First appearing in written record by 1905, the Phil G. Kelly Company had great success for around a decade, becoming the leading liquor dealer in Richmond. They may have been “rectifiers,” who purchase raw liquor in bulk from distillers, mix it, and bottle it to sell to the public. He sold a number of brands like “Tidewater Whiskey”, advertised with the brand’s slogan and Phil G. Kelly’s name running across the bottom like a stamp of approval. Around the time the company was operational, many distillers were lobbying for congress to enforce the Pure Food and Drug Act against rectifiers, claiming they were making “artificial Whiskey.” Phil G. Kelly likely hoped to avoid scrutiny by labeling their bottles as “Straight Whiskey.”
In the early 1900s, the company bought out a competing liquor dealer, the E.A. Saunder’s Sons Co., and became even more essential to Richmond’s liquor needs. Kelly was big in the mail order business, as well, but eventually dropped off the map with prohibition after relocating from Virginia to Maryland. Mysteriously, there is almost no information about Phil G. Kelly himself beyond the company.