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Felton & Son, Boston, Mass
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Established in 1819.
The decline of the New England Rum industry was gradual however; and there were many still prepared to jump on the wagon, even though it was slowing down. One such was the red-headed Luther Felton, of Marlborough, Massachusetts. When he reached his twenty-first birthday he opted for apprenticeship to a Boston rum distiller.
The Felton family had arrived in Massachusetts Bay Colony from Great Yarmouth in 1640. Nicholas Felton had been Bishop of Ely from 1619 to 1626, and John the Brewer, another member of the family, had been famous for his Yarmouth ales. In 1819 young American Luther Felton joined with a Mr. Bennett in an independent rum distilling venture as 'Bennett & Felton', and in 1825 started his own Crystal Spring Distillery on Washington Street, Boston. He abandoned this in 1839 and built an entirely new plant.
The company became Felton & Son when he took in his eldest son Luther Harvey Felton in 1844, a partnership which lasted for fifteen years. Luther senior retired in 1859 and died in 1868 aged seventy-eight. Luther junior carried on the firm as Felton & Waters, and from 1867 to 1875 as Felton & Stone. Twenty-seven year old Frederic L Felton of the third generation became a partner in 1875.
So far the business had been one of selling rum in barrels to taverns and to rectifiers, but from 1893 they began bottling, and developed a brisk trade in rum for ice cream, candies, mincemeat, and for curing tobacco. By the time the fifth generation Frederic L Felton 11 took over, Felton & Son were the only distiller of New England Rum left. Felton's 'Pilgrim' and 'Crystal Spring' rum were some of the final brands in a rum distilling exercise that had been a very lively one for two hundredyears.
The flow of New England Rum had been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.”
Perhaps one of the best examples of early New England rum, Felton & Son’s rum bottles have a nostalgic, classic appeal to the rum collector which makes them a very popular item in auctions.
Built in 1848 and enlarged several times, the building known as “The Distillery” in South Boston existed primarily as a rum distillery, first for the Crystal Spring Rum label. Around the turn of the century, it became the Bay State Brewery, and in 1910 it returned to its distillery status for the label, Pilgrim Rum.
By 1983 it ceased its liquor production. After it was purchased by its current owners in 1984, it was used for light manufacturing, warehouse and office space. Around 1991, the owners worked on a new goal for the old brick structure – to convert it into an artist community by creating studio spaces to rent to local artists. The owners themselves are connected to the arts; one has three children who are artists, and the other earned a degree in fine arts with a minor in art history.
Records from pre-pro Boston, MA directory:
- Felton (1819)
Felton & Son
516-523 East 2nd (South Boston)
Brands: Crystal Spring Rum old felton rye felton rye Felton's New England Rum Pilgrim Straight New England Rum
- Felton (1860)
Felton & Stone (Boston)
Brands: Felton & Stone - Crystal Spring Distillery - Rum