It’s not just gin – it’s distilled gin!

They don’t make Dixie Belle anymore; they don’t have to. Cheap gin is cheap gin, if you ask me. But the story of Dixie Belle gin is a true American tale, albeit a sad one: you can see the entire arc of the 20th century in this little matchbook.

Dixie Belle was made by the Continental Distilling Corporation of Philidelphia – a subsidiary of Publicker Industries, a massive 35-acre complex on the Delaware River. They made "denatured alcohols, butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, acetone, proprietary solvents, and refined fusel oil.”

And gin!

The information above was taken from a 1955 report about an explosion at the Publicker site. The company occupied the spot form 1912 to 1985; the site was sold for a scant $3 mil to a wrecking company called the Overland Corporation in 1986; that company declared bankruptcy almost immediately afterwards. Whoops. Enter the EPA, which used Superfund money to clean up more than 850,000 gallons of crud left behind. (The site is finished; let a thousand condos bloom.)

But what of Publicker and its proud, gin-related tradition? After they got out of the Philly site, the company changed directions. They bought a company that made flashlights, and another that made aluminum windows. At some point they picked up Greenwad, a maker of “coin meter systems used primarily in the commercial laundry appliance business.” This was a fateful buy, for Greenwald appears to have paved the way for Publicker’s entry into smart-card business, of all things. In 1998 they changed their name to PubliCARD and went on a buying spree. Whoo-hoo! Then, for some peculiar reason, they started selling assets in the summer of 2000, and firing people in 2001. Sound familiar? The company’s current strategy seems to be to wait out the tech slump and look for new partners.

If they meet in a bar after a meeting, perhaps one of the members of the board will have a gin and tonic. No one would ask for a Dixie Belle; no bartender would think to offer. The very stewards of the company that made Dixie Belle are mostly likely unaware it ever existed.

I mention this just in case you find yourself 70 years in the future, and the only think Microsoft makes is beer. Or heroin.