I am always amazed when I see an early advertising item of significance attached to a small town in the middle of nowhere. Such is the case with this beautiful Reverse on Glass sign from Theodore Francis Mackmiller for his Eagle Mountain Rye Whiskey brand. Why the name Eagle Mountain is unknown to this author, as there is no Eagle Mountain near Iron River, however, there are a lot of Native Americans in the county. Did the name originate from the Native American presence and their loyalty to birds? An eagle has always had significance to the Indian population, so perhaps Mr. Mackmiller felt this name would help him sell whiskey to the Native American population as a whole?
This sign has an incredible illustration of an eagle about ready to take off on a flight. The coloring of the sign is vivid red coloring, with both silver and gold stenciled lettering in the design. Antique advertising collectors often favor items with colorful graphics, and this one certainly fits that description.
The T. F. Mackmiller Whiskey distribution business was located in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, a very small rural county in northern WI. There is no Eagle Mountain in the county or even in Northern Wisconsin which I could find. However, the town or Iron River was once an important railway crossing spot for trains heading both North/South and East/West routes. I would imagine Mr. Mackmiller assumed the city would grow due to the railway service alone, however, that never materialized. However, given the amount and quality of some of his advertising giveaways, we can assume his business was very prosperous. Indeed a quick search online finds Mr. Mackmiller selling his rye whiskey in cities such as Chicago and beyond. The wealth he was building in his rye business allowed him to start another side business, the T. J. Mackmiller Bottling Works. This business was very successful too based on the amount of bottles which can be found today, and the various styles of those bottles. Both indicate a decent business longevity. Unfortunately there are no records as to when he closed his soda bottling business, but the age of his bottles suggest he bottled soda from the late 1800’s to the 1910 era at latest, when all bottles started using crown caps. Mr. Mackmiller’s bottles are from an era before the crown style became popular, telling me the business around before 1910 at the latest.
Before Mr. Mackmiller started his whiskey business he was the owner of a General Store in downtown Iron River, where he maintained that business until approximately 1900 when he started his wholesale liquor operations. The T. F. Mackmiller business consisted of two main brands, the Eagle Mountain Rye Whiskey brand and the Iron River Old Rye Whiskey brand. While Mr. Mackmiller was very successful with his business, the onset of Prohibition in 1920 ended his rye whiskey operations. At that time Mr. Mackmiller became the President of a local phone company. Mr. Mackmiller was buried in Iron River after his passing in 1945.