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Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel (c. September 1850 – October 10, 1911)[1] was an American distiller and businessman, best known as the founder of the Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey distillery.

Jack Daniel
Jasper Newton Daniel

c. September 1850
Lynchburg, Tennessee, United States
DiedOctober 10, 1911(1911-10-10) (aged 61)
Lynchburg, Tennessee, United States
OccupationDistiller, businessman
Years activec. 1867 – 1911
Known forJack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey
RelativesLem Motlow (nephew)
J. Reagor Motlow (great-nephew)
WebsiteOfficial website


Daniel was the youngest of ten children born to Calaway and Lucinda Matilda (née Cook) Daniel.[1] He was of Scots-Irish, Scottish, and Welsh descent; his grandfather, Joseph "Job" Daniel, was born in Wales, while his grandmother, Elizabeth Calaway, was born in Scotland.[1] His paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States in the late 18th century.

Daniel's date of birth is unknown. According to one source, he was born in January 1849, in or around Lynchburg, Tennessee.[1] A town fire had destroyed the courthouse records,[citation needed] and, because his mother died shortly after his birth, most likely due to complications from childbirth,[1] conflicting dates on his and his mother's tombstones have left Daniel's date of birth in question.[2][failed verification] On June 26, 1851, his father remarried and had another three children with Matilda Vanzant.[1]

Daniel was raised in the Primitive Baptist church.[3] The company that now owns the distillery claims that Jack Daniel's was first licensed in 1866.[2] However, in the 2004 biography Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel author Peter Krass maintains that land and deed records show that the distillery was actually not founded until 1875.[1]

According to company histories, sometime in the 1850s, when Daniel was a boy, he went to work for a preacher, grocer, and distiller named Dan Call. The preacher, as the stories went, was a busy man, and when he saw promise in young Jack, he taught him how to run his whiskey still.[4] However, on June 25, 2016, The New York Times reported the company's view that Daniel did not learn distilling from Call, but from a man named Nearest Green (misspelled as "Nearis" in the 1880 census)[5]—one of Call's slaves.[4]

Daniel's safe

Daniel never married and did not have children. However, he took his nephews under his wing, one of whom was Lem Motlow.[1][6] Motlow, a son of Jack's sister, Finetta,[7] was skilled with numbers and was soon doing all of the distillery's bookkeeping.

In 1907, due to failing health, Daniel gave the distillery over to Motlow and another one of his nephews.[1][6] Motlow soon bought the other out and went on to operate the distillery for about 40 years (interrupted between 1942 and 1946 when the U.S. government banned the manufacture of whiskey due to World War II).[8] Motlow died in 1947.[9]

Daniel died from blood poisoning in Lynchburg on October 10, 1911. An oft-told tall tale is that the infection began in one of his toes, which Daniel injured one morning at work by kicking his safe in anger when he could not get it open (he was said to always have had trouble remembering the combination).[10] However, Daniel's modern biographer has asserted that the story is not true.[1][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Krass, Peter, Blood and Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, Wiley, April 29, 2004 (page 7: "after he was born in 1849"; page 19: "By the time Jack was born in January 1849"; page 76: "They named their company simply Daniel & Call, the partnership effective November 27, 1875 – a date to be celebrated, for it officially marks a great whiskey legend's entry into the business as the owner of a distillery."; page 78: "November 1875, the month Jack and Dan formed their partnership"; page 210: "Jack Daniel welcomed the end on October 9, 1911").
  2. ^ a b Jack Daniel's official website, Brown-Forman Corporation.
  3. ^ "Blood and Whiskey: Jack Daniel". Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Risen, Clay (June 25, 2016). "Jack Daniel's Embraces a Hidden Ingredient: Help From a Slave". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  5. ^ Alfs, Lizzy (July 21, 2017). "Ex-slave who trained Jack Daniel gets new recognition". USA Today. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Book Discussion: Blood & Whiskey: The Life and Times of Jack Daniel, C-SPAN.
  7. ^ Jeanne Ridgway Bigger, "Jack Daniel's Distillery and Lynchburg: A Visit to Moore County, Tennessee," Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring 1972), pp. 3–21.
  8. ^ "Jack Daniel Distillery". The Whisky Guide. Archived from the original on January 9, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ Lem Motlow, Jack Daniel's website. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  10. ^ Freeth, N. (2005). Made in America: from Levi's to Barbie to Google. St. Paul, MN: MBI.

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