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Whiskey sticks/spirit levels

Posted by Dhm on June 04, 2004

About thirty years ago I lived out in Arizona and worked on a masonry crew for about a year. Some of the older masons called their emblamatic 4-ft levels "whiskey sticks". I thought that this was because these were "spirit levels", i.e., they had a bubble in a marked tube of alcohol set in the body of the tool to show when it was level. However, I was told by these guys that "whiskey stick" came from their youth as traveling masons when they would pawn their levels to buy whiskey and redeem the sticks on payday.

I still don't know what to believe! Those guys could tell you the wildest stories with a straight face. They wouldn't ever let on that they were pulling your leg unless absolutely forced to. The humor was doubled every day that the greenhorn was convinced that the moon was green cheese.

I was a natural mark, being young, inexperienced and from back East. As far as I know they're still laughing about that kid who bought the Whiskey Stick Story.

Any thoughts on the origins of "whiskey stick" or "spirit level?"