Issac Wolfe Bernheim (1848-1945) immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1867 with $4 in his pocket and a dream of making it in America. His original plan was to work in New York City, but the company he was to work for went bankrupt. He then tried his hand as a travelling salesman in Pennsylvania, but had to quit when his horse died.
Issac then moved to Paducah, Kentucky and worked for a liquor distributor, Loeb, Bloom, & Co. He worked as a bookkeeper and saved money to bring his brother, Bernard to America. The two brothers teamed up with their brother in law, Nathan Uri, to start their own company in 1872 called Bernheim Brothers & Uri. Their location to waterways allowed for them to grow rapidly.
They moved the company to Louisville in 1889 with the purchase of a distillery in New Haven. They bought the Pleasure Ridge Park Distillery in 1896 and renamed it Bernheim Brothers Distillery. They created an elite bourbon whiskey called I.W. Harper. The Berheim brothers' success helped to make Louisville a prime area for bourbon production in Kentucky. During Prohibition the Bernheim Brothers Distillery was one of only ten distilleries to make bourbon for medicinal purposes.The business was sold in 1937 to Schenely Distillery Corporation.
Along with being an American success story Bernheim was a great philanthropic. He established Bernheim Forest in Bullitt County and was active in the city's Jewish community. He financed two Kentucky statues that are in the U.S. Capital building, as well as the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Jefferson County courthouse and the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of the Louisville Public Library.
When he visited his hometown of Schmieheim, Germany he found that the town had no running water. He financed the towns first plumbing system, as well as establishing homes for the elderly and children.
Issac Wolfe Bernhiem was a prime example of the poor immigrants that came to America in the 19th century and worked hard to achieve the American Dream. His legacy is that of a successful businessman a loved member of the community. His business savvy was equaled only by the generosity of his heart.