Sunday, February 3, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 7: Cheer Up!

Here's a happy little article. It’s an ad for the Oshkosh Brewing Company that appeared in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern 100 years ago on February 3, 1913. Beer ads then, just as they are now, were often rife with bullshit. The bullshit of 1913 may have been more artfully worded than most of the grunting junk we get these days, but it was bullshit all the same. And though this one isn’t entirely devoid of dung, it leads with a kernel of essential truth that sets it apart from the standard tripe. Here we see a beatdown sap being consoled by a comrade in white who burps up a piece of beery good sense.
    Aren't most of those troubles
that weigh upon your mind
imaginary ones? Even though
they be real, time will oblit-
erate them.
    The American people, over-
worked and high-strung, are
given to worrying over lIttle
things. Cheer up. Banish care.
Drink Oshkosh Beer
Yes, indeed, “Banish care” with a few deep snorts of Oshkosh Beer. How’s that for a smart retort to the malaise of modern living? Sounds as a good as any advice I’ve been offered lately. They should have ended it there and threw in a mug of beer or something to fill up the space. Instead, they cut loose with a few laughable whoppers.
      It tones up and invigorates
and helps one to look upon the
bright side of life. It brings
health, and health is the foun-
dation of cheerfulness. No jol-
lier people in the world than
those who use a moderate
amount of beer.
     Drink Oshkosh Beer, because
it is guaranteed pure and wholesome.
Nothing new there. In 1913, it was common for brewers to go about hyping their product as if it were a tonic for the frail instead of an enjoyable repast that made the moment shine a little brighter. It was a trick they’d picked up from the producers of patent medicines. In America, those hucksters had been selling alcohol under the guise of curing everything from impotence to venereal disease since the early 1800s. By the time the brewers in Oshkosh adopted the tactic, a clampdown on patent medicines was underway that would eventually lead to their being abolished. Making preposterous health claims worked no better for the brewers. Within six years of this 1913 ad, the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified resulting in a ban on the manufacture and sale of beer. Of course, beer would one day return and patent medicines didn’t entirely go away either. They just changed their stripes and morphed into things like Coke and Pepsi.

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