Demons’ Rum

[George Barrell Cheever (1807-1890)], Deacon Giles' Distillery. Sold at 107 West Broadway, N.Y., [1835] .
Broadside, 21.75"h x 16.5"w on a 24"h x 18.75" sheet, uncolored. Title in display type followed by five cuts surmounting two columns of poetry and five columns of text.

Interesting and unrecorded variant of this famous illustrated broadside.

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” Deacon Giles finds his distillery 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-in Cheever’s imagining at least-much consternation throughout the countryside and no end of trouble for the good Deacon.

Cheever’s work 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, almost all with four cuts illustrating Cheever’s “dream.” Offered here is a variant with five cuts, not four, including one apparently not found elsewhere. The additional cut shows the Deacon and his demon brewers dancing in a circle around the distillery. This fifth cut is accompanied by a four-stanza “Song of the Demon Brewers,” which also does not seem to appear elsewhere. It begins:

“Round about the cauldron go,
In the poisoned entrails throw,
Durgs, that in the coldest veins
Shoot incessant fiery pains;
Herbs, that brought from hell’s black door,
Do its business slow and sure.”

Cheever’s tract was also reissued numerous times in pamphlet form in the 1840s.

Not in the catalog of the American Antiquarian Society or OCLC, though both record other variants of this broadside.


Small losses along old folds and some reinforcements on verso. Withal a most compelling image.