Book Review: The Great Crossing

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Book Review: The Great Crossing

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:09 pm

The Great Crossing: A Historic Journey to Buffalo Trace Distillery, by Richard Taylor. Frankfort, Ky.: Buffalo Trace Distillery, 2002. Contents, Notes, Bibliography, Appendix, Illustrated, pp. 109.

This books is fairly well researched and has endnotes and bibliography so the reader can determine the sources used. The problem is there very little history of Buffalo Trace. There are only 97 pages of text in the book. The first 30 are spent talking about the founding of Leestown. This is important to the distillery's history, but the chapter could have been pared down to 15 or 20 pages easily. The writer tends to repeat himself and even cites the same quote from the same source twice in the chapter.

After the first chapter the starts to talk about E H Taylor, Jr. Yet another important subject in the history of the distillery and does a fairly good job even though again, he tends to repeat himself. The history of OFC distillery is tied to Taylor and is covered fairly well and the writer does a good job of explaining the history which is often confusing. He spends many pages talking about Taylor and Taylor's history but the reader is often left wondering when he will get back to the subject of the distillery.

He finally get back to the subject of the distillery with Albert Blanton but then zips through this history touching upon many subjects, but not giving much detail. He is often wrong in the facts he does present. An example of this is his claim that the Geo. T Stagg distillery was the only distillery in Kentucky that was allowed to make whiskey during prohibition. This is wrong because the A. Ph. Stitzel distillery in Louisville was also making whiskey when the government allowed for distilling to replenish stocks of medicinal alcohol. It is hoped that what the writer meant was it is the only distillery in Kentucky of that time that is still making whiskey.

The book is worth adding to your bourbon library because it does give some good history of E H Taylor and the OFC/Stagg distillery. There are some very nice photographs and maps as well.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:34 am

As I work on the Taylor-Hay family papers, I become more and more dissapointed in this book. There is a great history with the Buffalo Trace Distillery and this book does so little to cover that history.

Just some points that I would like to see discussed more in the book:
1) Yes, E H Taylor founded the distillery and ended up selling it to Stagg. I would like to know more about Stagg, his St. Louis conections and the legal battle between Taylor and Stagg over the use of Taylor's name.
2) The distillery just prior to prohibition with the expansions made and changes in management that led to Blanton being in charge.
3) Schenley's involvement during prohibition leading to their aquisition of the distillery.
4) The added expansion under Schenley with the name changes over the years. The Name Geo. T. Stagg distillery was given to several other Schenley distilleries in Kentucky between 1940 and 1970. This usually meant the distillery was soon to be closed down in the next few years.
5) The move that led to its seperation from Schenley in the early 1980's and the development of the "Single Barrel" concept of selling bourbon.

These are all points that are either not in the book at all or covered only in the slightest manner.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby bunghole » Sun Apr 24, 2005 9:32 am

Mike, I have a much more positive opinion of Richard Taylor's "The Great Crossing". I do need to go back and give it a more critical re-read.

As I recall Taylor does do some back tracking in the early chapters as he repeats events in a very disjointed way. This is nothing that wouldn't have caught and cured by a good editor. You'd always want someone that has no interest or knowledge of what you're writing about to ruthlessly whip your prose into proper shape. If heated arguments do not occur then the editor isn't doing their job.

"The Great Crossing" is well foot-noted with a good bibliography, and on the whole is well written. There are many books on bourbon in my library that are far more poorly researched if they were researched at all and some were written by folks that had no business whatsoever of being in possession of pen & paper.

As we all know history can be presented in any number of often erroneous ways. Insufficient and shoddy reaserch is common enough. Historical revisionism is very common today as many so called historians twist facts to suit their own personal (often radical left-wing) political agendas. This is particularly true of Civil War history.

So in the case of E.H. Taylor, Jr. all I've ever read is glowing accounts of his accomplishments. I too would like to know the actual results of the lawsuit through the eyes of a knowledgeable barrister such as Chuck or Gary. This whole thing makes Taylor look like a shady character that is dishonest in his business dealings. Stagg won the suit so Taylor has to be guilty of something even if all it is resides in being an inept manager and general business bungler. We do know he over extended his credit and was deeply in debt. Stagg paid off everyone and took everything.

One good thing about books is they can always be revised and reprinted.

:arrow: ima :book:
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Unread postby Strayed » Sun Apr 24, 2005 2:11 pm

bunghole wrote:...So in the case of E.H. Taylor, Jr. all I've ever read is glowing accounts of his accomplishments ... This whole thing makes Taylor look like a shady character that is dishonest in his business dealings

What? A whiskey dealer who might have used deceptive business tactics? NO! How could that be? Why, he was close friends with high-ranking officials of The Government. What more proof of his integrity would a reasonable person want? Surely you're not calling into question the character of career politicians? What upright, righteous profession will you so insensitively attack next? Horse traders? :naughty:

Humorous sarcasm aside, "creative" accounting practices and direct political influence were as popular then as they are today, and a lot easier without the prying eyes of a Securities and Exchange Commission. I had always understood that Edmund Taylor and George Stagg were involved, jointly, over many years with several distilleries in Franklin, Anderson, and Woodford counties. Only a very small part of their activities show up in official documents, and even there they appear disjointed and confusing. In general, they were rarely if ever listed as legal partnerships, but rather one would "own" the business while the other acted as an employed "manager". I have the impression that which one was which probably changed often, depending on who was being sued or threatening to file for bankruptcy at a given time.

One good thing about books is they can always be revised and reprinted

Why Linn Bunghole Spencer, you ol' revisionist you! :rant:
:laughing5: :laughing5: :laughing5:
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Unread postby bunghole » Sun Apr 24, 2005 8:16 pm

Strayed wrote:Why Linn Bunghole Spencer, you ol' revisionist you! :rant:
:laughing5: :laughing5: :laughing5:


John, literary revision (commonly called rewriting) is normally a good thing. You're twisting of the facts is but one good example of why we must all be on guard against historical revisionism. :lol:
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Unread postby Stoopsie » Thu Apr 28, 2005 4:58 am

Strayed wrote:

Humorous sarcasm aside,...


Sarcasm? Yes. Humorous? I think not. :booty:
Howie

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Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Apr 28, 2005 11:54 am

John,
I am hoping to learn more about the firm Gregory, Stagg and Co. as I preprocess this collection. From what I am seeing right now, Stagg was only involved at OFC. Taylor on the other hand was involved with several other firms and distilleries.

Mike Veach
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