While across the Midwest the final months of any given year are usually
accompanied by cold winds and lowering temperatures that announce the
oncoming onslaught of winter, in Peoria the final season of 1896 brought with
it unusually temperate conditions. This made life easier for everyone.
On Daisy’s family farm, the harvest – while always time-consuming and backbreaking
for her brothers, uncles and cousins – went off without a hitch, and
the nice weather made it easier for Daisy to get into work every day. Last
year, it wouldn’t had been so easy because of the torrential rains that swept
through. Great rumbling rivers of mud appeared seemingly out of nowhere,
cutting through farm land, washing out country roads, and gathering up
everything in its path.
Daisy remembers the two days in particular just before Christmas when her
homemade rain gauge measured nearly three inches each day. From an
early age, Daisy was keenly interested in the natural world around her – she
learned the names of plants and flowers (not just the pretty ones) – and this
interest extended to the physical sciences as well especially weather and
the night sky. She was astonished at how much brighter the stars were when
she was looking up at them from atop the family barn as opposed to when
she was staying with her aunt and uncle in the smoky city.
For Dan, the warm (and dry) weather made for much easier daddling during
the holiday rush. It seemed like the Great Western couldn’t produce enough
whiskey to stay up with demand – as soon as a barrel was aged and
deemed fit for consumption it was immediately daddled away to a
customer somewhere in town. And this kept the daddlers very busy all
Dan too remembers the rains from the year before – right before Christmas
when they were daddling non-stop three shifts a day – and not only
because of how difficult it made his job but also because of how sick he was
afterwards. He barely remembers the Christmas holiday at all that year on his
family farm as his body was wracked by the flu and he never left his bed.
But thankfully this year it was different. It was warm – nearly 70 degrees on
Thanksgiving! – and it was dry. Daisy could still ride her bike into work every
morning, and Dan didn’t have to go through three pairs of daddler boots
(nor endure a nasty flu). While cold weather meant brisk sales, this year’s
warm weather didn’t cool demand in the least – the Great Western was in
high production, churning out over 10,000 gallons of Ravenswood Rye and
Ravenswood Bourbon per day. And the other distilleries weren’t too far
Peoria at this time was the “Whiskey Capital of the World” with eleven
distilleries packing Distillery Row on Peoria’s riverfront. Here more whiskey was
produced than anywhere else on the planet and their owners were justifiably
proud. Just a couple of years before they all got together to share
estimations on how much they each were producing – something they had
all been very secretive of – and they were astonished to realize that on any
given day they could collectively churn out over 180,000 gallons – and over
18 million gallons during any given year. So, the “Whiskey Capital of the
World” title was rightly earned.
While this meant huge profits for the distilleries, it also meant the city of Peoria
– and the United States in general – benefited as well. Profited is more like it.
Fifty percent of the U.S. government’s alcohol-related tax revenue during this
time came directly from these eleven distilleries in Peoria – of which the
owners were well-aware and is why they joked that everyone in the country
was enjoying a “taste” of Peoria’s whiskey whether they drank it or not –
even the teetotalers.