Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The World That Made Me: Nike Missiles

 

Guarding a Nike Hercules Missile, Fort Barry, CA; c. 1970-71

Nike was the Greek goddess of victory. Today it is a shoe company. Between those two uses, it was the name of an early missile defense system for the United States.

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, most Americans believed an attack by the Soviet Union was likely to come from high-flying Soviet aircraft armed with atomic weapons. By the time I came along (born in 1951) and became aware of such things, we worried more about intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Rockets, not planes. This was especially true after the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), which I remember vividly. I was eleven.

Designed in that earlier period, the Nike Missile Program was imagined as the last line of defense for American citizens, so the missiles were placed in and around major metropolitan centers. 

My younger neighbors here in Chicago are surprised to learn that Montrose Point, a short and very pleasant walk from my apartment, used to house a Nike missile battery. At its peak there were 23 launch sites in the Chicago area. Two have been preserved for their historic significance, but not Montrose Point. It is now a bird sanctuary. 

All of the Chicago sites were decommissioned long before I moved here. The only active Nike base I personally remember was just outside of Oxford, Ohio, where I lived from 1969 to 1974. I only became aware of it during campus antiwar demonstrations at Miami University when we heard that the National Guard had placed some troops there in case of trouble. 

Subsequently, I drove out to see what I could see. Not much. I recall an imposing fence and gate and some kind of guard house and other structures. I couldn't see any missiles. The location of these installations was never a secret, although some were more public-facing than others. They wanted us to know about them because they were supposed to make us feel safe.  

Around the country, some of the missiles were on military bases but most were on farms, in parks, and in residential neighborhoods. By 1953, the U.S. Army had begun building Nike air defense systems around 40 U.S. cities and military/industrial installations. At its peak ten years later, the Nike defense system included approximately 300 batteries in the United States. The nation's first operational, guided, surface-to-air missile, Nike was an important technological breakthrough in air defense. The Nike system brought together an array of antiaircraft, missile, computer, and radar elements. Nike could detect, identify as friend or foe, track, and destroy enemy aircraft. 

Nike was just one part of continental air defenses during the Cold War. At the same time the U.S. Army was developing and deploying Nike, the U.S. Air Force produced its own surface-to-air missile systems. They were similar and a rivalry over them developed between the services. The U.S. Navy and the Canadian Air Force, as part of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), also shared the continental air defense mission.

Decommissioning of the Chicago-area batteries began in 1963. The end for the whole Nike system came in 1974.


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The Significance of the Crow-Taylor Legacies in Making the World’s Best Whiskey


1869 Gaines, Berry & Company letterhead

My "Time Is Money" post from Saturday prompted a response from Chris Middleton and I'm always delighted when that happens. Chris has contributed here before. He is principal and director of the Whisky Academy, Founding Director of Starward Whiskey Distillery, and former Global Brand Director for Jack Daniel’s. What follows is all his although I have changed the order somewhat, to begin with his assessment of the significance of the legacy of E. H. Taylor Jr. and James C. Crow, followed by some biographical details. 

For more, I recommend his historical series on Whisky Wash, specifically "The James Crow Chronicles," and "Whiskey Chronicles of Edmund Taylor Jr." He begins by explaining how those two series came about.
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These series took on a life of their own as I was drawn into the orbit of James Crow’s pioneering work (Chronicle of James Crow) and to how Taylor faithfully followed Crow’s production procedures (Chronicles of Edmund Taylor Jr.). And Crow’s acolytes too, who spread the principles and adapted new learnings and ideas to advance whiskey with emergent technologies and biological processes, all practiced within the proximity of the city of Frankfort. Not manufacturing inferior bourbon whiskey of the 19th century, but topmost ‘hand-made, sour mash all-copper whiskey.’ 

The significance of the Crow-Taylor legacies in making America’s, probably the world’s best whiskey, remained hidden until the human and technical patterns revealed themselves as a cipher awaiting decoding. I have explained some of this plant, processes and ideas that evolved and adapted as technical knowledge advanced over the last half of the 19th century.

Manufacturing of this exceptional whiskey took place at only about a dozen distilleries in and around Glenn’s Creek-Frankfort area, with Crow and Taylor the common dominators. 

The Oscar Pepper distillery was the epicenter, ground zero, due to Crow and later Taylor’s commitment to making whiskey of the highest sensory standards following the Crow principles. Outside of the modernized Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve distilleries, I cannot find another distillery approaching the deep history (Scotland, Ireland, Canada) that epitomizes the pedigree, provenance and pursuit of whiskey excellence these two distilleries displayed for more than 170 years. Both in their pre-Prohibition modes of manufacture and their late 20th-century commitment to manufacturing expressions of whiskey excellence. 

My goal was to understand and decode the allegedly secret Crow’s methods and the developments in the manufacturing practices of Crow plan whiskey, centered in the Inner Blue Grass region. After years of analyzing thousands of primary records, it proved richer and more innovative than I expected to discover.

JAMES C. CROW: After an exhaustive record search of student’s attendance rolls at all the Scottish universities teaching medicine and science between 1726 to 1866 (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Marischal College, St Andrews, and Kings College Aberdeen), not one Crow was awarded a diploma or any graduation certificate at any of these universities. 

Working with the Edinburgh University archivist, we deuced Crow may have attended ‘selected classes.’ In other words, he self-funded the particular lecturers and classes that he was keen to study, which did not entitle him to matriculate. At Edinburgh University at this time were some of the foremost scientists in fermentation and distillation. As a mature student, married with a child, and limited funds, this would have been a practical method to help advance his career prospects. Although why he abruptly left Scotland for Philadelphia in 1823 remains a mystery. Debts? 

The first use of the salutation ‘Dr.’ James Crow appeared decades after his death in the local Woodford Weekly, then later picked up by the New York Times and St Louis Register, both publishing a story on Crow in September 1897. After Prohibition, the Old Crow whiskey trademark owned by National Distillers began propagated this term in their advertising campaigns after the Second World War. And like so many misattributions, the doctor moniker moved from error or misdirected praise, to marketing artifice, to become unquestioning fact. 

EDMUND H. TAYLOR Jr.: Taylor joined Gaines, Berry & Company in April 1865. Previously, he ran a separate business as a commodity trader in cotton, corn and tobacco at Wolf Island, Missouri, after his finance ventures failed in Lexington and Versailles by 1860. 

Twenty-seven old William Albertus Gaines returned to Frankfort in 1859, where he worked as a clerk for Walter Carr Chiles for two years, then appointed Frankfort’s postmaster in March 1861. He held this position for four years until the death of President Lincoln in April 1865. That month he founded Gaines, Berry & Company to become a local whiskey wholesaler. Before Gaines obtained his government position, there are indications he had discussions with Berry about the pair starting a whiskey business. 

Hiram Berry held the majority of the shares in the new company, he previously traded livestock and cotton for the Union Army in Frankfort during the War years. At the same time, he established Gaines, Berry & Company, he also formed a trading pool for cotton with Samuel Pepper (Oscar’s brother), James Watson and Edmund Taylor Jr. However, the partners were unable to agree on terms, and the venture soon failed. 

Taylor’s uncle and namesake, Edmund Haynes Taylor senior, was the cashier at the Frankfort branch of the Bank the Kentucky from 1835 until his death in 1872. He served the Bank’s State board of directors and two Frankfort branch presidents (Peter Dudley and Thomas Lindsay). Under Kentucky regulations owners were not permitted to hold executive roles in a bank. Before the antebellum period, the president of the Lexington branch of the Bank of Kentucky was Robert Todd, father-in-law to President Lincoln. 


Saturday, November 6, 2021

With Whiskey, Time Is Money

 

E. H. Taylor, Whiskey Mogul
In the early days of American distilling, and in most distilling cultures throughout history, the proposition was simple. You got some fruit or grain, fermented it, distilled it, and then either consumed it or sold it. The whole process took maybe a week. Looked at from a business perspective, that's how long your capital was tied-up. You spent some money and within a few days you recovered your investment plus profit.

Something happened in a few places to upset that happy paradigm. Aging happened. Instead of a return on investment in a few days, it was going to take years. Years! How is that supposed to work?

In the United States, deliberately aging whiskey in new, charred oak barrels began about 200 years ago. We don't know exactly when but that's a conclusion based on what was being advertised at various times. Even after aged spirits became common, 'common' spirits (the unaged stuff) remained popular. 

But as aged spirits became the norm, producers struggled to meet market demand. It wasn't easy to sell aged whiskey consistently for enough to finance its long maturation period. Aged whiskey had to compete with compound whiskey, a cheap knock-off that used artificial flavoring and coloring to imitate the flavor of wood-aged spirit. The market was chaotic and distillers easily became overextended. Unable to meet their obligations, many were forced to sell their businesses for whatever they could get. Often the new owner fared no better. Distilleries changing hands frequently.

Edmund Haynes Taylor (1830-1923) is a significant figure in American whiskey history for many reasons. He started or operated at least seven different distilleries, helped transform whiskey-making from an adjunct of farming into an industry, pioneered modern brand marketing, and was a leading advocate for federal government oversight of whiskey production and labeling. 

He was also the mayor of Frankfort and an award-winning cattle breeder. Busy guy.

But his most enduring contributions to the industry may be in the matter of financing. Taylor began his business career in a bank owned by his uncle and namesake. While opening a branch in Versailles, he got to know distillers Oscar Pepper and Dr. James C. Crow. After Crow's death in 1856, some whiskey distilled by Crow was still in barrels and his former assistant knew how to make more, so Pepper and Taylor hatched a plan to capitalize on the reputation of Crow's barrel-aged whiskey. The Old Crow brand was born. 

In 1860, Taylor and his bank organized Gaines, Berry and Co., Distillers, later reorganized as W. A. Gaines & Co., to make and sell Old Crow Whiskey.

Taylor's financing innovations, however, were not a perfect solution. Taylor himself became overextended to a customer named George Stagg and lost control of his largest distillery, today's Buffalo Trace.

After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, money was again a problem. Families like the Beams, successful whiskey-makers before the drought, had to look outside the family and beyond the Commonwealth for money. The Beams found it in Chicago, in investors Harry Blum, Joseph Homel and Oliver Jacobson. Homel and Jacobson were investment bankers. They had an innovative idea of how to finance aging stock. Don't. Instead, sell it right away, like distillers did before aging, except sell it to your distributors. They'll buy the new make whiskey and pay you to age and eventually bottle it for them. Everyone expects the whiskey will become more valuable as it ages. This system spread out that risk. The distillery could put its capital into making more whiskey immediately.

The idea worked well for Beam. In a few years, Blum bought Homel and Jacobson out. They took their money, and their idea, down the road to Heaven Hill. It worked there too.

In the early days of craft distilling, many struggled with this same dilemma. Some still do. 

Today, companies such as IJW Whiskey, CaskX and others are offering innovations of their own. Just like those Beam and Heaven Hill distributors, now you can place a bet on whiskey appreciation, not the sensory kind, the financial kind. This particular model is new and still unproven. Most of the whiskey in these schemes is from relatively new producers with no track record. Still, we saw just a few years ago what can happen to bulk whiskey prices when the market gets tight. With tariff relief, a new export boom could be right around the corner.

Or not. But that's the adventure, right?


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

That Time I Saw an Old Man Play Guitar

 

Jimmy Raney, as I remember him. (Photo by Greg Turner)

I lived in Louisville from 1978 until 1987 and have spent a lot of time there since, except these last two years. Even after I moved, until about 1994 I was in Kentucky almost as much as I was in Chicago.

I remember once, during some kind of festival, being up by the Brown Hotel in an outdoor plaza, watching and listening to an elderly man play electric guitar. He wasn’t busking, it was part of the festival, but very low key, casual. Louisville is a big city that sometimes manages a small-town feel. It was afternoon, sunny and warm. A nice day.

There wasn’t a stage, or a band, just the man, on a bench, with his guitar and amp. I joined the small crowd gathered around him. He was just playing. No chatting up the audience. No vocals. I don’t recall recognizing any melodies. It was jazz, freeform, mesmerizing. I happened upon him but stayed until he finished. His music left a mark.

I remember that instance clearly, but I know I saw him other times in other places too. I may have seen him with saxophonist Jamey Aebersold, the renowned jazz educator who is a familiar presence around Louisville. Louisville had a nice, little jazz scene then. A guy I knew from work played acoustic bass in a combo at the Seelbach Hotel's bar. I enjoyed the music but didn't think a lot about it.  

At some point I learned that old guitarist’s name and looked him up.

It was Jimmy Raney.

His name probably doesn’t ring a bell unless you’re a big fan of 1950s American jazz. Raney was a ubiquitous sideman. He began his career in Chicago in 1944. Thereafter he played with Woody Herman, Artie Shaw, and many others. He is most remembered for his time in the 1950s with Red Norvo and Stan Getz. He won the DownBeat Magazine critics poll for guitar in 1954 and 1955. The New York Times called him "one of the most gifted and influential postwar jazz guitarists in the world".

They wrote that in his obituary. Jimmy Raney died in 1995. He was 67.

The obituary writer, Peter Watrous, also wrote this: “Mr. Raney's improvising, at its best, made clear that he had developed a lucid and distinct conception of both the swing and be-bop vocabularies. His lines often resolved on odd, pungent notes, and mid-solo his phrases rolled easily from his guitar as he constructed lengthy passages. His harmonic conception could be bleak and a touch bitter; he rarely relied on obvious or easy note choices. And he always varied his long lines with melodies and riffs.”

To the extent I understood any of that, it is how I remember the old man I saw playing in front of the Brown Hotel one sunny afternoon.

I learned that Raney was born and raised in Louisville. His father, a sportswriter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, died in 1944. Jimmy was 17. Traumatized by his father's death, he fled to Chicago where he had family and where there were more opportunities to play music for money than there were in Louisville. Once established, he relocated to New York, where he enjoyed his greatest success. 

Raney left New York, and music, to return to Louisville in the late sixties, reportedly due to issues with alcohol. He resumed his career in the 70s and worked steadily thereafter, often with his son, Doug, who also played guitar and had a similar style, but he never again achieved the fame he knew in the 1950s. 

Doug Raney is gone now too. He died in 2016 of heart failure. He was 59. 

Jimmy had another son, Jon, an amateur pianist who works in IT. He maintains a website called “The Raney Legacy” at jonraney.com. He has an active blog. His extensive biography of his dad is here. I also recommend his post on the 94th anniversary of his father’s birth in August of this year. 

One last thing. By the time I saw Raney, just a few years before his death, he was almost completely deaf from Ménière's disease. I can’t imagine how such a thing is possible, to play so beautifully even though you can’t hear what you’re playing. I didn’t know that when I heard him, only later. 

Is there a takeaway from this? Not much of one, just reminiscing. But you never know about another person’s life and isn’t the internet marvelous for the curious?

 


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

ADM Sells Storied Peoria Distillery to BioUrja

 

Hiram Walker Peoria in the 1940s.

The Peoria JournalStar reported it like this: "After almost 40 years, Archer Daniels Midland Co. no longer will be the primary firm that produces ethanol in Peoria. Instead, a Houston-based company will take over the dry-mill ethanol plant ADM has operated since 1982 at the foot of Edmund Street along the Illinois River."

The new owner is BioUrja, an international supplier and trader of commodities such as biofuels, petroleum products, natural gas liquids, electric power, metal alloy tubing, grain, and animal feed products. 

ADM is reducing its ethanol capacity to redeploy that capital more profitably elsewhere while BioUrja is excited about diversifying its biofuels business into higher value distilled ethanol products such as beverage and industrial alcohol, the Peoria plant's specialty. This comes on the heels of another major neutral spirits distiller, Kansas-based MGP, moving itself up the value chain by acquiring Luxco.

Peoria and the nearby town of Pekin were once whiskey producers on a scale that rivaled Kentucky. The infamous 19th century Whiskey Trust was based there. The distillery BioUrja is buying used to make whiskey, and a lot of it. ADM bought it and converted it to neutral spirit production in 1982. The seller then was Hiram Walker, a Canadian distiller best known for Canadian Club. 

Hiram Walker was a 19th century Detroit grocer who owned a distillery across the border in Canada. He always intended to sell his products primarily in the United States but located the distillery there because he anticipated Prohibition. In so doing, Walker introduced Americans to the lighter Canadian style of whiskey. Because of Detroit's proximity to the Canadian border, Walker's plant supplied a lot of whiskey to the U.S. market before, during and after Prohibition.

Canadian law officially did not permit the export of spirits into the U.S. market during Prohibition, but row boats would show up daily at the Walkerville docks, declare their destination as “Jamaica,” and be sent on their way loaded down with all the whiskey they could carry. 

The Walker family owned the distillery until 1926, when it was acquired by Harry Hatch, a Canadian entrepreneur who started out with a small liquor store in Whitby, Ontario. 

When Prohibition ended in 1933, Hatch's Hiram Walker and Sons, Inc. decided to reenter the newly-legal U.S. market in a big way. Their Peoria distillery was the largest in the world and made Walker’s DeLuxe and Ten High, both straight bourbons; Imperial Whiskey, a popular blend; and other Hiram Walker products.

That distillery's predecessor on the same riverfront site was Joseph Benedict Greenhut's Great Western Distillery, built in 1881. The production of whiskey and neutral spirits was booming in Peoria and each new distillery was bigger than the last and, therefore, the biggest distillery in the world.

Six years later, Great Western and 65 other distilleries merged to form the Distillers & Cattle Feeders' Trust, popularly known as the Whiskey Trust. Greenhut became its president.

The Trust used its resources to buy more distilleries, many of which it closed. The idea was to limit production industry-wide to reduce competition and protect profits. Although the Trust was technically legal (it would not be today), it engaged in many illegal practices such as intimidating any distillery owners who did not want to sell.

That was Peoria then. The Peoria Historical Society's "Roll out the Barrel" Tour focuses on Peoria’s years as “Whiskey Capital of the World.” Peoria's Bradley University has a collection of interviews and other records in its Cullom-Davis Library. That's appropriate since part of the Bradley family's wealth came from the alcohol business. 

As you come into Peoria from the north you see it, where once there were distilleries as far as the eye could see. There is still one, the big one. It's still converting corn and water into alcohol, as they have done on that site for more than 150 years. There's just a new name above the door.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Piece of Bourbon History Is Leaving Chicago


This is the view Beam Suntory is giving up, of the Chicago River from the Merchandise Mart's rooftop deck.

Back in January, Beam Suntory announced it will move corporate headquarters from Chicago to New York sometime next year. At least 100 employees will relocate. The current office, in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, will remain Beam Suntory’s largest global office and home to its North American business unit. Parent company Suntory Holdings already has offices in the same Madison Avenue building where Beam Suntory is going.

But this isn't about that. That is just an excuse to look back on the history of Jim Beam in Chicago, where I live.

The Beam story begins, of course, with Jacob Beam's arrival in Kentucky more than 200 years ago. His descendant, James Beauregard Beam, brought the family's whiskey business into the 20th century only to see it snuffed out by Prohibition. After Repeal, Jim Beam, his brother, and their sons restarted the distillery but soon ran out of money, not because they were failing but because they were succeeding too well. It would take a lot of new capital to keep the company growing. The Beams didn't have it and neither did most of their neighbors in Kentucky's whiskey heartland. It was a common problem.

Perhaps in part because Chicago had been so wide-open during Prohibition, the midwestern metropolis seemed a natural place to concentrate legal whiskey distribution after Repeal. More importantly, investors could be found there. The Beams hooked up with three Chicago-based money men: Harry Homel, Oliver Jacobson, and Harry Blum. The heirs of Tom Moore found Oscar Getz and Lester Abelson, who started Barton. In both instances, the distilleries were in Kentucky but the businesses were run out of Chicago.

Harry Blum eventually bought out Jacobson and Homel, who reinvested their funds in Heaven Hill. The Homel family hung on there until about 2005.

Blum and his wife, Maribel, must have lived in my neighborhood because one of the buildings on the campus of Anshe Emet Synagogue, just down the block, is the Harry and Maribel Blum Community Hall. Two of the largest charitable foundations in Illinois are those of the Blums and of their daughter and son-in-law, the Kovlers, who also made their money from Jim Beam. 

The Jim Beam Distillery, of course, remained in Kentucky, in Bullitt County, about 30 miles south of Louisville. They eventually bought a second distillery a few miles away. Until the early 1990s, brothers Baker and David Beam minded the stills at the Bullitt County place, a 24-hour operation. Their cousin Booker Noe ran the plant in Nelson County. All of the manufacturing was done in Kentucky. All of the sales, marketing, finance, and corporate management was done in Chicago.

In 1967, Blum sold Beam to American Tobacco, which was using its cigarette profits to become a diversified conglomerate; soon renamed American Brands, then Fortune Brands. In addition to Jim Beam, the company would come to own Titlist, Moen, Master Lock and many other companies/brands. It was based in Connecticut, but Beam's headquarters remained in Chicago; downtown until 1988, then in a new office complex in Deerfield, a Chicago suburb. It had just merged with National Distillers and become a much larger company. 

Chicago is in Cook County. The next county north is Lake. The border between them is a major thoroughfare called, conveniently, Lake Cook Road. Beam's offices were on the north side of the street, hence in Lake County. I did a lot of business there between 1988 and 1994. One of their near neighbors was the Berto Center, where the Chicago Bulls had their offices and practice facility until 2014. 

Diversified conglomerates were all the rage in the 1960s but fell out of favor by the end of the century. Wall Street wanted 'pure plays.' Fortune eventually divested all of its other businesses and in 2011 became Beam Inc. That didn't last long. In 2014 it sold itself to Suntory. In 2016, Beam Suntory moved back downtown, to the historic Merchandise Mart building.

Although the top management echelon is decamping, what remains is significant. There is a lot of history there. Beam folks started to travel regularly between Kentucky and Chicago 80+ years ago. Chicago is slightly more convenient to Kentucky than New York, so that may help keep Chicago in the mix. It remains to be seen if there will be more Beam folks traveling from Muhammad Ali International to LaGuardia and Kennedy than O'Hare and Midway in the years to come. 


Friday, October 8, 2021

Whatever Floats Your Boat

 

Navy foresters at NSA Crane assess a white oak tree set aside for future use in repairing the USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy/Bill Couch)

Whiskey has only four ingredients and one of them is white oak, but there is a certain 50,000 acre stand of white oak trees that will never be used to make whiskey barrels. It is in southern Indiana, about 25 miles southwest of Bloomington, near the village of Crane.

Crane, Indiana is very much a company town and that company is the United States of America, specifically our Navy. Southern Indiana may seem like an odd place for a naval base, since it can't be reached by water, but Naval Support Activity (NSA) Crane is there nonetheless. 

NSA Crane was established in 1941 under the Bureau of Ordnance as the Naval Ammunition Depot. Weapons are produced, tested and stored there. It is remote; there aren't many people. That is by design, since Crane is where the Navy makes things that go boom. 

As naval weaponry became more sophisticated, so did Crane. Today, Crane provides a variety of advanced technical products to the Navy, but one of its products is ancient: hardwood timber, white oak.

It is hard to overstate the historical importance of white oak. Because it is so hard, humans didn't make much use of it until we developed iron tools that were strong enough to work it. After that, we used white oak for everything: buildings, weapons, containers, furniture, vehicles. Sure, there are other hardwoods, but plentiful and strong white oak is the unglamorous workhorse of wood.

White oak is used for whiskey barrels for several reasons. Strength is one of them. Barrels made from it are very sturdy and durable. Even more important is that they don't leak. Occlusions in the wood's large pores, called tyloses, protect the tree's sap when it is alive and provide leak resistance thereafter. The tyloses also contain a water-soluble compound that tastes a lot like vanilla, but that's a bonus.

White oak was, for centuries, used to make containers for all kinds of liquids. Even well into the 20th century, beer was kegged in white oak barrels. So was crude oil and many of the products made from it, such as kerosene. Today, most things are better off in metal or plastic; it's mostly wine- and whiskey-makers that still need white oak barrels.

White oak trees harvested for whiskey barrels are usually 60-75 years old, but that's not old enough for the Navy. For shipbuilding--or, in this case, repair--trees in the 200-year range are preferred. Those, too, once were plentiful but today not so much. Providing a stock of old growth white oak is part of NSA Crane's mission too.

The base at Crane covers about 62,000 acres and most of that is white oak forest. The stand's informal name is Constitution Grove and its mission is to provide enough white oak timber to keep afloat the USS Constitution, the oldest ship in the world that still is afloat. The Constitution was made from the same type of wood used to make whiskey barrels, white oak.

Although white oak is very durable, it doesn't last forever. Wooden warships usually don't last 227 years, but the Constitution is special. From time to time, parts of it need to be replaced. It is a real world ship of Theseus.

The USS Constitution is the only still-commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy that has sunk another vessel. (Shown here, doing it.)

Begun in 1794 and launched in 1797, the USS Constitution was one of six three-masted heavy frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794 and the third one constructed. After the Revolution was won it saw action against Caribbean pirates and against Great Britain during the War of 1812. It was used for training during the Civil War, an era that saw the introduction of iron-clad ships. Soon the age of wooden warships was over. Today, the Constitution is a museum ship permanently docked in Boston's Charlestown Navy Yard

If after keeping the Constitution shipshape the Navy finds itself with excess white oak timber, Independent Stave has a stave mill in Salem, over toward Louisville, about 60 miles SSE of Crane. (A little closer if you take it out the back door.) It will be well-used. Maybe Spirits of French Lick can work something out.