Chile Won’t Drink Our Beer

I realized the other day that my subscription to the New York Times gives me access to 150 years of archives of that newspaper. At first, I wanted to see the NYT’s take on events such as the Bloody Monday riot in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1855, the fall of Atlanta in 1864, and the destruction of Aspinwall, Panama in 1885. Then I recalled that my great grandparents on my mother’s side, James M Dobbs and Helen von Spiegel, were married in New York City in 1901. He was from Georgia, and she was from Texas. So, it’s been a mystery to me why they came to be married in NYC. Unfortunately, I could not locate anything regarding their wedding in August 1901. However, I did find three occasions where James was mentioned in the pages of that paper.

The first item from Wednesday, April 5, 1893, reads: “James M Dobbs of Georgia, nominated to be Consul at Valparaiso Chile, is about 28 years of age, a resident of Marietta, belongs to one of the best families in the state, and is a thorough businessman. He has traveled through South America and speaks Spanish fluently.”

He was appointed by Grover Cleveland, who had won the election in 1892 and was inaugurated in March of the following year.

There is an error in the report: James was not 28 years old in 1893. He was 34 years old. I don’t know if NYT made this mistake or if it’s evidence of James lying about his age. In a previous post, I showed where my great-grandfather lied about his age on a passport application he filled out in 1918. That year, the war department prevented people over the age of 55 from traveling to Europe. In that case, he shaved the same number of years off his age. He was born July 4, 1859, but on the passport application, he listed his birth date as July 4, 1865.

Item number two was a report from the State Department regarding the death of an American citizen from New York.

The item from Wednesday, January 13, 1897, reads: “Washington, DC, January 11, 1897. Information has been received at this department from Mr. James M Dobbs, the Consul of the United States at Valparaiso, Chile, of the death, on 28 October 1896 at Valparaiso, of Howie F. Day, a native of New York. Per dispatch number 81. Dated November 13, 1896.”

Item three is from the August 2, 1897 edition of the New York Times. The headline of this item reads: “Chile Won’t Drink Our Beer.”

“According to United States Consul in Valparaiso, Chile, James M Dobbs, there is absolutely no demand there for American beers, many accounts to the contrary notwithstanding. The Chilean beer is a good deal heavier than either the American or the German and is, therefore, best suited to the demands of the people. The duty on foreign beer is .033 cents per half bottle, and the price it would have to sell for to give any profit would be about .145 cents (40 centavos), while the native beer sells for .0525 to .0725 cents per half bottle. No ale is manufactured in the country.”

Besides the obvious question of why the pricing is per half bottle, it is worthy of note that nearly a year after his boss, Democrat Grover Cleveland, lost the election to the Republican candidate, William McKinley, James was still awaiting his replacement. It wasn’t until the end of the year that James and his family returned to the states.

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