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 or 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…”

As a German, August Busch would have been familiar with von Suppe, just as he was in several trade cards depicting Wagner’s operas, like the “Meistersinger of Nuremberg.  Here depicted is Hans Sachs, a cobbler and mastersinger.   He is contemplating entering a contest for singers with original songs, the prize being the hand of Eva, the daughter of a wealthy man.   Eva would be willing to marry Sach, a widower, but he believes himself to old for her and instead eventually promotes another suitor.  This scene from Act II shows Sach despairing of writing a song and opining “…I’d better stick to my Anheuser Beer and let all this poetry be.”

Other makers of comestibles also used operatic trade cards, but those I have view 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 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 of mine 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.













Friday, August 29, 2014

The Life and Death of “Mr. Dry"


In the decade of struggle over the banning of alcoholic beverages in the United States the proponents on each side were branded as “Wets” and “Drys.”  The Wets were those who opposed a ban on strong drink on the grounds that it was an unwarranted infringement on personal liberty and the Drys who saw alcohol as the devil’s work and knew America would be a much better place without it.
By careful manipulation of public opinion, such as marches by substantial citizens as shown above, the Drys eventually  were able to pressure “finger in the air” politicians into doing their bidding.  With the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and Congressional implementing legislation known as the Volstead Act, National Prohibition,the so-called “Great Experiment,” became the law of the land in January 1920.

Among those outraged by Prohibition was a middle-aged aged native of Illinois named Rollin Kirby, shown here in a portrait,  When Kirby’s career as an artist and illustrator proved disappointing, he turned to political cartooning.  After working for two other New York City newspapers, he made his home and reputation at the New York World.  He was there in 1920 when the saloons closed, bars were shuttered and liquor dealers by the thousands were left unemployed. 

Out of his anger, Kirby invented a character who would become the symbol to many of what Prohibition meant.  In an editorial cartoon that was dated January 17, 1920 he depicted a tall, lean foreboding figure wearing a frock coat, stovepipe hat, and black gloves, carrying a black umbrella.  He quickly became known as “Mr. Dry.”  In his first  appearance Dry was depicted standing in front of a giant water bottle looking like a choral director and commanding: “Now then, all together, ‘My country ’tis of thee.”  The image was an immediate success and Kirby followed up with other cartoons of Mr. Dry.  Christmas, a holiday that always had been a time of convivial drinking, had now been made bleaker by the ban on alcohol.  The cartoonist memorialized that sad situation by showing a grinning Mr. Dry dowsing an unsuspecting Santa Claus in the face with water from his syphon.
The figure soon “went viral” and became the icon for anti-Prohibition emotions being felt and expressed by millions of Americans.  It was natural then that others would adopt the image and turn it to their own mocking purposes.  Shown here is the patent design submitted in 1932 by inventor Alfred Flauder of Trumbull, Conn.  Here Mr. Dry is just a head with in two phases, an evil grin and a fierce scowl.  Approved as Design Patent No. 87,658, the device combined a bottle opener (the mouth), a jigger (the hat), a corkscrew, and on the back a swing down cocktail stirrer.  It was manufactured by the Weidlich Bros. Mfg. Co. of Bridgeport, Conn. and marketed as the “4 -in- 1 Friendship Kit.”
Multipurpose drink accoutrements proliferated to celebrate Kirby’s cartoon figure. The “Old Snifter” opener bears a strong resemblance to Mr. Dry even down to the umbrella.  Snifter’s hat concealed a swivel corkscrew, his hand is the bottle opener, and, as is helpfully noted on the box, the base can be used to crush ice.   This imaginative device was the brainchild of John Schuchardt of New York and the casting was done by the Dollin Die Casting Company of Irvington, New Jersey.

The wide and gaping mouth on the next Mr. Dry indicates that it has lost some metal over the years opening, I hope, bottles of beer.  Meant to be attached to a vertical wooden surface by screws though its ears, the cast iron face was the product of Wilton Products Co. which produced the item in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors.  The Wilton family began casting metal along the Susquehanna River in 1893 and eventually became known for producing hand-painted cast iron objects, including bottle openers, trivets, candle holders and a wide variety of novelty items.  From the number of them available on-line, this opener must have been a best seller.

In 1896, Gustav Schafer and Gunther Vater founded the Schafer and Vater Porcelain Factory in Thuringa, Germany, with the purpose of making high quality porcelain items. By 1910 the reputation of the pottery for craftsmanship and design had grown to international proportions and Sears Roebuck was importing and selling large quantities of Schafer and Vater pottery in the United States.   Among their products were a host of small figural liquor bottles for distribution by American distillers and saloons, often called nips.”  With the coming of National Prohibition to the United States, this major business opportunity was largely denied to the German potters.  Profits from their American exports were severely curtailed. The company response was to design and sell objects lampooning the notion of abolishing alcoholic drink.  Among them was this figural flask with a Mr. Dry look-alike who is drinking and described as “one of the boys.”

With the progression of Prohibition into the 1930s, Kirby continued to satirize its adherents.  In one cartoon published about 1930, shown below, he depicts the gent in three modes. In the first a neatly dressed Mr. Dry simply holds a sign reading "Thou shalt NOT!" The second Mr. Dry, gloating, holds a newspaper describing a "rum-runner" having been "shot by dry agent." In the third Kirby depicts a ragged Mr. Dry holding a tin cup and wearing a sign reading "I am starving.”  It was an allusion to the fact that a backlash against the ban on drink was taking hold in the Nation.
A statuette (and bottle opener) that reads “The End of the Trail,” is a spoof of the famous statue by American artist James Earle Fraser that depicted an American Indian warrior slumped over his horse.  Here Mr. Dry has replaced the Indian and a camel (who can go long without drinking) has been substituted for the horse.  The message was clear:  The era of National Prohibition is about over.  And it was.

The final picture here, taken shortly after Repeal, documents the “death” of Mr. Dry, hanged in effigy on a city street by a group of seven men.  The sign affixed to the dummy indicates considerable lingering hostility to those who had engineered 14 years without legal strong drink.  It read “Death to the Drys.”  

Mr. Dry disappeared from Rollin Kirby’s cartoons for the New York World but his ability was to win him the very first Pulitzer prize ever given to a political cartoonist.  He would go on in his career to be awarded two more.