Saturday, September 15, 2012

Kids Selling Whiskey II

A 21st Century mentality has a hard time grasping the idea that in the 19th and early 20th Century it was perfectly fine to advertise and sell whiskey by using images of children.  I first explored this phenomenon in this blog in March of 2010.   Subsequently a number of other whiskey ads, trade cards and signs featuring youngsters have come to my attention, occasioning this second look at kids selling whiskey.

The youngest child to be present is a photograph of a tot,  presumably a boy,  standing at a table on which sits a jug from the Edgewood Distilling Company of Cincinnati.   Cincinnati directories indicate that the A.G. Diehl Company,  had merged with the Paxton Brothers Co. to create Edgewood Distilling. The business relationships between Diehl and the Paxton Brothers began as early as 1874 when A.G. Diehl & Co.  Wines and Liquors,  occupied a location at 32 East Second Street in the Queen City.   A separate listing for the same address lists Paxton & Diehl,  Distillers.   From 1875 to 1877 the firm name became Diehl & Paxton Brothers,  to be changed to Paxton Bros. & Co., Distillers, from 1878 to 1883.  Finally in 1887 the business became Edgewood Distilling at the same East Second Street address.  The company moved its business office after 1891 to several locations on Main Street and finally in 1906 to its last address at 417-419 Elm Street.   The actual distillery was located in Lincoln County KY.  The firm disappeared from Cincinnati directories after 1918,  an apparent casualty of National Prohibition.

The jug on the table is its own story.  It was manufactured by the Fulper Pottery of Flemington, New Jersey, which sold ceramic whiskey containers as “fancy jugs” and were  used by distillers and dealers nationwide.

The next tots are almost as young as the first, but not too young to be doing some inter-gender smooching.  The Willard Distilling Company almost certainly were not distillers and probably not “rectifiers,”  (i.e. blenders of whiskey) but more likely wholesale distributors and dealers.  Nonetheless, their amorous kids made a statement with their “soul kiss.”

The “Old Forrester” trade card ushers in a series of whiskey ads featuring children and animals.  The first shows a precious little lass is leading a equally precious little lamb.  What could be more appropriate for selling whiskey?  This was a brand from the Vogt-Applegate Company of Louisville, Kentucky.  The Applegates were a prominent Kentucky family whose leader,  Colonel C. L. Applegate,  would sell you four quarts of his whiskey for $3.00.

The following trade card also features a youngster, well dressed in breeches and a feathered cap,  advertising J.S. Stone Old Bourbon Whiskey which, we are assured, is “chemically pure.”  He is accompanied by two doves, neither of which could have laid the giant egg the boy seems to be rolling.   This whiskey was the product of Holden & Clay, a Boston based liquor store that shows up in city directories in 1891 and not afterward.

Fernberger Bros. at 1230 Market Street in Philadelphia advertised their “pure old rye whisky” with another youth.  In his case, the doves have been replaced by an owl with a knowing look.  Perhaps the look reflects the claim that for $3 one can get a gallon of the Fernberger’s product and, it is claimed, a libation of equal quality would cost at least $4.  As Prohibition closed in, many whiskey outfits claimed that their product was only for “family and medicinal use,”  not to be imbibed in those awful saloons.  The Fernbergers were in business from 1871 until 1902.

Our last child-animal association is considerably less benign than the earlier ones.  Here a youth, whose gun has been laid aside, confronts a bear and seemingly is reduced to prayer as a response to the apparent threat.   This was a trade card for “Golden Horseshoe”  rye whiskey, at $1 a bottle.  It was sold by Max D. Stern at his 49 Whitehall Street address in New York City.  Stern was a whiskey wholesaler with three locations.   He claimed that his booze “aids digestion & strengthens the constitution.”   He does not, however, say how it assists in being eaten by a bear.

At the age of 28, Oscar Good bought an existing distillery in his native Franklin County.  He improved it to include a three-story stone distillery building with a water tank on an attached frame shed at the side and a tall active smoke stack.  Behind the distillery were the slopes of the Blue Mountains, a beautiful low Appalachian range that extends for more than 100 miles through the southern Pennsylvania countryside, an bucolic area that attracted a modest tourist trade.

Good’s flagship label was “Blue Mountain Rye.” The brand was featured on a colorful trade card of a winsome lad carrying a flowering branch and a basket.  The reverse side declared:  “These whiskies are pure, distilled from clean grain, and soft mountain water, which seems to be the secret of making fine whiskies.  I will give one hundred dollars if any person finds adulterations of any kind in my whiskies from the time I commence mashing the grain until I dispose of them.”    Good also asserted that his whiskeys had no unpleasant aftertaste.  He further suggested it could be served to hired hands at harvest time.

The next trade card features two little girls, one with a doll and the other with a quill pen and a writing desk advertises “Stonewall Whiskey.”   This was a brand from Charles Rebstock & Co. of St. Louis whose whiskey dealership survived from 1871 until 1918.  Rebstock’s flagship label was “Stonewall,” which he registered with the federal government in 1874.  His ads said of this whiskey:  “It makes people happy and wealthy.”  It was also touted as “America’s Finest Whiskey” and “Perfection.

In 1914, after 24 profitable years on Main St. in St. Louis,  Rebstock moved to 200 S. First Street and eventually shut down as Prohibition approached.  Now 74 years old and apparently without immediate heirs,  this wealthy whiskey man began to look for likely place to practice philanthropy.   The Journal of the American Medical Assn. reported in 1922 that Rebstock had purchased the Wintersteiner Collection of 13,000 microscopic preparations of pathologic changes of the eye and contributed them to the St. Louis (Medical) University.  The collection was said to be the most complete in Europe and was to be used for graduate instruction in opthamology.

The calendar depicting two barefoot “Huck Finn” type boys was from the Utah Liquor Company, a  most interesting whiskey dealership.  The company was formed in 1898 Salt Lake City and its  owner, Jake Bergerman, literally sold whiskey in the heart of Mormon Land. Early on, for example, he issued a metal token good for 12&1/2 cents in trade at the Utah Liquor Co. that had an image of the Mormon Tabernacle on the reverse.  His annual calendars could  be found far and wide among the Utah drinking population.

Our last example is from California, a sign promoting the whiskey and wines of the Theodore Gier Company. It depicts four lovely young girls with a dog hauling their wagon. After having been in the U.S. for only a year, Gier set up a grocery store in Oakland that proved successful.  With those profits, he established a retail and wholesale company to sell liquor.  That money he used to begin vineyards and to make prime wines.  When Prohibition arrived, he attempted to continue selling wine, was caught, fined heavily and his property confiscated.  He died broke.

Here we have 10 pre-Prohibition images of children being employed to sell whiskey,  While the notion of such merchandising seems out of bounds today,  at an earlier time it was  common and accepted by the drinking public.  With the coming of National Prohibition in 1920 all such advertising ceased and by 1934 when it resumed the use of children to push whiskey had become anathema. 

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