Vintage bar posters and calendars
Create your own tour of brewing history with a collection of vintage beer posters and calendars. Beer posters can include original posters from bars (including now closed or notably historical bars), as well as vintage ad prints, calendars and other ads. These provide a unique window into the past and can be used as conversation pieces and as teaching tools. Vintage bar ads and posters are a window into the past.
Narratives in beer ads and posters
Many ads and posters from America’s brewing past emphasized narrative over imagery. This may indicate a more literate past or it may simply be that images are more effective in selling beer. Somewhere along the line, people realized the effort in coming up with clever narratives and wording was a lot more work than taking a photo of bikini clad women partying. Whether or not you lament this change in focus, old narrative-focused ads and beer posters from the 1930s to 1950s are a fascinating window into a lost past.
Many of these focus on themes that would be out of place in today’s beer advertising, including family get-togethers over beer, multi-generational outdoor times, picnic dates in the park and other innocent themes, as well as more manly fare such as fishing, sports and more.
Valuation of vintage posters and calendars
The vintage of the poster or ad (or any other collectible) is really the issue when it comes to valuation, as well as the condition of course. If you can find a mint condition bar calendar or poster from the 1940’s, 1930’s or 1920’s those are going to be highly prized. Rarity is another factor of course. And sometimes coincidence comes into play. For example, a Busch beer poster from some time in the 1980’s features a very young Claudia Schiffer with a very young Cindy Crawford (left) before both of them became massively famous.
The illustrations of Douglass Crockwell helped transition beer advertising into a less textual world. His ads are still visual narratives, however. The earlier ads from the Home Life in America series featured one of the best examples of narrative advertising. Crockwell is discussed at more length below.
Chauvinism in ads
Classic beer ads and posters are also great indicators of the chauvinism of the past. Some of this chauvinism is implicit, such as the placement of women as servers of beer to their husbands, women sitting while men entertain them and other somewhat innocent chauvinism to much more explicit chauvinism where women are treated as outright sex objects, notably during the 60’s and even into the 70’s in spite of the rise of the women’s movement during this time.
It’s quite obvious that many of today’s beer ads have not really grown up that much in terms of sexism and chauvinism and you can bet that today’s beer ads and beer posters will be a part of some history of the future, if we ever get beyond using sex to sell things… okay perhaps that's not so likely.
The vintage series of beer ads, Home Life in America, by the USBF
Perhaps the most well-known and well-loved narrative beer ads came in the series of ads run through the 1940’s and 1950’s by the United States Brewers Foundation. These all featured illustrations in the series “Home Life in America” by Douglass Crockwell with each ad containing a numbered illustration. These poster-worthy ad illustrations were in the vein of (his near namesake) Norman Rockwell, featuring quaint images of people barbecuing, picnicking and otherwise getting together.
This series was long running and at the time it achieved its goal of seeming to be part of the fabric of America as the Foundation wanted beer to be seen. Narrative and text was also a strong feature of these classic ads. Many of these classic ads featured the following “Beer Belongs” text:
In this home loving land of ours... in this America of kindliness, of friendship, of good natured tolerance... perhaps no beverages are more ‘at home’ on more occasions than good American beer and ale.
For beer and ale are the kinds of beverages Americans like. They belong –to pleasant living, to good fellowship, to sensible moderation. And our right to enjoy them, this belongs, too—to our own American heritage of personal freedom.
Simpler times? Better days? That depends on your perspective, really, (“Good natured tolerance” in the 1950’s?) but these make great posters especially if you can find the original vintage ads unmarred by time. They are great conversation pieces.
More examples from this series of vintage advertising: