Home > History of Wine, Image > No School Like the Old-School: A Unique Madeira Advertisement in Washington, DC during 1835

No School Like the Old-School: A Unique Madeira Advertisement in Washington, DC during 1835


Detail from Tanner, Henry Schenck. City of Washington. 1836. [0]

Thomas H. Jacobs and James Gowen created their Washington, DC, based wine firm Gowen & Jacobs in 1829.  Both men had previous experience as wine importers and merchants in Philadelphia.  In fact, Gowen maintained his establishment in Philadelphia to help with the wine selections down at their Washington, DC firm.  Their aim was to stock an extensive selection of foreign wines and liquors.  In particular, they catered to members of Congress who typically brought their own supplies of wine to Washington.  Gowen & Jacobs aimed to be the new source for all of their vinuous needs.

Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC during November, 1800.  When Gowen & Jacobs opened their store, the city population was estimated at nearly 19,000.  A decade later, in 1840, it had climbed to roughly 27,000.

Partial Cadastral Map around Center Market. 1836. [2]

Gowen &  Jacobs were located at 7th St NW and Pennsylvania Ave.  This placed them halfway between the President’s House and the Capitol.  There were four markets serving the District at the time and their storefront location placed them across the street from the Centre Market. This market was located between 7th and 9th Streets with the store on the west side of 7th street fronting the market. This was the principal market of the city with one guide book going so far as to state, “in the quality and abundance of the commodities brought there for sale, it is not excelled by any” other.[3]

This prime location placed them within two blocks of the Patriotic and Washington Banks along with Gadsby’s and Brown’s Hotels.  By the end of the year they were fully stocked with Old London Particular Madeira, Old Pale Sherry, Old Champagne, Old Bordeaux, and more including Burgundy, Hock, and Sauternes.[4]

“Old school vintage of 1803” from Gowen’s & Jacobs’ advertisement. 1835. [5]

Gowen & Jacobs laid in a large selection of old wine during the fall of 1835.  In a series of advertisements address to the “Members of Congress” they laid out some enticing selections.  Of importance to this post is their description of one particular wine found amongst a “large stock of Old Bottled Madeiras”.  Here we find “the Stevenson bottled in St. Croix–the old Old school Vintage of 1803″. [Emphasis added.]

The “old school” phrase dates back to the mid-18th century but as far as I can tell, these advertisements are unique with regards to the subject of wine.  As the 19th century progressed, an appreciation for ever older bottles of Madeira continued to develop.  This particular wine of the “Old school Vintage of 1803” would have been bottled just one or two years later.  Its long life in glass made it particularly different than wines which would have gained their age on the Island of Madeira.  These wines would have concentrated in wood before making the long journey to America where they were finally bottled.

“Old Wine and Liquors” from Gowen’s & Jacbobs’ advertisement. 1835.


[0] Tanner, Henry Schenck. City of Washington. [Philadelphia: H.S. Tanner, 1836] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/88694080/.

[1] Advertisement. Daily National Intelligencer Thursday, Nov 05, 1829 Washington (DC), DC Vol: XVII Issue: 5230 Page: 3

[2] Partial cadastral map of the district around the Center Market, N.W. Washington D.C. 1836. Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/88694081/.

[3] Watterson, George.  A Picture of Washington. 1840. URL: https://books.google.com/books?id=VtfC1aNc2VIC&dq=Watterson,+George.+A+Picture+of+Washington.+1840&source=gbs_navlinks_s

[4] Advertisement. United States’ Telegraph Saturday, Nov 21, 1829 Washington (DC), DC Page: 3

[5] Advertisement. United States’ Telegraph Saturday, Nov 28, 1835 Washington (DC), DC Page: 3

[6] Centre Market and Vicinity. Author(s): Washington Topham. Source: Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 26 (1924), pp. 1-88. Published by: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40067380. Accessed: 06-09-2019 15:54 UTC

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