Ads of the week: Pilgrim rum

Trying to get back into the swing of this. I recently came across a blog called Vintage Booze that’s doing the same thing I am, although they’re mostly covering ads from the 1960s onward. I’m interested in tracing brands that have survived to today and those that haven’t, while looking at the way alcohol branding has changed over the decades since Repeal, so I’m taking a deeper view. Besides, a good idea’s a good idea, and it doesn’t bother me that someone else had the same good idea.

Speaking of dead brands, here’s one that really interests me: Pilgrim Rum.


South Boston, Mass. That makes it a 20th-century example of a New England rum. That’s interesting enough by itself. The Felton family apparently started distilling in 1819. Writing in Rum: A Social and Sociable History, Ian Williams notes:

At the end of Prohibition, several companies tried to revive the centuries-old tradition of New England rum. One valiant effort was Pilgrim rum, whose efforts to evoke Yankee history did not work out in the marketplace…. By the modern age, only Felton was left of the New England rums. In 1983, the plant was sold and mothballed, and so ended the tradition.


The building still exists. Renamed The Distillery, it’s now an artists community. There’s a great and thorough history of the building on their website.


Here’s another great example of a defunct brand that I’d really love to try sometime, just because I’m so curious about how it tasted.

(Ads are from 1936-1937 issues of Life magazine.)


8 thoughts on “Ads of the week: Pilgrim rum

  1. I’ve been in the Distillery — the place is massive! There are a few distilleries making rum in New England, but none of them are trying to make New England-style rum. We’ve been contacted by people who claim that they want to make Old New England Rum on the Boston/Somerville line, but it doesn’t seem like they know what it tastes like (luckily, Steve Remsberg has helped educate our taste buds). Steve also gave us a nip to give to the right people when the time comes.


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