Zany broadside telling the tale of Deacon Giles Distillery

[George Cheever] / Miles St. John [illustrator] / Stereotyped by J[ustus] S[tarr] Redfield, 33 Ann-Street, N.Y., DEACON GILES’ DISTILLERY…. From the Salem Landmark. “INQUIRE AT AMOS GILES’ DISTILLERY.” New York, 1835.
Broadside, 5 columns of letterpress surmounted by headline and four captioned wood-engraved illustrations. Printed area 19 1/8”h x 14 ½”w on a 20”h x 15 7/8”w sheet, spot color. Cloth backed, folded and tipped into original pocket folder.

A zany illustrated broadside using the tale of Deacon Giles Distillery to warn of the dangers of strong drink.

According to American National Biography,

“[George B.] Cheever joined the temperance reform movement in 1833; two years later he attained national prominence with his enormously popular temperance tract, Enquire at Amos Giles’ Distillery. The essay, cast in the form of a dream, was a thinly disguised portrayal of John Stone, a well-liked Unitarian deacon in Salem [Mass.] who owned a distillery. Cheever’s neighbors were outraged by his slander: he received a public horsewhipping, was sued and convicted for libel, and was sentenced to thirty days in jail. He immediately became a cause célèbre among the nation’s temperance reformers and abolitionists and a popular reform hero.”

In Cheever’s “dream” of Deacon Giles Distillery, the Deacon finds his operation short staffed on the Sabbath, only to be rescued by a gang of “demon brewers.” Unbeknownst to him, the demons “were going to write certain inscriptions on all his rum casks, that should remain invisible until they were sold by the Deacon, but should flame out in characters of fire as soon as they were broached.” Spelling out messages such as “Convulsions and Epilepsies,” “Insanity and Murder,” and “A Potion from the Lake of Fire and Brimstone,” these magical characters caused—at least in Cheever’s imagining—much consternation throughout the countryside and no end of trouble for the good Deacon.

Deacon Giles Distillery seems to have appeared first in February 1835 as a tract in a Massachusetts newspaper, but achieved sufficient notoriety that it was promptly reissued in New York City as an illustrated broadside. This writer is familiar with a number of variants, some with the “dream” in prose and others translating it into verse, all with four or five vignettes illustrating Cheever’s “dream.” Offered here is a prose edition, with four columns of letterpress surmounted by four wood engravings showing “The Deacon’s Distillery in full operation!,” “The Deacon’s Bargain,” “The Devil’s inscription becomes visible,” and “The Foreman in a rage.”

The American Antiquarian Society holds two impressions of this broadside, one “framed and displayed in the men’s room opposite the Ms. Dept.” The example offered here is unusual for having been partially colored and bound in a pocket folder. Cheever’s tract was also reissued numerous times in pamphlet form in the 1840s, with the illustrations printed on a single folding sheet.

Shoemaker, Checklist of American Imprints #30884. As of March 2017, OCLC 191240220 (American Antiquarian Society, Peabody Essex Museum) and 31964074 (Brown, Harvard, and Peabody Essex Musem)


Folds as issued, with some minor soiling, spotting and toning.