A. Graf Whiskey Clock, St. Louis, MO, Louisville, KY. Circa 1905

One of my favorite advertising items is this beautiful oak wood clock from the August Graf Distilling Company. This clock was found in a tavern in a small town of Albers, Illinois and had been there for over one hundred years. It was a giveaway intended for this distiller’s larger retailers at that time and was considered an expensive advertising piece. A friend of mine rescued it about ten years ago before the building was demolished.

The A. Graf Distilling Company was based in St. Louis, MO at 1325-1329 South Seventh Street from 1867-1905 when the business moved a few doors down to 1236-1244 South Seventh Street.   The A. Graf Distillery also had a secondary location in Louisville, KY for many years.

A Graf Whiskey Clock Close Up

A Graf Whiskey Clock Close Up

This particular clock advertises two of their three main brands of whiskey, Old Capital Rye and Old Governor Whiskey.   This clock does not include the Glen Forest Sour Mash brand, which is unusual because almost all A. Graf advertisements included all three of their flagship brands on them, with the exception of the individual etched shot glasses, which would have the brand name of the whiskey being dispensed only on them.  The gold etched lettering was put into the glass from the backside, allowing the glass to be cleaned regularly without damaging the lettering.   The quality and workmanship of this clock are also evident in the fact the clock still keeps time with complete accuracy.

The August Graf Distillers Company was established in 1869 by Mr. Graf when he was only 19 years old.    Mr. Graf apparently was a very good businessman as he extensively used advertising in the late 1800’s to propel his brands to household names.  Mr. Graf also became involved in the Mayfield Distillery in LaRue County, Kentucky.   In fact, it is believed most if not all of his whiskey was actually made in KY and simply shipped to St. Louis for repackaging in what was the fourth largest city in the U.S. in 1900.  The A. Graf Distilling Company was later changed to the August Graf Distillery Company in 1900 when many distilling companies believed having the word distillery in their name implied they were making the whiskey, helping perpetuate a myth of consistency and a better product.

While August Graf died in 1905, his sons continued running the business until 1919, when the dawn of prohibition ended their business opportunities, as was the case with so many other alcohol related companies at that time.  Today collectors can find remnants from the successful business by way of stoneware whiskey jugs, etched shot glasses, paper advertising giveaways, this wooden clock, and many labeled bottles with one of Mr. Graf’s three very successful brands inside.