Historic Beer Birthday: John Gilroy

Today is the birthday of John Gilroy (May 30, 1898-April 11, 1985). While not a brewer or even brewery owner, he was nonetheless at least partially responsible for the success of Guinness with his iconic advertising that he created for them beginning in 1928.


Here’s his entry from Wikipedia.

“Born in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, England, Gilroy attended Durham University until his studies were interrupted by World War I, during which he served with the Royal Field Artillery. He resumed studying at the Royal College of Art in London, where he remained as a teacher. He taught at Camberwell College of Arts.

In 1925, he gained employment at S.H. Benson’s advertising agency, where he created the iconic advertisement art for Guinness featuring the Zoo Keeper and animals enjoying Guinness. He worked with Dorothy L. Sayers. He was also an accomplished portrait painter, numbering Royalty, Politicians, Actors and many others amongst his sitters. He worked in his large studio at 10 Holland Park, London, the former home and studio of Sir Bernard Partridge. He was a long-standing and much loved member of the Garrick Club, where he was created a Life Member and Chairman of the Works of Art Committee 1970-1975. He was awarded and Honorary MA by Newcastle University in 1975, and was made a Freeman of the City of London in 1981.”


The Guinness Collectors Club has a more thorough biography:

John Gilroy (1898-1985) was a superb natural draughtsman and a versatile illustrator and artist who produced advertsising material, portraits, landscapes, murals and greeting cards.

Born on the 30th of May 1898 at Whitley Bay, Newcastle upon Tyne, he was one of a family of eight (five boys and three girls), born to John William Gilroy and his wife Elizabeth. William Gilroy was a marine landscape painter and technical draughtsman and it was obvious from an early age that John junior was going to follow in his footsteps. The young John practised copying cartoons from Punch and took on all kinds of work to pay for drawing materials. From the age of fifteen he was a cartoonist for the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle, commissioned to produce cartoons of well-known entertainers who played the Newcastle theatres.

John attended Sandyford School followed, in 1909, by Heaton Park Road Upper School. At this date his family was living at 25 Kingsley Place. In June 1912, he left Heaton Park and, having attained his drawing certificate, won a scholarship to Armstrong College Art School, Durham University to study under Professor K.G. Hatten.

The First World War interrupted Gilroy’s studies and he served with the Royal Field Artillery in France, Italy and Palestine. In September 1919 he resumed his studies taking a place at the Royal College of Art, London (RCA). During his time there he produced illustrations for the college student magazine and occasionally played in goal for the college football team. In 1920 he attained his Board of Education certificate and the RCA diploma in decorative painting. His work was also rewarded through scholarships and prizes, winning, in 1919, the North Lordbourne prize for composition and, in 1921, the college drawing prize and the British Institute Scholarship for decorative painting. In 1922 Gilroy won an RCA travelling scholarship in mural painting having missed the Prix de Rome by only one vote.

Gilroy graduated from the RCA in July 1923 but stayed on there until 1925 as a teacher. From 1924 to 1926 he also taught drawing from the figure in the evenings at the Camberwell School of Art. In 1924 he married Gwendoline Peri-Short who had been a fellow pupil at the RCA and three years later they had a son, John.

In 1925 Gilroy embarked on his long association with the advertising agency S H Benson Ltd (Benson’s). Although Benson’s was the first advertising agency for whom Gilroy worked as an in-house artist, he had already proven himself in the commercial art sphere. His earliest known piece of commercial art, dating from 1920 when he was still a student, was for a promotional leaflet for the Mangnall-Irving Thrust-Borer commissioned by the Hydraulic Engineering Co.

Gilroy’s early work at Benson’s is reputed to have been on campaigns for Skipper Sardines and Virol. During his time there he also worked on campaigns for Bovril, Macleans and Monk & Glass Custard. His first significant assignment was the Mustard Club campaign for Coleman’s of Norwich, on which he worked with fellow artist William Brearley and copywriters Oswald Greene and Dorothy L Sayers. Between 1926 and 1933 the pens of Gilroy and Brearley brought eccentric characters like Baron de Beef, Signor Spaghetti and Miss Di Gester to life on bill boards and in magazines everywhere.

In 1928 Benson’s won the Guinness advertising account and Gilroy became involved with the product with which his work is most closely associated. Gilroy’s first known Guinness poster was produced in 1930. Working with copywriters like Ronald Barton and Robert Bevan, Gilroy produced more than 100 press advertisements and nearly 50 poster designs for Guinness over 35 years. He is perhaps best remembered for his posters featuring the girder carrier and the wood cutter from the Guinness for Strength campaigns of the early 1930s and for the Guinness animals. The animals, including a lion, toucan, gnu and kangaroo, appeared, with their long-suffering zookeeper, on posters, press advertisements, show cards and waiter trays from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Gilroy continued to produce Guinness advertisements well into the 1960s even though he left Benson’s employment as an in-house artist in the 1940s to continue freelance work.

During the 1920s and succeeding decades commercial art was not Gilroy’s sole occupation; he began to build his reputation as a painterboth of portraits and landscapes. One of his earliest portrait commissions was to paint the future Edward V111 for the Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club, of which Gilroy was a member and the Prince was patron.

In 1930, while the family was living at The Cottage, Hyde Park Road, Kew Gardens, Gilroy has his first painting, Gwen. exhibited at the Royal Academy. Throughout the 1930s Gilroy’s work continued to be exhibited at the Royal Academy and to appear on advertising boardings, in newspapers and even in the Radio Times. In 1941, with the onset of the blitz, the artist moved to Rasehill, Chorleywood Road, Rickmansworth. His wife and son moved to Cheltenham where, in the same year, he held a one-man exhibition of his work, which then travelled to Sunderland Public Art Gallery.

Throughout the war years, Gilroy’s work continued to be exhibited at the Royal Academy while his commercial art talents were employed by the Ministry of Information in campaigns such as Make-do-and-mend, Keep it under your hat and We want your kitchen waste. He also improved morale by painting murals at various Royal Air Force bases and produced a series of drawings-in-one-line of contemporary political and military figures, called Headlines, which appered in The Star.

By 1945, when his painting Diamond Setting was exhibited at the Royal Academy, the artist’s address was given as 6 Avenue Studios, Sydney Close, SW3. A year laterhe prodced another mural, this time in the bar of the Mrritt Arms Hotel near Greta Bridge on the estate of his close friend Major Morritt. The work at the Morritt Arms began on the 1st February 1946 and was completed within10 days. When Gilroy and his assistant proudly displayed the walls of the bar decorated with Dickensian figures, closer inspection revealed them to be caricatures of local people and staff from the hotel.

In 1949 Esme Jeudwine, a former pupil and portrait subject, introduced Gilroy to the Royle family and another long and successful association began. Gilroy produced five greeting card designs for Royle Publications Ltd (Royles) in that year with another 464 published designs over the next 35 year. In 1966, Gilroy was acting Art Director for Royles.

In 1950 Gilroy married Elizabeth Margaret Bramley (nee Outram Thwaite). The couple lived at 17 Queen’s Gate, Kensington, but moved a year later to 10 Holland Park Road, W14, the former home and studio of Sir Bernard Partridge, whose cartoons Gilroy had copied from Punch as a child. The magnificent studio at Holland Park Road saw the creation of advertising work for T.F. Carrington Van PostingLtd. where Gilroy was Head of the Art Department, and was regularly visited by members of the Royal Family, politicians, actors and many others who came to have theit portraits painted.

In 1957 Gilroy held another one-man exhibition this time at Leighton House Gallery and two years later produced a series of landscapes of McGill University, Montreal, to illustrate a book McGill, The Story of a University, edited by Hugh MacLennan. In 1970 Gilroy held a retrospective exhibition at Upper Grosvenor Galleries and three years later an exhibition of his humorous designs for Royles was held at the London headquarters of Austin Reed Ltd.

In his later years ‘Jack’ Gilroy was a longstanding and much loved member of the Garrick Club where he was Chairman of the Works of Art Committee and where a number of his portraits now hang. In 1975 Gilroy was awarded an honorary MA by Newcastle University and in 1981, now living at 6 Ryecroft Street, Fulham, he was appointed a Freeman of the City of London.

John Gilroy died at Guildford on the 11th April 1985, aged 86, and is buried at Ampney St Peter in Gloucestershire near the home of his son and three grandchildren.


He created the zoo animals and other popular characters for Guinness from either 1928 or the early 1930s (accounts differ), but the first one he did appears to be the Guinness for Strength ad featuring a steel girder in 1934. According to some accounts, it was so popular that people even started ordering a ‘girder’ in the pub.


The following year, the Toucan debuted, and quickly became one of the most recognizable of the Guinness animals, used in marketing and advertising by Guinness for over 45 years. Here’s the story of its design from History House:

The idea of using a toucan was born in the advertising agency of S.H.Benson in London. Staff included the talented artist John Gilroy was newly employed as the poster artist, and among the copywriting team was Dorothy L Sayers, now famous as a writer, poet and playwright, and best known for her amateur detective stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. She had started at the agency in 1922 and worked there while writing books in her spare time.

This team produced some memorable posters for Guinness including several posters in the whimsical “Zoo” series. These included a zoo keeper with a Guinness, a sea lion balancing drink on his nose, an ostrich with the shape of a swallowed glass halfway down its neck, a tortoise with a glass of stout on its back, and a toucan with two Guinness bottles balanced on its beak accompanied by the words.

If he can say as you can
“Guinness is good for you”
How grand to be a Toucan
Just think what Toucan do.

Gilroy remained with the advertising agency until 1960 during which time he designed many other Guinness posters. As to how animals came to be used in an advertising campaign was recalled later by Gilroy. “The Guinness family did not want an advertising campaign that equated with beer. They thought it would be vulgar. They also wanted to stress the brew’s strength and goodness. Somehow it led to animals.”

The toucan returned on several occasions on all types of advertising media and on memorabilia. In 1982 Guinness changed advertising agencies and it was decided that the toucan was no longer an effective advertising motif and it was dropped.

The text from that ad was actually written by Dorothy L. Sayers, who worked for the same advertising agency as Gilroy before she became a famous mystery writer, well-known for such characters as Lord Peter Wimsey, and others.

Gilroy’s first Toucan ad, from 1935.

And here’s a sample of some more of his work for Guinness.


And finally, by no means complete, these are other Guinness ads I’ve collected in a Flickr gallery, many of which are by John Gilroy.

Ads: Guinness

Beer Birthday: Adam Avery

Today is also Adam Avery’s 51st birthday. Adam, of course, founded his eponymous brewery, Avery Brewing, in Boulder, Colorado. Since 1993, Adam’s been making some increasingly hoppy and big, challenging beers that are also quite wonderful, too. Join me in wishing Adam a very happy birthday.

At a Collaboration Beer Dinner with Bruce Paton, center, pitting Adam Avery’s beers against Vinnie Cilurzo’s in 2007.

Tomme Arthur, from Port Brewing/The Lost Abbey, with Adam — behind bars — and Eric Rose, from Hollister Brewing at CBC in Austin, Texas 2007.

After the Five Guys and a Barrel Beer Dinner, a toast was offered with Isabelle Proximus, the Collaborative Sour Ale made by blending beer and done by the five of them. Top row: Adam, Rob Tod, Bruce Paton and Sam Calagione. Bottom row: Tomme Arthur and Vinnie Cilurzo.

Historic Beer Birthday: Peter Schemm

Today is the birthday of Peter Schemm (May 30, 1824-September 13, 1898). Born in Bavaria, Germany, he came first to Baltimore in 1842, and five years later moved to Philadelphia, where he worked at Dithmar & Bretz, brewers. Thereafter, he worked with Louis Bergdoll, and in 1855 partnered with L. Houser to form the brewery Houser & Schemm. After Houser’s death in 1863, it became the Peter Schemm Brewery, and eventually his son came to work with him, and it was renamed the Peter Schemm & Son Brewery, or the Peter Schemm & Son Lager Brewery.


Here’s Schemm’s obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer, published on September 14, 1898, the day after he sparked worldwide interest by committing suicide by jumping into Niagara Falls.


Peter Schemm, the popular millionaire brewer, a favorite in many societies, father of eight children, band director and art patron, yesterday leaped over a bridge into the rapids above Niagara Falls just below Goat Island in the sight of hundreds of people. His body whirled to destruction, passed over the falls on the American side and may never be recovered.

The Associated Press dispatch from Niagara Falls was the first news to the family at 931 N. 8th Street. They hadn’t heard from him since Monday when he had left to visit the brewery at 25th and Poplar Streets. This worry and search for him began Monday night after he had failed to appear at the Board of Directors meeting of the National Security Bank which he never failed to attend. The family knew from the breaking off of his daily habits that something was wrong. All they could learn from his faithful carriage driver, Clarke, was that he took Mr. Schemm to the Reading Terminal Depot Monday at about 12:00.

“That’s all, you can go home. I’ll trouble you no more,” were the last words said to the driver. He spoke in his accustomed manner as the driver then thought, and disappeared in the depot. Upon his failure to appear among his coterie of friends (each evening he met his friends at Massholders Saloon near the brewery – Plumber School, building Harback, roofer Walh and undertaker Christian Kunaig and others) and his failure to return home at the accustomed hour in the evening where was usually punctual as the clock, an investigation was started and every effort was made to trace him. Telegrams were sent to his son, Peter Schemm, Jr. at Holly Beach and inquiries were made of all his intimate friends in this city. None knew anything. He sometimes had business at Bethlehem, and had interest in the Warwick Iron Co., but all that could be learned was that the driver had left him in the Reading Terminal at noon.

A distressing night and morning for his family and friends ended in the news that he had become the first sensational suicide of the summer at Niagara Falls.


He arrived at Niagara Falls at 11:00 pm the night before and registered at the Central House as Peter Schemm with putting down his address. He inquired for the Steel Arch Bridge and paid 25 cents to be conducted there at night. The following morning he said he was from Philadelphia and hired hackman Hickey to take him for a drive. He was taken all along the rapids and stopped many times to make examinations out of curiosity, the driver thought, but evidently contemplating a place to jump. When they got to the bridge on the route to Goat Island, he got out and sent the driver on across the bridge saying he would walk across to get a better view. In the middle of the bridge a figure was seen climbing up and over, there was a shout from people which caused all faces to turn. The 200 pound form of the gray-bearded 74 year old man was that of Peter Schemm.


Peter Schemm was born at Dottenheim near Newstadt-on-the-Aisch, Bavaria, May 30, 1824. Landing at Baltimore in his 18th year, without friends or relatives in this country, he found employment as a farm hand on what was a large farm on Pelair Road on the identical spot now occupied by the Van Der Horst Brewery. After five years of service at Baltimore, he left for Philadelphia, engaging with Dithmar & Bretz, the celebrated Ale and Porter brewers. In 1849, he entered a business relationship with Louis Bergdoll, then being one of the founders of the I. Bergdoll Brewing Co. Retiring the next year to give a place for Mr. Bergdoll’s brother-in-law, the late Charles Booth, Mr. Schemm formed a partnership with George Nanger as Nanger and Schemm at the 2nd and New Streets, a firm well known in its day, and held happy remembrances for many old citizens in Philadelphia. “Der dic-h George” was one of the characters of German society in the days of over 30 years ago. (The Industries of Philadelphia records that Philadelphia was the first place in this country where Lager Beer was made and the original brewer was George Manger who had a brewery about 1846047 on New Street).

After five years of hard work, Mr. Schemm started a saloon on 238 Race St. Still in existence and known for many years as the principal place of resort of the German element of the city. In 1855 he formed partnership with L. Houser as L. Houser & Co. which was renewed after five years as Houser & Schemm continuing until the death of Mr. Houser in 1863 when Mr. Schemm purchased the widow’s interest and was continued ever since under the name of Peter Schemm.

He was a member of the Odd Fellows, Red Men, Seven Wise Men, Masonic and other Orders, and served in some as Grand Master, State Representative and other important positions. He was also a member of the Germany Society Turners Schutzenverein, Saengerbund, etc. He was one of the founders and president of the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers Association. He was also one of the founders of the National Security Bank of Franklin & Ferard and was Director of it since 1870. Also founder of the Northern Savings and Trust Co. and the Warwick Iron Company and was a member of the Commerical Exchange of Philadelphia.

You can also find additional obituaries and follow up stories at the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group.

The Peter Schemm & Son Brewery located at North 25th Street near Poplar in Philadelphia.

There’s some biographical information about Peter Schemm at the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group.

Peter was born at Dottenheim near Newstadt-on-the-Aisch, Bavaria, May 30, 1821, where for generations past, his family had been brewers. Peter grew up in the brewing trade, learning both brewing and coopering, two trades which were generally carried on together. His family was well to do, but he believed that America offered larger opportunity for him. He arrived at the port of Baltimore at the age of 18 in 1839 and found employment as a farm hand on what was a large farm on Pelair Road on the identical spot which was occupied later by the Van Der Horst Brewery. Seven years later in 1846, he left for Philadelphia, engaging as a brewer and cooper with Dithmar & Bretz, the celebrated Ale and Porter brewers. In 1849, he entered a business relationship with Louis Bergdoll, then being one of the founders of the I. Bergdoll Brewing Co. Retiring the next year to give a place for Mr. Bergdoll’s brother-in-law, Charles Booth, Peter formed a partnership with George Nanger as Nanger and Schemm at the 2nd and New Streets, a firm well known in its day, and held happy remembrances for many old citizens in Philadelphia. (The Industries of Philadelphia records that Philadelphia was the first place in this country where Lager Beer was made, and the original brewer was George Manager who had a brewery about 1846-47 on New Street).

After five years of hard work, Peter started a saloon on 238 Race Street, a principal place of resort of the German element of the city. In 1855 he invested his capital in partnership with L. Hauser as L. Hauser & Co. which was renewed after five years as Houser & Schemm continuing until the death of Mr. Houser in 1863 when Mr. Schemm purchased the widow’s interest and continued after that time under the name of Peter Schemm. Hauser had a three-story dwelling on the ground floor and a small two-story building next door in which the beer was made. The total daily capacity at the start was 10 barrels. The dwelling and original brewery were used as different offices and a cooper shop, and other buildings were erected on the corner below. A large brewery was erected in 1885, and in 1886 the capacity of the establishment was doubled again when another building, which took the place of the two small houses in which the business had started, was erected. Peter was satisfied with the proportion of his trade, but the popularity of his beer and the expansion in the number of saloons created a larger retailer demand.

Peter gained a reputation in his time for great integrity regarding his product. He was not at all interested in fancy innovations in brewing or for the extensions that were often proposed by promoters and big brewing combinations. He had strong ideas on the way his beer should be served as well. The temperature could be neither too high nor too low and it had to be served carefully. Retailers guilty of neglects in these regards were denied his products.

Peter was a generous giver to charities and to friends of his youth who needed assistance. He contributed to charities and to the many German societies of which he was a member.

In 1885, Peter A. Schemm, Peter’s only son, joined the business, and the elder Peter gradually relinquished active management. His eyesight was beginning to fail, but even so, he maintained his daily practice of visiting the brewery two or three times every day, stroll up to Massholder’s saloon, a few doors above the brewery and sit with three or four old friends, and every day took his own carriage and driver (rather than using the carriage of his family) to meet with an old friend and stop by the brewery to be sure the beer was not too cold and had been properly drawn. In 1895, the contracting firm of Philip Halbach was engaged to add a large stock house to the Peter Schemm & Son brewery at a cost of $30,000.

Peter Schemm (with the white beard in the front right).



Beer Birthday: Ben Love

Today is the 39th — can that be right? — birthday of Ben Love. Ben was the head brewer at Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, Oregon, and before that brewed at Pelican Pub & Brewery and Adler Brau in Wisconsin. He more recently opened his own place, Gigantic Brewing. I had a chance yet to visit it a few years ago during OBF and try his, and partner Van Havig’s, wonderful beers. Ben’s a great brewer, a good friend, an active board member of the Oregon Brewers Guild and a great cheerleader for the Portland beer scene. Join me in wishing Ben a very happy birthday.

During a collaboration brew at Gigantic at OBF a couple of years ago, with John Harris (from Ecliptic Brewing) and Gigantic’s Van Havig and Ben.

Ben, on top step, with Christian Ettinger, brewmaster and owner of Hopworks, shortly before they opened.

At the HUB brunch after OBF in 2008: Assistant brewery Jeremy, brewmaster Christian and Ben.