Saturday, May 21, 2016

More Kids Selling Beer

In June 2011 on this blog I featured an article on “Kids Selling Beer” in the pre-Prohibition era.  In the almost five years hence it has been possible to collect more than enough other examples of American breweries and other beer distributors marketing their brews by using children in their advertising.  While today such practices would severely frowned on — and condemned on social media — at the time apparently only the prohibitionists would have been outraged by kids selling beer.

We begin by an image from the early 1900s that shows a baby apparently happily sucking on a bottle of Duesseldorf Beer.  This was a product of the Indianapolis Brewing Company, originally founded by Peter Lieber and two partners, one of them his brother, about 1868.  An ad slogan used by the company in  the early 1900s claimed “for family use a speciality.”  Whether this included tots as young as the one in the picture is open to conjecture, but images of infants and toddlers were commonly used by the brewery in its marketing.  Indianapolis Brewing survived until approximately 1948.

The Buckeye Brewing Company of Toledo was another beer-maker that regularly made use of the “cute and cuddly” pictures of children in its advertising pre-Prohibition, including the captivating illustrations by Ellen Clapsaddle [See my post on her, March 2012].  Many Buckeye kiddies appeared on advertising greeting cards for Christmas, Easter and other holidays.  The one shown here of a child with a rabbit followed a familiar theme involving animals.  The Buckeye brewery survived 127 years before closing in the early 1970s.
Some child-plus-animal images came with an edge to them.  This ad from the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company of Cincinnati is a take-off of the verse, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”  In this case the lamb has followed Mary to school where though the window the schoolgirl sees her teacher swigging a glass of Moerlein’s beer before class.  This brewery began production in 1853 in Cincinnati, Ohio, founded by German immigrant Christian Moerlein.  When forced by Prohibition to close its doors in 1920, it was among the ten largest in America by volume.  The brand was revived in 1981.

Sometimes the animals could be downright distressing to the children in brewery ads.  Here a young lady seems to be menaced by a gaggle of geese that seem intent on pulling on her garments, an activity that clearly is disturbing her.  This image was the handiwork of the Bartholomay Brewery of Rochester, New York.   Founded in 1852 by Philip Bartholomay, the facility grew to be a large beer manufacturer, with production of some 189,000 barrels by 1888.  Although it operated successfully for almost seven decades, Bartholomay did not survive National Prohibition.

Another youngster with animal troubles was a lad dressed in a chef’s hat who is running with a delicious-looking confection on a plate trying to scramble away from some rapacious birds who also have their appetites whetted.  This illustration appeared on a trade card issued by John W. Hirt who was dealer in beer and liquor in Utica, New York.  The card particularly noted “Toledo Lager Beer. Hirt may have been referring to Buckeye beer among the Toledo producers of lagers.

Another familiar theme for kids selling beer was to juxtapose them with flowers.  One example came to the drinking public from Aurora Brewing of Aurora, Illinois.   Here we have a comely young lass who appears to be smelling an orchid or perhaps a snapdragon.  She graced the front of a greeting card issued by the brewery.  Dates seem to differ on this outfit, but it appears that it was founded in 1890 and closed in 1920, a run of some 30 years.  After Repeal in 1934 a brewery of the same name opened in Aurora but closed in 1939.
Maier & Zobelein Brewery of Los Angeles gave their little starlet Shirley Temple-like curls and seated her within a basket of roses as part of a holiday greeting to their customers.  Let us hope the thorns had been removed.  In 1882 two German immigrants named Joseph Maier and George Zobelein purchased an existing brew house and renamed it for themselves.  They made a light, pilsener-style lager that was becoming increasingly popular with the public during the latter half of the nineteenth century.  

The next image is of a child, dressed in a sailor suit, of an undetermined gender, looking wistfully at a bunch of daisies.  The card also carries a bit of verse:  “Cool as an ice-berg and chemically clear, You never drank better than Lang’s Bottled Beer.”  Gerhard Lang got control of this Buffalo brewery, founded in 1842, by marrying the daughter of the founder Philip Born.  Lang expanded production, building a huge and palatial brewery with a grand hall lined with marble.  His would go down in history as the largest single brewing plant in Buffalo, with an annual production of nine million gallons annually.

In the Tannhauser Beer trade card, the flower, a dandelion, has gone to seed and the tots are blowing the seeds around — hopefully to someone else’s yard.  Again we are in the realm of terminal cuteness.  This beer was a major brand of Bergner & Engle, a large brewery located in Philadelphia.  The firm touted its Grand Prize at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876 and at the Paris Exposition of 1878, and gained a national customer base.  Although Gustavus Bergner had some political clout, he was unable to hold back the tide of the “dry” forces that eventually closed Bergner & Engle.
A few brewers found it useful to show their merchandising children in scenes of distress or delinquency.  Frederick A. Poth, another Philadelphia brewery owner, decorated a trade card with four boys and one girl, apparently siblings, who have eaten hot mustard and now regret it.  Poth had learn beer-making from the bottom up, shoveling mash out of the copper brewing vats and hefting massive bags of barley from delivery wagons.  Seeing an opportunity in the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, Poth opened a beer garden and served his own beer, eventually erecting a facility, according to observers, “…that grew to mammoth proportions and employed hundreds of workers.”
Like Buckeye Brewing in Toledo, the Franz Falk Bavaria Brewery in Milwaukee issued many advertising items with children depicted.  Shown here are just two trade cards of Falk’s production.  Neither image is particularly edifying.  The one at left shows a juvenile who is smoking a cigarette while apparently wooing a young lady.  At right, lad appears to be splashing water on a girl who clearly is not enjoying the experience.  Franz Falk, after learning brewing in his native Germany, emigrated to Milwaukee in 1848.  He eventually owned a major plant, occupying five acres, operating eight ice houses and on-site malting production of 100,000 barrels annually.  He employed a hundred men, kept twelve teams of horses, made his own barrels and owned his own rail cars.
This journey through kids selling beer began with a baby sucking on a bottle.  It ends with a trade card of a group of boys working their way through a case of beer— Yuengling as it turns out — while an irate woman fruitlessly threatens them.  This trade card was issued by A. Liebler Bottling Company of New York City, an enterprise founded in 1887 that was a bottler of beer and other beverages, including Yuengling brewery of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, one that claims to be the oldest operating brewing company in America.  One wonders what Frederick Yuengling, son of the founder, thought of his bottling company seemingly encouraging youth drinking while the Prohibitionists were hot to exploit all such inferences.

Using the images of children to sell beer appears to have been another casualty of National Prohibition.  After Repeal fourteen years later, brewers decided that  such images were no longer appropriate.  Thereafter all the babes in beer ads have been fully grown, with curves.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Whiskey, Race, and “The Fight of the Century”

The advertising photo below is fascinating to me both for what it seems to say — and what it doesn’t.  The 20th Century really had only begun in 1910 when a boxing match between Jack Johnson, a black man and reigning heavyweight champion, and James Jeffries, the former champ and “Great White Hope” was being ballyhooed as “The Fight of the Century.”  The James E. Pepper Distillery that  had touted its lily white early American past and shown African-Americans in servile roles, changed course radically, sponsored the event, and seemed to be taking sides.
This prize fight had taken on highly symbolic meaning for millions of Americans, white and black.  Johnson had an uncanny ability to antagonize white people.  As one author has put it:  “He threatened the paradigm of white superiority with his prowess in the ring and he offended moralists with his lifestyle.”   That lifestyle included arrests for speeding and other infractions, drinking and carousing, and flaunted relationships with white women.  

A postcard of the time expressed the attitude of many.  It showed the white fighting cock (Jeffries) driving a right and a left to the head of the black rooster (Johnson) who appears to be knocked out.

What then motivated the James E. Pepper people to merchandise its whiskey through a man that was widely disliked and reviled, largely for being black?  The founder of the distillery, James Pepper, was a Kentucky Southerner who advertised his products by harking back to a time before the Civil War.  “Born with the Revolution” was the company slogan adorned by images of Lady Liberty and (all-white) Continental soldiers.   
Nor was Pepper above portraying African-Americans in servile occupations.  Like other whiskey purveyors at the time, the Lexington distiller advertising widely with a “Uncle Tom” figure — bald with a fringe of kinky white hair — serving Pepper whiskey and a glass. The ad emphasized “Not Just Age Alone, but Purity.”   A similar black figure, this one grinning, was on a postcard that featured a billboard advertising “Old Jas. E. Pepper Whisky.” (Pepper spelled it without the “e”.)
By the time of the Johnson-Jeffries fight, however, the management had changed at the distillery.  In May 1907 a group of Chicago investors, headed by Joseph Wolf had bought the distillery and brand names from Pepper’s widow.   For seven years before the purchase Wolf had managed the distribution of the Kentucky whiskey from his Chicago offices.  After re-incorporating the enterprise, he began making improvements to the distillery and bottling operations and expanding production.  He also stepped up the marketing effort for Pepper whiskey.  

In a bold move, Wolf and his colleagues apparently decided to buck two traditions in the liquor trade:  1) staying away from association with prize fighting because of its unpopularity with a large segment of the public and its illegality in many states and 2) avoiding marketing directly to blacks.   The Pepper distillery sought and got sponsorship of the “Fight of the Century” and thereby entre into the large population of color that idolized Jack Johnson.  

The venue for the match continued to be vexing for the promoters.  An agreement had been reached that the fight would take place in California, Utah or Nevada.  When officials in both San Francisco and Salt Lake City vowed to ban the contest, it gravitated to Reno, Nevada.  Reno, however, posed a particular problem for Jeffries.  Five years earlier, not long after retiring from the ring, Jeffries had frequented the roulette table at Reno’s Louvre saloon and gambling hall, shown above, and dropped $5,000 in a night.  Instead of paying up, the former World Heavyweight Champ gave his IOU, a note he failed to pay off during the ensuing years.   Now that he was headed back to Nevada, the Louvre management went to court and a sympathetic judge set a trial date.  Jeffries, or the fight promoter, Tex Richard, promptly paid the debt.

The fight date was set for the Fourth of July, 1910.  From the outset, as one observer has it:   “The upcoming fight would be relentless hyped as a titanic clash of races, leaving little room for objectivity…Most Americans believed that Johnson was mentally and physically inferior and conversely believed in Jeffries’ invincibility.”  In truth, Jeffries was several years away from his prime as a boxer, overweight and rusty from being on a vaudeville circuit rather than in the ring.  By contrast,  Johnson for all his boozing and racy lifestyle was at the peak of his form.  In reality it was a mismatch, but anointing Jeffries as “the Great White Hope,” gave the combat epic proportions, race against race, gaining national and even international attention.

The decision by Wolf and the Pepper Distillery to back the event seems a genius stroke.  As thousands of people from all over the U.S. and, indeed, the world, crowded into the streets of Reno, the banners that greeted them read “James E. Pepper Whisky “Born with the Republic.”   A photograph of the scene the day before the fight illustrates a banner that could be read for blocks.
On fight day, 17,000 people crowded into the stands erected in the natural basin caused by the Truckee River outside Reno.   “At 2:44 the “Battle of the Century” got underway.  By 2:48 it had become the “Beating of the Century.”   Scheduled to go 45 rounds, Johnson was in no hurry to finish off Jeffries.  The photo below shows them still boxing in the 14th Round.  Note the Pepper whiskey sign in the background.   In the very next round a vicious combination by Johnson had Jeffries helpless on the ropes.  Jeffries’ corner “threw in the towel,” acknowledging the defeat.
Although one newspaper opined that it was likely a boon that Johnson won, thus sparing the nation from black rioting, the “Fight of the Century” riots that did occur were white violence triggered by Johnson’s victory.  “Rather than rioting, most blacks tried to keep a low profile and avoided the white mobs until the storm blew over.”

Johnson’s fans would have taken pride in the photo of the heavyweight champ that opens this post, reputedly drinking James E. Pepper whiskey the day before the fight, while surrounded by a crowd of both blacks and whites.   I cannot help but wonder if a similar photograph was taken of Jim Jeffries with Pepper whiskey — just in case. 

Note:   Much of the information for this post was gleaned from a book entitled “The Last Great Prizefight:  Johnson vs. Jeffries,” by Steven Frederick.  Frederick has been a licensed Nevada bookmaker, not a historian or writer, but he has mastered the art of the narrative and it is truly a well-written, interesting and informative book, well worth the read.  All of the direct quotes above are from Frederick’s work.