By Linda Hoffman
Thomas Wallace Holmes used his nephew, Earl Shopen, the son of Olga Strauss as the model for several 1940’s-1950’s Miller High Life Beer advertisements. Tom’s colorful artworks captured the American spirit for Miller beer designs of two men fishing in a boat, the same two men relaxing on a porch and again at a gentlemen’s barbeque party. (There is no doubt more works) Thomas Holmes, a Chicago artist and illustrator from the turn of the 20th century worked in lithography and photography in the boom of advertising spanning a successful sixty year career. Tom’s wife was Carrie Strauss. He chose Carrie’s family members to model for his illustrations as illustrators were known to do. There were 10 Strauss sisters and their children to choose from. In Thomas Holmes’ spare time and on trips, he painted landscapes including streams and barns in Wisconsin.
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On Saturday, September 17th several members of the club made an excursion to West Bend to view the display of early Wisconsin beer and liquor advertising at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA.) Sid Hatch, Peter Maas, Erik Hecker and Henry Hecker made the trip and enjoyed seeing some of the finest examples of beer, whiskey, and bitters advertising still in existence in the form of trays, signs, posters, labels, calendars and broadsides.
The exhibit includes some of the best examples known of early advertising from Wisconsin breweries. The centerpiece of the exhibit is an astounding Pabst Blue Ribbon print with a turn of the century gaff rigged racing sailboat. It is made up of 12 panels and stands over 20' tall. MOWA was the perfect venue to display such a massive sign fully assembled and is perhaps the first time this particular sign has been on display.
The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) explores the art and culture of Wisconsin. Founded in 1961, MOWA is one of the top museums of regional art in the United States, with almost 5,000 works of contemporary and historic art by more than 350 artists.
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(A Recipe for a Home Brewed Beer) by Henry Hecker
About 20 years ago, I was lamenting the time I had spent driving to a small, start up flea market on the Union Grove fair grounds on a nice early Sunday morning. After skimming past rows and rows of tables covered with dumpster fodder, I was startled to find a dealer putting out beer flats filled with hundreds of small old bottles of every description. Inks, perfumes, medicines, doll nursers, you name it. My arrival to this table was perfect as the boxes were just coming out of the trunk. A guy was selling a long time accumulation of small bottles, none more than 4 inches high, that had caught someone’s fancy for eye appeal, interesting labelling, with a few modern bottles mixed in. “$3 a piece!,” said the dealer. At that exorbitant price, I would have to choose carefully, but since I seemed to have a monopoly as a customer, I could take my time in making my selections. Click on the photo to read the full article.
Made at the Milwaukee Stoneware Factory, possibly by O.F. Baker
In our collecting hobby, we sometimes encounter artifacts that seemingly are the only remaining evidence of a past person’s life. Usually with subsequent research from the name, location, or approximate date of the bottle, jug, or other item, we are able to assemble a story about the original owner. We do this by studying old city directories, business organization listings of the time, genealogies, census records, and land ownership documents.
Such is the case of one Henry W. Chamberlain of Sheboygan County Wisconsin in the 1850’s. I acquired a salt glazed jar marked “H. W. Chamberlain Sheboygan Wis” in the 1980’s from an avid auction goer in Menomonee Falls. Then in 2002, I acquired a decorated, salt glazed pitcher with the same mark from Bob Markiewicz that he had just purchased and I was able to seize the opportunity before Bob got too attached to the pitcher. Accompanying the pitcher was a 1997 letter from Janice Hildebrand, a well known author of Sheboygan area history.
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Previously only known to collectors from a fragment
Colby is located halfway between Green Bay and Minneapolis. It's near the bend in Hwy 29 and it's so small the "Thank you for visiting Colby" sign is painted on the backside of the "Welcome to Colby" sign. Population about 1,500. That a bottler was in business there in the early 1880's is astonishing. The bottle is a hutch styled similar to a Matthew Gravitating Stopper bottle. It is embossed MATH KRAMER COLBY WIS and WIS GLASS CO. MILW on the bottom. According to Roger Peters Kramer bottled soda and beer between 1881 and 1883. The lip is applied. There were several other bottlers that operated there later but this is the earliest bottle known do far.
(With mention of his successor, Louis Pierron) By Henry Hecker
Charles Hermann was a Swiss immigrant with a factory on Johnson Street in Milwaukee. He commenced operations in 1856. His factory was strategically located near the Milwaukee River which allowed for the transport and unloading of high quality clay from Ohio and Illinois. His firm also procured some clay from Iowa as well as the clay found in Wisconsin is for the most part not fit for stoneware, only earthenware. (The known exception being Moser stoneware made of local clay in Wautoma, Wisconsin.) Following in the footsteps of earlier Milwaukee stoneware manufacturers such as Oscar Baker and the Maxfield brothers, Hermann was by far the most successful and prolific manufacturer of stoneware with a thirty year production period before making his stepson, Louis Pierron, a partner in 1882 and turning the business over to Louis completely in 1886.
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Barna recently unearthed a fantastic rare bottle from his hometown on a dig there. It is a citron colored quart beer bottle from Kenosha embosssed J. G. GOTTFREDSEN & SON BREWER KENOSHA, WIS in a slug plate with an applied lip. It appears to date from the 1870's. It has to rank as the most desirable of all known bottles from Kenosha. To a collector who specializes in Kenosha items it is a fantasy come true for Barna to dig it himself. The bottle was known to exist from a shard. This is the first intact example known to collectors. Read the story about the dig.
by Linda Hoffman
A rumor exists among the Milwaukee brewery workers to this day:
the outlandishly clad lady sitting on a crescent moon was the inspired work of an unknown artist and the model, and not a relative of the brewer's family as commonly told. Many stories of her origin and mistaken identity prevail in local brewing history books but one relationship did hold true. The ancestors of the beer baron and of the artist’s models hailed from the same region of Germany.
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by Linda Hoffman
In my first article, “Proof of Ruth” ABA Journal #182 March/ April from one year ago, I wrote about my family’s history with the iconic Miller High Life ‘standing girl’ and 1933 Miller Christmas Special Beer label which depict my mother Joanne sitting on her father’s lap in a cozy holiday scene with the Girl in the Moon placed in the night sky. My great uncle, Thomas Wallace Holmes designed these images and used his wife Carrie’s family as models. In this article I am going to share the wonderful events that have happened since. Click on the photo to read the full article.
by Linda Hoffman - Published in November/December 2015 Issue #198 American Breweriana Journal
My sister Sue and I went on a journey from Milwaukee Wisconsin to view Advertising Art of Coshocton County exhibit at the Johnson -Humrickhouse Museum. We took Highway 16 for the last 15 miles of our trip to Coshocton, Ohio and exited the freeway at 541. We stopped for lunch at Bob Evans, an Ohio chain. Sue had pot roast with biscuits and I ate chicken salad. We then proceeded to the show located at 300 N. Whitewoman St. in the Roscoe Village of Coshocton, Ohio. (Note-my childhood home address in Oconomowoc Wisconsin was 540 West Wisconsin Avenue, AKA Highway 16). Click on the photo to read the full article.
The 2015 show was a huge success. The market for antique bottles and advertising in the Midwest is very strong. All of the 150 tables were sold far in advance of the show. At the opening Dave and Debbie Kapsos pre-sold 165 admission tickets to the anxious collectors queued up to get in so when the doors opened at 9 am the aisles were quickly flooded with people. Admissions were up significantly over previous years - almost 600 general admissions. Dealers reported strong sales. There were some outstanding pieces brought in by dealers and some of the attendees brought in some great pieces as well. The room is spacious with wide aisles and good lighting. The 2016 show will be at the same location.
Whitewater Historical Society Presentation on Whitewater Pottery on January 20, 2015
Okay, so it’s not quite the New York Times but being featured in the Mukwonago Times article was a coup considering the fact that Henry Hecker was not even the speaker. Speaker and expert on Whitewater pottery Kori Oberle gave a great presentation on Whitewater pottery at the Whitewater Historical Society museum located in the railroad depot building. The event was centered around a 45 piece collection of Whitewater earthenware that the Historical Society recently acquired. The collection includes some great examples of Whitewater pottery such as a foot warmer, a sponge decorated pitcher and some exceptional decorated pieces.
Watch the full presentation video.
The J.F. Dallinger hutch from Milwaukee is relatively rare. Recently a nearly identical one showed up on eBay except embossed with the city of Tacoma Washington instead of Milwaukee. Then another eBay listing appeared for a Milwaukee variety with a paper label. It was being sold by a different Tacoma area seller who was a descendant of Joseph Dallinger who owned a pair of Dalliger Milwaukee bottles with paper labels that had passed down in his family. The label appears to be a stock label without Dallinger’s name on it.
This article gives some background on Joseph Dallinger’s soda business which last just a couple of years in the two cities.
A great new book on Waukesha mineral springs!
"The Great Waukesha Springs Era tells the story of a time gone by. From 1868-1918, Waukesha, Wisconsin was a center of the mineral spring water industry. Following the discovery of the healing powers of Bethesda Spring by Colonel Richard Dunbar in 1868, the mineral springs industry grew by leaps and bounds.
At first, people crowded the city to taste the healing waters. Then, as the rich and famous visited the city, it became a social center and a family vacation destination. It was called the Saratoga of the West. Finally, large regional and national bottlers established plants in the city.
This book, written by club member John M. Schoenknecht, tells the story of each of Waukesha's springs. Schoenknecht paints a picture of this fabulous time and the sad decline.
This Second Revised Edition of over 380 pages has over 60 new pages and hundreds of new photos from Mr. Schoenknecht’s private collection." Click on the book for a link to the ordering page.
Recently, the Waukesha Freeman featured a story about a mysterious cave or tunnel that is located on East Main Street next to Fuzzy's Bar. The tunnel is now used to store liquor, but the newspaper story claimed that the area was once a haven for bootlegging during Prohibition. People interviewed in the article speculated that the tunnel was built for that purpose. Friends of mine speculated that the tunnel was part of the Underground Railroad when Waukesha was know as 'That Abolition Hole" before the Civil War. I think the answer lies somewhere else. A search of land records and old maps provides the answer.
Otto Zwietusch was a prolific inventor and manufacturer of soda bottling apparatus and soda in Milwaukee from the 1860’s through the 1880’s in Milwaukee. His business sold bottling apparatus and equipment to soda bottlers throughout the US. Some of the interesting items used by his business include some great bottles, stoneware and bottling apparatus including these hand-hammered copper vessels which were probably used for bottling soda. The article tells the story of the man, his business and the artifacts he left behind.
When club member Roger Peters published his authoritative work on soda bottles in 1996 titled Wisconsin Soda Water Bottles 1845 to 1918 he set a new standard for books of this type. It includes historical sketches of bottling companies, hand-retouched B&W photos of every variety, copies of advertising & photos and even prices. It is a comprehensive work that included virtually every soda water bottle known at the time of publication. The book is long out of print but Roger is in the final stages of publishing an updated version of this book. Roger is also working on another book on Painted Label sodas from Wisconsin and a third on Wisconsin crown top sodas. We don't have an estimated publication date but the collecting community eagerly awaits all three.
Waukesha soda bottler John Bollow failed to return from a delivery in July of 1889. Later his horses arrived at his home with the delivery wagon and there was blood on the seat. Fearing the worst, his family set out on a search for John. They found him propped up against a tree, shot in the head apparently with his own gun in what looked like a suicide. However, the blood on the wagon and missing cash told a different story.
On May 13, 2014, the Pewaukee Historical Society hosted the MABAC monthly meeting in its visitor center building on the Asa Clark Museum property. Over 40 Society and club members attended and were treated to a presentation on the life of Col. Nicolas P. Iglehart, an early hotel and mineral springs owner in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. The presentation by Henry Hecker, a long-time member of MABAC, was a culmination of his research on the Oakton Spring Water Company and Oakton Springs Hotel which entrepreneur Iglehart ran in the 1870’s.
The presentation covered Iglehart’s illustrious public and private life with special focus on his last four years of his life in Pewaukee. Henry showed a number of artifacts related to Oakton Springs including a stereopticon photo of the hotel and a 3 gallon jug stenciled with “Oakton Springs Water.” A special treat was the fact that the Kirley family, the current owners of the Octagon house in Pewaukee were in the audience. Colonel Iglehart lived in the Octagon house during his stay in Pewaukee. The Kirley’s were thrilled to learn about Iglehart and shared some of the ghost stories of this incredible home.
A number of Historical Society members were able to augment Henry’s research during open discussion. Finally, the most amazing part of the meeting was the appearance of a previously unknown 3 gallon Oakton Springs stoneware jug brought to the meeting by the Sampsons, Pewaukee residents. The jug is a family heirloom that has remained in Pewaukee for almost 150 years and will someday likely find a home in the Museum collection.
Even by national standards the Blossoms Badger Ale bottle is simply a fantastic example of an early American ale. It was made by Lancaster Glass Company in New York around 1849 to 1851. This article tells the story of the discovery a new Blossom’s Badger Ale variety, how it was hunted for many years and finally acquired and restored by a club member. One intact variety, one restored and some shards prove that there were at least four varieties of embossed bottles used by this large and successful brewery. It seems likely that there are still others waiting to be discovered.
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Overlooked Milwaukee Bitters
This bottle is embossed YOUNG AMERICA / STOMACH BITTERS / P RINDSKOPF & BRO on three panels. Phillip Rindskopf and his brother Louis were wholesale wine and liquor dealers at 277 E Water St Milwaukee from 1862 to 1878, but Phillip died in 1867 so this bottle is probably from the Civil war period. It is listed in Carlyn Ring’s book For Bitters Only but was not attributed to a city. It has flown under the radar of Wisconsin collectors as it was not widely known to be a Wisconsin bitters.
Wisconsin’s earliest bottle?
When this bottle was dug in Kenosha there was some speculation that it could be a Wisconsin or Illinois bottle. It seemed improbable given the color and the fact that it has the look of an 1840’s bottle. When another example turned up in Ashippun Wisconsin northwest of Milwaukee research efforts intensified but still no hard evidence was found. An article in the May-June 2014 edition of Bottles & Extras by Tod von Mechow speculated that it could be Wisconsin. Definitive proof finally surfaced in an advertisement in an obscure all-German Milwaukee newspaper. The March 1850 ad identified it as Michael Kom’s Lemon Mineral Water which he bottled on Huron Street in Milwaukee. This just might be Wisconsin’s earliest embossed bottle. Others from about the same time period include the Taylor & Bothers’ cobalt sided soda and Blossom’s Badger black glass ale. Click on the photo to read the full article.
First bottle discovered from this prominent Wisconsin Brewery
An eBay listing for a one-of-a-kind early aqua pony Weiss beer bottle from the Jacob Muth brewery in Burlington, Wisconsin. Jacob Muth was in business in Burlington from 1852 to 1872. This bottle appears to date from the 1860’s which is notable because it is the first glass beer bottle from that time period from Wisconsin known to collectors. It is also one of the few Wisconsin bottles that includes the “WEISS BEER” product name embossed on the bottle. Surprisingly, it is the first bottle to turn up from this long-lived and well known brewery. It was found by diggers in Pittsburgh and showed signs of heavy wear. It would not be surprising if other varieties show up from this brewery eventually. The embossing reads JACOB MUTH BREWING CO. BERLINER WEISS BEER and ALL PERSONS PROHIBITED FROM USING THIS BOTTLE on the back.
Member Tom Fredrick found this bottle while scuba diving with Bob Libbey for bottles. While several varieties of Fred Bock glass soda bottles are known to exist this is the first Fred Bock clay bottle and the only stoneware bottle from the city of Boscobel, Wisconsin. The bottle is stamped FRE-BOCK with the letter “I” turned sideways in place of a dash. It is probably one of the first bottles used by Fred Bock’s business which was thought to have started in 1882. There are many other similar Wisconsin stoneware bottles from other bottlers that were made by the same pottery maker, possibly Charles Hermann & Co. from Milwaukee. In spite of the fact that the top is missing it is still a great find.
A recent Julie’s Antique Auction catalog featured a rare miniature salt glazed stoneware canteen flask as the cover lot. The canteen measures about 3” tall and is marked “Compliments of G.M. PIERRON” on one side and “A HAPPY NEW YEAR 1894”. It has a heavy orange peel glaze one side. It was is mint condition with the original cork, chain attaching it to the handle and red white and blue ribbon. The unique features of this piece created the perfect storm of collector interest. It was made by Redwing, it is associated with the Pierron Stoneware Company, has a great glaze, is dated, rare and mint.