James Clark and John Keating, half-brothers who operated a whiskey wholesale business, bought the distillery, refurbished it, and reopened in 1895 as the James Clark Distilling Company.
They produced a rye whiskey they called Braddock Rye (named for General Edward
Braddock, who was killed in the French and Indian war after having become
something of a local hero in Cumberland. The
following was taken from Jack Sullivan's wonderful article in the Fall 2005
edition of Bottles and Extras. We don't know if Jack is
related to the William E. Sullivan listed as the New England agent for James
Braddock Maryland Rye was advertised as “America’s Finest Whiskey.” Clark registered this brand name with the U.S. Government at least three times - in 1886, 1905 and 1916. Braddock Maryland Rye was sold as a four-year-old (four quarts for $4.50) an eight-year-old (four quarts for $5.50, with a premium “black label” at $1.50 per quart) and also as Braddock Old Export Whiskey, Braddock Barley Malt, and Braddock "Blend of Whiskeys". The distillery itself was also known as the Braddock Distillery. However, James Clark also featured other brands, including "Old National Pike Maryland Rye", "Old Cumberland XXXX" and "Queen City Club".
Clark's brands became the predominant whiskeys sold in the Shenandoah Valley and
in Washington, D.C., which of course ensured it's prominence among those most
influential in promoting consumer preferences.
The idea of being able to send a check to a company and have
their product delivered to you by an agent of the United States federal
government had already long been successful to retailers such as Sears, Roebuck
& Co., but with more and more states electing to prohibit the sale of alcohol
beverages, the advantages of mail-order to a seller of beverage spirits began to
take on really awesome proportions. Again, from Jack Sullivan's article...
Well, almost no trace. Examining a map of LaVale, John noticed a wedge-shaped area where Rye Street, Braddock Street, and Distillery Road converge. An area next to a creek, with a wooded hill on the opposite side, and remnants of a railroad track. Today, a couple of food wholesalers, a snack-chip company, a FedEx depot, and a few blocks of small houses occupy the area, but it's pretty obvious that this was once the home of Braddock Pure Rye Whiskey. Nevertheless, when John spoke to some of the residents, not one of them had even a clue that a whiskey distillery might once have been in this area, despite the street names.
Story and original photography copyright ©2006 by John Lipman. All rights reserved.