R. S. Strader & Son was founded in October 1890 by Robert S. Strader and Wilson P. Strader (his son). After his father’s death in 1891, Strader became the sole owner. The firm’s offices and four-story warehouse were located at 74 East Main Street, near Limestone.
Each year the firm supplied the liquor for the “Great Trots Meet” held in the fall at the Red Mile track. The firm brokered “high grade Kentucky whiskies, imported cigars and tobacco, fine wines and famous mineral waters.”
Spanish American War, 1898
Its proprietary brands included Old Pugh and Old Barton bourbon and rye whiskey. From 1891 to 1897, the firm’s whiskies were distilled at the Ashland Distillery, owned by William Tarr (a family friend). The company also handled the famed Palo Alto Wines, from Leland Stanford of California, and the Vina Brandies from Europe.[i] In September 1897, it became the exclusive agent in Kentucky for the Jas. E. Pepper & Company and the brands of Old Pepper and Old Henry Clay whiskies. The Pepper distillery also began producing their proprietary brands.[ii]
Whiskey Jugs, circa 1900
In May 1902, the firm expanded into a two-story warehouse, down the street from its main office, which was used for the wholesale and shipping departments. This was the former office of J. A. Lail & Company. The company also produced Red Heart, Kentucky Belle and Old Kentucky Home. At this time, it was legal to ship whiskey in the mail to individuals around the United States.[iii] The purchase of this warehouse led to legal problems for Strader (see below).
The firm established a retail location in the lobby of the Phoenix Hotel and supplied the hotel a private label Old Pugh Whiskey for its exclusive use. In October 1902, the firm established a branch liquor house in Cincinnati, at 137 East Pearl Street. This warehouse was located near the railroad depot and was managed by Joseph N. Strader.[iv]
In 1911, the firm established another branch house in Louisville, at 234 East Main Street (on Whiskey Row). The company established a warehouse there, and relocated its bottling and shipping (both bulk and mail order) departments. With the railroad connections at Louisville, freight rates were significantly lower than from Lexington. The company stated:
“Connoisseurs recognize Old Pugh as the Purest and Best Whiskey in existence and commands the highest price of any whiskey in the world.
We are the only Dealers in the Genuine Old Pugh, Sole Owners of the formula by which it is made, and residue of the Product of the Founder of this famous Brand.
The only way to procure this genuine Old Pugh Whisky is to order direct from us.
R. S. Strader & Son
Order Form, 1905
By 1914, the company entered the insurance business. The market control by the Whiskey Trust eliminated the need for brokers.[vi]
On February 8, 1902, Wilson P. Strader was trying to purchase a warehouse near his offices. For the payment, Strader needed $4,000 in gold coins. He had $4,000 in currency and bank notes – so he checked with the Fayette National Bank (his bank) to see if they had enough gold coins. Not having that sum in its vault, his bankers sent him to the Lexington City National Bank. Strader obtained the needed gold coins and purchased the warehouse.
Later after closing, the Lexington City National Bank came up $500 short after recounting the bank notes. George H. Harting (the teller) and J. Will Stoll (President of the bank) called on Strader, believing that he had shortchanged the bank. After words were exchanged, Strader knocked down Stoll. Stoll ended up with a broken leg and cut forehead. Strader was arrested for assault and battery.[vii]
On February 18, 1902, the Lexington City National Bank sued Strader for the $500 shortage. Strader stated that he had given the bank the full amount, including the $500. The case was eventually dismissed.[viii]
At a preliminary hearing in March, Strader testified that Stoll threatened him with a gun, while Stoll denied having a gun with him. Strader was released on $300 bond. His attorney was Charles J. Bronston (Colonel James E. Pepper’s attorney). Stoll was represented by his brother, Charles H. Stoll (attorney for the Whiskey Trust). In July 1902 all charges were dropped.[ix]
Meanwhile, on March 2, 1902, Strader was sitting in his parked delivery wagon on Main Street, when a streetcar crashed into his wagon. Strader was thrown from the wagon and ended up with a broken kneecap.[x] The Lexington Railway Company, controlled by the Stoll family, owned the streetcar. After these events, both Stoll and Strader avoided each other.
 Colonel Robert S. Strader (1836 – 1891) was a successful trotting horse breeder and manager of the Kentucky Trotting Horse Association (the Red Mile). He maintained a large farm on Versailles Pike, at the city limits, where he bred and trained horses. He was a friend and agent for the Palo Alto Farm of Leland Stanford (California Railroad Tycoon, founder of Stanford University).
 Old Pugh Sour Mash Whiskey was originally distilled at the Gus Pugh Distillery, Shawhan, Bourbon County, Kentucky. Pugh operated the distillery from 1870 until the 1890s.
 Old Barton Whiskey was distilled by Joshua Barton, Blocks Crossroad, Bourbon County, Kentucky. The brand was acquired by the Strader concern around 1892.,
[i] Lexington Leader, March 29, 1896, page 3, column 4.
[ii] Lexington Leader, September 19, 1897, page 5, column 4.
[iii] Lexington Leader, May 10, 1902, page 6, column 5.
[iv] Lexington Leader, October 5, 1902, page 2, column 4.
[v] Lexington Leader, August 6, 1911, page 15.
[vi] Lexington City Directory for 1890, 1893, 1895, 1902 and 1906-07.
[vii] Lexington Leader, March 21, 1902, page 1, column 1 –2, March 22, 1902, page 1, column 1 –2 and March 25, 1902, page 8, column 4.
[viii] Lexington Leader, February 19, 1902, page 1, column 5.
[ix] Lexington Herald, July 2, 1902, page 5, column 4 and Lexington Leader, July 8, 1902, page 5, column 4.
[x] Lexington Leader, December 8, 1902, page 4, column 2.