A wacky and controversial illustrated temperance broadside telling the tale of Deacon Giles’ Distillery

[George B. Cheever] / Miles St. John [engraver] / Stereotyped by J.S. Redfield, DEACON GILES’ DISTILLERY. New York: [George Cheever], [ca. 1835].
Broadside, 23 ½”h x 18 ½”w at sheet edge, uncolored. 5 columns of letterpress and 5 wood engravings (the largest 6 ¼”h x 9 ¾”w, the others 3 5/8”h x 5”w), surmounting five columns of letterpress. Scattered minor spotting stains and soiling; faint pencil scribble in lower-right margin; tissue mends and reinforcements to old folds and separations; chips at edges and corners not affecting printed image.

Likely a unique variant of a fantastic temperance broadside that led to the author’s imprisonment for libel.  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.” The inscriptions spelled out messages such as “Convulsions and Epilepsies. Inquire at Amos Giles Distillery”; “Insanity and Murder. Inquire at Deacon Giles Distillery”; and the like.

These magical messages caused—at least in Cheever’s “dream”—much consternation throughout the countryside and no end of trouble for the good Deacon.

“But no sooner had the first glass been drawn from any of [the casks], than the invisible inscriptions blamed out on the cask-head to every beholder…. The drunkards were terrified from the dram shops; the bar-rooms were emptied of their customers; but in their place a gaping crowd filled every store that possessed a cask of the Deacon’s devil-distilled liquor, to wonder and be affrighted at the spectacle….


“The rum-sellers, and grocers, and tavern-keepers were full of fury. They loaded their teams with the accursed liquor, and drove it back to the distillery.”

“Deacon Giles Distillery” first appeared in February 1835 in vol. 1 no. 46 of the Salem (Massachusetts) Landmark. It achieved sufficient notoriety that a number of broadside variants were promptly reissued in New York City. I have seen a few of these, some with the “dream” in prose and others rendering it in verse, and all with four or five vignettes illustrating Cheever’s “dream.”

Offered here is a variant with the text in prose, with five wood engravings surmounting five columns of letterpress. The images are untitled, but the titles of four are known from another variant: The large central engraving is “The Deacon’s Distillery in full operation!”; that at the top is “The Deacon’s Bargain,”; that at lower left is “The Devil’s inscription becomes visible,” and that at lower right is “The Foreman in a rage.” The fifth, at lower center, shows the rejected barrels being returned to the distillery, their magical inscriptions blazing brightly.

See here and here for two other variants of the broadside.

Cheever’s tract was also reissued numerous times in pamphlet form at least through 1859, with the illustrations printed on a single folding sheet.

In all a striking, entertaining and extremely rare piece of early American Temperance ephemera.

OCLC 1286676088 describes a broadside of identical title, also stereotyped by Redfield, but it is ambiguous about which variant of the broadside is held. OCLC 31964282 records a variant with four wood engravings instead of five. Sabin 12397 lists a Deacon Giles broadside, though it is unclear which variant is being described.



Scattered minor stains and light toning, tissue mends and reinforcements to old folds and separations, few marginal chips (including a larger one at center right)