Saturday, August 31, 2019

Native Americans Advertising Beer

The official U.S. Government view was expressed in an 1833 report by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to Congress:   “The proneness of the Indian to the excessive use of ardent spirits with the too great facility of indulging that fatal propensity through the cupidity of our own citizens, not only impedes the progress of civilization, but tends inevitably to the degradation, misery, and extinction of the aboriginal race.”   Despite that stern warning, brewers have used the names and images of Native Americans through the years to advertise and sell their alcoholic beer.

Displayed here are labels and ads all in that genre.  The first is a trade card from the late 1880s and celebrates the Cherokee Brewery of St. Louis, boasted as gold medal winners and “Bottlers and Brewers of All Kinds of First Class Malt Liquors.”  Now long gone but once located on the 2700 block of Cherokee Street, the brewery was accounted a massive complex built in the 1870s.  Shut down by Prohibition, part of the facility later became a movie theater and later a parking lot.

One of the more attractive images shows an Indian chief perched on a rock with a bow and arrow, gazing down at a lonely farm house.  Yet nothing seems sinister, just romantic. It was the label of Reisch’s Sangamo Beer.  But were the Sangamos a tribe in the vicinity of Springfield, Illinois?  During the 1960s a site was identified nearby in official Illinois Archeological Survey files as “the extinct village of Sangamo Indians.”   Later research has labeled that finding a mistake.

The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company has made a great deal of a Native American heritage. It is made in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, the seventh oldest active brewery in America.  The brewery is located adjacent the Chippewa River, located in Chippewa County, and according to the label the beer is made with Chippewa Water.  For years their figurehead was — and still is —a Native American maid.  The Chippewa, by the way, were a dominant tribe in the Upper Midwest.

This advertising tray provides a vivid colorful side view of an Iroquois chief, appropriate branding for the Iroquois Beverage Company of Buffalo, New York.  Its claim to be founded in 1842 is valid.  It was the successor to the Jacob Roos Brewery, the name changed to Iroquois by a subsequent owner in 1892. It would become one of the oldest and longest-lasting breweries in Buffalo, surviving Prohibition by brewing soft drinks and near beer. With the reintroduction of real beer, Iroquois grew and prospered after Prohibition ended in April 1933. It became the largest brewer in Buffalo; eventually reaching a capacity of 600,000 barrels per year.

It is a wonder anyone would label a beer “Rosebud” and depict an Indian chief.  The Battle of the Rosebud in 1876 was a long and bloody engagement in which the Lakota and Cheyenne fought with persistence and demonstrated a willingness to accept casualties rather than break off the encounter. The U.S. general barely escaped a devastating defeat.  This beer was the product of the Harold C. Johnson Brewing Co. of Lomira, Wisconsin.  Only briefly in operation, the company opened in 1945 and closed nine years later.

Another beer-maker that found it expedient to issue an advertising tray featuring a Native American, in this case a comely squaw, was the Wieland Brewery of San Francisco.  A gold miner, baker and later “beer baron,” bought an existing facility, named it for himself, and built it into one of the largest and most successful breweries on the West Coast.   Wieland himself died in a fire in 1885 and the brewery was sold to new owners who kept his name.  Prohibition ended its operations.

In a little known sideline, Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) took a turn a putting a Native American into the beer trade.  In 1919, on the very day his father became president of a  Springfield, Massachusett brewery, National Prohibition was voted and eventually forced the brewery to close. Geisel never forgot the financial loss and trauma this event caused his family.  Among his commercial drawings, Geisel did ads for beer and liquor companies.

in 1942 the Narragansett Brewing Company, located in Cranston, Rhode Island, asked Geisel to undertake an ad campaign for its beer. The president, Rudolph F. Haffenreffer, was an avid collector of Native American artifacts including cigar store Indians. Haffenreffer asked Geisel to weave an Indian theme into his advertising.

Thus was born “Chief Gansett,” a blocky figure wearing beads, carrying a hatchet and boasting a multicolored headdress. Most often this wooden Indian carried a large goblet of beer. The image proved very popular and the Chief appeared on a range of marketing items including trays, bar coasters, and posters as well as appearing in newspaper and magazine ads. In an ad for bock beer, Chief Gansett was depicted riding on an animal that bore a strong resemblance to a mountain goat. 

Stout Native Americans have also been summoned from time to time to help Anheuser-Busch sell Budweiser.  As a colonist sits with his rifle, three Indians are vigorously poling a raft on which stand a chieftain with a barrel of beer at his feet.
Labeling the beer “The Chief of All,”  the ad stretches to link the picture with selling the suds.  Somehow because the chief represents “deeds of valor in war and wisdom in peace,” and Bud “quality and purity,” they both belong on the same page.  The ad boys clearly had been imbibing when they thought up this pitch.

The same crew must have been at work on the next one.  It has Pueblo Indians celebrating Thanksgiving.  Once again Budweiser stretches for a Native American theme:  With joyous chants and throbbing tom-toms, the Indians celebrated each bountiful harvest of maize.  How the red man would marvel to see the part his native grain plays in the nutrition and industrial prosperity of modern America!”   How demeaning of Native Americans!   It is as if there were no “red men” left in the U.S., all of them apparently eliminated (by alcohol?) in creating “modern America.”

As has been seen here, the use of Native American images to sell beer could sometimes result in attractive images and artifacts, sometime in humorous, and sometimes in the ludicrous.  But no such uses answer the concern raised at the beginning of this post about the effects of alcohol among indigenous Americans.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Weird Vintage Paperweights

Over time I have collected the images of a number of paperweights that are out of the ordinary in the illustrations they bear, the messages they impart, or their utility as advertising devices.   Having amassed eleven of them, it is now time to present them to the public. 

Some of really goofy weights provide humanoid heads from unlikely materials.  The first, shown here, was the first MacDonald’s advertising mascot called “Speedy.”  Speedy was a little chef figure that had a hamburger for a face.  The idea, I suppose, was to emphasize the fast service provided by the California based chain and that hamburgers were its stock in trade.   The company dumped Speedy in 1962 in favor a clown figure named “Ronald McDonald.”  Good move.

Even more bizarre is a paperweight that provided by the Firestone Rubber Company.  It depicts the figure of a man wearing a jacket, shoes and a ten gallon hat whose face grins out at us enclosed in a head that is a tire.  If this was Firestone’s attempt at a creating a mascot like Reddy Kilowatt,  the concept falls flat (pun intended).  Searching the Internet for more information on this creature I find nothing.  Tirehead may be one of a kind. 

Everyone has seen the man in the moon.   Not able to look directly into the sun, we apparently have missed the “man in the sun,”  a smiling human-like face flaring from a yellow disc.   This was the advertising symbol of Patton’s Sun-Proof  Paints, the product of a paint and varnish manufacturer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company claimed that adding silica to the lead and zinc in its outdoor paints warded off weather effects that cause other paints to flake off.  Patton paints were “Sold at the Sign of the Sun.”

Dr. Harper Woofter — his real name —was a St. Louis based podiatrist with a penchant for the truly weird.  His paperweight shows a stubby little bald chap who is, as the British say, “gobsmacked,” (astonished) that each of his feet has developed a smiling face and are looking at each other in amusement.  The motto below is an enigmatic “Feet First.”  The image of faces on feet strikes me as truly odd in addition to making it difficult to walk.

Paperweights that show full figures of people also can be unusual. Here is an advertisement for H.C. Bode &Co., producer of the “Famous Bode Frame Truss.” The company was located on Third Avenue, between 59th and 60th Streets in New York City.  Their weight provides an image of a young woman strapped into a variety of trusses, corsets, stockings, and braces — to the extent that one wonders:  1) what disaster might have befallen her and 2) how can she walk at all with so much armor on.  

A real drama is going on in this weight, featuring a cast of anthropomorphized elbow joints.  An aged joint with two canes has met a group of his fellow tin types and cries out:  “Please help me, I’m fixed.”  The immediate response from the leader is a calloused:  “Sorry for you, old boy, I am adjustable.”  He is followed by five other elbows in various postures and a banner sayng “So say we all of us.”
The adjustable elbows were the product of the Sargent, Greenleaf & Brooks Company, based in Chicago.

It was a surprise to learn that in the 1870s the Marburg Brothers & Company of Baltimore was one of the “Big Six” of the American cigarette industry.  The firm is said to have aimed at post-Civil War elites of America with high-end brands.  Among them was “Lone Fisherman Cigarettes.”  Company advertising featured a huge fisherman getting a light from a much smaller man.  Or is it a normal sized fisherman lighting a cigarette for Tom Thumb?  In either case, strange.

No more perplexing, however, than the weight from the California Poultry Co. of San Francisco.  It features a young woman sans clothing seemingly sitting in deep in thought, presumably inside a cube of ice.  The overhead title reads:  “Fancy Frozen Chickens.”  Is the idea that we are to considered the lass as equivalent to a young chicken?  In today’s radical feminist environment such an image would immediately spark outrage as “politically incorrect.”

Chickens help us pivot from humans to animals on paperweights.  The Avery Manufacturing Co., of Peoria, Illinois, wanted to impress on the public that “teeth talk.”   For their advertising symbol what could be better than a bulldog with an overbite? This one is severely deformed.  Rather than simply one canine tooth showing on each side of the mouth as per the real bulldog, this one has been given a total of six.  All the better, I suppose, to emphasize the tearing power of its Avery’s threshers and other farm implements.

When Mark Twain penned the lines:  “Work like you don’t need the money, dance like no one is watching, and love like you’ve never been hurt,” he likely never imagined they would appear on a paperweight with an illustration of four high-stepping pigs.  Since no other attribution appears on the item, we can assume that it was not an advertising give-away as other paperweights on this page but likely sold in a gift shop.

The gaiety above contrasts sharply with the somewhat gruesome scene of a man who apparently has just cut off the tail of a cat with a giant shears and is laughing about the deed.  It was issued by John A. Griffith & Co.,Inc., of Chicago.  Its business was “tailor’s trimmings,” i.e., anything that can be used to ornament clothing.  Griffith, a pioneer in the field, mass produced decorations using machine weaving techniques that put trimmings into the reach of small professional dressmakers and home sewers.   This explanation, however, fails to decipher the image on the weight.  Perhaps Griffith just didn’t like cats. 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Repeal of National Prohibition — The Artifacts

Since the beginning of the Republic only 27 amendments have been adopted to the Constitution of the United States, ten of them almost immediately.   Only one amendment, the 18th, has ever been repealed.  That one imposed a ban on making or selling alcoholic beverages anywhere in the country.  For the next 14 years a drumbeat arose for “Repeal,” fueled by bootlegging, spikes in crime, and the economic woes of the Great Depression.  The progression toward ending the ban on liquor can be tracked through a series of artifacts.

The first is a license plate, meant for the front of cars in states requiring only a rear plate as many did.  It makes no pretense at subtlety, shouting in black on yellow:  “Repeal the 18th Amendment.”  Less blatant were an entire range of postcards that made a mockery of the attempt Americans from drinking.  Hip flasks were a familiar fashion statement of the 1920s, though seldom did the wearer show his off, fearful a viewer might want a snort.

The Presidential candidacy of Al Smith, a popular governor of New York and a confirmed “wet” sparked hope in many hearts that his election would mark a turning point in the battle against the prohibitionists.  The political button shown here is one of my favorite artifacts — humorous but to the point.  Even though the Democratic Party embraced Repeal, Smith’s New York accent and Catholic faith turned off voters and Herbert Hoover won handily.  Hoover embraced the 18th Amendment calling it “The Great Experiment.”

Carry Nation, the axe-swinging prohibitionist from Kansas who regularly took chunks of wood out of saloon bars was made a symbol of ridicule as an out of control fanatic.  An eating establishment might display a hatchet like the one here to remind customers of the destructive conduct that had accompanied the so-called “temperance” forces.

Before Prohibition a German ceramics-maker called Schafer & Vater had a line of figural bottles that several U.S. distillers made use of as “nips,” holding several swallows of whiskey and often given away.   When that business ended, the German partners, showing a sense of humor, issued a series of bottles featuring Uncle Sam pouring himself a drink while sitting on a barrel incised “What We Want.”

By 1932 it was becoming clear that the days of National Prohibition were numbered.  A beer glass etched with the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, both resting on a beer barrel, asked the question:  “Eventually, Why Not…1932”  The glass may have anticipated the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been Governor of New York.  Roosevelt’s theme was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” captured in a Repeal-oriented fish bowl.  Perhaps that is why a large goblet of beer became known as a “fish bowl.”

With Roosevelt’s landslide win over Hoover in 1932, hopes for a quick end to Prohibition triggered a number of artifacts.  Here is a clock that is configured to look like the helm of ship.  It is being manned by a standing figure of the President who is characterized as “FDR - The Man of the Hour.”  If one looks closely at the color picture on the clock dial, it depicts a bartender with a martini shaker and customers drinking cocktails.   Clear inference:  The clock is ticking toward the end of “dry.”  The placard shown below urged Americans to “Help the President with Law Enforcement” and repeal the 18th Amendment. 

When Repeal finally was achieved in 1934, the occasion was saluted with a ceramic beer serving set that included a pitcher bearing a caricature of a jaunty President Roosevelt.  Three beer mugs completed the set from Stangl Pottery Company of Flemington, N.J.  The mugs featured  Roosevelt, Al Smith (center) and Democratic Party chairman, Jim Farley.  

Finally, 1935 brought new kind of postcard to the fore, cards celebrating Repeal with comic images.  Among them were illustrations that depicted individuals celebrating by jumping into barrels of whiskey.  Several of these were featured on this blog in my post of April 26, 2013.  Here is an example that shows a gent inside a barrel of “very old” whiskey, drinking greedily of its contents.  Once again Roosevelt’s theme song sets the theme.

From the imposition of the 18th Amendment to its disposition by the 21st had taken 14 years, a relatively short time in the context of history.  During that interregnum a great many changes occurred in America, events that have spawned hundreds of books.  I have yet to find one dedicated to Repeal, however, that so entertainingly describes the journey as the story told by these and similar artifacts.