I knew I had to prepare to write about this handsome token, featuring a subject matter of such great economic, political, and social importance it has shaped, enhanced and even ruined lives throughout the ages. So, I braved one of the many blizzards of the winter of 2015 and headed into the cruel winds that pelted me with stinging snow, downhill (both ways) to the nearest NBLC to purchase a bottle of Jack Daniels – just the cheap stuff, not the mouth watering, limited edition Sinatra Select blend available only this year – and I sat to ponder why our beloved leader, our President, would thrust this particular piece upon me to write about, forcing me to imbibe the bitter spirits that can only be the life-work of the devil himself.
Made of brass measuring 32mm diameter, the piece has the words “Green River Whiskey” above the figure of a black man holding an old nag by the reins and the words “The whiskey without regrets” below on the obverse.
The reverse features a horseshoe, four-leaf clover and a wishbone with “Green River” across them and the statement “It’s lucky to drink whiskey” around the perimeter.
Green River Whiskey was the product of John McCulloch of Owensboro, Kentucky, which he started distilling in 1885 and by the turn of the century his blends were winning awards internationally.
I’ve also seen a watch fob with the same obverse artwork, but with the words “She was bread in old Kentucky.” In addition to the slogans above, the following gem was used prominently by the brand: “The whiskey without a headache.”
Judging by the variances available, it was a mass-produced item over a number of years in the 1930s, with some dating it specifically to 1936. There were as many as 20 different dies in use over this time, with only subtle differences in the design.
Most texts refer to this as a token, but without any nominal value, it seems more of an advertising medal. Either way it’s a fascinating piece of American history.