Sunday, September 25, 2022

“Wilson, That’s All”

[1562 Broadway, New York, New York, c. 1939–1941. From the NYC Municipal Archives Collections. Click for a much larger view.]

I wanted to look around Times Square, so here we are on the east side of Broadway, just a short walk from the TKTS outpost and the annual ball drop. The 1562 address is next to the RKO Palace. I’m posting this photograph for just one reason: Wilson Blended Whiskey. I know that name from Gilbert Sorrentino’s novel Aberration of Starlight (1980):

He saw Gramp drinking whiskey right out of the bottle one day. Wilson’s “That’s All.”
That’s one of six references to Wilson’s in the novel (set in 1939). Gramp (John McGrath) buys two quarts of it a week. Reading the novel in the pre-Internet world, I assumed that Wilson’s was a genuine (bottom-shelf?) brand. Now I discover that the Wilson name was well known, even appearing on matchbooks and nifty little clocks for display in bars. And on the side of the Hunter-Wilson Distilling Co. of Bristol, Pennsylvania, founded by Robert Wilson, one of whose other brands has been resurrected in Kentucky as Highspire Whiskey. There was also a Hunter Blended Whiskey, not resurrected.

Pinocchio was released in February 1940; The Courageous Dr. Christian, in April 1940. Notice The Newsreel Theatre — the all-news station of its time — and the Bond mannequins. And the stack of beverages: whiskey, coffee (Martinson), and milk (Borden).

The big surprise at the bottom of this rabbit hole: “Wilson, That’s All” was the title of a 1912 campaign song for Woodrow Wilson. And the whiskey slogan was its inspiration.

In the pre-Internet world, I don’t know how I would ever have known any of this.

Related reading
More OCA posts with photographs from the NYC Municipal Archives

[Google Maps shows 1562 as an empty storefront in August 2021, surrounded by lots of construction.]

comments: 6

Anonymous said...

good research

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, reader.

Anonymous said...

it's on this menu

Michael Leddy said...

In pretty posh surroundings.

ChasM said...

Off topic, but I'm a bit surprised nothing on the passing of the great Pharaoh Sanders, namesake to my cat Feral Sanders.

Michael Leddy said...

I have to admit: I didn’t follow his music. There are plenty of people who did and who are writing about him now. I’d feel dishonest jumping on.