Saturday, April 22, 2017

More When Drinking and Driving Was Cool

In November 2015 this blog featured a series of pre-Prohibition ads in which the automobile and beer drinking were juxtaposed in a fashion that would be generally unacceptable today.  In the ensuing months I have found a number of other examples of drinking and driving that deserve some scrutiny.   Although almost all of the examples here are from beer ads, I begin with one right from a whiskey dealer.

He was C. H. Ritter, a liquor wholesaler from Detroit, noted for issuing this humorous saloon sign for his flagship brand, Westminster Rye.  Done by fine lithograph, the image was of a young man offering a drink to  a local farmer.  A closer look showed  a pig lying dead in the road, apparently struck by a roadster from which three passengers are watching. The title is “Settled Out of Court” and implies that a drink of Westminster Rye is so appealing that the farmer will let he motorist off the hook for the death of his hog.  Representing the dawning of the automotive age, Ritter’s sign likely was a favorite of the drinking crowd.
While Ritter’s farmer seems ready to trade a sip of whiskey for his hog, the farmer in the Falstaff beer ad above appears to be less convinced that a glass of foaming brew will pay for the wreck of his wagon and the spillage of his apples on the road.  Entitled “The Peacemaker,” this was a lithographed saloon sign issued by the Lemp Brewery of St. Louis.  Note that the owner of the errant automobile has come well stocked.  From the hamper at his feet are peeking several bottles of Falstaff.

Ruhstaller was a West Coast brewery, founded in 1898 and located in the heart of Sacramento California.  It provided a lithographed image on a serving tray that would have been given to saloons and restaurants carrying its Gilt Edge beer.  A young dude, apparently the driver, is pouring a beer for two female riders.  A full bottle and a glass remain, indicating that the driver himself will imbibe before driving on.  

The Edelweiss beer ad is entitled “A Case of Good Judgment.”  Is this a double entendre message?  Can it mean both a wise buy of beer as well as where the case is stowed, safely away from the driver and passengers?  Edelweiss was a brand of beer made by the Schoenhofen Brewing Company of Chicago.  The founder, Peter Schoenhofen was a Prussian immigrant who was working in the brewing trade as early as 1850.

This saloon sign shows two couples being served at curbside.  A waiter in a tuxedo has come from the confines of his restaurant to serve the motorists.  The Oshkosh Brewing Company was formed in 1894 with the merger of three Oshkosh, Wisconsin, breweries facing a tsunami of beer from Milwaukee.  Both Schlitz and Pabst had created distribution centers in a town known for its voracious beer drinkers.  With their survival in doubt, the three combined to create a viable brewery. 

Although no open alcohol is on display in this saloon sign, Schell’s Carbonated Mead was no mere soft drink, but a fermented beverage involving honey.  The New Ulm, Minnesota, company is still around, second only to Yuengling as the Nation’s oldest family-owned brewery.  Founded in 1860, Schell claims that through the years it has produced at least 100 varieties of “German craft beer.”

The Seattle Brewing & Malt Company, from the city of the same name, was famous for its Rainier Beer for which this picture was an ad.  The automobile shown here clearly is one of the earliest models, steered with a lever rather than a wheel.  Interestingly, unlike all the other vehicles shown here, it is being driven by a woman while her male companion looks on from the passenger seat.

Of Seib Beer I can find little information.  Its founder appears to have been William Seib, who is credited with bringing scientific knowledge to bear on the brewing process.  His brewery may have been in the Chicago vicinity.  Here on a lithographed pin an early automobile with passengers is stopped on the road, apparently stymied by a huge bottle of beer smack in the middle.  

The final example is an advertising sign from the early post-Prohibition era.  It shows an automobile that has frightened a horse but not a dog, the latter barking at the white-garbed driver who is attempting to crank the vehicle to life.  Pabst issued a series of these signs, all of them aimed at eliciting nostalgic responses about the “good old days” from potential customers.
 This image ends this second parade of drinking and driving examples from the people who ran some of America’s notable breweries and one liquor house.   While the close proximity of alcohol and gasoline in advertising today would be unthinkable, in earlier times drinking and driving was definitely cool.

Labels:  C. H. Ritter & Co., Falstaff Beer, Ruhstaller’s Gilt Edge Beer, Oshkosh Brewing Co., Schell’s Carbonated Mead, drinking and driving, Eidelweiss Beer, Rainier Beer, Seib Beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, 

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