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.