The Mythical Safe That Cost Jack Daniel’s Founder His Life Just Turned Up in NYC

Artifact is on display for the brand's 150th anniversary

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Every brand story contains an element of myth.

In the case of Jack Daniel's, legend has it that the brand's founder, Jasper Newton "Jack" Daniel, had a mysterious safe that led to his death. 

One day, after forgetting the combination, he kicked it so hard that he gave himself gangrene. An infection passed from his sore toe to his whole foot, then to his leg, which was amputated. This didn't stop the gangrene from traveling, however, and Daniel ultimately died in 1911, at age 61, of progressive gangrene complications. 

Since then, the safe has never left his office, which is part of a living museum in Lynchburg, Tenn. In terms of brand lore, this is Jack Daniel's Heart of the Ocean—a weird talisman that's traveled, untouched, through time. Maybe it's even cursed. 

But for the first time ever, it's hitting the road. From now until Saturday, you can see the safe that cost the brand its founder at a pop-up experience called Jack Daniel's Lynchburg General Store, located at 155 5th Ave. in New York City. 

The store is a celebration of the brand's 150th birthday and will be action-packed with experiences, organized by agency Mirrorball (which kindly also provided all these photos). These include charcoal whisky mellowing demos and tastings, a VR tour of the Lynchburg distillery, and collaborations with local artists, designers and makers. For a price, score "guy-centric" grooming supplies and limited-edition or rare items.

The General Store will also display historic brand moments, including the Gold Medal that Jack Daniel's won at the 1904 World's Fair, a tribute to Frank Sinatra's love of the whiskey, backstage appearances with various 1960s rock legends, and punk memorabilia from the '70s.

The safe, meanwhile, will continue its journey long after the pop-up store is shuttered. Barrel maker Kevin Sanders is charged with its safekeeping (ha!), and will be transporting it to Chicago in October and Miami in November. 

Here's a picture of Sanders—the guy on the right—lugging it around like a champ:

Sadly, nobody will be permitted to kick it. Like the Mona Lisa, security will be on-site to ensure the half-ton unit's secrets remain its own. If you're dying of curiosity, Sanders will open it at some point during the pop-up. (Spoiler: We asked, and it's empty—but maybe they'll fill it with swag, just for you!)

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.