Saturday, January 30, 2016

Artifacts of a Neglected President: Rutherford B. Hayes

Ohio is known as the “Mother of Presidents” counting eight of her sons as having been elected Chief Executive of the United States.  Some like Ulysses S. Grant and William McKinley have received considerable attention through ensuing years.  Others are more obscure figures.  Among the latter, I have a special interest in Rutherford B. Hayes and here provide some Hayes memorabilia.  

My interest stems from the fact that the Hayes home, shown above, memorial, museum and library are located on a estate known as “Spiegel Grove,” in Fremont, Ohio.  The site fronts on a street named Hayes Avenue and a block away on that same street was the home of Mary Quilter Sullivan, my grandmother.   Although her family was fiercely Democrat, as a child she played with the Hayes children on the estate grounds.

Although Rutherford is remembered by some as the U.S. President who bargained for the job by promising the South to end post-Civil War Reconstruction, thus ushering in the era of “Jim Crow, in his own day the war hero and former Ohio governor was a popular figure.  As a result during his lifetime time, a number of artifacts, like this souvenir plate were issued.

At the time he ran for the Presidency, Hayes was represented on numerous campaign items.  Particularly popular at the time were tintype — sometimes called ferrotype — photographic buttons and pins.  Some featured both Hayes and his vice presidential running mate, New York Congressman William Wheeler, an obscure politician selected by the Republican convention.  Hayes reportedly asked, "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?”
Hayes obviously found out by the time his picture with Wheeler was plastered all over America, including one printed by the famed lithographers Currier and Ives and another on an oilcloth with Uncle Sam. above.  Rutherford retired in 1880 after only one term and returned to Fremont and Spiegel Grove.  Eventually there would be Rutherford B. Hayes tiles, pendants and other artifacts.
A glass paperweight commemorates the 1892 Grand Army of the Republic encampment in Washington, D.C.   Issued by a shoe company, the item featured a medal with the face of Rutherford who led the parade of Union veterans down Pennsylvania Avenue “to great crowd applause. 
Another paperweight  has a tinted photograph of the R. B. Hayes Steamship .  Crowded with people in the picture, this craft plied Lake Erie, taking tourists to and from Cedar Point in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Hayes presidential museum and library are notable as the very first in the Nation, established and maintained only with private funds.  As interest in Hayes has waned, the library has widened its scope to include the history of Ohio, resource books on virtually every Ohio county, and genealogy on Ohioans.  Anyone doing research on Ohio bottles or family genealogy might check in with Hayes curators.  They are very helpful. Moreover, the their charge for copies of documents is reasonable.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Risqué Whiskey IV: Northern and Southern Exposure

 Noting that my prior posts on risqué whiskey advertising have been among those receiving the most attention from the public  [January 2011, July 2012, July 2013], I am emboldened to present a fourth post that presents the kind of “naughty” images that a pre-Prohibition audience of men might have seen as a way of enticing them to purchase a specific brand of whiskey.  As the title here might suggest, such ads were produced all over America.

This first image is from Richmond, Virginia, the capitol of the Confederacy.  The very young lady shown lifting her skirt advertises “Deep Run Hunt Club Pure Rye” on a deck of playing cards.  This was a brand from E. A. Saunders & Son Company, who provided the Southland with wholesale liquor, tobacco, and grocery items via the elaborate railroad network that linked Richmond to southern states.  Rectifiers of at least four brands of whiskey, the Saunders family sold their liquor interests to Richmond’s Phil G. Kelly in 1905 after 20 years in business and opened a local grocery store.

The second skirt-lifting girl is one of several trade card images from an outfit that featured “Old Maryland Dutch Whiskies.”  My efforts to track down the company behind the brand have proved fruitless.  Particularly intriguing about this advertising were the slogans for Old Maryland Dutch:  “The Purest Stimulant in Existence” and “When not taken immoderately, there will be an entire absence of Nervous Prostration.”   This brand also was “Emphatically ‘The Whiskies of Our Daddies.”  One imagines daddies might well be prone to “nervous prostration” if their daughters ran around like the one shown here.
Dreyfus & Weil, Paducah, Kentucky, distillers provided a somewhat more suggestive trade card of young women, in this case dancers, raising up their skirts while three bonafide “dirty old men” take a long look.  Sam H. Dreyfuss and his partner regularly were excoriated in the press for the sexual images they presented in their merchandising.  Their “Devil’s Island Endurance Gin,” sold with suggestive advertising was accused by critics of having been instrumental in rapes and even one murder.  

From lifted skirts to bared bosoms, we head West to San Francisco where Roth & Company had trademarked “Capitol O.K. Whiskey” in 1906.  Its saloon sign depicted an underwater topless beauty.  Joseph Roth founded this firm in 1859, initially located in the old U.S. Courthouse near Oregon Street.   After working with several partners over the years, Roth died in 1891 and the firm in 1906 was bought by Edwin and Mrs. Simon Scheeling.  The earthquake and fire that year destroyed the premises but the Scheelings rebuilt and the business survived until the arrival of National Prohibition. 

Another popular advertising gimmick was calendars.  They might be hung up in a drinking establishment or more cautiously in a customer’s “man cave.”  This beauty graced a calendar issued by the Brolinski Saloon of Niagara Falls, New York, likely given out to the boys along the bar.  Brolinski likely bought this image from a catalogue and personalized it by having his name and address attached.  The lady involved was clearly a Middle Eastern harem dweller, a popular exotic image of the pre-Pro era.
Also popular were representations of Greek goddesses in various states of undress.  They are found on a number of whiskey advertising items, including signs, trade cards, celluloid pocket mirrors and, as in this case, paperweights.  The weight above shows Diana, the goddess of the hunt, in a forest setting with her bow in hand and half-clothed in something filmy.  She has just fired an arrow, likely into a deer offstage.  The item was issued by the Fleischmann Company, famous for yeast, but also a major producer of whiskey under a number of brand names. 

Another lass clothed only in gauze is somewhat inexplicably holding onto a horse.  She may, however, be what one Milwaukee liquor dealer thought Lady Godiva might look like.  He was A. M. Bloch who founded his enterprise in 1877. Over the thirty years of its existence Bloch’s firm was located at several addresses on the city’s Water Street, where many of its liquor emporiums were located.  Although not mentioned on this ad, Bloch’s flagship brand was “Joker Club.”   As a former resident of Milwaukee, I know this is about as racy as things there.  A stripper who once came to town advertising her “Elimination Dance” was asked by the press what she would be eliminating.  She replied:  “Not a helluva lot in Milwaukee, bay-bee.”
Even staid Boston could spawn a risqué image, this one from Felton & Son, founded by F. L. Felton and located in South Boston.  The company house brands were “Felton Rye,” “Old Felton Rye,” and “Felton’s New England Rum,” the latter the excuse for this tantalizing saloon reverse glass sign.  The Feltons were distillers and known most particularly for their rum, advertised as“…Unsurpassed by any in the market, is warranted copper distilled, perfectly pure….   Would the Feltons, I wonder, have vouched for the “perfect purity” of the nude on their sign?

As we creep into full frontal nudity, we can thank David Sachs of Louisville for this image of a brunette-tressed beauty with lightning coming from her head and trailing a wispy wrap.  Sachs’ advertising consistently portrayed his firm as a Kentucky distiller when in truth he was a “rectifier,”  blending and mixing raw whiskeys obtained from real distillers.  Such outfits often contracted for the entire production of a Kentucky distillery for a year or more and then appropriated the distillery name.  Sachs & Sons over the years claimed to be the proprietors of the Oakland Distillery in Henderson County and later the Saxon Distillery of Marion County, both in Kentucky.

At this point, all modesty has flown away. Whatever covering this nude may have had is now held above her head, advertising “Big Spring” whiskey.  This sweetie was brought to the public by the infamous “Whiskey Trust,” an attempt to create a monopoly in the whiskey trade in order to drive up prices.  Located in Louisville, the organization officially was known as the Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Company.  More successful than other similar attempts at combining distilleries the Kentucky outfit operated from 1902 to 1919, buying or spawning more than a dozen brands, but never achieved its price goals. 

The invention of celluloid made possible a variety of liquor-related advertising items that retain their appeal even a century or more later.  The shapely female shown on this match safe is a excellent example of celluloid art, even though it is difficult to understand why light is shining from the palms of her hands.  This interesting image was brought to the drinking public by Herman Frech, a pre-Prohibition Minneapolis liquor dealer, located at 14-16 North Sixth Street.   His logo, unseen here, appears on the opposite side. It presents his name, a whiskey bottle, two glasses and a box of cigars.

If one nude sells whiskey, hey — why not try three?  That may have motivated B.S. Flersheim to issue a trio of nudes on a saloon sign advertising his mercantile company in Kansas City, Missouri.  The sign displays the unclad ladies visiting the study of a gent sitting in an easy chair and quaffing a brand of whisky aptly named, “Its Tempting.”  That label was trademarked in 1904.  Another B.S. Flersheim & Company brand was “Old Bondage.”  Its use on this sign would have been really kinky.  Founded in 1879, Flersheim’ liquor business survived until 1918, a 37 year run.
There they are risqué whiskey fans.  A dozen females in various stages of dress and undress.  They were issued all over the country, from reputedly stogy places like Boston and Milwaukee to more exciting locales like San Francisco and Niagara Falls.  These images all had the same purpose:  to sell whiskey.  Moreover, they all faced the same fate:  Banishment to the ranks of collectibles once women begin to frequent drinking establishments.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Advertising Art of Thomas Hart Benton

In 1956 the Lockeed Aircraft Corporation featured Thomas Hart Benton, whom they identified as “now one of our most celebrated painters,” in an ad for their Super Constellation airplane.  Shown right, Benton at 67 was well into his career but, according to Lockeed, “still learning” and would fly their luxury liner to Rome the following year to study the European masters.  Benton’s appearance in an ad is a reminder that he himself did advertising work — as did Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Dr. Suess — other artists featured on this blog.

Benton has been hailed as America’s foremost regionalist artist whose figures of Americans at work, usually in mid-America, had an easily recognizable appearance, sinuous and sculpted.  As a result of these qualities, the America Tobacco Company tapped him in the early 1940s to be part of its series for its Lucky Strike cigarettes that employed well-known artists to depict the country’s tobacco growing and processing.  Benton obliged by painting at least four pictures in which tobacco was featured.

The first Benton artwork shown here is bereft of people, showing the discarded clothing and straw hat of a farmer who has harvested the giant tobacco leaves in the foreground.  Appropriately, the artist called this painting “Tobacco.”  Two elements are interesting. First, an incongruous vase of flowers dominates the center of the image.  Benton painted this during the midst of World War II and the flowers may be a sign of hope.  Less positive is the small figure of a farmer at the left, walking behind a mule-drawn cart, with a barn in the background — a reminder of the lack of mechanization in rural America.

Perhaps Benton was told by his corporate sponsors to make his next paintings more positive.  Dating from 1942 the picture he called “Outside the Curing Barn” shows a hatted farmer affixing leaves of tobacco to wooden poles for hanging in the curing barn behind.  The farmer’s dignified face and form were typical of Benton who romanticized American rural life while spending much of his time in Europe.  In the background the farm hands are loading the mule cart — now two mules — with tobacco and the drying shed has a prominent place in the illustration.

The next painting for Lucky Strike is quintessential Benton.  The farmer is portrayed as an heroic figure with a strong body and a face winkled by toil, but yet gentle toward a little girl, presumably his daughter, a darling blonde child who appears to be asking him about tobacco.  Note that the leaves are so thin that the girl’s hand can be seen through the surface.   A mule and the drying sheds compete the scene.   

Benton’s art for the American Tobacco Company stretched over three or four years.  Below may have been his last work in the series, published in 1944.  Here the emphasis firmly on the farmer, in this case one who is sorting tobacco.  From the slight smile he bears we can intuit that he enjoys and takes pride in this work.
World War II also saw American artists donating their talents to the war effort by painting images designed to sell war bonds, an important method of financing U.S. military forces while combating inflation at home.  In 1943 Benton contributed this image of a young soldier about to embark on a transport ship that would be taking him into combat.  With his blue bedroll slung over his shoulder he is looking directly at us — a typical American boy on his way to fight for his country. “He’s Going for You!”  The least the viewers could do to help was to buy a bond.
During the conflict, while cigarettes were strongly advertised, the liquor industry because of the need for alcohol in the war effort, kept a low profile.  In the immediate postwar period, whiskey ads proliferated.  The Hiram Walker distillery, that had originated in Canada but migrated to the States, sponsored a series of paintings by American artists and illustrators that ran in national magazines.  The distiller apparently dictated that each picture feature barrels.  Entitling his, “Whiskey Going in to Warehouse to Age,”  Benton’s contribution is the most dynamic of the series, with one of his typical larger-than-life figures helping roll the barrels.

“The Great golden wheat lands…rippling in the breeze…ripe for the harvest,  Bountiful, beautiful — a vital part of the American Scene….Like these fertile, friendly fields, Maxwell House Coffee, too, is part of the American scene.”  Yes, a stretch to equate a wheat field to the breakfast table, but that is what ad men are paid to do.  In this case Benton did not paint the scene specifically for the coffee company so that he was not obliged to include elements dictated by the sponsor.
As a result, it is the most successful of his advertising images. 
Over the years Benton also did illustrations for the movie industry.  The 1940 movie, the “Grape of Wrath,” is considered one of the great American cinematic masterpieces.  Taken from the John Steinbeck novel, it is set in the Great Depression and is the story of the Joad family, forced to leave Oklahoma by drought and poverty to seek employment in California.  For the movie poster, Benton captured the scene as the family loaded their ancient truck for the trip West.  More poignantly than the book cover at left by a different artist, he captured the heartbreak in the departure.

Fifteen years later Benton would contribute a image to the poster of the movie, “The Kentuckian,” that both was directed by and featured Burt Lancaster.  A story that was set in the 1820s, it concerned the travels from Kentucky of a man, his son and their dog, anxious to start a new life in Texas.  Note that the gun and bedroll carried by the Kentuckian are reminiscent of those of the WW II soldier.

The last Benton artwork shown here was done for a Coca Cola advertisement in 1964.  This was the heyday of “The Twist,” a dance I never could get the hang of.
But the young people in the illustration clearly have all the moves, as they dance to the rhythms of a bongo drum.  Although the table at the bottoms both cans and bottles on it, none of them look like Coke.  In fact they look more like beer cans and wine bottles.  By this time Benton was so well established as an iconic American painter, he could paint what he chose.
Known as well for the murals he painted, Benton continued to work well into his eighties.  He died in 1975 while laboring in his studio as he completed his final mural, “The Sources of Country Music” for the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.  Today Thomas Hart Benton’s works can be found in museums all over the country  — yet another noted American artist who found an outlet for his talent in the world of advertising.