South Carolina Dispensary System : was a state-run monopoly on liquor sales in the United States state of South Carolina which operated from 1893 to 1907 statewide and until 1916 in some counties. The system was the brainchild of Governor Benjamin Tillman, a farmer from Edgefield known as “Pitchfork Ben,” who served as governor from 1890–1894 and as a U.S. Senator from 1895 until his death in 1918. This interesting experiment had never before been tried at the state level, and proved to be the last time a state would require all liquor sold within its borders to be bottled and dispensed through state-run facilities.The South Carolina Dispensary system came to be known as “Ben Tillman’s Baby”
The monopoly the state created was complete; wholesale and retail sales were controlled by the dispensary system through a state board of control, which consisted of the governor, comptroller general and attorney general. Day-to-day administration was in the hands of a state commissioner appointed by the governor. The commissioner was charged with procuring all liquors that were to be subsequently bottled by the state dispensary and sold to county dispensaries. Preference was to be given to local brewers and distillers. Liquor bottled by the state dispensary was the only liquor to be sold legally in South Carolina. From 1893 to 1900 the bottles used by the dispensary had an embossed design featuring a palmetto tree with crossed logs under the base of the trunk, and from 1900-1907 an overlaying and intertwining S, C and D “script” design replaced the tree design. This was largely because prohibitionists objected to having such a prominent state symbol as the palmetto tree embossed on liquor bottles. The script, or monogram design, remained on dispensary bottles until the end of the system in 1907.
For the most part, all that remains of the S.C. Dispensary are the (mostly empty) bottles that were made simply to contain alcoholic beverages to be sold and consumed, with no regard to the aesthetics of the bottle or design. The bottles are treasured by collectors not for their beauty of design or color, but more as a link to an intriguing era in history.
Today, many bottle collectors enthusiastically seek S.C. Dispensary bottles, which have become fairly scarce in terms of common varieties. A few varieties are exceedingly rare and are worth $20,000.00+ to avid collectors willing to pay the price for them. Some very rare specimens bring just under $30,000.00, under the right conditions.
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