Sunday, September 4, 2022

The Nearly Lost Labels of Peoples Brewing

Sneaking into Oshkosh's abandoned breweries became a hobby for some kids in the early 1970s (you can read about that here). Many of them were collectors of beer cans and other brewery memorabilia. The thrill of going into the untended breweries was heightened by the possibility of coming out with something worth saving. Those kids walked away with bottles, cans, beer labels, signs, log books... Anything bearing a trademark was fair game.

The scavenging led to the recovery of countless pieces of Oshkosh breweriana that otherwise would have been lost. The haul included some incredibly obscure items. This for example:

A prototype beer label, 1958.

The Hunt for a New Label
Peoples Brewing Company was aiming to update its image in 1958. The brewery had been using the same label for Peoples Beer since 1952. But the atomic age had given way to the space age. The old label was looking dated.

The Peoples label from 1952 until 1958.

That label was replaced by one that would become an iconic Wisconsin beer label. We’ll see that in a moment. First, let's have a look at a few of the labels that didn't make the cut.

The images below are scans of prototypes that were in the running to become the new label for Peoples Beer. These were rescued by one of those young brewery raiders. They were discovered in the deserted office at Peoples Brewing in 1973. Peoples had closed the previous year.

No correspondence or other information accompanied the artwork. They were tucked into a cardboard folio stamped by Norway Gravure and dated September 9, 1958. The Norway, Michigan printer was then one of the largest suppliers of American beer labels. Norway Gravure made labels for Blatz, Budweiser, Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz, among many others.

One of the rescued prototypes appears to have been in strong contention for final selection.
The label below was fully realized and pasted onto an artboard with an accompanying bottle-neck label. This is about as rare as a beer label gets.

The eventual winner was more dynamic than any of the other labels on the table for consideration. By mid-November of 1958, the new label for Peoples Beer was in circulation. More than 60 years later, it still looks like the right choice.

The 1958 design, here used for a 7-ounce bottle.

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