Saturday, December 3, 2016

Schafer & Vater Provided Little Nips at Christmas

 When Gustav Schafer and Guenther Vater founded the their ceramics factory in Thuringa, Germany in 1890, their objective was to make high quality porcelain.  Among the wares flowing from their pottery, shown right, were a wide variety of figural bottles, each containing several swallows of liquor and meant as giveaways by saloons and other drinking establishments.  Because the Christmas season was a prime time for such gift-giving,  a number of these bottles,  sometime called “nips,” had a holiday theme.

Initially these items were produced and sold primarily in Germany and Austria, but about 1910 the U.S. department store giant, Sears Roebuck & Co., began to import and distribute nationwide Schafer & Vater pottery, including the Christmas nips.  Thus they are found with greetings in both German and English.
One of the most artful was a figural of a woman in a white evening gown and wearing a feathered boa.  Somewhat inexplicably, she is riding a turkey while carrying a bottle of liquor in one hand and a glass in the other.  The base reads:  “Merry Xmas.”  The back reveals an opening through which the liquor may be accessed and a swirling molasses look to the glaze.  A paper label, now long gone, was pasted there to remind the imbiber of the originator of the gift.

Frequently the partners would produce similar nips for both German and American audiences.  An example is a figure of a “Father Christmas” aka Santa Claus carrying both a sack (presumably of toys) and a Christmas tree.  In his right hand Santa appears to be holding a liquor bottle, a feature that characterizes most of these Schafer & Vater items.  The German model greets “Fröhe Weihnachten;”  the American model, “Merry Christmas.”  

The American market for these holiday nips must have proved very profitable for the Thuringan partners whose ceramics factory had expanded to three kilns and  a workforce of 200 by 1913.  They became known for their skill with two glazes, a light blue one applied directly to the ceramic object, as well as a honey brown that often covered the backs.  The two Santa figures shown here illustrate the use of those glazes.  

A familiar form for Schafer & Vater figural nips was a figure imposed on a flagon that bore a small handle that could be used to hoist the bottle to the lips.  Shown here are two Santas, one in the blue glaze made for the German market and a look-alike in multiple colors made for the U.S.  Both have a small doll-like figure at the base and a bottle labeled “Prosit” in hand.  It took little imagination to understand that something spiritous was inside.

Schafer & Vater obviously had their own ideas of how Americans celebrated the holiday season.  Although drinking had its place in all the figurals, activities differed.  Shown here is a jolly sort with a night cap, possibly straight out of “The Night Before Christmas,” whose red cheek and nose indicate more than a passing acquaintance with alcohol.  In fact he holds a glass filled with a red cocktail or liqueur in his hand while pointing at “Merry Christmas.”

Someone at the factory must have thought Americans go bowling on Christmas, given the figure shown here.  (In truth, I have bowled on the day after.)  On the base this nip likely would have a backstamp impressed with a crown above an “R” in a star.  Sometimes “Made in Germany” was stamped in black.  That said, Schafer & Vater items can be found without any stamp or reference to their origin.  They must be identified by their appearance.

The idea of going hunting on Christmas was not without foundation.  Many in Northern Wisconsin, for example, make it an annual event.  They attend midnight church services and awake early to hunt. While carrying along a bottle of liquor, as this sharpshooter is doing, is not unknown in those cold climes it is discouraged by the authorities.  

Why a pig would be chosen as a symbol of the holiday is somewhat obscure.  My mother of German ancestry often cooked a pork roast for our Christmas dinner and swine are frequently found in German art and artifacts.  This pig looks extremely uncomfortable, perhaps indicating foreknowledge of its fate on someone’s dinner table, perhaps with an apple in its mouth.  A second pig, shown below, seems to be smiling — perhaps spared this year.  Note that here the brown glaze on the back has been made to resemble wood grain.
There they are — a dozen examples of the legacy of Schafer & Vater.  The firm continued production through two World Wars but its position in former Communist East Germany limited its markets in the U.S. and elsewhere and the firm closed in 1962.  Reports are that in 1972 the East German government assumed full control of the vacant factory and company records and moulds were  destroyed.  Moreover, in post-Prohibition United States it was illegal for drinking establishments to give such items away.  Nevertheless, we can still enjoy Schafer & Vader nips as expressions of the joys of drinking at Christmas — or anytime.  They are treasured relics of the 20th Century.

Friday, November 18, 2016

From Toilets to Tankards, Maddock Could Shape the Pot

Thomas Maddock, shown here, knew the ceramics business when he emigrated from England in 1847.  Eventually becoming a partner in a Trenton, New Jersey, pottery firm, Maddock determined that “sanitary ware” (read bathroom stuff) that had been imported from abroad could be made in the U.S.  He soon captured 80% of the U.S. market for sinks, toilets, and chamber pots and then turned back to his roots in decorated stoneware and china.  Among the results were an impressive array of beer mugs, steins and pitchers for souvenir purposes, hotel use and fraternal organizations. 

An excellent example of Maddock’s craft is a mug that was made for a convention of the National Association of Master Plumbers held in Atlantic City in 1914.  Likely because these same plumbers were installing Maddock sinks and toilets, the company produced a extraordinary vessel. It featured a platinum or silver “art nouveau” design of swirls and bands.  By that time, Thomas Maddock had bought out his partners, taken his four sons into the business, and in 1903 died at the age of 85. 

Maddock’s sons continued to be in the forefront of decorated porcelain.  The quality of their transfer printing rivaled England and had few peers in the U.S.  A prime example of the art is the beer mug shown here.  A comely lass with a low cut bodice looks out at us with a slight fetching smile.  On the other side we learn that this mug was an advertising give-away from The Broadway of Erie, Pennsylvania, likely a pre-Prohibition saloon. 

A  beer stein from the pottery shows wear on both the handle, rim and lettering, suggesting that an “overglaze” transfer was used.  This method, while less expensive to produce than under-glaze, is likely to show wear over time since it must adhere to the much harder porcelain surface.  Although there have been several breweries bearing the name, this item appears to be from the Acme Brewing Company of San Francisco. 

Important customers for the Maddocks were fraternal organizations, particularly groups associated with the Masons.  Shown here is stein that is a excellent example of the family’s ability to produce elaborate decorated stoneware.  It shows the Lulu Shriners temple in Atlanta, Georgia, and dates from about 1904.   These would have been ordered from the Trenton pottery as souvenirs of  anniversaries or other special occasions.

The Maddock artisans had the “in house” ability  to produce their own transfer engravings and decals in order to customize a standard line of souvenir ceramic forms.  They developed a enameling process that allowed the pottery to copy fine line designs from steel engravings, beyond much of the competition’s ability to copy.

In December 1909 the company provided a celebratory stein for the Tristam B. Freedman Chapter of Masons in Philadelphia.  Named for the English immigrant founder of a famous auction house in the City of Brotherly Love, this chapter was founded  by seven break-away Masonic brethren in 1873.  Note that the symbolism on the stein includes the keystone recognizing Pennsylvania as the Keystone State.

Frequent organizational commissions for Maddock were for sets of ware that included a tall pitcher with matching mugs.  Shown here is an example of a pitcher made to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Northern Chapter No. 25 of Masons from Newark, New Jersey.  Dated 1913, this vessel is particular notable for the elegant shading of blue from light to dark.  The set below shows another example of the company mastery of design and underglaze transfer printing.  It shows men bowling and features attractive silver trim.  These ceramics were made for an Eagles Club event.
We move from Maddock-produced artsy production to perhaps the company’s most remembered contribution to the American pottery scene: Its football steins.  With Harry Maddock listed as the inventor, the company was awarded a patent on this item in January 1905 and produced thousands of them for fans.  

Ivy League schools seem particularly well represented in the output.  Shown below are two examples.  The Princeton pigskin has the laces showing at the side;  on the Cornell example, they sit on the front.  Somewhat incongruous, however, is the figure on the latter.  It appears to be a track and field participant, a pole vaulter or javelin thrower.   Thinly clad as he is, he would be mincemeat on the gridiron.

After the death of Thomas Maddock, his sons changed the name of the firm, to Thomas Maddock’s Sons Company.  One son, John Maddock, left and started his own pottery company in Trenton; his mark can be found on items similar to those shown here.  The company that Thomas had founded was acquired in 1929 by the Sanitary Manufacturing Company that ultimately became American Standard, a familiar name in bathroom fixtures today.

It is worth mentioning the Maddock firm for two other achievements.  The company is given credit for inventing the flush mechanism of the toilet we know today, a highly useful modern convenience.  Another is the chamber pot it produced about 1890 that resided in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House for decades until President Truman’s wife, Bess, gave it away to a servant, likely feeling it had outlived its usefulness.

For a long time it has been my impression that Thomas and his sons have gone without significant recognition for their ceramic creations.  Miller’s “20th Century Ceramics,” a standard reference, devotes to the Trenton pottery only a brief paragraph and one photo of a plate. Why?  It occurs to me that perhaps the Maddocks’ mass production of bathroom “potties” has led to diminished respect for its decorative pottery.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Funeral Home Ambulances: A Conflict of Interest?

There was a time in America when funeral homes were the chief purveyor of  ambulance services, a phenomenon I have highlighted in two earlier posts [see references below]. Someone needing immediate hospital attention often would be transported there by the local undertaker who frequently issued artifacts such as paperweights to advertise the service.
Memphis blogger Vance Lauderdale sees this practice as a business conflict: “This is just so wrong.  It would be like morticians sitting in the emergency rooms, with an embalming kit in their laps.”  Among the Memphis undertakers to whom he was referring was Spencer Company.   Its scalloped glass weight advertised “Superior Ambulance Service.”  The stained glass windows at the rear would indicate that their vehicle also doubled as a hearse.

A fancier ambulance with a longer body and front mounted spare tire graced thescalloped paperweight from John V. May.  May, a lifelong resident of Chicago, opened his undertaking business in 1914 on Milwaukee Avenue.  As was often the case he and his family lived on the premises.  Many other morticians were completing with May for customers and his ambulance service was a way of setting himself apart and gaining a business advantage.

Like May, John A. Gentleman was an undertaker, opening his Omaha, Nebraska, funeral home in 1906.  In the 1920s the firm moved to the “Gold Coast” area of Omaha at 34th and Farnam Street and issued a paperweight featuring his ambulance.  Gentleman worked 50 years as an undertaker, before retiring in 1956 and selling his business to new owners who kept his name on the funeral home, one still in operation.

An acclaimed African-American business in Memphis was T. H. Hayes and Sons Funeral Home, run by Thomas Henry Hayes, his wife, and two sons.  The father founded it in 1902.  It is said that his range of services were affordable to the working class as well as to the elite.  In addition to his ambulance Hayes had ten rigs, five hearses, carriages, and 12 horses in his stables.  When the funeral home closed in the early 1970s it was acclaimed Memphis oldest African- American owned business. 
One of the few vehicles whose make was identified on an advertising artifact was this Holmes Sedan from the Ludlow Ambulance Service.  The Holmes was a popular air-cooled American automobile built from 1918 to 1923 in Canton, Ohio. The car was famous for its louvered front grill that included a series of horizontal slits bringing in air any.  An embezzlement by a top company executive in 1921 sealed the fate of the company founded by Engineer Arthur Holmes and it failed in 1923.

Perhaps the King Ambulance weight does not belong in this list.  It was truly a doctor and hospital-based service, unaffiliated with any funeral home.  Founded in 1886 and one of the first physicians exchanges and nurses registries in San Francisco, it was housed in a renovated Victorian mansion in the center city.  In 1954 King merged with American Ambulance.  The resulting King-American Ambulance Company has established itself as the longest operating private ambulance service in San Francisco and the West Coast.

The Peoples Undertaking Company, a Dallas, Texas, business that advertised as the home of the “Peoples Burial Association,” issued this celluloid item that is described as a “paper clip and hook.”  It occurs to me that It also might have been hung on a Christmas tree as an ornament, although it lacks a certain festive flavor.  I have been unable to find any information on this establishment.  The building shown here for 500 South Good Street appears to have been replaced.
With this celluloid pocket mirror we appear to return to an ambulance clearly being part of a funeral home business, this one in Norfolk, Virginia.  It is from L. R. Cromer and Company that appears to be the forerunner of a still extant funeral business in the that city.  
Often in small town America, even into mid-20th Century, the undertaker also was a furniture dealer.  Makes sense. The funeral director was buying caskets, a kind of furniture, why not add tables and chairs?  Bayermann & Krug of Racine, Wisconsin, combined those businesses and added an ambulance service.  They issued a clothes brush for their clients that up close reveals a vehicle with a red cross in the window motoring along.  
Last month I did a post on paperweights that were issued by coffin makers to advertise their works.  One outfit particularly known and collected for their casket and animal form weights has been Crane & Breed.  At that time I was unaware that this Cincinnati company also built hearses — hearses that could double as ambulances, as in the photo here.  This model was described thus:  “The body is painted bronze green and the running gear carmine. The interior is finished in solid mahogany with an elevated cot on rollers. The vehicle is fitted with the best rubber tires and in winter will be heated with carbon stoves.”   That elevated cot, of course, could accommodate a patient on the way to the hospital or a body going to the graveyard. 
The hearse/ambulance automobile hybrid lasted some 70 years.  Until as late as 1979 hearses in the U.S. could be combination coaches that also served as ambulances.  In the late 1970s, however, stricter Federal standards were decreed for ambulances.  The hybrids were unable to meet them and manufacturing was discontinued.  In many smaller communities even today ambulances in vehicles distinct from hearses continue to be the business of the local undertaker.

Note: My first article on this subject, “Where to Buddy?  Hospital or Graveyard?” was posted during July 2009. It presented six paperweights and two pocket mirrors.  A second, called  “Chasing the Ambulance:  But Wait…Is It a Hearse?” followed in May 2013.  That one displayed ten weights.    

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Mephisto In Advertising? The Devil You Say!

As we move into the Halloween period and all manner of spectral figures appear on houses, it is an appropriate time to look at a famous demon featured in German folklore; in the writings of the German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and in a French opera by Charles Gounod.  The demon is Mephistopheles, often called simply Mephisto.  Despite his sinister reputation, Mephisto often has been portrayed in advertising messages.

It is through Goethe and Gounod’s works on Dr. Faustus that this figure came into worldwide prominence.  The key moment is shown above, as Mephisto shows an aging Dr. Faust that he can be young and vigorous once again, and possess the body of the beautiful and virtuous Marguerite, if he will only sell his immortal soul to Satan.  Tempted by the offer, Faust agrees and is restored to youth.  

Advertisers largely have ignored the Faust angle, preferring to concentrate on Mephisto himself, as a tantalizing symbol of attractive evil.  Among his principal fans was Adolphus Busch, the head man at the famous St. Louis brewing company.  About 1900 he issued a series of trade cards advertising Budweiser that depicted spoofed scenes from popular German operas and plays.  Among them was one showing Mephisto, dressed as a cavalier, greeting a group and offering to buy drinks.  One inquires:   “Thou are from St. Louis I suspect?”  To which Mephisto replies:  “Well say, what you relish.  I’ll give every man his choice.  Very well, If I should choose, give me a glass of Tony Faust beer.”

A close friend of Busch was Tony Faust, a man who owned an oyster house and restaurant in St. Louis.   A contemporary account said of this watering hole:  “Few people in the West have not heard of Tony Faust’s resort, and fewer still of those who come to St. Louis that do not visit his establishment.” Busch is said to have had lunch at Faust’s restaurant every day.   Busch’s daughter Anna married Faust’s son in a lavish wedding in 1897.  Adolphus showed his respect and admiration for the restauranteur by naming a brand of beer after him. The Faust beer bottle bore a figure of Mephisto, as did an ornamental stein that Busch issued.
Tony Faust himself made use of the devil image in his advertising, featuring Mephisto to advertise to advertise his restaurant and cafe, as well as his Fulton Market, a source of oysters, fish, and other “imported and domestic delicacies.”  He also depicted the evil one on the cover of his restaurant menu, where filet mignon could be had for sixty cents.  There Mephisto is threatening the unwary and beautiful lady for whom he has enticed Faust to sell his soul.

When the Jim Beam company issued a series of ceramic containers for their whiskey during the early 1960s,  Faust was among the operas included.  Mephisto was a natural choice from that work, shown in the figural left, depicted without horns in the costume of a cavalier.  He carries a sword and would have contained a fifth of whiskey.  As an additional gift to the distillery customers, Jim Beam threw in a “mini-me” version of Mephisto, shown right.  It is a solid ceramic which obviously works better as a paperweight if lying down.
Other advertisers have not hesitated to show Mephisto in his full devilish mode.  Among them was David H. McAlpin, a man who had begun making his own living at ten years old and at the age of 20 opened his own cigar store in New York City.  He grew the business into a chain of stores and featured his own brands of stogies, including “Mephisto.”  McAlpin did not disguise this devil, his boxes and advertising featuring a figure astride the city in full satanic mode.

“Mephisto” Tools advertising tones down the devilish aspects a bit, but still portrays the renowned demon with a wicked smile as he drills down — possibly on someone’s skull.  The brand dates back over 185 years, according to Wallace Metalwork of Kempton, Pennsylvania, that currently produces Mephisto’s caulking, plumbing and other specialty tools.  The Wallace folks reassure us that the tools are 100% made in the U.S.A.  
Foreign advertisers also have made use of Mephisto’s image.  He figures in several play and opera-based trade cards issued by the Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company, named after Baron Justus von Liebig, the German 19th Century organic chemist who developed the product.  The meat extract is a black molasses-like sandwich spread packaged in an opaque glass bottle. The Liebig card above shows another version of Dr. Faust’s temptation.  This time the virtuous woman, named Gretchen a la Goethe, is shown in a glow at her spinning wheel.  Below, now as Gounod’s Marguerite, Liebig’s trade card shows her succumbing to Faust while Mephisto leads away her female companion.
As it must in opera, all this ends badly.  Marguerite is seduced but still remains  pure, dies, and is carried to heaven by angels.  Mephisto comes to Faust to claim his soul and although Faust resists, carries him to Hell “kicking and screaming” (opera style).  

What Faust apparently lacked, if this final ad is to be believed is Bovril, the English beef extract beverage.  Faust is triumphant and says:  “Avaunt, Mephistopheles; I have dispensed with thy services!  I have found “BOVRIL, THE ELIXIR OF LIFE!”   It seems a shame that neither Goethe nor Gounod apparently knew about Bovril, they might have spared Dr. Faust.  I always felt a little sorry for the guy myself.  

Because clown gear for trick-or-treaters is being discouraged this year, some kids ringing your doorbell may be wearing a devil costume.  While dishing out the goodies, you now can enlighten them with tales of Mephisto and his wiles.  Just skip the seduction part.