I. W. Harper Bourbon Comes Home

ImageSlide1848.pngI. W. Harper History website tells us that Isaac Wolfe Bernheim was born in Germany in 1848, and by 1867 had arrived in New York at the age of 19 and with only 4 American dollars in his pocket . Somehow he made his way to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he became a peddler of what was known as “Yankee Notions,” an assortment of merchandise. The frugal Dutch occupants of the area provided him a steady business. Soon he was able to purchase a wagon and a horse, but when the horse died unexpectedly, he took a job in a general store in Paducah, Kentucky, owned by two uncles. Three months later, he became a bookkeeper  at a wholesale liquor business.

He saved enough money to bring his brother Bernard to the United States and gladly relinquished the bookkeeping job to him. Isaac went out on the road again to represent the company as a traveling salesman. Denied a promised partnership after years of work at the firm, I.W. Bernheim and his brother Bernard set off on their own, and a legend began. With the purchase of one barrel of whiskey they created a business in the back room of a wholesale grocery store. I.W. HARPER bourbon takes root as Isaac Wolfe and Bernard Bernheim along with silent partner Eldrige Palmer start Bernheim Bros. distillery in Paducah, Kentucky, with $3200.

One of their salesmen was named Harper. This Harper fellow was so well liked by his customers that they referred to the whiskey as “Mr. Harper’s whiskey.” In 1872, when the Bernheims decided to name their choicest whiskey, they took Isaac’s initials (I. W.) and Harper’s last name. The I. W. Harper brand had its name and the I.W. HARPER trademark.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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