1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

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1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:15 pm

The Director of the Filson Historical Society, Mark Wetherington, gave me an issue of Tennessee Ancestor, Vol. 25, No.3, December 2009. This is a publication of the East Tennessee Historical Society. It has an article titled "1820 Blount County Manufacturers Census" transcribed by Ann K. Blomquist. It is a very interesting census for me because the most common manufacturing business was distilling. There were 48 distilleries, including one owned by a woman, Elizabeth Steward. The next most common business was blacksmith with 24 of them in the county.

Now the nice thing about this census is that they Give the name of the owner, tell the number and size of the stills, the amount of grain used and the amount of of whiskey yielded from a bushel of grain and the total amount of whiskey made in the year. What I have learned from the document is that Tennessee was very much like Kentucky with still sizes running from 30 gallons to 200 gallons in size. Most are copper stills but three of the distillers were using "log" stills. Their yield ran from 2 gallons per bushel to 3 1/2 gallons per bushel. Here is an example of the entries:
Francis Hebderson
One Distillery
1. How many stills?
1 Coper Still
2. What is the size of the still?
63 gallons
3. How much grain consumed?
150 Bus.
4. What is the price per bushel?
33 cents
5. How much whiskey made?
2 gal to bus
6. What is the whiskey worth?
50 cents per Gal.
7. How many hands employed?
1 hand
Cost of Corn $50
Worth of whiskey $300

Another entry on the same page:
David Dearmin
One Log Distillery
1. What is the size of that still?
65 gal.
2. How much corn distilled?
500 bus.
3. What is the price of corn?
33 cents
4. What quantity of whiskey made [per] the bus?
2 gall to the bus.
5. Current selling price?
50 cents
6. Hands employed?
1 hand
Price of corn $165 Doll
Worth of the whiskey $500 Doll

The yields are low, but they seem to be making corn whiskey since the price of the grain is pretty standard for every distillery and the price of the finish product is also pretty much standard. The low yields also makes me think corn whiskey since I have been told that corn malt is not very effective in the conversion to sugar.

It is also interesting that there are no coopers in the county and all of the distillers employ only one hand so I assume that is the owner that is employed.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Re: 1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Aug 03, 2010 8:28 pm

Therefore nothing was aged, Mike?

Gary
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Re: 1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:00 am

Gary,
I do not think that anything was aged. No cooperages are indicated. The price they are getting for the whiskey is about half of what whiskey was selling for in Kentucky at the time. I think this whiskey was mostly sold in the local market.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Re: 1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:42 pm

Regarding the number of workers, one hand could mean one employed/paid person in addition to the owner. Also the owners family (sons) would probably work at the place in some capacity and they might not have counted. I don't know if they would have counted slaves or indentured servants.

Did the census list farmers as a separate category?

Does the "How much grain is consumed" question refer to how much per run or what? We need to work on our math here (I know there is some aversion to numbers here that don't correspond to the proof values for whiskey).

But Mr Hebderson, if you get 2 gallons per bushel, and used 150 bushels, that means 300 gallons of whiskey. If it's only worth 50 cent a gallon, you only should get $150, not $300. :shock:
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Re: 1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:29 am

Cheryl,
Your math is of course correct - the census taker evidently was not an accountant and if you look at some of the spelling he was probably barely educated.

No farmers were not listed because farming was not considered a "manufacturer". This was eastern Tennessee and doubt if there were many slave holders in the area and those that did have slaves were probably owning no more than a couple, but I will see if I can find an 1820 census for the county a check. I could be wrong, but I know that this is the general case for eastern Kentucky of the time. You are right in that they may not have counted children or slaves working in the distillery on the census since they were unpaid labor. That is one reason why I think the count is the owner/distiller and any hands he paid to work at the distillery. This survey was about economic impact on the county after all.

The amount of grain used is for the complete distilling season. It does not give us any details as to each individual mash, but the cumlative amount at the end of the distilling season. I wished they had broken down the grains into what was used, but the only grain mentioned is corn and I assume that is the majority of the grain used in distilling at that time.

For those who want to know, this county is just south of Knoxville and I suspect that Knoxville was the major market for thier whiskey. With the small stills, I suspect they were filling jugs of whiskey to be sold to grocers and saloons in Knoxville and of course for personal and local use as well. There was no Federal tax on the whiskey at that time so the only records we will have are business records and censuses such as this one.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Re: 1820 Blount County Tennessee Manufacturers census

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:13 am

Thanks Mike, that is very interesting to see. And I think too that whiskey had more uses than just drinking. Preserving fruits and many industrial uses. Including the production of gunpowder; the alcohol was used to wet the gunpowder meal during milling, and helping prevent ignition (showing they used a low proof alcohol?).

Maike, can you read this article at JSTOR? It's about the production of powder in Pennsylvania during the Revolution. http://www.jstor.org/pss/20091001
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