Saturday, June 27, 2020

Sniffing the Sauce with Nipper Clones II

Forward:  On February 18, 2012, I devoted a post to the many satires that the image shown above have spawned.  Known as “His Master’s Voice” the picture of a dog called Nipper listening to a gramophone became a decades long symbol of RCA Corp. and generated dozens of “send ups.”  In doing that piece I became aware that among them were representations of dogs sniffing at a liquor container and recognizing “his master’s breath.”  As a result I did a follow-up post on that subject May 9, 2014, called “Sniffing the Sauce with Nipper’s Clones.”  During the ensuing years and months I have collected an additional number of examples and believe the time has come to reveal them.

The first object is a ceramic ashtray that features a spotted dog, likely a terrier, similar to Nipper sniffing at a jug, helpfully labeled “whiskey.”  The bowl of the ashtray carries the punch line.  Why the tray is in the form of a horseshoe is not explained.  The second object below, this one in metal, apparently had utility as a penholder.  It is unclear, however whether the jug served as a reservoir for ink.  I like the enthusiasm being shown by the dog, one of uncertain breed.

The photo of a dog looking at a decanter labelled “whiskey,” capped by a syphon is a riffle on the theme.  Here “vice” has been substituted for “breath,” sending a strong anti-alcohol message.  Although the next example, a post card, returns to the usual nomenclature, the artist has given us only the siphon to be sniffed by Fido.  Perhaps the master had just been filling his gas tank and the dog is smelling the fumes.

The following two flasks are from the Schafer & Vader ceramics factory in Thurlinga, Germany, founded in 1890.  Among the wares flowing from their pottery were a wide variety of figural bottles, each containing several swallows of liquor and meant as giveaways by saloons and other drinking establishments. 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 & Vader pottery, with English titles and American themes.

With the success of Schafer & Vader, several U.S. ceramics firms began to compete for its market.  Hip flasks became a popular item, particularly during National Prohibition (1920-1934).  The two additional flask shown below may be American “knock-offs.”  Often the origin can be determined by close examination. The copy-cats often lack the heft and fine design of the German products.

The half pint jug shown here is something of an enigma.  Once part of my perspnal collection, the ceramic is very common and comes up for auction frequently at inflated prices.  For years I attempted unsuccessfully to pinpoint the source of the item since it bears no pottery mark nor label.  The jug likely held some form of alcohol initially but remains a mystery.
The final two objects are shot glasses.  The one at left likely was designed as a gag gift for a whiskey drinker.  The depiction of the dog is bizarre at best, looking more like a Norway rat than a canine.  It seems to have grasped in its claw-like paws a jug of “pure rye” from which fumes are being emitted.  At right is a glass advertising “Old Tucker Whiskey.” a leading label of the Brown-Foreman Company in the pre-Prohibition era.  This Louisville, Kentucky, outfit was formed by George Brown and George Foreman in 1891 and has survived to the present day.  It chose this “Nipper clone” image to merchandise the Old Tucker brand, including on giveaway items it provided to favored customers, including celluloid  pocket mirrors.

With this post, I believe that the subject of Nipper clones, both alcoholic and otherwise has been virtually exhausted.  From a broader perspective the items demonstrate how over the years an iconic image like the RCA logo can be made a subject of humor and satire in so many formats and materials.  If a picture can be said to be worth a thousand words, a dog and a gramophone has been worth about that number of imitations.

Note:  My post on Schafer & Vader can be found at December 3, 2016.


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