Trader's Bldg - 1851
801-805 N 2nd
The Trader's Building is an example of a basic large warehouse built with double doors in the front of the building. Note the doors are framed with iron which made them both decorative and functional protecting the brick from horse-drawn wagons backing up to the building to load and unload cargo. It was once used for storing and blending whiskey, and rumored to be part of the scandalous St. Louis Whiskey Ring. The scheme was to defraud the federal government of taxes. The Whiskey Ring bribed Internal Revenue officials and accomplices in Washington in order to keep liquor taxes for themselves. Benjamin H. Bristow, secretary of the Treasury, organized a secret investigation that exposed the ring and resulted in 238 indictments and 110 convictions.
Allegations that the illegally held tax money was to be used in the Republican Party’s national campaign for the reelection of President Ulysses S. Grant aroused the public. Though Grant was not suspected, his private secretary was indicted in the conspiracy.
Babcock was a key figure in the "Whiskey Ring," a gang of political insiders who took payoffs from select liquor distillers for letting them report lower production volumes, and thus pay lower taxes. The national scandal broke in St. Louis, where several other key figures lived. Babcock, the highest-profile defendant, went on trial in St. Louis on Feb. 8, 1876, and his 18-day trial riveted the nation. No evidence ever tied Grant to the bribery scheme. The war hero's error was misplaced faith in a duplicitous aide. Babcock was acquitted after Grant testified to his innocence.
Just one block away, the U.S. Post Office and Custom House was located at 218 North Third Street, and was the location where Babcock and several other whiskey ring defendants were tried. Built in 1859, it was a seat of federal power in Missouri during the Civil War.