Date: circa 1929-1933
Origin: United States
Size: 5 ¾” H x 4” diameter (one quart or 1.3 kilos)
Materials: tin, paper
Object ID: WHP-EPH256
“Fruit Industries was born because of necessity, in trying to find a utilization for the wine grapes in the state of California rather than just let them hang on the vines with no use. Now the reason there was no use was that we had Prohibition and the wineries could not sell their products. The main thought behind this program was that the grapes could be made into concentrate and thereby kept in a fresh form, without fermentation taking place…
“It would be delivered to the consumer’s home in the concentrated form in a barrel, then the water added at the home and then inoculated with wine yeast, and fermentation would take place and develop the reconstituted grape juice into wine. The concentrates were blended beforehand by the use of varieties of grapes to produce the different types of wine that one may desire. A serviceman would come to your home and rack that juice off of the barrel and filter it and bottle it for you in your home, and you had wine. Whatever you may have ordered – port, muscatel, sherry, or burgundy, or sauterne.
“This was a nationwide marketing effort…It was sponsored in part by the Federal government; they lent this organization $20,000,000 to install the equipment to effect the concentration of the grape juice. At that time Mrs. Mabel Willebrandt was Assistant Attorney General for the United States, and she was also later the attorney for Fruit Industries. And so the company had a good relationship with the Federal Government in trying to take advantage of one part of the law that allowed which head of the family to make in his home 200 gallons of wine.
“Was there a trade name for this product? Yes, Vine-Glo. And we had the labels, and we did a complete job in the person’s home, even to the point of corking, putting the foil on, wrapping in tissue paper, and laying it on your shelf. And the price of a unit of, which was a five-gallon unit of say, port wine, for instance, cost you $18.75 for five gallons.
“My word! How many visits did the serviceman have to make? Generally three visits and then its final completion. It was done very scientifically. We had very fine chemist in Fruit Industries that established all procedures, Dr. John R. Eoff, who was originally, I believe, and had gained considerable experience with the Canadian Wineries, Limited in Canada. And he was a scientific winemaker, with all the knowledge of chemistry and what it embodied…And he is the one that established the Fruit Industries laboratories at 82 Second Street here in San Francisco. Through him we acquired a group of chemists at that point – Vic Enders, who later was associated with Italian Swiss Colony; Mr. E.M. Brown, who later became associated with Shewan-Jones and then with Christian Brothers; Mr. Fellers, who became associated with Garrett & Company in New York; and possibly one or two more, and myself. Men that were possible at that time, the best knowledgeable men available in the state of California to do what we were going to try to do. In putting things together to produce wine in the home.
“Most of you had learned the technology of winemaking outside of this country? No, not necessarily. The men that I named, some of them had possibly learned in Germany, but the other ones, I believe were winemakers in this country prior to Prohibition of during Prohibition, making wines and tonics and things that were able to be sold during the Prohibition Era. For instance, myself, both in this country and in France. So that was the type of men hat formed the nucleus of the start of production for Fruit Industries…
“Then came along the years of the Depression and the sale of grapes then became difficult because most of the people that were buying grapes to make wine at home were the people that were mostly affected by the Depression. They were the foreign-born people that had come to the United States that were working with their hands (builders, carpenters, masons, etc.), and they were the people that didn’t have jobs any more. And so there was no market for the grapes because there was nobody with money to buy them. So then we tried to devise a new way of trying to get our product on the market; at that time we started the production of wine tonics. Garrett & Company produced the Virginia Dare red and Virginia Dare white tonic. This was a dessert wine (port, or angelica) of 21 percent alcohol; the alcohol was then slightly reduced by the addition of medicinal products such as beef extracts to increase the iron and other medicinal values. We also had to have a certain amount of total solids, which was generally derived through the use of corn sugar. These formulas were approved by the federal government as a medicine and as a tonic and were generally sold throughout the drug stores all over the United States. And we were not the only ones in the business. When I say we, I’m speaking of Garrett & Company. But the Italian Vineyard Company made a Guasti wine tonic; the Vai Brothers made a Vai Brothers wine tonic. And the era of wine tonic lasted up to the repeal of the Volstead Act.
“Was it consumed in quantity? Yes. Because even though it was a tonic, it was drinkable. People did drink it. And there was a lot of it sold. Also, at that same time, we developed wine jellies; we developed the grape concentrate; we developed sweetened grape brandies that were used as a syrup; we developed wine vinegars. Anything that we could possibly think of for the utilization of the grapes. That was our main object because we were all involved in growing of grapes.”
Philo Biane, interviewed by Ruth Teiser, August 14, 1969