Friday, September 24, 2010
American Spirits boss Sidney Kessler
In Walter's "The Early Lives of Stan and Helga Ruby" document, we learn from Sandy Klein's memories that Walter Ruby's "partner" in Carioca was a man named Peter Siskind and that at some point the two men joined American Spirits, presumably bringing their product with them. The document goes on to report that after Walter's death, Siskind and a new partner Sidney Kessler owned the company until selling it to Schenley in 1946.
There are some things right and other things wrong about that account. The following excerpt from "Through the Sands of Time: A History of the Jewish Community of St. Thomas" has lots of detail about Kessler's activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including not-so-veiled hints that he made his fortune as a bootlegger. This article says it was Kessler who founded the Carioca distillery in Puerto Rico, which sounds right, but in 1938, which we know is wrong.
[For some reason, I can't get my image of the chapter to display larger than it is at right. Click it twice to read it in full size.]
I think it is likely that Kessler was the main mover behind American Distilling Co., and that American Spirits was the distribution and marketing agent for American Distilling in the United States. In a 1946 legal report on a stockholder lawsuit against American Distilling, the ownership of American Spirits is described as 50% owned by American Distilling and 50% by two of the defendants, Peter Siskind and Sidney Kessler.
Anyway, the excerpt reveals a good deal of fascinating information about Kessler, including his later activities as a major real estate developer in St. Thomas. Enjoy.