Monday, March 11, 2013

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 8: The Brewer’s Code

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Here’s a rare example of Oshkosh’s brewers working together to clean up their image and promote their beer. This full-page ad appeared 75 years ago in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on March 12, 1938. It was placed by the three Oshkosh breweries that survived Prohibition – Oshkosh Brewing, Peoples Brewing and Rahr Brewing. The point of the piece was to give each of the companies a chance to publicly endorse the Brewers Code of Practice, a “we promise to be good” oath that was being sworn by brewers across the nation.

The code was instigated in 1937 – almost five years after Prohibition had ended – by the United Brewers Industrial Foundation. At the time, brewers were still shuddering from the royal beating they had taken from the dry crowd. Their dread was not without merit. Though the prohibitionists had been trounced in the 1932 election, they had rebounded and the breweries were once again in their sites. Brewers responded by adopting a submissive, squeaky-clean image.

The bawdy days when beer makers owned whorehouses and courted bedlam were over. Now, they promised to promote “practical moderation and sobriety” and to “conduct our business in conformity with established laws in cooperation with the authorities.” It’s a pledge to keep their tails between their legs. Quite modern, very antiseptic and hardly any fun at all. But it worked. The prohibitionists continued to agitate, but by the end of the 1940s had made themselves inconsequential. The dries were finally being recognized for what they truly were: prudes and relics of the past.

If you’d like to see a full-sized, readable version of the ad, go HERE and use either the "Download" tab or the magnifying glass icon above the image to explore it in detail.

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