A Guide to the A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection, 1931-1981 A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection MSS 02-08

A Guide to the A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection, 1931-1981

A Collection in The Fairfax County Public Library

Record Group Number MSS 02-08


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Fairfax County Public Library
City of Fairfax Regional Library
Virginia Room
10360 North Street
Fairfax, VA 22030-2514 USA
Virginia Room: 703-293-6227 x6
Fax: 703-293-2155
Email: va_room@fairfaxcounty.gov
URL: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/branches/virginia-room

© 2018 Fairfax County Public Library. All rights reserved.

Repository
Fairfax County Public Library
Record Group Number
MSS 02-08
Title
The A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection, 1931-1981
Extent
1.0 linear feet
Creator
Virginia Room staff
Language
English
Abstract
The A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection consists of 1.0 linear feet and spans the years 1931-1981 and consists of a brochure, promotional pamphlet, magazine advertisement, framed whiskey labels, tobacco package, and five liquor bottles of “Virginia Gentleman” and “Fairfax County” whiskey.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

None

Use Restrictions

Consult repository for information

Preferred Citation

A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection, MSS 02-08, Virginia Room, Fairfax County Public Library

Acquisition Information

Collection assembled by the Virginia Room over a period of years

Processing Information

Chris Barbuschak, May 2018
EAD generated by Ross Landis, 2018


Historical and Biographical Information

In September 1927, Kentucky-born A. Smith Bowman, Sr. (1868-1952) purchased several tracts of land which once consisted of the failed planned town of Wiehle built by Max Wiehle in the 1890s. Bowman renamed the property Sunset Hills Farm. In 1929, Bowman founded the Fairfax Hunt Club, the first hunt in Fairfax County, which met on his Sunset Hills Farm.

When prohibition was repealed in March 1934, Bowman and his sons applied for a permit to distill liquor. Granted a license, the Bowmans used former Wiehle buildings for their distillery and warehouses including the old Wiehle Town Hall. The Bowmans used corn and wheat from their Sunset Hills Farm to produce the whiskey and bourbon. The first “Virginia Gentleman” and “Fairfax County” bottled bourbon was sold to the public four years later in 1938. The Bowmans employed 250 workers to run the distillery and the farm.

In 1947 the Bowman family expanded Sunset Hills to 7,200 acres after purchasing an additional nearby 3,140 aces, making it the largest privately owned tract of land in Northern Virginia, most of which was later purchased by Robert E. Simon to build the planned community of Reston. The A. Smith Bowman Distillery expanded with new building facilities in 1966. In 1988, due to the raising living costs of employees, high taxes, traffic congestion, and space limitations, the distillery relocated to Fredericksburg, Virginia where it continues to operate today. The Bowman Distillery building, formerly the old Wiehle Town Hall, is listed on the Fairfax County Inventory of Historic Sites, National Register of Historic Places, and as of 2018 still stands at 1890 Old Reston Avenue.

Scope and Content

The A. Smith Bowman Distillery Collection consists of 1.0 linear feet and spans the years 1931-1981 and consists of a brochure, promotional pamphlet, magazine advertisement, framed whiskey labels, tobacco package, and five liquor bottles of “Virginia Gentleman” and “Fairfax County” whiskey. Subjects include Sunset Hills Farm, Virginia (present-day Reston, Virginia) and the whiskey industry in Fairfax County, Virginia.


Index Terms

  • A. Smith Bowman Distillery
  • Distilleries - Virginia - Fairfax County - History
  • Sunset Hills Farm (Fairfax County, Va.)
  • Whiskey industry - Virginia - Fairfax County

Container List

Box 1
Folder 1
Brochure, Fairfax Hunt Club House and Kennels, Sunset Hills, Virginia, 1931
Box 1
Folder 2
Tobacco package, Virginia Gentleman, Undated
Box 1
Folder 3
Magazine advertisement, Virginia Gentleman Whiskey, c. 1975
Box 1
Folder 4
Promotional booklet, “A trip through Sunset Hills Farm, Fairfax County, Virginia : the story of "custom made” whiskey, and some fine southern recipes”, Undated
Box 1
Folder 5
Framed Virginia Gentleman whiskey labels, Undated
Box 1
 
Glass bottle, Fairfax County Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 90 proof, 1981
Box 2
 
Glass bottle, Fairfax County Bourbon, 100 proof, 1 quart, 1971
Box 2
 
Glass bottle, Fairfax County Bourbon, 100 proof, 1 quart, 1974
Box 2
 
Glass bottle, Fairfax County Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 90 proof, 1981
Box 2
 
Plastic bottle, Virginia Gentleman Sweet Bourbon Whiskey, 80 proof, 1.75 liters , Undated