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.

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.