Sunday, September 17, 2017

Examining Risqué Bitters Advertising

Having examined in four previous posts the risqué images that often accompanied whiskey advertising, attention here moves to the sometimes racy, sometimes double entendre, world of bitters beverage merchandising.   

While some bitters may not have had the same alcohol content as liquor, they almost always eclipsed the amounts found in wine and beer.  For most of the 1800s, they were advertised with extravagant claims about their ability to cure all manner of diseases including malaria, kidney stones, rheumatism and even impotency.  With the coming of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 most purveyors toned down their advertising to dealing with problems of digestion and defecation.   

In order to spark interest, however, bitters manufacturers often resorted to advertising in trade cards and postcards with images meant to titillate the viewers.  Among the leading purveyors was Lash’s Bitters, a company founded in Cincinnati and later moved to San Francisco.  It specialized in “hold to the light” cards in which a fully dressed woman when lighted from behind is shown in underclothing.  One is shown here.

It also could go farther in its saucy images.  Shown above is a tableau in which the five senses are cited.  It shows a young woman who is seeing a figure in the distance, is hearing his approach at the door, smelling the bouquet he has brought, each feeling the warmth of their embrace, and finally tasting — what?It takes little imagination to understand what is going on.

Only rarely did the bitters makers resort to nudity but Lash’s provided the public with an example that was clothed in a medical context.  A doctor is examining a very attractive female patient who, according to the caption, has “heart trouble.”  She has pulled up her night gown so that the attending physician can listen.  Although the stethoscope was invented in 1816 and was standard equipment for U.S. physicians in 1900, this doctor has decided that an ear pressed to a breast gives a better diagnosis — or something.

George M. Pond was the manager of Lash’s branch in Chicago.  Having mastered the art of selling bitters, he struck out on his own, establishing a company he called the Ponds Bitters Company located at 149-153 Fulton Street, Chicago.  For some 15 years, employing many of the merchandising ploys he learned at Lash’s, he thrived.  Those included risqué advertising, with several examples shown here.  The first, “Stopped for a Puncture, with an outrageous double meaning, is my favorite.

The ad “Maud with her little bear behind,” shown front and back, was a somewhat bizarre take on an old knee-slapper anecdote.   Shown below left is a Ponds card titled “Taking in the Sights”  and the card right bears a caption indicating that the man on the phone is giving an excuse to his wife about being late for dinner.

In June 1916, the city prosecutor of Chicago filed suit against Pond’s Bitters Company,   A test of the product by the health commissioner had found that Pond’s Bitters were more than 20 percent alcohol and required the company to obtain a license for selling spiritous liquor.  The suit sought $200 in damages from Pond’s which likely was instantly coughed up since the amount  was a small price to pay for immense profits being reaped from the bitters.

Many distillers and whiskey wholesalers featured a line of bitters — for good reason.  As “medicine” they did not fall under the liquor revenue laws and escaped significant taxation.  Second, bitters could be sold in dry states, counties and communities where whiskey was banned.  Among those taking advantage of these opportunities was Alexander Bauer, a Chicago liquor wholesaler, with a reputation for chicanery, as well as the ribald.  Look closely at this Pepsin Kola and Celery Bitters ad and the story becomes clear.

Carmeliter Bitters and its “come hither” lady bearing an “elixir of life,” poses something of a mystery regarding its origins.  The several variants of the bottle are embossed with different names, including Frank R. Leonori & Co. and Burhenne & Dorn.  Leonori was a New York City organization located at 82 Wall Street.  Burhenne & Dorn was a liquor house in Brooklyn at 349 Hamburg Avenue.  This nostrum was alleged to be for “all kidney & liver complaints.”

Union Bitters advertised that it would be found “grateful and comforting” where manhood needed to be restored or where “men have lost their self-respect.”  The Union Bitters recipe is recorded containing gentian, peruvian bark, roman chamomile, quassia bark, bitter orange peel and most important, 50% alcohol.  As if those ingredients were not enough to strike an erotic spark, Union Bitters provided a “mechanical” trade card which initially purports to show a peeping gent seeing a woman’s bare behind.  Opening the card, it is revealed as a a pig’s hind end.
The final trade card is from Dr. Roback’s Stomach Bitters.  Those in the know relate that Dr. Roback was neither a doctor nor named Roback. He was an unsuccessful farmer turned salesman who in 1844 escaped debtor’s prison in his native Sweden and headed for America.  As Dr. Roback in Boston he sold horoscopes and founded an astrological college.  Then he moved into patent medicines and a bitters nostrum, selling his stomach bitters first from Philadelphia and later from Cincinnati where he died in 1867.

Although the dozen items shown here are just a few example of the risqué advertising from bitters manufacturers, they demonstrate the range of images chosen to intrigue and sell a customer.  

Note:  For anyone interested in seeing the images from my four posts on risque' images in whiskey advertising, they appeared in January 2011, July 2012, July 2013, and January 2017.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Fortune Cookies Have Told My Life’s Story

No, not really, but I have collected several dozen fortune slips over the years that have had particular interest.  My modus operandi is to take a Chinese fortune of note and scotch tape it to a beer mug.  Every so often, as the mug surface fills up, I take them off and paste them on paper.  Because Wednesday, September 13, 2017, is National Fortune Cookie Day, I am prepared to reveal much of what they have told me, beginning about 1975 and up to the present day.  

Early Fortunes:   One fortune that clearly caught my attention went this way:  “It is very possible that you will achieve greatness in your lifetime.”   Well, that really did not happen.  I have not sought anonymity but it has pursued me relentlessly throughout my life.  More promising was another cookie fortune:  “Your family is young, gifted and attractive.”  I’d like to think that was true — both sons proved to be gifted and achieved advanced degrees — but none of us is young anymore.

My career involved a great deal of travel and I was able to work all over the world, but occasionally got becalmed with home office work and chafed to go abroad.  Perhaps that was the situation when the following came to me:  “Traveling more often is important for your health and happiness.”   Another cookie provided a formula for successful travel:  “You have the ability to adapt to diverse situations.”

2002-2009 Fortunes:  This one seemed at least partially appropriate, if not exactly predictive:  “You are a lover of words.  Someday you will write a book..”  By the time this showed up I had written the only serious book I would ever write — about the war powers of the President and Congress.  During this period, however, I cobbled together three books on whiskey containers that were self-published and in limited editions, sold out.

“Cleaning up the past will always clear up the future!”  Now that is something to think about.  At the urging of friends I did a brief autobiography called “Memoirs of a Spear Carrier.”  To my knowledge none of the revelations there about my past life really cleaned things up.  Nor, it now seems, did the future become any more clear.  For that one needs more fortune cookies.

During this period I received a cookie that had its own irony attached.  It read:  “You have a deep appreciation of the arts and music.”  It was a reminder that for a time on a newspaper I was assigned to review performances of classical music, of which I actually knew nothing.  My standard line for concerts of stringed instruments was to compliment “deft fingering.”  After comparing the cello to “a beautiful woman,” and throwing in a note on deft fingering, the paper relieved me of those responsibilities — to my great relief.
2009 to Present:  In the most recent period, I find some fortunes prophetic.  For example:  “You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.”  I can think of one in Micronesia a few years ago.  We sat outside in a circle and a drank a liquid pounded from the root of a muddy pepper plant, strained through a palm frond.  After I took one sip of the green slimy stuff, pity was taken on the haole (white person) and I was give coffee as a chaser.

Another is:  “You would make a good lawyer.”  That is the profession my mother had in mind for me and over the years I have been involved in making laws (Congressional staff) and criticizing them (local government).  The city attorney in my city assumed I was a lawyer.  My reaction is to be thankful I chose journalism instead of the law.  Lots more fun and fewer responsibilities.

As I move into the twilight of life, some fortunes clearly are out of touch with reality.  For instance:  “You shall seek out new adventures.”  And: “You have an important new business development shaping up.” Still others seem problematic:
“You will maintain health and enjoy life” and “Your winsome smile will be your sure protection.”    More cogent is the following cookie-born advice:  “Relish the transitions in your life — they will happen regardless.”  

Ten days from now when Fortune Cookie Day rolls around, you can be sure I will be ordering in Chinese food and asking for my fortune cookie.  Who knows, it may give me something to think about — and perhaps paste up for future reference.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Poses of the Pig

Having early been exposed to hogs on a family farm and later as a journalist writing about livestock,  I have had fixation on pigs — most precisely, the depiction of pigs in various formats.   In August  2009 on this blog I posted an article entitled “Swigging the Pig,”  a look at pig-shaped whiskey bottles.   Subsequently I have collected a variety of swine images, some comic, others not so, and believe it time to visit this pig pen.

The first object is a ceramic sow who is eagerly drinking from a jug of whiskey.  This figurine graced my office for decades, part of the collection of hillbilly items that surrounded my work space.  Looking at it never ceased to amuse me, so delighted did the pig seem with its gulp of liquor.  As a result of a recent downsizing, however, this image now resides in the collection of the Ralph Foster Museum on the campus of the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Missouri.  

No company in the U.S. is more closely identified with swine than the Cudahy Packing Company.  Founded by immigrant Irish brothers, it was carried forward over the years by family members who expanded its operations from Milwaukee to other cities and became one of America’s largest pork packing houses.  The Omaha packing house was founded in 1887 by Michael Cudahy.  It issued this “mechanical” trade card of a hog, shown above and below, urging viewers to pull its nose.   Then are revealed sausages, a ham, bacon and a container of lard.  

The French are less sensitive about the process by which such products are achieved and on a trade card from Auvergne, a region in central France, it provided an image of a happy pig slicing its own belly to obtain sausages.  The message tells us that we can eat this meat with pleasure and not get tired.  While the image has elicited considerable comment on the Internet, found to be from funny to disgusting, observers disagree on what “Cochon Prodique” means — the most logical explanation being that a pig provides a extremely generous amount of meat.

The pigs in the next ad provide a contrast between a hog that has been fed “Merry War Lye” and fattened up for the slaughter and a sadly emaciated one who likely will have its life spared for the time being.   The fat one has been fed Merry War Lye, apparently a powdered miracle product that could be used around the farm yard for a myriad of purposes.   Not only could you feed lye to your hogs but it also had uses for poultry, cattle, making soap, using on fruit trees, as fertilizer, in the barn, the silo and around the dairy. 

Lots of advertisers seem to like to dress up their swine. From a Sacramento grocery comes this image of a pig complete with red striped britches, frock coat, top hat, cravat, and vest with watch fob, who is smoking a cigarette on a holder.  The tag line is an enigma:  “I’m a Dandy, But I’m No Dude.”  Actually, a small pig raised for pet purposes is called a “Dandie Extreme,” with prices starting at $2,500 and additional fees amounting in the hundred.  The porker here is touting his hams — unaware of the fate that lies ahead.

An advertising pocket mirror from the Allbright-Nell Company, seemingly based in Illinois, was unabashed in its depiction of what happens to even the best of swine.  The company manufactured a mechanism and straps that held the animals in slaughter houses and butcher shops.  In one of his novels, William Faulkner provided a graphic description of such hanging hogs.  He says they appear to be “running into eternity.”  

Another frequent use of the pig images is to show it in unlikely activities, as here, riding a roller skate.  This is a framed exhortation, the kind sometimes seen on the walls of organizations that claim to be able to “change your life.”  In this case, “Never Be Afraid to Try Something New.”  For example, try launching your $2,500  dandie piglet on a single roller skate.  Just plain fun.

Pig images also can have practical uses, like this bottle opener from Finck’s Overalls.”  The company’s tagline “Wears Like a Pig’s Nose” was a phrase known throughout the country.  Headquartered in Detroit, Finck made quality denim garments for farm workers and laborers — both occupational groups who might need an opener for their beer bottles.  After the brand was purchased from the Finck family by a competitor it was discontinued in 1960.

The animal in its various forms also the subject of puns.  Note the chaotic scene shown here on a trade card in which a thief attempting to abduct piglet is being challenged by the adult hogs in the pen.  The thief is said to be in a “Pig-A-Rious Position.”  My efforts to find something about Henry Max and his restaurant and refreshment saloon have gone unrewarded. Located in the Shamut District of Boston, Montgomery Place today shows no semblance of a saloon.

The final pig image needs no further explanation.  As the reporter for the Milwaukee Sentinel charged with covering the livestock competitions at the Wisconsin State Fair, I wrote with such poetic eloquence that I became known as “The Swinburne of the Swine Barns.”   Here, however, words escape me.  Except one observation:  A hog as ugly as this one would never have been voted any kind of ribbon.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Remembering the Airship USS Akron

Among the most familiar images to Americans was the crash of the Hindenburg zeppelin in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937, killing 36 of the 97 people aboard.  It was not, however, the greatest airship disaster.  That was the destruction of the USS Akron in a storm off the New Jersey coast on April, killing 73 of the 76 crewmen and passengers aboard.  Representing the greatest loss of life in any airship crash, today the accident is little remembered.

In its heyday, the Navy’s airship Akron was highly publicized resulting in a number of images and artifacts. The Akron and her sister ship the Macon were among the largest flying objects ever made.   While the German zeppelins were larger, they were filled with hydrogen.  The Navy craft hold the world record for helium-filled airships.  A photograph shows the interior of the huge hangar where the Akron and Macon were constructed.  Called the Goodyear Airdock, it was constructed in 1929 at an equivalent cost today of $26.4 million.  When it was built it was the largest structure in the world without interior supports.  It encompassed 364,000 square feet of space, an area equal to eight football fields placed side by side.

It is there that the Akron, shown here under construction, was built. The airship was 785 feet long and had a hull diameter of 133 feet and a height of 146 feet, six inches.  The skeleton was formed of a new lightweight alloy called “duraluminun 17.”  

Zeppelin and other rigid designs used a single keel at the lowest point of the hull circumference but the Akron boasted three keels, one running along the top of the hull and one on each side, 45 degrees up from the lower centerline. Each keel provided a walkway running almost the entire length of the ship. The strength of the main rings, the lower keels, and the fact that helium, instead of flammable hydrogen, was to be used, also allowed the designer to mount the engines inside the hull, improving streamlining. Goodyear was extraordinarily proud of the Akron issuing a postcard showing the airship protruding from its airlock.

The city of Akron, indeed all of Ohio, was proud of this flying behemoth.  A postcard depicts the ship flying over the skyline.  Akron has had many nicknames, one of which is "City of Invention”.  The third would include this airship.  She was the world’s first flying aircraft carrier, with the capacity for holding F9C Sparrowhawk fighter-reconnaissance planes in its belly.  Using a crude hooking system, the planes could be launched and recovered while the Akron was in flight.

Another photo showed the Akron floating over New York City in 1933.  It was powered by eight Maybach (German) in line engines hitched to two wooden propellers, each of which was two bladed.  The airship was capable the making 63 miles an hour cruising speed and a maximum speed of 79 miles an hour.  Its fuel capacity was 20,700 gallons weighting 126,000 pounds.  That gave the airship a range of 6,840 miles without refueling.  

The Akron’s first transcontinental flight in May 1932 was recognized with a special envelope marking the occasion.  Leaving from Lakehurst, it took more than 44 hours to reach San Diego, slightly faster than delivery by train.  The cover shown here gives no clue to what happened on its arrival. Since neither trained ground handlers nor specialized mooring equipment were present, the landing at Camp Kearny was a dicey proposition. By the time the crew started the descent, the helium gas had been warmed by sunlight, increasing lift. The mooring cable had to be cut to avert a catastrophic nose-stand by the airship which then floated upward. Most of the mooring crew—predominantly “boot camp” seamen—released their lines although four did not immediately let go.  Two of them plunged to their death, two others, although injured, were saved.

This was just a foretaste of what was to come.  On the night of April 3, 1933 the Akron was on a routine operation along the Atlantic Coast  with a rear admiral aboard when it encountered severe weather.  Heavy winds struck its sides, causing the airship to plunge toward the ocean.  A strong gust tore lower rudder cables away causing the nose of the vessel to pitch up and the tail down.  Upon striking the water the lower fin was torn away as the Akron broke up rapidly and sank in the wave-tossed Atlantic.  The crew had not been issued life jackets and end had come so quickly that life rafts could not be deployed.  The accident left 73 dead, the admiral among them, and only three survivors.  President Franklin Roosevelt called it “a national disaster.”  On Memorial Day 1933 the Navy Department issued a special “In Memoriam” cover.

The loss of the Akron marked the beginning of the end for the airship in the U.S. Navy.  When its sister dirigible Macon was damaged in a storm two years later and sank, the program ended.  This time, however, the crew had been issued life jackets and 70 of the 72 aboard were rescued.  Although today “Snoopy” may sail the Metlife blimp over the Superbowl, the use of manned airships for military purposes long has been over.

Other mementos of the Akron that may be of interest to collectors are paperweights and desk ornaments issued when the airship was still a matter of national pride.  Goodyear used a blob of its dualuminum 17 to fashion a replica of the Akron’s dock that completely fails to convey the immensity of the structure.  There also are other replicas of the giant balloon that come up for sale from time to time, two of them shown here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pocket Mirrors: Reflections of the Evolving Shoe Industry

Among the manufacturing and service industries regularly presenting the public with giveaway advertising items like paperweights and pocket mirrors, the shoe industry of the early 20th Century stands out as a major participant.  On September 28, 2012, I presented on this blog a group of 10 paperweights under the title “Shoes Preserved Under Glass.”   Herein is presented eleven advertising pocket mirrors — all related to the footwear industry.   They present the fashion in  the shoes of the time as well as the methods of merchandising.  Just as important they point up major changes taking place in shoe manufacturing.

In 1904, a cartoonist named Richard Outcault went to the St. Louis World’s Fair where he hoped to sell the rights to a pair of comic page characters he had created known as Buster Brown and his dog, Tige.  Among buyers was a St. Louis shoe manufacturer named George Warren Brown.  For the princely sum of $200 he bought the rights to feature the pair in his marketing and never looked back.  In ensuing years Buster and Tige became closely identified with Brown’s shoes, as on the pocket mirror shown here.  By 1958, largely through creative advertising, the Buster Brown line had become the largest brand of footwear for children.

Contrast that pocket mirror with a similar item for Granby Rubbers.  This mirror is in black and white with a photo of a young girl seemingly stuffed into an overshoe, a clumsy image.  The Granby Rubber Co. was a Canadian outfit founded by Samuel Henderson Campbell Miner in 1882 to manufacture rubber clothing items, including “…Rubbers for city or country and Overshoes for country.”  His factory, one that reputedly made 5,000 to 6,000 pairs of shoes daily, was located in Grandy said to be Miner’s “… town financially and sentimentally.”  The boss was mayor for more than two decades.

A similarly conservative figure was August Schreiner of Rochester, New York, who advertised the “The Snow Shoe” on a pocket mirror.   A shoe and boot trade publication in 1916 said of him:  “Mr. Schreiner is one of a very few of our old shoemen who continue to make custom shoes.  This, he says, obliges his older customers and he does quite a brisk business in this line.”  In less than three years, however, Schreiner was advertising in the local newspaper the equivalent of a bankruptcy sale, saying”  “A force of circumstances, which none could foresee, prompts this action.”  

While Schriener was harking back to the days of the village shoemaker where footwear was made customer by customer, industrialization had long since taken shoe manufacturing out of the workshop and into the factory.  Even then an outfit like the Stonefield-Evans Shoe Company of Rockford, Illinois, was insisting that it employed only “highly skilled tradesmen.”  Acquired by Sam Stonefield, who had started in work in a shoe factory when he was ten years old, the factory made only men’s shoes employing 140 of those skilled cobblers, keeping output at a modest 600 pairs daily.  

By contrast, the Bradley & Metcalf Company of Milwaukee, one of the largest boot and shoe manufacturers in the Northwest, even as early as 1870 was replacing those skilled workers.  A company foreman told a local newspaper that of the 450 men now employed in the establishment, “Perhaps not more than ten were sufficiently skilled to be of any service ten or fifteen years ago.”  The Bradley & Metcalf spokesman added:  “The simple fact proved to be that the division of labor  — one single and simple operation being assigned to each class of workmen — and the introduction of machinery has enabled manufacturers to substitute unskilled for skilled labor.”   Indeed, in some shoe factories the workforce might include child labor.

Conditions in shoe factories were such to spur the development of a strong and militant labor union for shoemakers by 1889, evolving to become the Boot and Shoe Worker Union (BSWU) of the AFL.   Regarded as a “radical” union in its early days, the BSWU was formed to establish uniform wages for the same class of work, including equal pay for women, and to abolish child, convict, and contract (low paying home industry) labor.   The union was international, including French-speaking Canadian workers.  

The presence of a labor union made shoe manufacturers increasingly concerned about keeping their workers happy.  Among them was Thomas Gustave Plant, a French-Canadian immigrant who made his fortune manufacturing footwear under the Queen Quality Shoes label.  His largest shoe factory was in Roxbury (now Jamaica Plain) Massachusetts and self-proclaimed to be the largest shoe factory in the world.  Plant provided numerous innovations and amenities for his employees,  including a company park where they could have lunch and recreate.  And not just another park.  Completed in 1913, the facility was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., park architect son of the man who developed Central Park in New York City.

Despite occasional labor unrest, communities were eager to have shoe factories locate within their boundaries.  The Friedman-Shelby Shoe Co. of St. Louis in 1907  built a factory in Kirksville, a community of about 20,000 in North Central Missouri but only after the town had furnished a free site, free water for five years and tossed in a bonus of $60,000, equivalent to almost $1.5 million today.  For its investment Kirksville secured employment for 300 workers who produced 1,800 to 2,000 pairs of shoes daily.  Friedman-Shelby sold the 60 by 300 foot four story factory to another shoe company in 1916.  Reflecting consolidation occurring in the industry, Florsheim Shoe Company eventually bought it and shut it in 1973.

The “Enna Jettick” shoe brings us back to the wardrobe changes that were affecting the industry.  As shirts got shorter and shorter, women were giving more attention to make fashion statements with their shoes and investing more money in them.  The company behind this brand was Dunn & McCarthy, a shoe manufacturer of Auburn, New York, in business since 1867.  The Enna Jettick line was issued during the flapper era of the 1920s and, true to the zany antics of that era, advertised with its own blimp airship.  In Auburn, the company bought a park on the banks of Cayuga Lake, installed a merry-go-round, and in 1930 named it Enna Jettick Park.

The face of each of these pocket mirrors shows us the image that the advertiser chose in order to sell his products.  Behind each mirror is a story of an industry in flux virtually from the end of the Civil War until the 1920s as the transition from village cobbler to industrialized manufacturing occurred and changed forever the way shoes are made and merchandised.

Note:  For anyone interested in the origins of the celluloid-backed pocket mirror as an advertising giveaway, I have treated that subject in a post of July 4, 2009.