Monday, March 19, 2018

A Salute to Milwaukee's "Best" Brewery

When a group of color lithographs come along from a bygone day that seem to want preserving, I often try to give them a measure of future existence by placing them on this blog.  Thus it was of particular interest to find group of late 19th Century illustrations of Milwaukee’s Empire Brewery, later known as the Best Brewery and even later as Pabst Brewery.

As a former resident of Milwaukee, I am very familiar with the brewery complex that in my day was known as Pabst.  As a college student I have taken the brewery tour there on several occasions and my favorite local watering hole was the Forstkeller, a saloon in a former Methodist church adjacent to and owned by the brewery.   With the brewery and Forstkeller now closed, I have collected two glass paperweights issued by the company.   Shown here, top, is a weight that shows the Best complex in central Milwaukee that became Pabst.  Below is a weight with a scene that introduces the Empire Brewery and Philip Best.

Phillip Best, shown in a lithograph below was the son of Jacob Best (1786-1861), a German born brewer who immigrated to the the U.S. in 1844 to join his four sons in Milwaukee.   There he founded a brewery on Chestnut Street Hill that he called the Empire Brewery and ran it with his sons.  After Jacob retired in 1853, Philip headed the operation and the company became known as Philip Best & Company.   Philip died in 1869 and was memorialized in an illustration from a company booklet prepared for the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

In the meantime Best’s daughter, Maria had met steamship captain named Frederick Pabst in 1860 and married him two years later.  In 1864, Pabst purchased a half interest in the brewing company for $21,057.05 and became vice president. After the marriage of Best’s second daughter, Lisette in 1866, her husband, Emil Schandein also purchased the remaining half interest from Phillip Best.  After Philip’s death Frederick took control of the brewery.  

The 1869 purchase of the Melms Brewery by the Phillip Best & Co. would prove profitable. Phillip Best (1814-1869) died that same year and Pabst and Schandein took over management of the business. In the next two decades the Best Brewery, later Pabst, would grow at a spectacular rate. Helping to trigger this growth was a fluke of history, the Chicago fire of 1871, which would provide a new market for Milwaukee’s breweries as Chicago competitors would never recover.  By 1874 Phillip Best Brewing Co. was the nation’s largest brewer.

When the Philadelphia exposition occurred two years later Pabst — at the height of its ascendance — was responsible for putting out a promotion booklet there in German, English and French.  Among scenes were three of the earlier Empire Distillery, as seen below.

In addition to its north side Milwaukee location, the company subsequently opened a second brewery on the city’s heavily ethnic South Side.   This facility had the advantage of being both on a water source and a railroad spur.  It is shown below on three lithographs.

Pabst (1836-1904) was also a pioneer in providing his own bottling plant on premises at a time when beer rolled out of a brewery only in barrels, to be decanted into bottles by the distributors or other independent firms.  A picture of that facility also was among the lithographs.  Note the proximity to rail.  

The final illustration in the booklet was a picture of the Frederick Pabst home, then on Grand Avenue, soon to be renamed Wisconsin Avenue.  Later the Pabst family would sell the residence to the Catholic Diocese of Wisconsin and for years it was the residence of the Archbishop.   Since 1998, it has been known as the Pabst Mansion and open to the public for tourist.  Inside the decor is of the late 1900s and well worth a visit.

The Best Centennial booklet sold on eBay early in 2018 for $150 although far from pristine.  It clearly is a prize in someone’s collection.   I am happy that through the use of the computer and Internet it is possible to bring these lithographs to a wider audience.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Monkeys Doing Business

I continually finding advertising, particularly vintage advertising, a fascinating subject for exploration.  After it occurred to me that a number of ads, particularly for alcoholic beverages, employed monkeys and apes to sell products, I began to collect their images in an effort to understand why the primate humans were using their genetic cousins in the process of doing business.

The Brown Thompson distillers of Louisville issued a trade card, now more than a century old, that depicted three monkeys, all with long tails, climbing up a bottle of their “Old Forester” whiskey.  One has a corkscrew and presumably will be opening the whiskey with an eye to drinking it.  Unaccountably, the artist has dressed these monkeys in human garments, shirt and pants but no shoes.

The issuing distillery had been founded by George Garvin Brown who had been joined by his cousin from Northern Ireland, James Thompson.  They named their flagship brand after a well-known Louisville physician, Dr. William Forrester.   When Thompson decamped to start his own distillery,  Brown added George Foreman as his partner and the firm became Brown-Foreman.  The monkeys persisted in the advertising in the company’s “Bottom’s Up” Kentucky straight bourbon.  

The Roxbury Distilling Company used the face of a menacing monkey for its celluloid score keeping card, advertising “Roxbury Rye” as America’s purest whiskey.  Its offices were in Baltimore and its distillery in Roxbury, Maryland.  This outfit was owned by George T. Gambrill, a man frequently in trouble with the law. Convicted of fraud, through his own cleverness, he avoided going to jail for years and died without ever spending a day behind bars.

Monkeys and alcohol are not just an American phenomenon. Anisetta Evangelisti is a very sweet anise flavored liquor that is made in a Santelpidio, a small town in Southeastern Italy.  As noted on the trade card here, it is meant to be drunk in small glasses as a dessert liqueur.  The monkey on the shipping crate apparently had no glass and is taking it wholesale.

Pabst Beer had a reputation for unusual advertising and this trade card qualifies.  It purports to show a dog and money act in which the simian loads a barrel of beer on a car being pulled by a dog.   In vain I have sought to find more about 
Dekkin’s pantomime act, likely a vaudeville attraction appropriated by Pabst for its merchandising purposes.

Another brewery, this one the Norwich Brewing Co. of Norwich, New York, has given us a studious looking monkey who is carrying a sign suggesting that the reader not “monkey” with inferior beers but drink “White’s Sparkling Ale.  This brew claims to be “Good for Bad Health and Not Bad for Good Health.”   The brewery opened in 1904 and operated for eleven years until shut down in 1915.

Spoofing Darwin’s for theory of evolution was common everywhere  Merchant’s Gargling Oil, sold as fit for man and beast, found a natural foil in the English scientist and his ideas.   Its Victorian trade card shows a mandrill-like beast pouring the gargling oil on his leg while intoning a quatrain:   “If I am Darwin’s grandpa, It follows, don’t you see, That what is going for man and beast, Is doubly good for me.”  

Monkey Brand soap was introduced in the 1880s as a household scouring and polishing soap, in bar form, the product of Sidney and Henry Gross of Philadelphia.  Pumice was its primary ingredient.  After Lever bought the company in 1899. The name ‘Brooke” was used to promote the Monkey Brand soap both in the States and in Britain.  In George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion”(“My Fair Lady”) Henry Higgins tells his housekeeper to take Eliza Doolittle upstairs and clean her up, and to use "...Monkey Brand, if it won't come off any other way.”

In a riffle on the “dogs playing cards” theme, the Star Shoe Store of Coalinga, California, issued a glass paperweight with two dogs in a card game with a monkey.  The canines seem annoyed at the antics of the rhesus and the admonition is twice repeated on the weight:  “No Monkeying.”

The last two examples appear linked.  The first is a modern ad for “Gorilla Tape” featuring the face of a formidable looking ape holding a box of the product, said to be “incredibly strong.”  A second tape ad is from “Bear Tape Brand.”  Instead of showing us a bear, however, it features a cartoonish gorilla bending a pipe.  

The ad, it seems evident, is a spoof on Gorilla Tape as it describes this simian as a native of West Africa and the Congo, gives its dimensions and ends by saying:  “It beats its chest when excited and can be extremely dangerous when aroused.”   Bear Tape was an Australian-made line that featured a “teddy bear”  figure in its advertising.  While the Aussie boardroom may have been chuckling at this joke,  Gorilla Tape executives likely were not laughing.

There they are — eleven examples of the monkeys in advertising.  Everything from whiskey and beer to gargling oil, pumice soap, and tape. “Monkey business” is defined in the dictionary as “frivolous or mischievous behavior, trickery.”  But “monkeys IN business” — that is something else again.

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.