Robert E. Lee: “The Pride of the South”

[Hat-Tip to Mark Benbow, who passed along this article from the Sept-Oct, 1996 issue of the American Breweriana]

A few weeks back I shared an image of Robert E. Lee which was used by the J.W. Kelley Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee to market its Deep Spring Whiskey.  The whiskey was sold between 1903 and 1915.  Lee’s image, as well as other high-ranking former Confederates, were used to sell a wide range of products throughout the postwar period.   Immediately following the repeal of prohibition the Seitz Brewing Company of Easton, Pennyslvania began marketing Dixie Beer which featured Lee astride Traveler.  Out of concern that few people in Pennsylvania would be interested in drinking such a  beer the company decided to market their product through a distributing company in North Carolina called  Southern Breweries, Inc.

Shortly thereafter a letter was sent to Seitz from the Virginia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy expressing disapproval over the use of the Lee’s image:  “His name is too sacred for us to allow this without hearty disapproval.  Because he is enshrined in our hearts as the ‘Pride of the South’ The Division requests that his label be withdrawn.”  They chose to comply.  It’s unfortunate that more information is not available from the article, but it does reveal the extent to which the U.D.C. went to control public consumption of Lost Cause icons.  It is impossible to know whether the U.D.C. was concerned that Lee was being used to sell alcohol or that it was being done by a northern company.  After all they apparently had no issue with a southern company using Lee’s name and image to sell whiskey.  It’s an interesting story given our tendency to focus on the steps the U.D.C. took to control the content of school primers and other publications about the Civil War and the “Old South.”

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5 comments… add one
  • Rob Schultz Jun 24, 2015 @ 5:26

    Interesting, my great grandfather was a brewmaster at Seitz, and this was the first time I had heard about this.

  • Kevin Levin Sep 1, 2008 @ 12:19

    Thanks for chiming on this Karen as few people have spent as much time on the UDC as you. I assume the ladies would have a big problem with the way Lee’s image is being used by Dixie Outfitters and others.

  • Karen Cox Sep 1, 2008 @ 11:58

    I have a magnet of this label that I bought from the MOC. For some reason, I thought New Orleans was on the label (I’ll have to check on it, it’s in my office). The UDC did worry about how Lee’s image was used (They didn’t want him on belt buckles and other trinkets, but calendars were okay). I disagree with Lisa that it would have been hard for the UDC to oppose the UCV & SCV as the Daughters had eclipsed men in power to control the Lost Cause message by then. The only way to REALLY get at the use of Lee’s image (and opposition to it) would be to investigate the business records of the company if they exist.

  • Kevin Levin Jul 15, 2008 @ 10:29

    Lisa, — Unfortunately, I don’t know much more about the Deep Spring Whiskey company beyond what I posted. Your suggestion that the interaction between SCV and UDC members may have something to do with the different reactions is reasonable enough. The gender issue is quite interesting and as you know has been analyzed by a number of historians in recent years, including Karen Cox and Caroline Janney.

  • Lisa Jul 14, 2008 @ 14:15


    This is good. Thanks for pointing it out. I suspect the UDC opposed the use of Lee’s image because it promoted alcohol and the fact that it was a product of a Northern company probably didn’t help any.

    The role of the UDC was much different in 1933 than during the time Deep Spring Whiskey was produced. Since the company was based in Chattanooga, it’s possible that the men running the J. W. Kelley Co. were relatives or friends of UCV and SCV members, if not veterans/sons themselves. It would’ve been hard for the UDC to oppose it if they were. It wouldn’t suprised me if some of them did though. However, they had little influence when it came to opposition of the UCV & SCV and if they did, nothing ever came of it. (Do we know why they stopped selling it in 1915?) By 1933, most of the veterans were gone, the SCV wasn’t doing much of anything, the role of women in America had changed, so the UDC was able to use their influence to prevent things like this.

    If correct, this leaves a lot to be considered as far as gender and the Lost Cause is concerned. It would somewhat explain the present day double standard I spoke about in the comments to the Deep Spring Whiskey post.

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