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From the Fall 2006 Breweriana Collector - by Bob Pawlak
Phoe-nix (fee-niks). A mythical bird of great beauty fabled to live 500 to 600 years in the Arabian wilderness, burned itself on a funeral pyre, only to rise alive from the ashes to live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or hope. (Hans Behrens, (L) Phoenix owner & Master Brewer and with local dignitaries (R)
The Phoenix Brewery of Bay City, MI did just that, rising from a destructive fire in 1896 and emerging as a brand new brewery in 1898 with added capacity. The former West Bay City Brewing Company adopted a name change and featured the mythic bird, rising from a flame, as its new logo.
Phoenix Brewery Workers; Victory! Phoenix Brewery baseball team: note horse-drawn car as their “Victory Wagon.”
The Brewery was established in 1865 when John Rosa cleared a site on the banks of the Saginaw River, facing Arbor Street, in what was then West Bay City. The original name is unrecorded, but in 1868 it was known as the West Bay City Brewing Company, with John Rosa and Andrew Fink listed as partners. Initial annual production is listed as 5,000 barrels per year. Mr. John Kohler and Jacob Knobloch were later listed as partners in the brewery. Prior to the 1896 fire, there were a number of ownership changes.
Upon rebuilding, the new facility’s capacity was increased to 20,000 barrels per year. Frank Mohr was listed as president, Julius Kaiser, vice-president, and Louis Hine secretary/treasurer and general manager. Under their leadership, Phoenix was “known far and wide as makers of the famous HIGH GRADE, the brand that is always the same.”
Bay City, at that time, had two other breweries—the Kolb Brewing Co. and the Bay City Brewing Co., with which the Phoenix Brewery was in direct competition. Phoenix was distinguished from the others through its amber-colored bottles and a picture of a large eagle on the front label. The eagle became synonymous with Phoenix and at least two chalkware versions of the rising eagle are extremely rare and much sought after among Phoenix breweriana collectors and statue collectors alike.
Rare Phoenix bottle labels; cone-top can in excellent condition; two versions of hard-to-find
“RisingPhoenix” chalkware statues; Pre-Prohibition letterhead; “The Gay Philosopher” spokes-personality, 1947.
Like other breweries at the time, the Phoenix suffered with the onset of Prohibition and the partnership of Mohr/Kaiser/ Hine was dissolved in 1917. The brewery had to shift focus to viable alternatives to stay afloat, and turned to producing and selling malt extract. The malt extract was sold around the country as well as to the local population for the production of ‘home brew,’ which was allowed under Prohibition. Malt extract was sold in five-gallon cans, under the name H.H. Behren’s Malt Extract Co., until 1933, when Prohibition ended.
Hans Behrens was the brew master for the Phoenix Brewery from 1910 until 1918, succeeding the late Julius Kaiser. Mr. Behrens left Bay City and worked for the Home Brewing Company and the Woolner Brewing Company in Toledo, Ohio until 1921. Upon his return to Bay City, Mr. Behrens was employed by the Kolb Brewing Co., supervising the production of ‘near beer.’ In 1925, he purchased the Phoenix Brewery and continued to sell malt extract until the end of Prohibition. When Prohibition ended, Behrens re-formed the Phoenix Brewing Company with Mr. Fred Vollbrecht. When that partnership dissolved, he formed a partnership with his sons, Erwin and Jack, and son-in-law Emmons Riegel.
In 1943, the storage capacity of the Phoenix plant was increased to 40,000, with annual production of 30,000 barrels produced under the PHOENIX BEER trade name. The rise of the nationally-advertised competitors spelled the demise of the Phoenix, unable to keep up. Both of the other two other Bay City breweries had already closed their doors (Kolb in 1939 and Bay City Brewery in 1943). The Phoenix was able to keep its doors open until 1952.
The buildings that were used to pump out thousands of gallons of beer remained and had a variety of occupants until the early sixties when a cleaning supply business purchased the property. The huge brewery vats are still used for the production of cleaning detergents by the current owners. A 24-foot smokestack from the brewery was deemed a safety hazard and was toppled and removed in 1999. Scavengers are reported to have discovered the fragments of hundreds of broken Phoenix beer bottles among the debris. Just prior to Christmas, 2004, a wrecking ball sent red brick and wood fragments flying as the south end of the plant was crushed. This section had been condemned by city officials.
Above Photos: Phoenix during Prohibition (note name change); Inspecting stainless barrels; Early workers;
Brewers Certificate, Hans Behrens; “We Won It” victory car w/case of beer on top.
(All photos from the collection of Rick Schmidt)
All that remains of the Phoenix Brewery today is the section that was once the bottling house of the plant. The age of the building and its proximity to the Saginaw River make the site desirable for potential development and its demise is just a matter of time, according to its current owner. There are still a small handful of Bay City residents that are former employees of the Phoenix, but their recollections and stories are slowly going the way of the brewery itself, crumbling and fading away.
From the Winter 2014 Breweriana Collector - by George Arnold
During the years before Prohibition most brewers relied on images of actual things for their advertising. Many used people, animals or depictions (real or imagined) of the magnificent breweries where our favorite beverages were produced. Think about those beautiful pre-Pro trays and lithos with eagles, dogs, or lions on them. Or how about those voluptuous women promoting somebody’s ale or stout, or an image of a proud brewery founder. Then there were factory scenes, many of them showing the brewery dwarfing anything near it.
After the success of The Yellow Kid* as an advertising image, some brewers started thinking about using cartoon characters in their advertising. A few used elves during the teen years just before shutting down for the Noble Experiment. When Prohibition ended many brewers resurrected the elves as a lighter type of advertising, perhaps to relieve some of the somber effects of the Great Depression.
One pre-Pro brewer from New York City put his personal touch on the elf idea. Liebmann Breweries of Brooklyn dressed their elf with a hat shaped like the letter R and called the little guy a Rheinaroon. He was sent out to promote Rheingold Beer as a temperance beverage. But even 100 years ago our government knew what was best for us.
Sadly, the Rheinaroon only lasted a few short years. Very little remains today of this little fellow: only two versions of a chalk statue are known. Both are shown here along with two newspaper ads from 1916. One of the statues also appears in George Baley’s book, Back Bar Beer Figurines page 94. It is incorrectly dated as about 30 years after it was in fact made.
Thanks to George Baley for supplying the pictures of the two statues.
*The image that became The Yellow Kid first appeared in a magazine in 1894. The character that became famous was drawn by Richard F. Outcault (who went on to create the more successful Buster Brown comic strip). Outcault’s Yellow Kid appeared in the comic strip Hogan’s Alley between 1895-1898, first published in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World. The Kid’s image appeared on mass market retail objects in the greater NYC area, including cigarette packs, cracker tins, matchbooks, postcards, chewing gum cards, toys, and whiskey, among others. Americans embraced and popularized the image, and Outcault used the strip to poke fun at late-nineteenth-century American foibles. The Hogan’s Alley kids were especially popular with working class Americans. As such, The Yellow Kid was at once an icon for commercial success and a satire of the new consumerist culture.
From the Spring 2004 Breweriana Collector - By Bob Kay
Southern Select!! When you think about it, it's a great brand name for beer, especially a beer from Texas!!. I did a little digging into the brands history and here is what I came up with.
The brand appears to have originated in the late 1890's from the Houston Ice & Brewing Co. This brewery seemed to have a knack for selecting really neat brand names including Southern Select, Magnolia and Hiawatha. The Southern Select label pictured with the white background is the earliest example I have and appears to date Pre-1900. Sometime after the turn of the century, the design was changed to a brown background. As you might expect, the Southern Select label proved quite popular and was likely Houston Ice and Brewing's leading brand when prohibition forced Texas breweries to close in 1918.
Some 15 years later, when national Prohibition was repealed, the brand reappeared, but under somewhat curious circumstances. Houston Ice & Brewing Co. did not return to brewing, but brought Southern Select back while operating as a distributor. The curious part is they contracted to have it brewed in Brooklyn, New York by Liebmann Breweries Inc.??? Wow! This beer, obviously for the Texas market, was brewed in Brooklyn? The distribution costs must have been huge! There must be more to this than meets the eye, but I haven't figured it out. (picture the round blue Southern Select label with this text)
It looks like the New York connection didn't last and rights to this popular brand were sold to the Galveston-Houston Breweries, who quickly reintroduced a similar brown label design. This brown Southern Select label grew familiar and popular with Texas beer drinkers and lasted from the early 1930's through the early 1950's. The add-on sticker for military shipments suggest that the boys overseas also were able to enjoy a good ole Texas brew. A bock version was also introduced, but likely fell by the wayside due to capacity or wartime shortages. That brown label must have had staying power, as it enjoyed a 20 year run. Finally, increasing competition from the national marketers took it's toll.. A last ditch white label design wasn't the answer and by 1955 the Galveston-Houston Breweries closed and that neat ole brew became history.
From the Summer 2016 Breweriana Collector - By Ron Small
Sometimes it’s interesting to find a niche in the breweriana hobby that nobody else has discovered or talks about much. But with so many collectors pursuing so many different specialties & sub-specialties, this can be difficult.
One such under-the-radar maker of old beer signs is Milprint, Inc. Milprint, a combination of the words “Milwaukee” and “printing,” was a printer and sign maker that specialized in different types of printable plastics and plastic overlays. Founded in 1899 by brothers Max and William Heller, the company, early in its history, created innovations in commercial packaging—notably substances such as glassine paper, cellophane, foil, and celluloid.
And they also developed methods of printing on these surfaces. Their new materials and printing technologies were well timed, since the early 1900's marked the beginning of our culture’s access to individually wrapped, mass-produced consumer goods.
In particular, sales of individual candy bars were a big hit and were, in large part, made possible by Milprint’s technological advances.
Later the company also developed “Trans-vision,” which allowed for multiple layers of transparencies to be superimposed upon each other, breaking down complex diagrams and pictures into simpler components. Transvision was used extensively in medical and other textbooks as a means of illustrating complex anatomical systems, among other things.
William Heller sold Milprint to Phillip Morris in 1957, and the company was later sold to the Bemis Company, Inc. Today it is still an operating division of Bemis and is still a major printed packaging producer.
At some point in its history (probably in the post-War 1940's) Milprint added signage to their packaging lines. The signs were small, not flashy, and probably low budget. They were “Self-Stik” signs with two adhesive strips to affix the sign to the wall (see next page). I have only seen two with string hangers.
The signs almost all consist of a 6.5 inch x 10 inch foil-oncardboard background, overlaid with a flat piece of celluloid on which is printed the foreground design elements, and held together by a thin colored strip of celluloid, glued into place. A simple three piece construction, but as can be seen in the pictures, the signs were often very striking in appearance.
The most common of the Milprint beer signs is for Wee Willy Quality Beer from the Marathon City Brewing Co. of Marathon, Wisconsin. For many years, this was the only Milprint sign I had seen. One day however, I was perusing eBay and I came across a number of different Buy-It-Now listings for various beer, dairy, and other signs. Somehow it registered that these were exactly like the Wee Willy sign I already knew about.
Quickly, I purchased all of the beer signs the seller had listed. I thought for a few minutes and then bought all the rest, too. Later I exchanged emails with the seller and discovered that he was helping an elderly friend clean out his basement. His friend had been a longtime employee of Milprint.
In the following weeks he emailed me a few more times as he uncovered more Milprint items in his friend’s basement. These included 4 different flat Plexiglas signs that I hadn’t realized Milprint had ever produced. Without frames or any other functional pieces attached, I am left to wonder as to their intended use. There was also a partial Milprint sign for Kingsbury Pale—only the front celluloid panel. I have never seen a complete one of these, so I do not know if it was ever actually produced.
But the most interesting thing my correspondent found was a Miller High Life sign, still in the mock up stages—mostly complete, but with pieces just glued into place. Since Miller was such a large brewery, this complex mock up is a step up from most of their more graphically simple signage. It would be interesting to see if this ever made it past the design stage. Since Milprint was based in Milwaukee, it is not surprising that most of the beer signs they made were for Wisconsin brewers. The Alpen Brau shown (right) is from Missouri, not too far away. But I was surprised when I found Milprint signs from Nevada and Washington State.
From what I have been able to discover about the non-beer signs, they seem to be for companies from a more diverse geographical area, without a noticeable concentration in Wisconsin.
Since Milprint is not too well known among breweriana collectors, if you have any Milprint signs in your collection, you might not have even been aware of it. I would like to compile a composite listing of all known Milprint signs— beer and non-beer— so if you have any, please drop me a line (see right for contact info) so I can add them.
Many thanks and happy collecting!
MORE PHOTOS !
All of the signs pictured in this article are from the collection of the author, who can be reached at Roon48@yahoo.com, or 860-896-4700.
Author’s Note: The following website was used extensively in the writing of this article:
“Hagley Museum and Library: Leonard W. Walton Collection of Milprint, Inc. Photographs (2008.219) –
Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department.” Hagley Museum and Library: Leonard W.
Walton Collection of Milprint, Inc. Photographs (2008.219) – Audiovisual Collections and Digital
Initiatives Department. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 May 2016.
From the Spring 2013 Breweriana Collector - By James L. Kaiser
The Libbey Edge, or “Safedge” as it was called by Libbey Glass when they introduced their patent in 1924, reduced the risk of rim chips and gave us “a line in the sand” between Pre- and Post-Prohibition glasses. A “Safedge” glass resulted from burning-off the moil or brunt edge of a blown glass via an automatic process that made a heat-strengthened rim guaranteed against chipping.
It is unclear, however, whether etched glasses were produced the “old fashioned way” after Prohibition. The fortunate timing of Libbey’s patent (dated 1924, smack in the middle of Prohibition) allows us to readily identify the glass shown with the “Safedge” in this article as post-Prohibition.
Now, let’s talk about these specific glasses. Christian Kern first operated a brewery in Port Huron Michigan in 1875 and the brewery continued under the C Kern Brewing Co. style until the Koerber Family moved in with Friar’s Ale in 1944.
The etched glass in Figure 1 has the smooth, sharp edge we usually identify with etched glasses from the Pre-Prohibition period (for detail, see Figure 2).
The etched glass in Figure 3 is in the same general style as the one shown in Figure 1, except the glass is from what is believed to be a branch in Detroit, MI. This glass also has the sharp rim edge generally identified with Pre-Pro etched glasses (in Figure 4, note the rim chip).
The glass in Figure 5, however, while much the same as that in Figure 3, has a Libbey “Safedge” (Figure 6), indicating production after 1924. What’s more, the glass is painted, not etched. This article does not address the question whether this glass was distributed by the brewery—although it may have been, because the brewery was in business after Prohibition until 1944. It does, however, point out that there is an easily-identified difference between Pre-Pro etched glasses and post-Pro, Libbey “Safedge” glasses.
As an aside, note that the letter preceding Kern on each glass looks more like a capital E than a capital C. Is it a stylized C or is it an E, possibly for the brother, Ernst F. Kern who was the President of the brewery and founder of Kern’s Department Store in Downtown Detroit? Sorry, but that’s a discussion for another day.
From the Fall 2002 Breweriana Collector - By Bob Kay.
I have chosen two Illinois sudsworks, Peoria Brewing Co. (1934-40) and the Springfield Brewing Co. (1933-48) to illustrate some interesting label variations. When reviewing close variations, it's fun to let the labels suggest the reasons for the changes. I call this "Label Talk" - in other words the labels told me so! Now lets see what these labels have to say!
Three brands (Dorf, Horst, and Utica Bohemian), can be found with both brewery names. It looks like they formed some sort or joint ownership or marketing arrangement somewhere along the line. In addition to the name differences the Peoria Dorf labels can be found with two wording variations - Saazer Hops or Saazer Type Hops. This change may have resulted from a change in suppliers or truth in labeling pressure from the label examiner.
The Springfield Brewery issued a brand called Lucky Lager which featured a horseshoe and a four leaf clover. Suddenly the label was reworded to Good Luck Lager. Label Talk says they received pressure from another well known brand of the same name and had to change. Of course the change was so subtle it was hoped no one would notice.
The Peoria brand with a U-Permit number (circa 1933-36) is one of the first 12 ounce labels from Peoria Brewing. Variations are known with two different sub-headings - Special and Special Brew. The labels weren't able to tell me why this change was made. Possibly the wording, Special Brew Beer, was deemed redundant? Either label makes a choice addition to any collection.
Apparently Springfield could only handle 12 ounce bottles. cooperation is apparent in that Springfield appears to have contracted for all of their quart and half gallon bottles from Peoria. Stadt (pronounced state) and Schor Brands can be found in both quart and half-gallon sizes while a 32 ounce version of Good Luck is known. Close examination of the fine print, or Label Talk, shows these were brewed in Peoria for Springfield.
The war with Germany caused a great deal of change in beer labels as the brewers, many of German heritage, scurried to look more American. The Chief Brand from Peoria offers a small but very collectible example. Notice how the Indian headband was redesigned? The labels whisper it was because the first one had a close resemblance to the German Swastika.
The Black & Gold Brand is also found with an interesting wording change. One version says Private Stock while another says Select Stock. Even the labels don't understand this change. Could it be the brewery or the label examiner objected to one of these wordings?? It beats me why? Whatever the reason these are very collectible variations!
Springfield's Royal Lager Brand originally said "Dietically Not Fattening" but was changed to "Rich Old Country Flavor". Obviously the label examiner wouldn't buy the initial wording.
One intent of this treatment is to help the label collector/historian sharpen their skills in the art or reading and understanding the many variations in labels. Hopefully this will help.
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