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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
Store and its social media channels. He is a regular contributor to Agent Straight Talk, the
only consumer blog explaining the ins, outs and in-betweens of dental insurance and
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No Sour Grapes From This Dentist

Dec 02, 2014

By Dean George

There are two kinds of people in this world: those that do, and those that think about doing but never quite get around to it.

Today’s subject was definitely a doer and was a 19th century poster child for a jack-of-all-trades. During his 77 years Thomas W. worked as a dentist, a Methodist minister, an abolitionist, physician, policeman, magazine publisher, salesman, and an entrepreneur whose product is still found on supermarket shelves today.

Thomas Bramwell Welch

And did I mention that when he smiled he looked like Santa Claus, but when he frowned he looked like Moses?

Anyway, throughout his late teens Thomas was involved in the Underground Railroad. For those readers who may be thinking the Underground Railroad was part of Grand Funk Railroad or the guy that had been working on the railroad and who had a thing for Dinah, you’ve earned yourself one lump of coal and a dental blog demerit.

The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and secret routes used to hide and transport slaves migrating to northern free states, Canada or Mexico in the days leading up to the Civil War. A passionate abolitionist, there was only one thing that Thomas detested more than slavery: alcohol.

Thomas so strongly opposed alcohol consumption that he even opposed serving wine for communion in churches and refused to touch containers holding wine.  Unfortunately this put him in an awkward position since he was a communion steward in his Methodist Church, but did he ‘whine’ about it or was he proactive about solving his problem?

If he hadn’t been successful in discovering a unique solution we probably wouldn’t be using his products today, nor would history remember him. Not to mention that today’s post would probably be about amalgam fillings or how wine stains teeth.

Anyway, Thomas applied his considerable intellect to find a way to bottle grape juice so it wouldn’t ferment. In other words, where Jesus turned water into wine at a marriage party, Thomas tried doing the opposite.

In 1869 he did just that. Using Louis Pasteur’s inventive new technique of “pasteurization,” Thomas boiled bottles of grape juice and managed to preserve the juice and prevent the yeast in the bottles from fermenting. Jubilant, he served his new non-wine wine to his church congregation and offered it to surrounding churches.

The response? Crickets, mostly. Well, except for those ministers that said serving his unfermented wine was heresy. But did Thomas wallow in the wine press of sour grapes, stewing in his own creative juices, so to speak? No way!

While Thomas managed to eventually get his church and a few others in New Jersey to use his non-alcoholic wine for communion, the response was tepid enough that he turned his attention to running his dental supply company, marketing a cough syrup, selling his homemade dental alloys, and continued publication of his long-running dental magazine, Items of Interest.

One of Thomas’s seven children, Charles, also worked as a dentist but had a flair for marketing and promotion. In the early 1890’s he began advertising his father’s juice, eventually quitting dentistry to focus on marketing the family business fulltime. Charles was credited with the fate-changing idea of promoting his father’s drink by offering thousands of samples at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Shortly after that popular response the “Dr.” was removed from the label bearing the family name, but Thomas was now all in and devoted himself fulltime to the juice business until his passing in 1903. Three years after the World’s Fair boom Charles moved the company operations from New Jersey to New York to gain access to more of the concord grapes used in the drink.

The family business incorporated in 1897, and when it expanded into the jam business with “Grapelade” in 1918, the U.S. Army bought all the initial quantity for its troops in World War I. That move proved astute as returning soldiers were insistent on having Grapelade for breakfast, helping secure the future of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for future generations.

The company’s products proved so popular with the government that in 1945, with half of the company’s products set aside for the military and hospitals, it put the general public in a jam with a product shortage for much of the year.

Today, Welch’s is a household name earning half a billion dollars annually and Thomas Welch’s business is renowned far and wide for three “J’s”: juices, jams and jellies. Not bad for a sober-minded guy once accused of ‘fermenting’ heresy for opposing alcohol.

We appreciate you reading Agent Straight-Talk, and if you’re tired of hearing friends and family ‘whining’ about a lack of good dental plan options, have them click here. If you enjoy our blog, think of how much more fun you could have if you followed us on Facebook, Twitter, PinterestGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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 Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC      

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