Monday, September 12, 2011

History By Dribbles: The W. R. Pugh Beer Letters (09)


A couple of weeks ago, a seller of “antique paper” in Michigan put a 1913 letter by W. R. Pugh addressed to the El Dorado Brewing Company of Stockton up for auction on E-bay.

I bid the required minimum, no one else bid, and I got the letter. It is reproduced here as Image 1.

Several aspects of this letter are interesting to me.

>>  I asked the seller how he came to have this letter (and three others by Pugh addressed to the same company, also buying beer or returning empties). He told me they came from a trunk in a basement in a Michigan house. He had bought the truck for “the paper” and he knew nothing more.

>> It happens that there were a number of other letters addressed to the El Dorado Brewing Company of Stockton dated 1913 or close to it.* Someone in Michigan was saving the business correspondence of that company.  Such are the oddities and dribbles of new history items.

>> Warren R. Pugh was born in 1877 and died in 1945. He operated a barbershop on G Street in the ‘10s followed by pool rooms there over the ‘20s and ‘30s.  Some were partnerships, which included Pugh & Loftus, Pugh & Grady (Image 5), and Pugh & Nickerson.

>> Of considerable interest, Pugh was one of the small set of men who dominated the Davis Trustees/City Council from its forming in 1917 to WWII. First elected to a two-year term in 1918, he was re-elected to four-year terms in ’20, ‘24, ’28, ’32, and ’36 (Image 4). This is 6 terms spanning 22 years.**

>> Pugh’s four letters to the El Dorado Brewing Company in the spring and summer of 1913 show him buying cases of beer and returning empty bottles.   
This fact would be of little note were it not also the fact that retail sales of alcohol were banned in Davis in 1911 (by a state law crafted to protect wayward students, we are told).

Mr. Pugh might have been fond of Valley Brew Lager from the El Dorado Brewing Co. and consumed cases of it privately.

Or, in the clubby chumminess of some G Street barbershops and pool rooms, could some people buy a beer despite the law?
*  A listing of letters & associated documents not already sold is at:

** The Davis “old boy”/G Street clique of the ‘10s-’30s is described at: