Saturday, August 16, 2014

Soda Pop Paperweights: A Personal Story

Yes, this blog is devoted in a significant way to alcoholic beverages, but there were times in my life, and perhaps the lives of others, when a soft drink was “close to heaven” and its taste could become indelibly etched in memory.   Those exquisite moments can be captured at times in the glass paperweights that advertised those delightful thirst quenchers and they seemed an appropriate subject during the August “dog days” of Summer 2014.
As a teenager in the late 1940s and early 1950s I was constantly at work during the heat and humidity of Ohio during the summer months, mowing lawns, delivering newspapers and carrying groceries.   Close by was a service station with a machine that dispensed a variety of soft drinks.  Among my favorites was orange soda, represented here by two of paperweights issued to advertise Orange Crush.

This “soda pop,” as we called it, had been around since 1911 when invented by Neil C. Ward.  The beverage premiered as “Ward’s Orange Crush” and originally had orange pulp in the bottles to give it a “fresh squeezed” look even though the pulp was added later.  By my time, the pulp was long gone.  The Orange Crush folks have traditionally issued paperweights as advertising, including one shown here from 1924 that features three “Crush” products.
The ginger ale in my part of the world in those days was Vernors', made in Detroit and truly the best ever.  But sadly Vernors' has not left any paperweights, so we will make due with Donald Duck Ginger Ale.  Donald Duck soft drinks were the first sodas to be produced by General Beverages, Inc. of Chattanooga, Tennessee. They were licensed by the Double Cola Company to produce the Donald Duck line. These fruit flavored sodas were introduced in the 1940s and included flavors such as Lemon Lime, Grape, Orange, Strawberry, Black Cherry, Root Beer, Cola and, as seen here, Ginger Ale. The brand was discontinued in the late 1950s. 
The paperweight that follows conjures up a musical jingle of the World War II era:  “Pepsi- Cola hits the spot;  Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot; Twice as much for a nickel too; Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.  Nickel, nickel, nickel….”  Yes, in those days 12 ounces of a major soft drink could be had for just five cents.  Coca Cola only cost a nickel but offered just six ounces.  On a hot day guess which cola a boy with five pennies and a big thirst would choose.

Despite the fetching figure of the lady in the skimpy outfit and baton, Major Cola does not register on the Internet as a soft drink brand.  Given the image on the paperweight the company issued, perhaps it should have been called “Majorette Cola.”  Nonetheless this item conjures up a memory of a boyhood search of parks, playgrounds and golf courses for empty soda bottles that could be redeemed for two cents each. (Three bottles would buy a Pepsi and leave a penny for candy.)  Frequently we scavengers would come across bottles of sodas not sold in our area and we regarded them as if they were alien objects come from some other planet.
Among them were bottles of a previously unknown (to us) soft drink called “Moxie,”  a favorite of bottle collectors.   One of the earliest American carbonated beverages, like Coca Cola it originated as a patent remedy. Still available in New England and the official soft drink of Maine, Moxie is flavored with gentian root extract, a bitter substance that was claimed to have medicinal benefits.  Despite its unusual flavor, it was said to be a favorite of Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams who endorsed it on radio and in print. 

Fast forward a few years to 1958 and basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.  Confined to barracks for the first few days, we finally were allowed to explore our immediate quadrangle and use the soft drink machine.  Among the offerings was a carbonated beverage I had never seen before called “Dr. Pepper.”  Urged by buddies to try it, I did and fell in love.  Drank little else before heading North again and still count it among my favorites.

Jump in time once more to 1968.  As a self-funded researcher I was on an extended visit to Southeast Asia and for most of the trip treated to local brands of carbonated drinks, most of them found to be substandard.  Near the end of my overseas activities I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on a hot and steamy day, roaming about on foot looking for the American Embassy.  Emerging through a jungle-like park, I stumbled upon a Hires Root Beer stand.  It was like a finding an oasis in the desert and I spent my lunch budget on a root beer float.  The Hires paperweight shown here dates from 1915 when, as it says, Hires root beer was “still a nickel a trickle.” 
A final “walk down memory lane” takes us to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the 1970s.  My wife’s folks lived about a block and a half from an establishment that dispensed Frostie Root Beer.  Summer nights would find my young boys, their grandpa, and me after dinner heading down to this free-standing dispensary of liquid refreshment.   Although we did not know it then, Frostie was a brand originally produced in 1939 by the Frostie Beverage Co. of Catonsville, Maryland.  In 1979 the brand was sold to an Atlanta company which is said to have “under promoted” it.  Early in the 1980s the Frostie stand was torn down, I think, to build a gas station.  We all but cried.

This is not a blog generally devoted to author reminisces but the idea of doing a post on a grouping of soft drink paperweights got me thinking about an appropriate story line.  It soon came clear that a personal history was the answer.  Perhaps some who read this post will add comments on their own special memories of soft drinks.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kids Selling Whiskey III

In two prior posts I have dwelt upon the use of children’s images to merchandise liquor, a pre-Prohibition practice that would certainly never be countenanced in contemporary America.  The examples of kids selling whisky continue to come to light, on such ephemera as trade cards, postcards, calendars and advertisement.   Shown here are another ten such items, along with some commentary about their origins.

By far the youngest tyke among the group appears to be a baby boy in a dress, a common garb for males around the turn of the 20th Century.   He is standing next to a low table on which sits an fancy Fulper of Flemington, N.J., whiskey jug.  It advertises Edgewood Rye.  This was a brand that originated in Cincinnati and gained a national audience through vigorous advertising by a firm known as Diehl & Paxton Bros.  In 1874 Cincinnati city directories A.G. Diehl & Co. Wines and Liquors first is listed, located at 32 East Second Street.  A separate listing for the same address lists Paxton & Diehl, Distillers.   A year later the company name became Diehl & Paxton Brothers. The brothers were Thomas and John. Two years later, the business listing was changed again to Paxton Bros. & Co., designating them as “wholesale dealers in wines, brandies, and whiskies.”  The directory noted that the house had been established by A.G. Diehl.

The second child shown here, also wearing a dress, almost certainly is a girl.  She is advertising two brands from Applegate & Sons, a firm founded by a Kentucky colonel named C. L. Applegate.  The Colonel first forges onto the scene in 1876 when he and a brother, Edward, purchased land in the small town of Yelvington in Daviess County.  There about 1878 they constructed a distillery, pictured here. Information from insurance underwriter records compiled in 1892 suggest that the Applegate property included a two frame warehouses, both with metal or slate roofs. Warehouse "A" was 115 ft north of the still house, warehouse "B" was 107 ft south. The distillery itself was constructed similarly. The property also included cattle and a barn. The owner was recorded as being C. L. Applegate & Co.
The golden haired terminally cute child shown next appears on a oval metal serving tray advertising The Jacob Pfeffer Co., Cincinnati OH. Brands on the tray include Zeno, Tippecanoe and Lenox.  Pfeffer who was in business from 1876 to 1918.  He advertised as a “rectifier and wholesale liquor dealer and dealer of imported and domestic brandies and wines.  Admitting that he was a “rectifier,”  that is, a blender and compounder of whiskies, set him apart from other  dealers who disliked admitting that they truly were not distillers.

The hooded child that follows is shown in a trade card by the seashore where despite the cold, she has been digging in the sand.  This item  is from Andrew M. Smith who was was born in Denmark, came to the U.S. as a merchant sailor, served in three different outfits in the Civil War, and moved West.  He opened the first California Wine Depot in Salt Lake City, Utah, then moved to Philadelphia where his enterprise failed.  He then set up in Minneapolis in 1886 and found success. Smith died in 1915 but his son, Arthur Mason Smith took over the business.  Smith’s company used the brand names, “Amsco,” “Fine Old U.S. Cabinet Rye,” “Flour City Rye,” “Golden Buck,”  “Harvester,” and “Pennant.”
A greeting card showing a small boy urinating in the snow to spell “Good Luck”  may have had a secondary message.  The Bonnie brothers, whiskey dealers of Louisville, Kentucky, initially were four.  After the eldest retired, Ernest Bonnie, the youngest and still in his 30s, wanted out.   The remaining two Bonnies bought him out for $70, 000, more than a million in today’s dollars.  For that compensation Ernest sold all interest in the business and in the brand names. Unlike his brother, however, Ernest had no intention of retiring from the whiskey trade. Taking two Bonnie Bros. employees with him, he shortly thereafter went into competition with his siblings using the name, E.S. Bonnie  Company and continued use of the Bonnie name.  I surmise this card was Ernest’s subtle way of “sticking it” to his brothers.

The next image of a tyke is that of a lad who apparently has had a successful effort at spear fishing or, alternatively, has stolen a barrel of dead fish.  It appeared on a trade card issued byL. R. Cain who advertised himself as a wholesale and retail dealer in wines, liquors and cigars in Decatur, Illinois.  His featured brand was Old Gum Springs Hand-Made Whisky.  Cain’s card indicates that he also was proprietor of a saloon.  He advertised “a good, substantial lunch every day.”

The three child images to follow feature two children, in each case a boy and girl, but in distinctly different modes.  The first, a 1906 calendar advertising Export Pony Whiskey, uses a design by Ellen Clapsaddle, a noted illustrator of children.  She is credited with more than 3,000 greeting cards and her images of children continue to be popular.  (See my post on her, March 2, 2012). Here she has given us two youngsters having a tete-a-tete across a stone fence.  This calendar was issued by the U.S. Bar, located in Los Angeles.

Old Maryland Dutch Whiskies issued a series of trade cards, often depicting children.  The company itself is something of a mystery, claiming to be located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore but failing to show up in any directories.  It is possible that the brand name came from a Baltimore rectifier who chose to remain anonymous.  Some of the assertions made on the card are novel.  They include:  “When not taken immoderately, there will be an entire absence of Nervous Prostration.”   And “Emphatically ‘The Whiskey of our Daddies.’”

What are we to think of a card that shows two kids dress as adult, of whom the boy is throwing coins into a hat with no crown being held by a frog in a suit.  The trade card includes a poem that fails to help with an interpretation:  “Children cry, Papa’s dry, And wants some Sour Mash Rye.”   The flip side of the card advertised Schwartz & Malmbach’s “famous” whiskey as sold by J.E. Hughes, the proprietor of the Central Hotel in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  Hughes obviously ran a saloon along with the hotel and also asserted “Good Livery attached.”  Your horse was well cared for while you were drinking.
The last image is an 1897 ad from Green River Whiskey and shows the five children of a proud distilling father,  John McCulloch.  McCulloch, a former U.S. revenue agent, shucked his federal career when the opportunity arose for him to buy an Owensboro, Kentucky, distillery.  He built the whiskey into a well-recognized national brand.  Among his strategies was vigorous advertising.  These children are not from an artist’s imagination but portraits of real people. At left, the boy hugging the baby is his McCulloch’s eldest son, Wendall.  The baby is his brother, Charles.  Below them are two other brothers, on left is John Wellington, Jr. and on right, Hugh.  Standing at right is his daughter and the oldest child, Martine.  Several of his sons as adults followed him into the whiskey trade.

There they are, ten more examples of selling whiskey by using the images of children.  As unthinkable as it is in our age, the practice was common in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and apparently a successful merchandising strategy since it was so frequently used.

Friday, July 4, 2014

“Steamboat’s A-Comin’ “ -- Out of the Past and Under Glass

The era of the steamboat is largely a closed chapter in American transportation history,  brought to mind only by the few sternwheelers that ply our larger rivers, most of them carrying sightseers.  Fortunately many of those earlier steamers were captured in glass paperweights that continue to bring their memories to mind, for most have interesting stories to tell. Displayed here are a dozen of these vintage artifacts to carry us back to a time when travel in America was more leisurely.

Launched in 1899, the Tashmoo was the flagship of the White Star Line.  This side-wheeler steamboat was built by the Detroit Shipbuilding Company to ply the Great Lake.  Its regular route was from Detroit to Port Huron, Michigan.  Believed by some to be the fastest ship on the lakes -- it could make 20 knots (23 mph), it was a competitor in a famous race from Cleveland, Ohio, to Erie, Pennsylvania.   The president of the White Star Line, offered $1,000 to any ship that could beat the Tashmoo in a race. The president of the Cleveland Buffalo Transit Company accepted the challenge on behalf of his ship, the City of Erie. The course was 82 nautical miles (94 miles) long.  After encountering several mishaps along the way the Tashmoo lost the race by 45 second but afterward was accounted the faster ship. 

Mishaps seemed to plague the Tashmoo, named after a whale hunting Indian in Herman Melville’s famous novel, Moby Dick.  On December 8, 1927, the ship snapped its moorings during a storm and headed up the Detroit River, threatening a major bridge.  Followed by two tugboats, the Tashmoo was stopped only yards from smashing into the span.  Repaired and back in service, the ship subsequently struck a submerged rock as it was leaving Sugar Island,  Maine.  It was able to dock in Amherstberg, Ontario, and the passengers evacuated before it sank in 18 feet of water.  Eventually scrapped, the Tashmoo was entered into the National Maritime Hall of Fame in 1985.

The steamer, R. B. Hayes, shown above, also met disaster on the sea.  It was built to ply the Great Lakes as a large excursion boat and for a time was a principal source of transportation to and from the Lake Erie recreational center at Cedar Point, Ohio.  The Hayes was on the north side of Lake Ontario, however, when it collided with the J. N. Carter, a schooner laden with grain.  The Carter was struck on her starboard side, carrying away its bowsprit and jiboom and smashing the bow. Named after U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, the steamer was held responsible for the accident when its crew failed to heed warnings from a tug towing the schooner.  

The City of Buffalo was launched in 1895 and at that time was the largest passenger ship on the Great Lakes at 308 feet long,  capable of carrying 3,000 passengers and 800 tons of cargo.   The steamer boasted a grand salon, public and private dining rooms, and 160 staterooms.  Its route generally was between Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Duluth.  The trip between Buffalo and Cleveland took about nine hours and cost $2.50. The onset of the Great Depression severely curtailed passenger traffic on the Lakes and, as a result, the City of Buffalo was often idle.  The ship met its demise in March 1838 when it burned at its winter moorings in Cleveland as it was being prepared for the summer season.

The steam paddle ship, Empire State, shown right, was built a New York City shipyard in 1863.  Formerly known as the Sylvan Stream and renamed in 1893, the ship for many years provided passenger service on Lake Ontario.  Home ported in Cape Vincent, New York,  it burned at the dock in Kingston, Ontario, and was a total loss.  Although her owners received a settlement equivalent to $500,000 today and initially hoped to rebuild it,  they quickly abandoned the effort, stripped the Empire State of its equipment and scrapped the hull.

Fire was a frequent problem for steamboats.  The steamer Manhattan, shown above, was a large and comfortable ship, plying the Atlantic to take customers directly from New York City to Portland, Maine for the Maine Streamship Company.   It had made the trip successfully for years when on March 7, 1916, upon arriving in Portland early in the morning and discharging its passengers, it caught fire from unknown causes and was destroyed at the dock.  The destruction was assessed as complete and the loss at $6.25 million calculated in today’s dollars.

Another oceangoing steam boat of note was the Yale.  Built in 1907 to operate between New York and Boston,  it served that route well for a few years before being drafted into World War One as an English Channel troopship.  Later the Yale was taken to the West Coast to serve a San Francisco-Los Angeles run.  In 1937 the steamer was retired and sold for use as a power and light plant in Kodiak Bay, Alaska.  With the advent of World War Two, the Yale was refitted and called back into military service.  Making almost 24 knots,  the ship had significant speed to be able to sail out of Alaska without a convoy cover,  joining the war effort, according to a press account, “alone and unafraid.”    

The Clyde Steamship Company, owned by William P. Clyde, featured three lines.  One operating from New York City carried passengers down the Atlantic Coast to Wilmington, North Carolina; Georgetown and Charleston, South Carolina; and Jacksonville with continuing service to the Turks & Cacos Islands, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  A Philadelphia-based service stopped at similar ports but added Norfolk, Virginia, and climbed the York River to Richmond, Virginia.;  the Potomac to Alexandria, and the Hudson to West Point.  The third line ran out of Jacksonville to various ports in Florida,  including intermediate points on the St. John’s River.

When the Fall River Line launched the S.S. Priscilla  in 1894, it was at the time the largest side-wheeler afloat, capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers.  Shown above, it was famous for the extremely ornate and luxurious interior of the ship.  During its lifetime, the Priscilla was traveled by several U.S. presidents including Grant, Harrison, Cleveland and both Roosevelts, as well as dignitaries such as the Vanderbilts, Astors, Belmonts and Rockefellers. One Boston editor declared, "If you went on a trip to New York and didn't travel the Fall River Line, you simply didn't go at all.”  The Priscilla served for 44-years, the longest in the history of the company.  Her last voyage left Fall River, Massachusetts, on July 12, 1937.  A strike the next day shut down the Fall River Line forever after a 90 year history.
Another steamer serving mid-Atlantic states was the City of Norfolk.  It followed a Chesapeake Bay route, linking the Virginia port city with Baltimore.  This ship was launched in 1911 and measured 297 feet.   It plied the bay as part of the Baltimore Steam Packet Line until its owners joined a large merger of steamship companies and the City of Norfolk became part of the Old Bay Line.  The City of Norfolk was one of the last two vessels operated by Old Bay before it went out of business in 1962.  For four years the ship was idled at Norfolk until 1966 when it was towed to Fieldsboro, New Jersey, on the Delaware River and scrapped.

The City of Annapolis also was a Chesapeake Bay steamer.  Part of the York River Line, it served customers along the west side of the Bay,  from Baltimore, with stops along the way, including up the Severn River to Annapolis, and then up the York River to Richmond, the city at the “fall line” beyond which the stream becomes impassible.  

While some steamer plied the oceans and others the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay others were built to navigate the rivers of America.  While the most famous plied the Mississippi, others served on smaller rivers.  The People’s Line Steamer -- that was its name, was built in 1907 by several East Coast contractors: the hull by the New York Shipbuilding Company at its Camden, New Jersey, yard; the steam engines at a Hoboken company, and the interior fittings and the superstructure by a firm on Greenpoint, Long Island.  When completed the People’s Line ship, shown below, steamed up and down the Hudson River carrying passengers in luxury between New York City and Albany.

These steamboat “back stories” are brought to mind in these paperweights showing the ships in their heyday, still preserved there though almost all of them long since have burned or sunk or been sold for scrap.  As a result their images under the glass will have to suffice to reminds us of the joys -- and some pitfalls -- of travel by steamboat.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

King Gambrinus in Two Dimensions

This is the second of two consecutive posts devoted to King Gambrinus, often called the patron of beer and brewing, a figure whose origins are lost in the mists of past centuries but whose visage frequently is seen in connection with the barley brew.   The prior post featured the many times the good monarch has been depicted in three dimensions -- statuary.  There was a remarkable sameness in most of the sculptures,  regardless of era or materials.

The same cannot be said of Gambrinus as he is depicted in two dimensions in a wide range of formats.  The first example here is a framed art piece of the king holding the traditional foaming goblet of beer.   Reputedly dating from the 1880s  in France, it bears a caption that says:  “Gambrinus I:  Grand Etude Aux de Crayons,”  translated “A Large Study with Pencils.”  That is something of a mystery since the picture seems to have been painted.  In any case, it depicts the king at his majestic best,  tastefully clad and noble of visage.   This Gambrinus would make drinking beer a thoroughly ennobling experience.

Contrast it with the next Gambrinus,  a seriously overweight monarch with a pendulous belly.  Even while tapping a keg to fill a stein proffered by one of his subjects the king seems deep in an alcoholic slumber.  The supporting characters, numbering about 15, are also interesting, particularly the serious looking gent sitting at the front reading a newspaper. He may be “Mr. Dry,” a top-hatted man with a sour look who came in many forms and was the image of the Prohibitionist.   This image is a well-wrought color lithograph on a bar tray.  It was issued for Arrow Beer by the Globe Brewery of Baltimore.   Although this company was able to hang on for a time during Prohibition, it did not survive the period.  The site of the brewery on South Hanover Street has long since been built over by the development of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The model for the Arrow Beer Gambrinus may have been a 1800s depiction of the king as,  let’s admit it, a sloppy drunk.  Not only is he asleep and bears the well-recognized  symptom of a “beer gut,”  he has lost one shoe and is in danger of dropping his scepter. He definitely has no kingly qualities.   Contrast him with the Gambrinus on a 1895 German-made Mettlach beer stein.   Although this king is a man of considerable girth, he is a fearsome figure, a scowl on his face and a sword by his side.  The object of his wrath, however, is not immediately apparent.   He seems to be picking a blossom from a hops plant, hops being an essential ingredient of beer.  Is the blossom just too small?

Unlike the Arrow Beer example above, carrying and tip trays usually had more traditional depiction's of the king.  These usually were given by breweries to favored customers such as saloons or restaurants.  Gambrinus Beer of Portland, Oregon, provided a color lithograph on metal tray with the traditional monarch, looking fully majestic as he contemplates a quaff.  This brewery was founded in 1875 by Louis Fuerer.  Under Fuerer and subsequent management, the operation survived until Oregon went dry in 1916.  The plant and the brand were revived in 1933 under the auspices of the Rose City Brewing Company.  The Great Depression apparently doomed the effort and it shut down for good in 1940.

Casey & Kelly provided a tray that bears strong resemblance to the Portland product. In both the king is garbed in green and has a long reddish beard and hair.   This king, however, wears around his neck a “star of David,” a symbol long identified with the Jewish faith.  The answer may lie in the strong influence of Mennonite Christians in the spirits trade.  Barred   from many occupations in Europe, they frequently were the brewers, distillers and tavern keepers.   Mennonites believed themselves to have a special affinity with the ancient Israelites and adopted the symbol.  Here it is affixed to Gambrinus.  Established in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1892,  the brewery was one of 20 listed during that period for Scranton and obviously found it hard to break through the competition to find a customer base.  It closed only five years later in 1897.   This provides a relatively narrow window for dating the colorful tray.

Two Gambrinus beers were produced in the United States.  One from Portland and the other from Columbus, Ohio.   The Midwest version was brewed by August Wagner & Sons Brewing Company and advertised as “The Beer Your Daddy Drank.”  Its king stands on a keg much as did a statue at the brewery shown in my previous post.  A immigrant from Bavaria,  Wagner opened his brewery a the corner of West Sycamore and Front in Columbus in 1906.  It survived, with time out for Prohibition, into the 1970s.

Although the Mettlach stein shown here portrayed an angry and aggressive Gambrinus,  most German steins have used the more traditional approach.  Shown here are two examples, both from reasonably contemporary drinking vessels.  One features an underglaze painted version of the king with the motto “Proset,” i.e. “Drink Up,” at under his bust.   The other in bas relief shows the monarch sitting on a throne make from a beer keg.  He seems happy although it cannot be a comfortable perch.

Although the Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee featured the giant statue of Gambrinus, as shown in the prior post,  its cross-town rival,  Blatz Brewery,  featured a standing king on a brass token,  probably meant as a pocket “good luck” charm.  The reverse side contains the date 1863 and advertises “City Brewery & Malt House, Milwaukee.”  That was the name that Valentine Blatz gave his brewing operation after taking over a small brewery in 1851 and expanding into one of the nation’s largest,  occupying nearly an entire city block at the corner of Broadway and Division Streets in Milwaukee.

One brewery even gave his majesty a musical march.  Shown here is the front of a sheet of music entitled “Koenig (King) Gambrinus.  It shows the king amidst hops blossoms with scepter and a glass of beer in hand.  The piece was copyrighted in 1915 by the Sieben Brewery Company of Chicago,  which apparently commissioned its composition and to whom it is dedicated.   The composer was H. Sallmann, who does not seem to have written anything else of note (pun intended).  Michael Sieben, a immigrant from Mainz, Germany, founded his brewery on Pacific Avenue near Clark and Polk Streets in Chicago in 1865.  It survived and thrived until shut down by Prohibition in 1920.

Now that we have seen the many manifestations of King Gambrinus, who was he and where did he come from?   Although he often is called a “patron saint” of beer, brewing and brewers, he is definitely not a saint,  though a patron he may be.  He is a legendary European folk hero, celebrated as an symbol of beer drinking,  sometime jovial, sometime not;  sometimes a drunkard,  usually not.   Some think he is patterned after John the Fearless, others on John Primus, Duke of Brabant.  Still others put forward additional historical or legendary candidates.  The Wikipedia entry on Gambrinus runs to many paragraphs.  The curious are invited to go there and be confused.  Here it is enough to say that as an icon Gambrinus has shown amazing staying power through the centuries and is likely to remain with us in a wide range of formats for as long as there is beer to drink.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

King Gambrinus in Three Dimensions

Living in Milwaukee as I did for a number of years, a tour of the Pabst Brewery, close to the heart of the city,  was a frequent pastime.  It was there that I first made my acquaintance with King Gambrinus,  known worldwide as the patron (but not patron saint) of beer and beer drinking.  This post and the next will be devoted to this historic, likely imaginary, figure.  This installment is devoted to the statues of this redoubtable monarch.  The next post will illustrate how he has been depicted over the centuries on other artifacts.

Gambrinus statues continue to intrigue me.  The original at the Pabst site was installed about 1857 when the brewery was known as the Best Brewery.   It was carved from wood by sculptor Gustav Haug and likely is the one shown above, high in the air, in a photo from the mid-1800s.  According to a company history,  by 1872 a new statue was needed and Carl Kuehns, a carver from a Milwaukee furniture company created a copy of Haug’s work.  This Gambrinus, at the time I was touring the brewery, was located near the entrance to the “tasting room,”  where a copy of this postcard view was available.

Over time that statue deteriorated and was sold in 1966.  Before it disappeared, however, a new cast aluminum version was commissioned that stood Pabst  until 1996 when, sadly, the brewery closed.  That Gambrinus traveled to several places, including installation at a cafeteria for brewery workers in Illinois.  When a restaurant and watering hole opened in Milwaukee in part of the old Pabst complex, the owner negotiated a loan to return the statue to its original site, where it stands today as shown here.  Although it echoes Kuehns' version in many ways, the latest king has a different style belt.

Some histories date the popularity of Gambrinus to the statue that stood over the entrance of the Brewers’ Hall at the Centennial Exposition in 1876.  German-American brewers were inspired to install their own figures of the king.  Note that all of the 3-D images shown here are characterized by the king standing on a keg and brandishing a stein or goblet.

LaCrosse, Wisconsin, boasted two such statues.   Shown here, one Gambrinus has a stunned expression as if he had just noticed that his beer goblet is empty.  Made of concrete, this statue was bought by the Heileman Brewery from a defunct competitor in 1939 and is now installed near a city park.  The other King Gambrinus is made of Cor-Ten steel and was installed in front of the Heileman corporate headquarters.  The unadorned metal gives the statue a severe look that seems out of keeping with the “gemutlichkeit” (cozy and festive) nature of beer drinking.

As shown here, the next Gambrinus originally stood on a pedestal high up on the wall of the August Wagner Brewery in Columbus, Ohio.   When the brewery went bankrupt, it appeared that the king was headed for the junkyard or an equally ignominious fate.  In 1975, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper rescued him and had him restored.  Today this Gambrinus can be viewed, as seen here, in a red cloak and black tunic,  aggressively offering up a beer toast.

As breweries have gone defunct, their Gambrinus images often have ended up in museums.   The Haberele family operated a brewery in Syracuse, New York, from the late 1880s until Prohibition and then resumed upon Repeal only to close for good in 1962.  At the time it owned a Gambrinus, seen here, that was 12 feet tall and weighed 1,500 pounds.  Luckily the Onondoga (County) Historical Museum was able to accommodate it.  The rescued king’s cup overflows as he greets visitors to the collection.

Another Gambrinus that might have ended on a scrap heap was ransomed by the Maryland Historical Society.   Made of zinc, it stood at the American Brewery, founded in 1887 by J.F. Weissner, a German immigrant.  That brewery survived until 1975 when it closed and its complex -- and the statue -- was abandoned. As shown here, its rescuers subsequently fully restored the image to its original glory. Baltimore’s Gambrinus now greets visitors to the Society’s museum on Monument Street.   Note that the keg on which the king leans is festooned with hops leaves and blossoms, a slightly different touch.

European breweries have long featured Gambrinus statues as their symbol.  They are most common in Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Other countries have used the icon as well.  For example, at a large beer hall in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, stands a huge Gambrinus made of a resin material.  In the country on business, for me it was like seeing an old friend as I entered the beer hall.  Just one more will suffice, a labeled Gambrinus from a niche in a brewery wall in Lomice, the Czech Republic.

Note:  The Gambrinus post to follow will delve more deeply into the king’s origins and illustrate various ways he has been depicted in two dimensions over the centuries.