Saturday, November 7, 2015

When Drinking and Driving Was Cool

Today the American public is warned on countless fronts about the dangers of  “drinking and driving”   Magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and billboards all carry that message.  Not so in the pre-Prohibition era when the automobile was a new invention.  Shown here are examples of vintage advertising that clearly seem to be fostering drinking and driving.

The automobile came along at the end of the 19th Century.  In 1895, for example, only about 300 motor cars existed in the entire United States. At the beginning of the 20th Century that number had increased to 8,000.  From there automotive growth was explosive — 78,000 in 1905, 459,000 in 1910, and 1.7 million in 1914.   Among other industries, breweries were quick to see the trend and to use automobiles in their advertising.

The first example is the ad above left from the Maier Brewing Company of Los Angeles.  It shows a “grande dame” with a large feathered hat downing a glass of beer.   Even more her liveried chauffeur also is pouring himself a snort.  Their automobile has no windshield and as a result both are wearing goggles. Note that the steering wheel also is missing.  This beer-maker has been described in the press of its time as “one of the oldest and best appointed brewery establishments on the Pacific Coast, and one that it has made itself and its superior products famous….”   The company sold its beer in Western states and even exported abroad.
Windshields had come along — but true headlights had not — by the time Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis issued this ad for Budweiser.  It shows two couples out for a ride in their motor sedan.  Here there is a steering wheel, but it is positioned on the right  — it took the industry a while to straighten out that detail.  The two men and two women have stopped at the “Motor Car Inn,”  obviously a trendy place, for refreshment.   They are getting “curbside” service from a waiter who has four bottles of Bud and glasses on a tray.   With its drive-through daiquiri shops, Louisiana is about the only place left in America where one can get alcohol served to the car.

Pickwick Beer issued an ad featuring a jaunty look gent and his flapper companion heading in their fancy roadster toward a drinking establishment called “Ye Tavern,”  that — no surprise — served Pickwick ale and stout.  The couple look very keen on sampling “the tang of good old ale.” These brands were the product of Rudolf F. Haffenreffer, described as a Rhode Island industrialist and Massachusetts brewer, who called two of his beer brands “Pickwick Pale” and “Pickwick Stout,”  presumably after the character in Dickens novel.

Perhaps the most provocative of the “driving and drinking” promotions was a “novelty song hit” called “There’s Something Else Goes With It” and showing two comely young ladies, out for a ride and scarves blowing in the wind —no shield here.  What clearly goes with joy riding is “glorious old” Rainier Beer, the product of the Seattle Brewing & Malting Company.  The chorus, written by an obscure songwriter named J. Louis MacEvoy, tells us so:

There’s something else goes with it you like to think about;
There’s something in its spirit that you cannot do without.
Yes, something else goes with it and to you its very clear,
There’s something else goes with it.
What?  Rainier, Rainier, Rainier.

The next motoring and suds scene comes on a beer stein issued by Milwaukee’s Juneau Hotel in 1914.   Like the Maier ad earlier, a woman is being chauffeured.  This one is rather prim looking and the driver intent on reaching the destination, which is — a saloon.  A waiter is right outside waiting with a large foaming stein under a sign that proclaims “Lager Beer.”  The Juneau Hotel was located at 229 Wisconsin Ave in the heart of downtown.  Originally an apartment house it had been turned into a hotel in 1910 by Eugene Trimberger.  In 1919 he established a restaurant on the site called Eugene’s.  Known for its seafood, Eugene’s was a favor of mine when I lived in Milwaukee.
That city was famous for touting its beer heritage, once the center of brewing in America but, sadly, no longer.  This post card, entitled “Seeing Milwaukee,” boosted Pabst Beer.  The barrel between the wheels and the banner that waves atop proclaims the name. The drinking here seems to be confined to the tourists aboard a bus whose seats are made from beer barrels.  Several passengers can be seen imbibing.  The boxes along the side are clever in indicating favored Milwaukee German food items — sauerkraut, frankfurter, pumpernickel, and schwitzerkase (swiss cheese).

Not to be outdone, the Miller Brewing Company had its own postcard, entitled “The Water Wagon in Milwaukee.”  Have included it although the source of locomotion is not a gasoline engine but two dachshunds. There is enough drinking going on among all those hanging on to make this a risky situation.  

The final example of pre-prohibition “drinking and driving” comes from a postcard with no attribution on it but similar to those that feature the Milwaukee skyline.  Here the Germanic-appearing driver has in hand a vehicle whose engine is in a beer barrel, with two open steins as headlamps, and a third stein at hand should the dust he is stirring up make him dry.

The juxtaposition of the automobile and beer drinking ended with National Prohibition in when the Nation’s breweries either closed or were reduced to providing non-alcoholic beverages.  After repeal, the ubiquitous nature of the automobile and the frequency of drunken driving discouraged a repeat of these varieties of beer ads.  Today, of course, such images would be utterly unthinkable.

Note:  In my next post I will concentrate on beer and liquor ads that juxtapose drinking and flying, a prospect even more terrifying than drinking and driving.

No comments:

Post a Comment