Brown-Forman Established and George Garvin Brown

Historical Marker #2105 notes the creation of the Brown-Forman Company in Louisville, Kentucky, and one of the company's founders, George Garvin Brown.

Brown was born in Munfordville, Kentucky, on September 2, 1846. He moved to Louisville in 1862, and attended Male High School. Brown first worked as a wholesale drug salesman. In 1870, George teamed up with his half brother, J. T. S. Brown Jr., to launch J. T. S. Brown and Brothers Co. They started by producing bourbon whiskey for doctors and pharmacies in the area. Their company quickly expanded production for the general public.

The company changed its name to Brown-Chambers in 1884, and then Brown-Thompson in 1881. The company adopted its current name, Brown-Forman, in 1890. George Forman was George Brown's partner and bookkeeper. Forman died in 1901, but his name continued to live on in the company’s name.

George Brown became known for his innovations in the whiskey industry and his product's excellent reputation. He prided himself on the company's premier bourbon, Old Forester, and placed his signature on every bottle. He wanted the whiskey bottles to have a uniform quality and taste. The company made these assurances by bottling and sealing the whiskey on site. This process prevented retailers from mixing or diluting the liquor.

Brown also became the first president of the National Liquor Dealers’ Association in 1894. He opposed prohibition and even wrote a book against prohibition in 1910, The Holy Bible Repudiates Prohibition. In his personal life, Brown married Amelia Bryant Owsley in 1876. They had two children, Owsley and Robinson Brown. George died in 1917 and was buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

The Brown-Forman Company continued to thrive even after George Brown's death. His son, Owsley Brown, took over for his father. The company steadily grew to become one of the largest wine and spirits companies in the world, which it remains today.

Images

Brown-Forman Distillery

Brown-Forman Distillery

This postcard shows the Brown Forman Distiller in Louisville. It was sent in 1942. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Brown-Forman Advertising Car

Brown-Forman Advertising Car

The Brown Forman Distillery and their advertising car are shown in this photograph from 1936. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

George Brown's half-brother J. T. S. Brown was also involved in the spirits business. His distillery in Anderson County is shown here. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

Brown-Forman partner J. T. S. Brown™s distillery in Anderson County is shown in this early twentieth century photograph. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

The J. T. S. Brown Distillery warehouse building is shown in this photograph. Note the row of barrels on the elevated track. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

J. T. S. Brown Distillery

This photograph provides an interior view of the distillery warehouse where barrels of bourbon were aged. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Whitney Todd, “Brown-Forman Established and George Garvin Brown,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 26, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/419.
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