Saturday, September 05, 2009

Jack Daniel's Birthday Mystery.

I notice that today, 5 September, was the birthday of Jack Daniel, creator of the tipple beloved by millions in the USA, and elsewhere. I was intrigued. Somehow Sun in Virgo doesn't quite bring to mind distilleries, moonshining, and alcohol. Or does it?

There's a problem in investigating Jack Daniel's astrology though. His birth date is in question.

5 September 1846 is apparently upheld by an entry in the US Federal Decennial Census (see here). Other sources, his gravestone included, indicate hat he was born in September 1850.

I've read most of what's available on-line about his life and times, I'd be inclined to trust the 1846 date. His mother died in 1847, and if that date is correct it gives the lie to 1850. It's said that Jack, in later life, had a liking for gals very much younger than himself. It's quite possible then that he "adjusted" his birth date by 4 years to try to appear more acceptable to his more strait-laced acquaintances.

"Jack Daniel never married. Some say it’s because he was married to his work; others say it’s because he never found a girl who measured up to his high standards. Or perhaps it’s just that he was too busy catering to the greater Lynchburg population – throwing elaborate Christmas feasts, hosting exquisite costume parties in his second-story ballroom, and donating money to every church in Moore County.

But by all accounts, Jack was quite a ladies’ man. He was a perfect dance partner, a polite conversationalist, and a fantastic gift-giver. Unfortunately, he also gravitated toward girls young enough to be his daughter (or even granddaughter). Once, Jack even asked for a woman’s hand in marriage, but her father denied him – partly because Jack enjoyed keeping his own legend alive and always hesitated to reveal his true birth date. When Jack proposed, her father made it clear that any man unwilling to disclose his age was "a little too old for such a young girl."
(This and other unlinked quotations are from an article by Eric Furman, here)

I've tried reconciling two possible natal charts for Jack Daniel (set for 12 noon) with what we know of his personality and life, to discover whether one fits better than the other.

Born 5 September 1846, Lynchburg, Tennessee (left); same day and place in 1850 (right). Click on image to enlarge.

To my mind there's no real contest. The 1846 chart, on the left is more likely to be the correct one. Both, of course, have Sun in Virgo, sign of the perfectionist and sometimes the workaholic. The 1846 chart has Sun conjunct Mars adding drive and energy to his character. Mercury and Venus in Leo reflect the showman in him, and Jupiter in Gemini screams "marketing". Jupiter rules publication, spreading the word, Gemini is the communication planet. Saturn exactly conjunct Neptune in Aquarius is opposing Mercury in Leo - a nice balancing act between the showmanship of Leo and the work ethic and inventive, creative approach of Saturn/Neptune in Aquarius.

Jack Daniel understood the important concept of "branding" before many others had connected it with little but putting the owner's stamp on cattle.
"One thing is certain: Jack Daniel had a brilliant mind for marketing. Even as a youngster, Jack understood that if people remembered him, they would remember his whiskey. To that end, he decked himself out in a formal knee-length coat, a vest, a tie, and a wide-brim planter’s hat, and was never caught out of "uniform" again.

Jack also established the Jack Daniel’s Silver Cornet Band – a 10-member outfit solely devoted to promoting his whiskey across the countryside. With uniforms and instruments from the Sears & Roebuck catalog and a specially designed wagon for traveling, Jack made sure the band played every saloon opening, Fourth of July celebration, and political rally around.

From the beginning, Jack had been one of the first sellers to stencil his distillery name on his whiskey jugs. Next, he upgraded to round, custom-embossed bottles. But when a glass salesman showed him a prototype square bottle in 1895, Jack realized he’d stumbled upon something unique. The new bottles not only stood out from the crowd, but also had a shape that would prevent them from rolling around and breaking during transport. In addition, the square look reinforced the idea that Jack was a square dealer who put honest work and high standards first.

Whatever effort Jack Daniel put into his marketing, he never let quality slip. In 1904, the distiller decided on a whim to enter his whiskey in the taste competition at the St. Louis World’s Fair. It came as little surprise when he won."

A few factors similar to those in the 1846 chart can be found in the 1850 version, but there's what I think is a cherry on top of the 1846 chart. Rigel and Regulus, two "Royal Stars" are conjunct Daniel's natal Jupiter and Mercury - such excellent highlighting of the two key planets for marketing, probably the one factor which set him head and shoulders above the competition.

Jack Daniel died from blood poisoning and gangrene on 10 October 1911.
Wikipedia tells us that

The infection allegedly set up originally in a toe, which Daniel injured in kicking his safe in anger when he couldn't get it open early one morning at work — he had always had trouble remembering the combination. This incident was the subject of a marketing poster used on the London Underground in January 2006, with the line "Moral: Never go to work early." A common joke that is told during the tour of the distillery, is that all Jack had to do to cure his infection was to dip his toe in a glass of his own whiskey to clean it.


Wisewebwoman said...

In my rowdy drinking days, T, I put back a fair share of old Jack's. I always loved the taste of bourbon.
I had heard about his interest in young women but never the complete story - great post.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Glad it was of interest. LOL! A rowdy WWW would be fun squared!

Scotch is my one and only tipple, and it's something of a family tradition really. My Mum drank it, as did her father, so I'm honour bound to carry through. ;-)

anthonynorth said...

I've never drunk Jack Daniels but I used to drink a lot of scotch whisky. As long as I didn't mix it, it never seemed to affect me. Then, back in 1983, I said to myself: if I don't feel it, how do I know it isn't hurting me?
I haven't touched a short of any kind since that day. I became strictly a bitter man. If I have too much of that I know it hurts :-)

Twilight said...

AnthonyNorth ~~~ LOL! Too much bitterness hurts everyone. ;-)
But yes, I know what you mean.