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H.W. Coyte Manuscript, History of Kentucky Distilleries

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: 1988_118-UA
This 151-page typescript, researched and written by Coyte, chronicles the rise and fall of more than 180 distilling operations scattered across thirty-one central Kentucky and Ohio River counties. Brief entries, arranged by county, trace changes of ownership, identify brand names produced by the firms, and document the impact of Prohibition and Repeal on the distilling industry in the 1920s and '30s. Distillery sites are marked on accompanying county maps.

In addition to the directory, the volume includes the author's essays on "The Whiskey Trust in Kentucky," "Kentuck's First (Evan Williams, 1783)," "Steam Whiskey," and "The Mint Julep." Some of these addenda are photocopies of responses he sent to people who sought his help with related research projects.

The Archives learned of the manuscript during the Kentucky Whiskey Industry Oral History Project in 1985. The widow of H.W. Coyte donated the manuscript to the Archives in 1988.

The manuscript dates from 1940 to 1987; Mr. Coyte continued to make additions and revisions until his last few weeks of life. The work occupies 1 linear inch. There are no restrictions on access.


  • 1940-1987


Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in the H. W. Coyte Manuscript, "History of Kentucky Distilleries" have been transferred to the University of Louisville.


.10 linear foot

Biographical / Historical

Harry Whitney Coyte (1907-1987), a Louisville native and Male High School graduate, earned his living as an employee of American Telephone and Telegraph, but he secured his posterity by his after-hours avocation. Coyte's fascination with the production of Kentucky bourbon began with a one-day job bottling whiskey as a teenager. In later years, he spent many hours haunting abandoned facilities in search of sales receipts, labels, and other artifacts to add to his collection. It is clear that he also spent a good deal of time making notes on reference works, old newspaper files, and other sources.

Coyte hoped to publish the resulting untitled manuscript, but he died before achieving that aim. His widow reports that Coyte called his life's work "The Master Book of Information of Kentucky Distilleries."

Processing Information

Originally housed in a loose-leaf binder. Removed from binder and divided into three envelopes, following the original order from the binder. There are two folders covering the counties in alphabetical order and a third that contains brief biographies and histories.


H. W. Coyte Manuscript, "History of Kentucky Distilleries"
Archives Staff
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752
502 852-6673 (Fax)