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Peter E . Iler was born in Wooster, Ohio in 1840. At the age of eight years old he would relocate to Tiffin, Ohio along with his brother Joseph Iler. After having several different kinds of employment he started to peddle his American Life Bitters which he would advertise as a cure for dyspepsia. He was charging a dollar a bottle for his bitters. Meanwhile creating a distillery and a wholesale liquor business in Tiffin, Ohio. The Bitters that he was producing was called AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS / P. E. ILER / MANUFACTURER / TIFFIN, OHIO // AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS. This extremely rare and sought after Bitters bottle was a rectangular cabin shape bottle.

In 1865 The brothers Peter and Joseph bought and prepaid for a shipment of Kentucky Bourbon. While in transit the Federal tax on alcohol changed which increased the value by $36,000 dollars which made the Iler’s wealthy men. In 1866 the Ilers and two other investors bought at auction the famous Willow Springs Distillery which was located on the Missouri River. They would move the distillery to 209 History St. Omaha, Neb. Which was across the river making this the first distillery in Neb.

By 1867 the Iler’s Bros. would sell the distillery in Tiffin, Ohio and relocate to Omaha, Neb. They name the company Iler & Co. Importers, Compounders and Wholesale Dealers in Wine, Liquors and Cigars. Here they would produce again there American Life Bitters in the same style of bottle which was used in Tiffin. Now embossed AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS / P. E. ILER / MANUFACTURER / OMAHA, NEB. // AMERICAN LIFE / BITTERS. Which is also extremely rare and sought after. By 1871 the company was producing over 1,250,000 gallons of alcohol a year. In 1880 a fire forced the company to relocate to 1112 Harney St. There they erected a 66 by 182 foot masonry building for the Willow Spring Distillery business. The company grow at a rapid rate covering four square blocks including ten buildings. Beside being in the distillery business they and other investors would become land barons buying up over 1875 acres for the creation of stockyards and packing houses.

Peter would issued a release saying that they would not produce denatured alcohol. Relying on the manufacturing of Kennedy’s East India Bitters. Along with whiskies, gins, spirits and pure grain alcohol, bourbon and rye. Below is a photo of the KENNEDY’S / EAST INDIA / BITTERS / ILER & CO. / OMAHA NEB. They also had a small sample style identical bottle.

east_1..kenedy label

By 1887 they would become the third largest distillery in the United States. 1898 they would sell Willow Spring Distillery to The Standard Distillery and Distributing Co. Other brand that they had were Gold Sheaf, Iler’s Eagle Gin, Willow Springs and Winchester.


www.journalstar.com Jim Mckee.


Bitters Bottles by Carlyn Ring & W. C. Ham.

Frank & Frank Jr.(Wicker) Bottle Collection.

kennedy a

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