Thursday, February 15, 2018

Saloon Trade Cards, Risqué and Profane


In the days before National Prohibition when women, at least respectable women, were barred from saloons, proprietors felt free to distribute trade cards advertising their establishments that often included “double entrendre” messages, often provided in verse.  Shown here are seven such offerings from watering holes across America and reaching into Mexico.

The first example comes from Becker’s Saloon in Reno, Nevada, a place where one might get a limburger cheese sandwich and a beer for 15 cents.  It was located in the Becker Building on Commercial Row in Reno and held the saloon, a restaurant and a card playing center.  Its trade card depicted a comely woman with a monkey shaking hands with a farm boy and reads:

The boys all like Mary, and
Like her monkey too,
And when they play so 
Nice with it, what can 
Mary do?

The 1911 city directory of Springfield, Illinois, lists almost three full pages of saloons, indicating that the competition for customers among them must have been fierce.  That may explain the number of trade cards from that city that carried suggestive poetry.   Zimmerman & Co was the proprietary of the Budweiser, an establishment whose name suggests a “tied” saloon, that is, one that served only a single kind of beer in return for financial support from a brewer.
Its “poem” read:

With fond regret I now remember,
Those happy days of youthful fun,
When all my limbs were lithe and limber, 
Did I say all?  Yes all but one.

Those glorious days have ceased forever,
The happy days of youthful fun,
All limbs are daily growing stiffer
Did I say all?  Yes all but one.

Another saloon was the Sullivan Bar on Springfield’s North Sixth Street.  But Sullivan was not there.  Instead the proprietor was another Irishman named William Greenhalgh.  Noting that Sullivan’s “thirst parlor” also had “rooms in connection” a question arises about what additional activities might have been going on there.  The verse on the card back side may give a clue:

Tis said that in these days of progress and push,
That ONE bird in the hand is worth TWO in the bush;
But the summer girls says, if birdie will stand,
ONE bird in her bush is worth TWO in her hand.

William J. Cordier, the cravated chap shown here and proprietor of the Schlitz Forum & Cafe, right down the street from Sullivan’s in Springfield, felt compelled to issue two risqué’ cards.  One of them contains eight suggestive quatrains, of which the following are two:

Here’s to the girl that dresses in the sailor hat,
Pink shirtwaist and white cravat,
Patent leather shoes and blue parasol,
And a little brown spot that pays for them all.

Here’s to the girl that dresses in black,
She alway looks neat and never looks slack,
But when she kisses, she kisses so sweet,
She makes things stand that have no feet.

Cordier also issued a second card that featured a story in verse about a fly that intrudes into a grocery store and, after defecating on a piece of ham, proceeds to elude the storekeeper and then:

When he had done his deadly work
He flew right over to the lady clerk
And up her leg he took a stroll
And took bath in her hole.

Proprieties deteriorate further in subsequent stanzas until the fly meets an untimely — and unseemly — death. 

Tommy Sookiasian, an Armenian, was proprietor of a saloon in Juarez, Mexico, a short distance over the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas.  He issued a trade card that, while ostensibly involving cattle and their tails is meant to remind us of the deterioration in the male organ of generation as the years take their toll.  Tommy’s was a bar and cafe featuring a fish menu but also a wholesale liquor dealer.

Contemplating the unusual name of “The Humorist Saloon,” perhaps it was the proprietor,  T. E. Tobin,  depicted on the trade card, who fancied himself a funny man.  His St. Louis watering hole seems never to have closed, being open”night and day.”  His rhyme on the reverse while not having sexual overtones, was laced with profanity, as per the stanza that follows:

Beer is a beverage,
That works upon the mind;
It makes men and women talk,
When they are not inclined.
It works like a figure,
And works without a rule,
And make people think they are smart
When they are a G—D—d Fool.

This is just a small sample of the artistic achievements left to the American lexicon by the Nation’s saloonkeepers.   Their contribution seldom receives attention, particularly in literary (as opposed to drinking) circles.  I am happy to remedy that omission here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Going South with the 9999th U. S. Air Force

Foreword:   Occasionally on this blog I take the opportunity to “wander down memory lane.”  This post is one of those times.  By actual count (for security clearance purposes) I took eighty trips abroad during my working career spanning fifty-four years.  Only one — my first abroad — was an out and out boondoggle. It is chronicled here.

While still in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, in 1962 I went to Washington, D.C., as the chief of staff for a Wisconsin congressman named Clem Zablocki.   There I became acquainted with the 9999th, an Air Force Reserve unit on Capitol Hill, composed of members of Congress and congressional staffers.  The commanding general of the 9999th was was future Republican nominee for President, Senator Barry Goldwater.  I was allowed to participate as the only enlisted man (turning off the lights for the slide briefings) and promised a captain’s rank.   I also was allowed to join the group on a 1962 “study mission” to Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and Panama.

Our plane was a C-118, a Douglas Aircraft cargo plane with four propeller-driven engines, a kind of lumbering workhorse of the Air Force that had been around since before the Korean War.  Shown here, it had been modified into a passenger plane called the “Liftmaster.”  Between 1947 and 1959, Douglas built a total of 704 DC-6s, 167 of them military versions.

We had six members of Congress on board the C-118, five representatives and one senator.  Among them, shown here from left, are Zablocki, second;  Rep. William Scranton of Pennsylvania, later a presidential candidate, fourth; and Senator Peter Dominick of Arizona, fifth. A large group of male staff members rounded out the contingent.

While flying across the Caribbean to Mexico City, we encountered a fierce squall line.  The C-118 was tossed around, lightening was striking all around us, and ice  built up on the wings.  There was absolute silence in the cabin and sweat trickled down my side as I prayed.  After we had made it through the storm and landed safely in Mexico City, I ate with the co-pilot, who confessed to being scared, but noted that our pilot, called “Lobby,” shown here, kept cool but ducked his head at every lightening strike.

Mexico City proved a revelation.  Here was a huge city bustling with energy on the scale of New York City.  As a Midwest kid I had never imagined such a place existed “south of the border.”  Our group was treated to a bullfight, my first, one in which the matador made a tactical error, was severely gored in the groin, and according to next day’s newspaper, remained hanging to life by a thread.  I never saw another bullfight.

Every stop was an excuse for the group to go shopping.  Zablocki often was leading the way with me tagging along.  When he asked me to examine a piece of jewelry he had picked out, I was effusive about it.  He took me aside, explained that one haggled for price outside the U.S. and that my response hereafter was to be:  “Looks like rough work.”  Have used that line many times since.

Our next stop was the Panama Canal Zone where our group was taken by boat half-way up the canal by the operating authority to the town of Gamboa.  Along the way we saw American troop ships going home after being deployed during the recently-ended Cuban Crisis.  I had in mind going the rest of the way by train to Colon, on the Pacific side.  The train left Gamboa just as I got to the station and I was forced to hitchhike back.  My luck was to be picked up and taken back to Panama City by Hula Sanchez, our lovely hostess on the boat.  She refused my dinner invitation, however.

Our next stop was Puerto Rico where the military duties of the day included a fishing trip in the northern Caribbean.  That is me, the handsome devil catching some rays while deep sea fishing off San Juan.  Then there was a quick side trip to St. Thomas where our hosts were Gen. Donald Dawson, former aide to President Truman, and film star, Ilona Massey.  She had been an idol of my youth and now she was right there to talk to.

Our final stop was Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba where Fidel Castro had tried to get Russian nukes only a short time before.  Although we traveled mostly in civvies, on Gitmo, as the Marines call it, we were in uniform and my meager two stripes there for all to see.  They emboldened the enlisted Marines to ask me who this high-powered delegation might be.  Shown here is Tom Hughes, my airplane seatmate as we look from the base boundary line down into Cuba itself.

Upon return to the United States, I never received captain’s bars and ended my Air Force affiliation as an airman 2nd class several years later.  Before I could be commissioned, President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, took aim at the 9999th and like units on the Hill sponsored by the Army and Navy, disbanding them all.  My first boondoggle, in effect, turned out to be my last.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Doc! I Keep Seeing White Elephants at Saloons

No, the doctor replies, “You have been drinking;  you are supposed to see PINK elephants.  A WHITE elephant is defined as something that is useless or troublesome.” But Doc, I reply, these are saloons named “White Elephant” and they are all over the pre-Prohibition landscape.  Why?

It seems no one really knows.  For example, in the late 1800s White Elephant saloons proliferated in Texas.  They could be found in Austin, San Antonio, Denison, Mobeetie, Panhandle, Fredericksburg, El Paso, and Lampasas — with the most infamous one in Fort Worth, represented here by its logo. 

The history of the White Elephant Saloon in Ft. Worth spans from 1884 to about 1914. It was located at two different spots on Main Street during that time, first at 308-310 Main St. and later at 606-608 Main St.  After a series of owners, about 1886 it fell into the hands of Bill Ward, a man who knew the saloon could prosper by expanding into gambling and as his concessionaire a gunslinger named Luke Short.  One night Short was confronted by “Longhaired Jim” Courtright.  They dueled it out in front of the White Elephant where Short got five shots off before Courtright could fire and killed him.  Short was put in jail overnight, then released and never brought to trial.

While the White Elephant Saloon of San Antonio has no dramatic shoot on premises, it has been described as a “rough and rowdy” premier drinking establishment in town.  It was located on San Antonio’s Main Plaza, close to city hall and the stockyards.  Popular at night, the saloon was adjacent to the north side of the plaza where “scuffles, skirmishes and shootings were commonplace.”
Only several years after it opened, this White Elephant was forced to close by a  crackdown on gambling in San Antonio.  The local newspaper commented: “When the boys to San Antone, they can not milk the elephant any more.”

The White Elephant in Bryan, Texas, has not been as prominent as the other two Texas saloons.  Represented here by a jug that indicates it sold whiskey — “pure liquor — at retail as well as over the bar.  Part of a land grant by the Spanish to Stephen A. Austin and named for his nephew, Bryan was the seat of Brazos County in west central Texas.   Its history seems less identified with violence and thus not as elaborately recorded.

As noted here on an ad, the White Elephant Saloon of Dennison regarded itself as “The largest and most elegant resort in North Texas.”  Founded in 1884 this “watering hole” was in business under a series of owners.  The saloon, billards and restaurant were on the first floor of the building on Dennison’s West Main Street.  Gambling and sleeping rooms were on the second floor.  In 1884 the establishment harbored a man named Jim McIntire, wanted for murdering two French squatter on ranch land in New Mexico.  When the law came to get McIntire in Bryan, he was tipped off and hired a horse from the White Elephant livery stables and escaped to New Orleans.

Not only Texas harbored saloons under the sign of the white elephant.  They could be found throughout the West and South.  W. R. Monroe owned one in Kansas City, Missouri.   As many saloonkeepers of the times did, Monroe issued bar tokens good for drinks at his bar.  The one shown here for his White Elephant Saloon was worth five cents in trade.  This token is distinguished among representations of the pachyderm by the predominance given to one (unmentionable) physical attribute.

I am still puzzling over why Wichman would name a saloon White Elephant and then represent it with a ceramic pig big bottle.  As it turns out Wichman in addition to selling whiskey over the bar also was retailing liquor to customers in glass and ceramic containers.   Obviously a figural elephant likely would have held more booze than the proprietor might have wanted to give away, so Wichman chose a pig to convey a slug or two of his whiskey.

Another Tennessee White Elephant saloon artifact is a stoneware jug covered in dark Albany slip glaze into which has been scratched a rather primitive elephant.  The crudeness of the design indicates that it was created relatively early in the 1800s.  The saloon apparently belonged to Querna Clerk, about whom I can find nothing.   Nor does the jug given any clue as to the city or town in which the White Elephant was located.

Two cities named Richmond, one in Virginia and one in Kentucky both harbored White Elephant Saloons.  The Virginia example is unusual since this establishment was owned and operated by a woman, Mrs. Mary Enright.  Directories show her in business at 420 Louisiana during the early 1900s.  In addition to serving drinks at the bar she was blending her own whiskeys and selling them at both wholesale and retail.  Like the prior jug, this one too is scratched into brown Albany slip, but is legible. 

Called a “scratch jug” when it was offered at auction, the Albany slip covered beehive-shaped container shown here actually was covered by a stencil that masked the glaze from the body to create the letters.  It appears to be quart size.  Details about this White Elephant Saloon are similarly masked in history.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the White Elephant  was selling whiskey in a wide variety of ceramic jugs.  The one shown here offered a discount of ten cents on a refill of the jug when brought back to the saloon.  This was a popular Tuscaloosa watering hole.  Locals are said to have ridden horseback up to the place at Sixth Street and 24th Avenue of a morning to get cold glass of beer.  In 1932, workmen excavating at a construction site unearthed 75 brown and white jugs that bore the name of the White Elephant.

We still have not unraveled the prevalence of the name.  Several explanations have emerged as possibilities.  After the Civil War, a cliche’ was common in the U.S. referring to a neophyte having traveled afar and bragging about seeing something common to experienced travelers. Such was called “seeing the elephant.”  It also has been suggested that white paint was readily available and a pachyderm painted on a portico would have been an eye-catching graphic.  

The name might also have had a racial connotation.  In states with “Jim Crow”  laws such as the word “white” would warn all blacks away from the establishment.  Those would include Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.  Notably, Ft. Worth had a Black Elephant Saloon whose clientele was limited to those of African origin.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Brewery Trade Cards Salute (Presumably) Opera

In this post, the third on brewery trade cards devoted to opera and the theater, the focus is on Adolphus Busch, the businessman behind Anheuser Busch Brewery of St. Louis and Budweiser beer.  While clearly a fan of opera, Busch — shown here on a beer stein — was not above poking fun at the stories while marketing his beer.

The first card here, for example, is a scene from the opera Siegfried by Richard Wagner.  The hero, Siegfried tangles with a fearsome dragon named Fafner and with the help of an enchanted sword, slays him.  In the beer version, Fafner asks the young man “who stirred up thy childish mind to the murderous deed?”  Siegfried replies that “…T’was Anhauser Beer that gave me courage.”

“The Chimes of Normandy” was the English translation of a French comic opera in three acts composed by Robert Planquette with a libretto from a play by Charles Gabet.  The third act is a mishmash of mistaken identities that ends happily for all concerned.  Busch’s trade card would appear to have little to do with the actual text.

Spelled incorrectly on the card as “Fiesco,” the actual title of this French opera is “Fiesque” or “The Genoese Conspiracy.”  By composer Edouard Lalo with libretto by Charles Beauquier, the piece comes to a tragic ending with a friend killing a friend.  The character shown on the card, Gianettino, is the ruler of Genoa.  He declares himself of good humor and wants it published that “everyone may enjoy himself and drink Anhauser Beer.”

The next card, “Nanon” is something of a puzzle since I can find no opera or theater piece that corresponds to it.  An opera called “Manon” is frequently performed but there is no character named “Anna” in it.   The picture is of a cavalry solder and minstrel wooing a young tavern wench named Anna.  Most interesting, while hold her hand with his left hand, he is pouring a beer with his right and missing the glass badly.  He intones:  “Anna, for Anheuser Beer I sing my praise, I love it as I do thee all my days.”  The back of these cards usually depicted a bottle of the beer.

Tony Faust was a well known St. Louis restauranteur who not only was a great friend of Adolphus, but married his daughter.  Busch is said to have had lunch most days at Faust’s eatery,  but reportedly drank wine, disdaining his own beer.  Because of their closeness,  Adolphus named a beer for him, advertising it in multiple ways related to the Faust legend.  Naturally opera cards would be among the advertisements.   

The card at left is from the first act of Gounod’s opera in which the aging Faust has been tempted to sell his soul to the devil Méphistophélès in return for restored youth.  Rather than drinking the devil’s elixir, Faust has his hand on a glass of Tony Faust Beer, but it still trembles in his  grasp.  The Faust card a right is from the opera’s second act when Mephistopheles in the guise of a soldier is in a tavern regaling a group of soldiers and flirting with the barmaids.

While earlier trade cards extolled Anhauser and Tony Faust beers,  the card celebrating “Stradella” specifically mentions Budweiser.  Stradella was a melodramatic grand opera in five acts composed by Louis Niedermeyer.  It premiered at the Paris Opera in March 1837.  The card presumably shows the hero, Stradella, with the heroine, Leonor, somewhere in Italy contemplating a glass of Budweiser Beer and bears little or no resemblance to the opera dialogue. 

Although Adolphus Busch set the standard for issuing opera-related trade cards, he was not the only brewer.  In Louisville, Kentucky, the Schaefer-Meyer Brewing Co., as illustrated above, knew a good promotion when they saw one and set about to replicate the marketing ploy.  They selected “La Belle Helene” as their target, a farce based on the story of Helen of Troy.  In effect Schaefer-Meyer were spoofing a spoof.  In their version,  Paris is holding out a goblet of company beer to one of three scantily dressed women and speaking to an offstage “Calchas,”  a high priest of Venus.  None of it makes a lot of sense but the picture has its own appeal.

Note:   For anyone interested in opera and theater trade cards, I have devoted two prior posts to the subject,  “Budweiser Goes to the Opera,” April 13, 2013, and Off to the Opera on the Wings of Commerce,  October 24, 2014.  The beer stein bearing the likeness of Adolphus Busch recently sold at an online auction for $2,125.00.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Risque' Whiskey V: From the Salon to the Saloon

This is the fifth in the series of posts that feature the type of female images that often accompanied whiskey and other liquor advertising.  Because women — respectable women, that is — frequently were barred from the interior of drinking establishments, depictions of women in suggestive poses or nude were frequently on display on saloon walls or other barroom accoutrements.  The liquor sponsors seemingly believed that the more sophisticated and artistic their images appeared, the more comfortable their male audience might feel ogling them.

The Tioga Rye ad epitomizes the effort at sophistication.  The gent in top hat and evening attire probably was way overdressed for the clientele of the saloon where this image might have been displayed.  The liquor house behind the image, Raphael & Zeugschmidt, existed under various names in Pittsburgh from 1886 - 1918, an impressive run of thirty-two years.  In addition to Tioga Rye, the proprietors also featured “Popular Price Rye.”

Another elegant image is projected by the El-Bart Dry Gin saloon sign of a young woman looking wanton by the seaside.  This brand was from an aristocratic Maryland family, the Goldsboroughs. The two Charles Goldsborough,  father and son, did not rise to the apex of the Maryland business and social world merely because of blood lines, however, but because they made good liquor and scads of money selling it.  Their Wilson-El Bart distillery was a large complex of three buildings on 3.43 acres in Baltimore totaling 80,000 square feet.

The four images that follow here are from a booklet entitled “Famous Paintings…Funny Stories” that would have been given to the retail customers of I. Trager & Co., a Cincinnati liquor wholesaler whose proprietary brands included “Cream of Old Kentucky,”  advertised throughout the text.

The allusion to “famous paintings” on the four nudes depicted in the booklet is something of a stretch.  The “A. F. Lejune" referenced on the one above is Adolphe Frederic Lejune, a French artist who was active roughly between 1879 and 1912.  He was what was known as a “salon painter,” providing images that were very traditional in their appearance.  I have been able to find nothing about the artist “Louis Perrey,” responsible for “Diana,” a familiar figure on many whiskey-related advertising, always with a bow and arrow.  

Nor are there clues to “Lerch,” the artist who painted the “Will of the Wisp.”   By contrast the artist of “Idyl” was George Papperitz, a German painter, sculptor and poet who was born in Dresden in 1846 and died in Munch in 1918.  You will note that none of these artist was truly famous.  Their inclusion was only because of their nudes. 

Cincinnati whiskey men seemed   particularly keen on nudes in their advertising.  H. F. Corbin provided his saloon customers with the wall sign shown here.  By seeming to be “classical” in its subject matter, such images were deemed more acceptable to the public.   The proprietor could be admired for his taste in art and the presence of frontal nudity was merely an accident.  The Corbin firm was founded in 1895 and went out of business in 1918 after Ohio voted statewide prohibition.

The nudes shown in the Gibson Pure Old Rye ad clearly are modeled on the salon-style women in the buff.  They are floating in various poses as a background for a bottle of Pennsylvania whiskey.  John Gibson was an immigrant from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who began distilling about 1840.  He ran a successful liquor business in Philadelphia but in 1856 built a new facility just to the south of Pittsburgh on the east side of the Monongahela river that he called the Gibsonton Mills Distillery.   From there the brand rapidly gained a national reputation.

Strictly speaking, the following female figure does not represent whiskey but “Gocce D’ro,” sold as a cordial by W. P. Bernagozzi Co., who cited the Pure Foods and Drugs Act in connection with their beverage.  This may not have been a wise move.  In 1919 William P. and Ferdinand Bernagozzi were fined $100 after pleading guilty to misbranding containers of olive oil that they shipped from New York to Connecticut in violation of that same 1906 act.

The next nude image is found on a celluloid pocket mirror issued by Frank Woodruff, the generous proprietor of the Normandy Saloon in Coldwater, Michigan. Note that Woodruff not only gave away this trinket but it was good for 10 cents in trade at his bar. The figure is in a highly unusual pose.  She apparently is nude but with drapery on both shoulders and a strip of cloth down the front, hiding her nether parts.

The final exhibit is a saloon sign “par excellence.”  It has all the classical attributes of a salon painting with the raw licentiousness that would make the clients of Albert Hertz of Gloversville, New York, anxious to hang on their walls. Hertz was a dealer in liquor and wine in the pre-Prohibition era.  The sign is believed to date from around 1905.

There they are, ten women in all their loveliness, some clothed, most not so.They appeared on a range of advertising items, from pocket mirrors to saloon signs — all with a single purpose:  To catch the eye of the (male) beholder and sell him whiskey.

Note:  For anyone interested in the earlier iterations of “risque’ whiskey” posts, they can be found in this blog in January 2011, July 2012, July 2013, and January 2016.