Friday, November 21, 2014

Just for Laughs, Come Drink Beer with Me

Anyone who pays attention to beer ads today, particularly on television, knows that comedy plays a large role in selling the suds.  Even in the pre-Prohibition era, decades ahead of TV, brewery advertising employed a considerable amount of humor in trade cards, ads, and other ephemera.  I have collected a few that may bring a smile to the beer aficionado.
The first example was issued by the Christian Moerlein brewery of Cincinnati (see my post of November 22, 2013).  It is a take-off of the familiar nursery rhyme, reading:  “Mary had a little lamb; Its fleece was white as snow.  And everywhere that Mary went, The Moerlein’s Beer did flow.”  The main humor here is Mary’s elderly teacher seen through a windows downing a glass of beer before class.
Schlitz brewery issued several trade cards in the early 20th Century, parodying scenes and lines from Shakespeare.  Shown here is one taken from a climactic scene in Richard III in which the evil king has been bested on the battlefield and is seeking to escape.  Shakespeare has him cry:  “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”   On the trade card Richard is willing to swap his kingdom for a glass of Schlitz Milwaukee Beer.
On two trade cards shown here, Miller Brewing of Milwaukee demonstrated a sly sense of humor.  The first, entitled “The Water Wagon in Milwaukee,” shows eight people sitting on top of a keg of beer and being served up steins of brew by a gent standing on a rear bumper.  The vehicle is being drawn by a brace of dachshunds toward the brewery buildings.  Note that the tires are rimmed with sausages, another Beer Town specialty.
Miller also was responsible for a second card dominated by a large man wear a sport jacket and a cap who has his hand comfortably on what appears to be — to use the scientific term —  “a beer gut” of enormous proportions  He is sucking on a bottle and intoning in what must be considered a German accent, “How Ish Dot for High Life Beer.”

Not all humor cards were the work of well-known national breweries.  Before the advent of the “walker,”  the Atlantic City Brewing Company from the New Jersey city of the same name had illustrated an invention that allowed a customer to travel distances with two kegs and three steins.  The rhyme in the corner says:  “In my Walking Chair, I have no fear, of two big a load, of A.C.B Beer.”  This was the principal brand of the brewery, opened in 1900 and said to be the only brewery in Atlantic City in the pre-Prohibition era.  It closed in 1920, never to reopen.

Another invention meant to speed beer consumption was illustrated on a postcard entitled “Beer Lift.”  It shows a pulley-like contraption that is carrying full steins of beer up to the waiting mouth of a seated gentleman and returning the empties from whence they came.  The man seems to be operating it by turning a crank with his left hand.  Although the sign on the wall says “Faust Beer,” a brand issued by the Anheuser-Busch Company of St. Louis, the card is from Herbert’s Bachelor Hotel in San Francisco.  The hotel made headlines in 1913 when Al Herbert, its bachelor owner and operator, got married.   One read:  “Bachelors’ Hotel Invaded:  Cupid Boldly Captures the Host.”

The following illustration, entitled “How McGinty and Family Enjoy Themselves after Drinking Dubuque Malting Company’s Beer.”  The McGintys, none of them evidently wearing bathing suits, are holding a rope while someone intones, “”Now then, all together: One! Two!! Three!!!  What they are doing is virtually inexplicable — but apparently the activity is fueled by beer.  The company responsible for this ad was founded in 1892 by the consolidation of four small Dubuque breweries.  When its new plant was opened for business in May 1896, a crowd of 20,000 early reportedly gathered for tours.  By 1910 Dubuque Malting was the largest brewery in Iowa and among the largest in the Midwest. Statewide Prohibition closed the brewery in 1915.  Legend has it that gangster Al Capone later used the facilities to brew and ship out illegal beer in milk cans.
The humor of young boys drinking liberally from a case of beer over the protests of a mother would certainly draw fire if the image were used today.   Before National Prohibition in 1920 it was generally acceptable to use children to advertise beer.  At least the D. G. Yuengling & Son Brewery of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, thought so.  Established in 1829, Yuengling is accounted as the oldest operating brewing company in the United States, now producing about 2.5 million barrels a year.  The trade card dates from the late 1800s.  
Prohibition also drove some breweries to humor.  Here is a postcard view of three men, wearing a variety of clothing,  all dangling from ropes as if they have been hanged.  The sign on the “hanging tree” says:  “If this town goes dry, us Germans vill hang togeder.”  A brewery in the background has been closed, but these are not the owners committing suicide —two have their hands lied behind their backs.  Some one did this to them.  But who? One would have to ask the Heileman Brewery of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, that question.  That’s where the image originated.
The final example is the label from a self-identified “temperance beverage” whose humor is in its name, “Brother Wiser.”  It is obviously a send up of Budweiser Beer.  Note that like the brew, this drink was made in St. Louis, Missouri.   Needless to say, Augie Busch and his company were not amused.  But the lawsuit that sunk the Brother Wiser was launched in Alabama, not on the grounds of trademark infringement, but to enforce a law that prohibited selling any beverage in the state that had the color, odor or general appearance of beer.  It made no difference that it contained no alcohol.  That decision was rendered by an Alabama Court of Appeals judge named Hugo Black who later would go on to make a distinguished career on the U.S. Supreme Court.
I hope these ten examples have demonstrated adequately that beer and humor make a nice fit together.  So lift one and have a good laugh.   

Friday, November 7, 2014

Celebrating Churchill in Ceramics

As one of those many who believe that Sir Winston Churchill was the greatest personage of the 20th Century,  some recognition was required that this month of November is the 140th anniversary of his birth on November 30,1874.  What better way to memorialize him than through the many ceramic items that have been issued with his likeness over the decades.  

The collection of items above are among just a few that the Royal Doulton pottery firm of England issued bearing his face and figure during Churchill’s lifetime and after.  Two items should be noted,  the former British Prime ministers is almost always depicted with a stump of a cigar in his mouth and a bow tie.  The item at left is a  Doulton “Toby jug,” with the handle made up of the traditional English bulldog and the British flag.  The items at right are two full figures that could be stood on a shelf or used to hold and pour cream or syrup.  Note the lip in the hats.
Churchill, of course, achieved his greatest leadership in his face off against Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany.  The next Doulton Toby shown here, designed by Ray Noble, shows a cigar-less Winston with the handle composed of the faces of his wartime colleagues.  From top to bottom they are, General Eisenhower,  Field Marshal Montgomery, Josef Stalin of Russia, and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.  The juxtaposition of Ike and “Monty,” is interesting since in life they did not get along.

A number of pottery items have been designed around famous speeches Churchill made during and after World War II.   The somewhat crudely done statuette shown here is of Winston flanked by the bulldog once again. It was modeled by Douglas V. Tootle for the Kevin Francis pottery in Staffordshire, England.   On each side of the base is a word.  Together they read “blood, toil, tears, sweat.”   Those words became famous in a speech by Churchill to the British House of Commons on May 13, 1940.  Three days earlier he had replaced the Hitler-appeasing Neville Chamberlain and on the 13th he asked the House to declare its confidence in his leadership, while predicting that the future would bring blood, toil, tears and sweat.  The motion passed unanimously.
The next ceramic jug shows a full bodied Churchill, cigar and bow tie with his arm around the symbol of England, the lion.  The Latin inscription on the base, “Tantum Mirabile Est.”  Translated it means “So Much is Owed.”  It makes reference to another famous Churchill speech.   He delivered it on August 20,1940, during the “Battle of Britain” when Royal Air Force pilots were fighting a pivotal air battle with the German Luftwaffe as Hitler was planning to invade the British Isles.  In commending the bravery of the British pilots, Churchill said:  “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” On the base is another quote from the man:  “The Nation Had the Lion’s Heart, I Provided the Roar.”
The ceramic bust of Churchill shown left was the product of an anonymous American pottery showing the Prime Minister at his pugnacious best with scowl and cigar.  He was always a popular figure with Americans and he frequently cited the fact that his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, was an American, born Jeanette Jerome in Brooklyn.  A strikingly beautiful woman, she often has been credited with inventing the Manhattan cocktail at the bar of the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

The next statue showing Churchill giving a speech at a podium and flashing his famous “V for Victory” sign is actually a whiskey decanter issued by the Ezra Brooks Distillery. It memorizes a speech he delivered  at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, on March 5, 1946.  With U.S. President Harry S Truman in the audience, Churchill condemned the Soviet Union’s policies in Europe and declared:  “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”  The speech has been considered an opening volley in the Cold War that lasted some 45 years and the term “Iron Curtain” became common parlance.

Not all Churchillian ceramics are politically inspired.  The British particularly are noted for depicting their royalty and other major figures on rather mundane objects.  The object at right is an example. It shows Winston in his night clothes, including pajamas, night cap and smoking jacket — with cigar.  Take off the tasseled red cap and below a tobacco jar was revealed.  Another pottery piece depicted Churchill in his naval uniform.  He served as Lord of the Admiralty during World War One and frequently was seen wearing navy duds.  This item is an egg cup.

Contemporary use of Churchill’s face and form in pottery tends toward the humorous.  The black and white image of the man on a coffee cup comes from the pseudonymous English graffiti artist known as “Bansky.”  He executes his art with a distinctive stenciling technique that often is transferred by others to commercial items.  Known for his satirical approach to government and society,  Bansky here has given us a sympathetic and perhaps nostalgic picture of Churchill.  The impression left is one of a man both strong yet not devoid of humor.
The final Churchill ceramic is from the hand of Noi Volkov, a Russian now living in the United States.  He is a potter and painter whose recent exhibition was entitled “Reforming the Masters — Unleashing the Humor in Art.”  His specialty is taking famous paintings, adding items and fashioning them all into teapots.   This depiction of Winston is just so.  Note the spout sticking out of one ear.  The handle, citing Churchill’s naval background, is the handle.  The ridiculous top hat is the lid.   While its utility as a teapot may be in question, Volkov has given us a evocative face of the famous man.
These are just a small sample of the ceramic images of Winston Churchill to be found.  My library has a book that contains dozens more.  It is called “Churchill:  Images of Greatness,” by Ronald A. Smith, dating from 1990.  Collectors will find it a great source of information about a wide range of Churchill memorabilia. 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Off to the Opera on the Wings of Commerce

In the late 18th and early 19th Century, as a direct result of the invention of color printing and chromolithography about 1837 in Europe, the use of the medium for advertising purposes became immediately evident.  Arriving in the United States about 1840, it had a similar effect.
The result was a blizzard of “trade cards,” given away by many companies hawking a wide variety of products.  Among them I find cards that depict opera scene to be among the most interesting.  (See my post of April 13, 2013, “Budweiser Goes to the Opera.”)

I am particularly fond of those issued by the Anheuser Busch Company of St. Louis because of the irreverent way in which these trade cards treat even the most tragic operas.  Thee of their cards show here are largely comedic in their intent.  The first is a take-off of one of my favorite Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, “The Mikado.”   In this scene, the scatter-brained and self-absorbed love interest, Yum Yum, is found with her pseudo-Japanese fellow school girls claiming that she is more beautiful than the “flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra-la.”  The beer card, however, has her extolling the blooming hops in Anheuser Beer. 
The following card from the beer-maker is from an operetta called “Boccaccio, or the Prince of Palermo,”  by Franz von Suppe,  a story crafted from the famously ribald Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio.  The card captures a scene from the first act when Leonello, a student is captivated by the smiles and flirtatious ways of a local lass.  Standing laughing in the background is Boccaccio himself who is in danger from jealous husbands of being chased out of town and arrested.  It appears that all three are drinking Budweiser, described as “the magic that none can withstand, for in its sparkle solace is found…”

Other makers of comestibles also used operatic trade cards, but those I have viewed do not spoof the stories.  Chocolat Felix Potin, who gave us the next card, was a French candy maker who included a wide variety of cards in his packaged confections.  This card shows a scene from the first act of Gounod’s “Faust.”  Here Faust is being temped by Mephistopheles (The Devil) to sell his soul to regain youth and the love of the beautiful and chaste.  Marguerita is shown to Faust in an apparition that causes him to agree.  I can find no other Potin opera card which may indicate that it was not a popular topic.
The remaining cards shown here are from the Liebig Company whose “Fleisch Extract” was a concentrated beef extract to provide a cheap and nutritious meat substitute.  It provided two cards that take the Faust story forward into the third act where the rejuvenated Faust is in the process of seducing Marguerita while the wily Mephistopheles leads away her unsuspecting maid.  The passionate duet between the love besotted couple is one of my operatic favorites.
Another favorite is the opera, “Don Giovanni”(Don Juan), with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and an Italian libretto.  It tells the story of Don Giovanni described as a “young, extremely licentious nobleman.”  Much of the story is about his wooing and attempting to bed every attractive woman who crosses his path and eluding with scorn all who attempt to bring him to justice.  In the first act, however, Don Giovanni has made a fatal error by killing in a duel the father of one of his attempted seductions. The slain man is the Commendatore, who has a statue of himself in the graveyard.  Don Giovanni invites him to supper and the statue nods approval.  The rake is doomed.  In the next scene the statue comes, offers Don Giovanni a chance to repent, and when he refuses a chorus of demons surround him and take him down to Hell.  By the way, Faust also ended up there.  Opera often was not kind to its title characters.
A word about Liebig.  Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company was named after Baron Justus von Liebig, the German 19th Century organic chemist who developed the product and founded the company.  The meat extract is a molasses-like black spread packages in an opaque white glass bottle.  It contains only reduced meat stock and salt. By 1875, 500 tons of the extract were being produced and it became a staple for Allied soldiers up and through World War II since it did not need refrigeration and could be used in the field.  

Liebig produced many illustrated advertising products: table cards, menu cards, children games, calendars, posters, poster stamps, paper and — most important — trade cards.  These were often in the form of card sets with stories, historical tidbits, geographic tidbits, and other narratives. The sets usually consisted of six cards, one card included per product sale. Many famous artists were contacted to design those series of cards, which were printed using the last in lithographic processes, including chromolithography.  Opera was the subject of several sets.
Among them was a card depicting a pivotal scene in “Mignon,” an opera by Ambroise Thomas that has both French and Italian librettos.   The setting of the illustration is the courtyard of an inn in a small German town.  Gypsies had been dancing for the populace but one, Mignon, refuses and is threatened with a stick by the cruel Gypsy leader, Jarno.  To her rescue comes a young student, Wilhelm, who pulls a gun on Jarno and rescues Mignon.  Meanwhile the girl is comforted by a white-bearded minstrel named Lothario.  As it often turns out in operas, Mignon and Wilhelm fall in love and Lothario in the final scene is discovered to be Mignon’s father.  
The next card depicts the Wagnerian opera, “Parsifal,” a story that revolves around the Holy Grail, believed to be the cup from which Jesus of Nazareth drank at the Last Supper.  It depicts a scene from Act 2, Scene 1, in which the evil magician, Klingsor, standing left, has loosed a bunch of enchanted knights on the virtuous knight of the Grail, Parsifal.  Parsifal has bested them in combat and they have run away.  The lady is Kundry, a sorceress and vamp who has eyes for Parsifal.  The story makes very little sense but Wagner’s music is some of his best and the opera continues to be frequently performed. 
The final trade card shown here depicts a scene from “Falstaff,” a Verdi opera based on the Shakespeare character who appeared in three of the master’s plays,  “Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2” and “Merry Wives of Windsor.”  The plot revolves around the fat rascal, John Falstaff, to seduce two married women in order to get their money.  The picture is of a scene in which a jealous husband has arrived with henchmen to thrash Falstaff who has been hidden by women in a clothes  hamper and almost suffocated.  When the husband hears kissing behind a screen, he thinks it is Falstaff but in reality it is a couple of young lovers.  The madcap antics of this and other scenes, plus Verdi’s music, lifts this to the pinnacle of comic operas. 

The good design and luminous colors of these trade cards are “eye candy” to me and other collectors.   They are made all the more interesting by learning the stories of the operas they    celebrate.  


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Norman Rockwell Had a Head for Whiskey


As a kid in the 1940s, I was addicted to a now defunct weekly magazine called “The Saturday Evening Post,”  rushing home from school to read it on it day it arrived in the mail.  A chief attraction was the frequent covers from the hand of Norman Rockwell, an American artist who lately has achieved iconic status.  Little did I realize at the time that Rockwell also was churning out a series of portraits for a whiskey called “Cream of Kentucky.”

Shown above in his famous “Triple Self-Portrait,” painted in 1960, Rockwell designed 323 covers for the Post and a dozen or more liquor advertisements for Schenley Industries, the manufacturer of “Cream of Kentucky.”   It was one of a number of blended whiskey brands that had sprung up after the repeal of National Prohibition in 1934.   Since this period coincided with the Great Depression in the United States, merchandising of whiskey often emphasized low cost while attempting to give some element of prestige and even snob appeal to the product.  This also was a time when pseudo-scientists were emphasizing facial types and even bumps on the head as keys to behavior.  Ad men were quick to latch on to those ideas. 

Rockwell, who had an uncanny ability to present quintessentially American and appealing faces, was able to oblige.   His images came in several series.  The first three ads shown here have a similar theme.  The portraits are of anonymous, smiling, middle-aged males with a definite affluent look.  The ads each ask a question.   “Have you eyes that spot value?”  The Rockwell portrait makes sure we know that the gent shown has “eyes that spot value” and “lips that relish luxury.”

“Does your face say, ‘I love life’?,” asks another ad.  Rockwell provides us with a laughing head who, we are told, has “sparkling eyes” and “smiling lips.”  He clearly drinks Cream of Kentucky blended whiskey.   But not too much drinking or his eyes may lose that sparkle.  The third example inquires, “Does your face show good judgement?”   In this case the figure is said to have “questioning eyebrows” and “appreciative nose.”  The artist has supplied them both.

From anonymous faces to famous physiognomies is a short step.  The next series by Rockwell was one that featured celebrity heads.   Again there is a question:  “Have you Eyes like Frank Buck’s — seeking Happy Adventure?”   While his name may no longer be a household word, in the 1940s Buck was renowned nationwide as a big game hunter and “animal collector.”  His book, “Bring ‘Em Back Alive,” was a bestseller and he starred in several jungle adventure movies.   Rockwell gives us an excellent likeness of the swashbuckling Buck.   We are directed to his eyes “alert for adventure,” his lips, “fond of life’s good things,” and his chin, “that portrays geniality.”   If our eyes, lips and chin resemble Buck’s, we are told, then we should drink Cream of Kentucky.
Harold Arlen was an American composer of popular music, having written over 500 songs, a number of which have become known worldwide. He composed the tunes for The Wizard of Oz, including the classic 1938 song, “Over the Rainbow.”   His reputation was at its peak when Rockwell featured him in a Cream of Kentucky ad.   The reader was asked: “Have you the eyes of someone who knows how to make A HIT?”  — like Harold Arlen.  Unlike Buck and Arlen, most Americans will not have known who Watson Barrett was.  The ad told them.  He was a “talented scenic designer and theatrical producer.”  Rockwell’s head of Barrett was marked by four arrows.  They pointed out “Features Indicating Talent”:  “Broad forehead with prominent knotty bulges above the eyes.  Long, pointed nose with a decided “bump” at the bone ridge below the bridge. Long-winged nostrils.  Jaw strong and well developed.  Chin pointed — with deep impression below lower lip.”  Rockwell has given us all of these.
At some point the series morphed into portrayals of American sportsmen and Cream of Kentucky was no longer a blend but “straight bourbon.”  Shown here is a Rockwell fisherman and the claim:  “If you are this type you’ll like this bourbon that’s ‘Double-Rich.”  The readers are asked if we have the angler’s features.  Marked are “large narrow Eyes of a type adept at weighing true merit,” and “the ample Mouth of a type with exceptional relish for good food and drink.”  This ad carried socio-babble to new lengths of absurdity.  Rockwell also provided Cream of Kentucky with a images of a golfer and a horse trainer.  As before, the face helped convey the message.
The final Norman Rockwell illustration broke tradition by showing two heads.  One is the distinguished older man, this one in white tie and tails.  He is being served a Cream of Kentucky bourbon and water by a obsequious black waiter.  It satisfies many of the stereotypes about servers of color that I have highlighted in the past. (See my post “Black Waiters:  Fetch, Toby, Fetch” of February 2011.).  Rockwell was not a racist.  In fact, he painted the single most popular image of the Civil Rights Movement.  Called “The Problem We All Live With,” it presents the affecting picture of a six-year old girl, Ruby Bridges, bravely walking with school books in hand between Federal marshals to her newly desegregated school in New Orleans.  Such was the culture twenty five years earlier, however, that the scene above was not deemed offensive.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) had a long and productive life as an illustrator and artist.  The posthumous exhibits of his works draw large and enthusiastic crowds and at auction his original paintings go for millions.   Andy Warhol,  Dr. Seuss, and many other American artists of recognized stature have done liquor and beer ads.  That upon occasion Rockwell did  advertising work for a liquor company does not dim his luster.  Or diminish my fond memories of his Saturday Evening Post covers.

Note:  This post has not attempted to recapitulate Rockwell’s long and productive life as an artist.  For those wishing to know more about this remarkable man there is new, well-received book on his life called “American Mirror:  The Life and Work of Norman Rockwell” by Deborah Solomon.

Friday, September 26, 2014

North to the Klondike in a Flask

In keeping with the title of this blog, from time to time I feature a bottle or bottles.  This time the subject is a whiskey container known widely by collectors as the “Klondike Flask.”  It has been called “one of bottle collecting’s classical figural bottles.”

Only six inches high, the milk glass bottle is shaped like a mountain range or glacier with brown and gold paint on both sides that emphasize the rugged nature of the terrain being depicted.  It was the brainchild of George Smithhisler, the Ohio liquor dealer who designed it, provided the several swallows of liquor the bottle contained, and issued the flasks in substantial numbers, apparently as a memorial to the Yukon Gold Rush.
In 1847 George's father moved from Holmes County to Knox County, located in the central part of the Buckeye State,  approximately 30 miles north and east of Columbus. The county seat is Mount Vernon, named after the home of George Washington.  By the time the Smithhislers arrived, the town had about 2,500 inhabitants, a court house, a market house, churches and a number of taverns.  

I surmise that Smithhisler’s father may have been making some liquor on his farm for local consumption and that George grew up in a tradition of distilling. Initially a farmer, in time young Smithhisler established himself as a wholesale and retail liquor dealer, located at 15-17 West Vine Street in Mount Vernon.  A trade card indicated  that he was dealing in both foreign and domestic wines and liquor.  He is shown here with his first wife who unfortunately died at an early age.

Around the turn of the century Smithhisler issued his famous flask.  At that time the Klondike held great fascination.   A region of the Yukon in Northwest Canada, east of the Alaska border, it lies around the Klondike River, a stream that enters the Yukon from the frontier town of Dawson at the east.    Gold had been discovered in 1897 and precipitated a gold rush that saw thousands of prospectors heading there with dreams of riches.  
It also inspired Smithhisler to issue his small milk glass flask of whiskey.  It bore a round red label, announcing the contents as “Nuggets of Pure Gold from Klondyke” -- an alternative spelling -- and included his name and location. The flask also featured a metal screw cap that sealed the threaded neck and covered the ground-off top of the bottle.  

Through the years this artifact has attracted considerable attention from bottle and glass collectors.  It was blown in a mold that took a considerable amount of time and attention to create the mountain effect.  It also required painting by hand to overlay the glass with gold and brown pigments.   With time and wear, as shown here,  some examples have lost their labels and significant amounts of paint.  In one case an owner stripped the bottle down to its milk glass base, revealing the full extent of the ridges and valleys.

The noted expert on American glass and bottles, Dr. Cecil Munsey, has been fascinated with the flask, calling it a “classic.”  He has asserted the belief held by many that the bottle was inspired and made just before the beginning of the 20th Century to commemorate the Klondike gold strike.  My additional suspicion is that George, having lived all his life in Central Ohio, might himself have wanted desperately to go “North to the Yukon” to seek his fortune digging in the tundra for gold.  With a second wife, four children, a farm and a liquor business, that was a dream Smithhisler would never to be able to achieve.  His flask may well have been “Plan B.”
The inspiration for the flask design might well have come from newspaper photographs of prospectors struggling through the snows over the mountains, such as the iconic photograph here.  Taken by George C. Cantwell, it shows Klondikers carrying supplies over the Chikoot Pass.  Note that the contours of the peak at right, depicting alternating rock and snow are similar to those on the flask.
Although the bottle bears no mark, it almost certainly was the product of the A. H. Heisey Company established in Newark, Ohio, in 1896.  Heisey and his sons operated it until 1957.  The glassmakers were known for the crispness of their molding and they featured a line of milk glass.  Shown here is a Heisey toothpick holder that has a painted beadwork reminiscent of the Smithhisler flask.  

Little else about Smithhisler has entered the historical record. He seems never again to have designed and  issued a figural flask or a notable bottle of any kind. His liquor business  closed by 1916 when Ohio voted to go “Dry.”  In his later years it appears he relocated to Cleveland, perhaps to live with one of his children.  In November 1930, Smithhisler died at City Hospital in Cleveland at the age of 80. His body was returned to Mount Vernon where he had spent most of his life and was buried in Calvary Cemetery there.  Meanwhile, the flask that bears his name lives on in collections throughout America.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

“Big Teasers”: Metamorphic Whiskey Trade Cards

   She’s a big teaser, she took me half way there,
She’s  big teaser, she took me half way there, 
She was a day tripper, a one way ticket, yeah,
It look me so long to find out, and I found out.

Most of us will remember that Beatles’ verse from their song, “Daytrlpper.”  It applies very well to the “metamorphic” whiskey trade cards shown here.  They are cards with folds that when closed give an impression of something risqué going on but when opened have a surprising and (mostly)  innocent explanation.  This post will examine five of them and provide some material on their origins.

The first shown here is the most revealing of female pulchritude.  We appear to be backstage where a woman dressed in a hat, bra and stockings and nothing else is embracing a man with a handlebar mustache.  A second man with a hat and cane has approached and is clearly astonished at what has greeted his eyes.   When opened, the card reveals the woman dressed in an evening gown while a her man friend shows her a bottle from which he has just poured them glasses of wine.  More bottles are on the table and a full case on the floor.  Meanwhile a servant is bringing food.  A party is clearly indicated — or perhaps a liquid rendezvous for two.
Trade cards such as this are known to ephemera collectors as “metamorphic,” that is, they change their form and nature completely when opened.  Sometimes they are said to “transmogrify,”  that is, change or alter greatly with a humorous effect.  This card, unlike most, carries no message but would have been available to a whiskey or wine dealer to print an advertisement on the back.
The next trade card has a similar suggestive motif.  It shows what appears to be a couple sprawled on the ground under a large red umbrella.  A man, identified by his shoes, pants, and jacket, appears to be atop a woman.  We see only one of her shoes and a bit of stocking.   Most surprising is the figure of a second man with a straw hat and a fishing pole who is calling out, “Hold on, I’m in for some of that too.”   What is this, a group grope?

But no!  When opened it reveals a young foursome sitting by a lake drinking from a full case of “Old Beauford Rye.”  Everyone is enjoying a beer glass full of the liquor, which may indicate that the real action may come later.   The Old Beauford brand of whiskey was the product of the Duchateau Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin.   The proprietor was Frank J. B. Duchateau, who was a prominent businessman in a town most famous for its Packers football team.  Duchateau is remembered as a man who invented a folding pail, led efforts to assist Belgium in World War I, a collector of Native American artifacts, and a strong supporter of the county public museum. 
Umbrellas are a popular motif in the metamorphic world.  Shown here is a card of a beach scene that shows what appear to be a pair of bare female legs in close contact with a man who is fully dressed with striped pants and pointed shoes.  When opened it reveals a short, fat man who is lighting a cigar from one being smoked by a man in a straw hat and jacket.  “Fooled again!” is the message.  Moreover, we are informed that we will always be fooled unless we use “Resurgam Rye.”  The merchandiser is identified as the “Dallas Transportation Company.”  Despite its name, the Dallas Transportation Co. was a liquor and beer distributor.

The name “Resurgam,”  which in Latin means “I shall rise again,” gained attention in 1878 when it (appropriately) was the name given to an early submarines designed and built in Britain by an Episcopal priest.  They were a weapon to penetrate chain netting placed around ship hulls to defend against attack by torpedo vessels.   Unfortunately for the crew, in February 1880 the Resurgam did not live up to its name and sank in Liverpool Bay..

The third trade card has a rustic motif in its folds.  At first glance it shows a leering old farmer gazing at the stockinged leg of a pretty young miss wearing a bonnet and apron.   He is exclaiming, “Well!  If those ain’t the finest leg I ever saw,”  a comment that does not seem to be displeasing the damsel.  Upon opening, we see the shapely leg belongs to a young rustic, dressed in a straw hat and suspenders.  The girl has an apron full of chicks.  The foxy grandpa is exclaiming not on legs, but on “leghorn chicks.”
The back of the trade card identifies the issuer as C. F. Weber, a dealer in wines and liquors in Burlington, Iowa.  Weber was a well known merchant in Burlington, born in the city in 1864.  He was forced to go to work at the age of 10, working in a brick yard and later in a wheel factory while still in his teens.  By the age of 20 he had earned enough to open his own liquor business  and found success for more than a quarter century.   His wealth allowed him to purchase 176 acres of land near Burlington where he built a country home and raised cattle.
Our final teaser card was issued by the firm of Boswell & Egan, representing Billy Boswell and Andy Egan.  They ran a cafe, wine and liquor store, and pool room on the Main Street of Canandaigua, New York.  The first view here is through the glass in a door.  We see just the shadows of two people, presumably a man and a woman in an embrace.  Opened there is no transmogrifying surprise.  Two people are kissing.  But wait!  The woman is dressed as a serving girl.  She carries a tray in her hand.  The gent has on a smoking jacket, a sign that he is at home.  Wife not home, servant willing….  Is some kind of assignation going on?  Perhaps only Boswell & Egan knew.
This card, like the ones shown before it, are “big teasers.”   Like the woman in the song they take us half way there with their appearance.  Unlike the man in the song, however, it does not take us long to find out we have been teased.  All we need do is fold back the flaps.  In life the process is a bit more complicated.