Monday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1960. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features African American film and theatre actress, singer, and dancer Dorothy Dandridge. “She is perhaps best known for being the first African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1954 film Carmen Jones. Dandridge performed as a vocalist in venues such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. During her early career, she performed as a part of The Wonder Children, later The Dandridge Sisters, and appeared in a succession of films, usually in uncredited roles.” In this ad, Dandridge says we should count her in among the total number of people who love Rheingold Extra Dry.
Monday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1959. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features Portuguese-born Brazilian samba singer, dancer, Broadway actress, and film star Larry Steele. There’s not much I could find about him, but he apparently produced a well-known traveling show from 1946-1971 called “Smart Affairs.” In this ad, Steele is holding a glass of Rheingold Extra Dry and giving us tips on show business.
Sunday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1940. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features Portuguese-born Brazilian samba singer, dancer, Broadway actress, and film star Carmen Miranda. “Nicknamed “The Brazilian Bombshell”, Miranda is noted for her signature fruit hat outfit she wore in her American films. As a young woman, she designed hats in a boutique before making her first recordings with composer Josué de Barros in 1929. Miranda’s 1930 recording of “Taí” (“Pra Você Gostar de Mim”), written by Joubert de Carvalho, catapulted her to stardom in Brazil as the foremost interpreter of samba.” In this ad, Miranda claims people associate her with South America, but she associates good beer with North America, and especially Rheingold Extra Dry.
Today is one of my favorite author’s birthdays, John Updike. He grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town that I did — Shillington — and we both escaped to a life of writing. Though I think you’ll agree he did rather better than I did with the writing thing, not that I’m complaining. I once wrote to him about a harebrained idea I had about writing updated Olinger stories from the perspective of the next generation (his Olinger Stories were a series of short tales set in Olinger, which was essentially his fictional name for Shillington). He wrote me back a nice note of encouragement on a hand-typed postcard that he signed, which today hangs in my office as a reminder and for inspiration. Anyway, this little gem he wrote for the The New Yorker in 1964 is a favorite of mine and I now post it each year in his honor. Enjoy.
Beer Can by John Updike
This seems to be an era of gratuitous inventions and negative improvements. Consider the beer can. It was beautiful — as beautiful as the clothespin, as inevitable as the wine bottle, as dignified and reassuring as the fire hydrant. A tranquil cylinder of delightfully resonant metal, it could be opened in an instant, requiring only the application of a handy gadget freely dispensed by every grocer. Who can forget the small, symmetrical thrill of those two triangular punctures, the dainty pfff, the little crest of suds that foamed eagerly in the exultation of release? Now we are given, instead, a top beetling with an ugly, shmoo-shaped tab, which, after fiercely resisting the tugging, bleeding fingers of the thirsty man, threatens his lips with a dangerous and hideous hole. However, we have discovered a way to thwart Progress, usually so unthwartable. Turn the beer can upside down and open the bottom. The bottom is still the way the top used to be. True, this operation gives the beer an unsettling jolt, and the sight of a consistently inverted beer can might make people edgy, not to say queasy. But the latter difficulty could be eliminated if manufacturers would design cans that looked the same whichever end was up, like playing cards. What we need is Progress with an escape hatch.
Now that’s writing. I especially like his allusion to the beauty of the clothespin as I am an unabashed lover of clothespins.
In case you’re not as old and curmudgeonly as me — and who is? — he’s talking about the transition to the pull-tab beer can (introduced between 1962-64) to replace the flat punch-top can that required you to punch two triangular holes in the top of the can in order to drink the beer and pour it in a glass.
The pull-tab (at left) replaced the punch top (right).
Originally known as the Zip Top, Rusty Cans has an informative and entertaining history of them. Now you know why a lot of bottle openers still have that triangle-shaped punch on one end.
So essentially, he’s lamenting the death of the old style beer can which most people considered a pain to open and downright impossible should you be without the necessary church key opener. He is correct, however, that the newfangled suckers were sharp and did cut fingers and lips on occasion, even snapping off without opening from time to time. But you still have to laugh at the unwillingness to embrace change (and possibly progress) even though he was only 32 at the time; hardly a normally curmudgeonly age.
Saturday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1959. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American actress Claudia McNeil. She was best known “for premiering the role of matriarch Lena Younger in both the stage and screen productions of A Raisin in the Sun. She later appeared in a 1981 production of the musical version of the play, Raisin presented by Equity Library Theater. She was twice nominated for a Tony Award, first for her onstage performance in A Raisin in the Sun (1959), and again for the play Tiger Tiger Burning Bright in 1962. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award for the screen version of A Raisin in the Sun in 1961.” In this ad, McNeil simply stands in the street, on Broadway below her marquee for “A Raisin in the Sun” and says, like her show, Rheingold Extra Dry gets a “top-billing.”
Friday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1947. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American professional baseball player and professional golfer Sam Byrd. In this ad, Byrd compares baseball and golf, and says you need to stay calm playing either one, but it’s best to just think of something else and not worry about. And to that purpose, he suggests Rheingold Extra Dry.
Thursday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1942. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American journalist and author Alice-Leone Moats. In this ad, Moats, who traveled the world as a journalist, tells a story of being in Africa and being delighted to find a cool, refreshing Rheingold Extra Dry.
Wednesday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1946. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American sports writer Stanley Woodward. “Sportswriting legend Stanley Woodward had a 43-year career [as a] sportswriter and editor.” In this ad, Woodward confesses that he’s gotten many, many sports predictions wrong, but then suggests one prediction he won’t get wrong is that you’ll like Rheingold Extra Dry.
Tuesday’s ad is for Rheingold, from 1942. In the 1940s and 1950s, Rheingold recruited a number of prominent celebrities to do ads for them, all using the tagline: “My beer is Rheingold — the Dry beer!” This ad features American singer and actress Rosemary Lane. She was one of the Lane Sisters, a family musical group. “Lola, Rosemary, and Priscilla co-starred in four films together: Four Daughters (1938), Daughters Courageous (1939), Four Wives (1939) and Four Mothers (1941). Leota did not find the same success as her sisters and left Hollywood for New York City before the sisters’ breakthrough.” In this ad, Rosemary talks about how strenuous and tiring rehearsing can be, and how she likes to combat her fatigue by drinking Rheingold Extra Dry.
Today is the birthday of English scientist Joseph Priestley (March 13, 1733-February 6, 1804). While he was also a “clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, and Liberal political theorist,” he’s perhaps best known for discovering oxygen (even though a few others lay claim to that honor). According to Wikipedia, “his early scientific interest was electricity, but he is remembered for his later work in chemistry, especially gases. He investigated the ‘fixed air’ (carbon dioxide) found in a layer above the liquid in beer brewery fermentation vats. Although known by different names at the time, he also discovered sulphur dioxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and silicon fluoride. Priestley is remembered for his invention of a way of making soda-water (1772), the pneumatic trough, and recognising that green plants in light released oxygen. His political opinions and support of the French Revolution, were unpopular. After his home and laboratory were set afire (1791), he sailed for America, arriving at New York on 4 Jun 1794
In 1767, Priestley was offered a ministry in Leeds, Englane, located near a brewery. This abundant and convenient source of “fixed air” — what we now know as carbon dioxide — from fermentation sparked his lifetime investigation into the chemistry of gases. He found a way to produce artificially what occurred naturally in beer and champagne: water containing the effervescence of carbon dioxide. The method earned the Royal Society’s coveted Copley Prize and was the precursor of the modern soft-drink industry.
Even Michael Jackson, in 1994, wrote about Priestley connection to the brewing industry.
“It has been suggested that the Yorkshire square system was developed with the help of Joseph Priestley who, in 1722, delivered a paper to the Royal Society on the absorption of gases in liquids. In addition to being a scientist, and later a political dissident, he was for a time the minister of a Unitarian church in Leeds. During that period he lived next to a brewery on a site that is now Tetley’s.”
In the New World Encyclopedia, during his time in Leeds, it explains his work on carbonation.
Priestley’s house was next to a brewery, and he became fascinated with the layer of dense gas that hung over the giant vats of fermenting beer. His first experiments showed that the gas would extinguish lighted wood chips. He then noticed that the gas appeared to be heavier than normal air, as it remained in the vats and did not mix with the air in the room. The distinctive gas, which Priestley called “fixed air,” had already been discovered and named “mephitic air” by Joseph Black. It was, in fact, carbon dioxide. Priestley discovered a method of impregnating water with the carbon dioxide by placing a bowl of water above a vat of fermenting beer. The carbon dioxide soon became dissolved in the water to produce soda water, and Priestley found that the impregnated water developed a pleasant acidic taste. In 1773, he published an article on the carbonation of water (soda water), which won him the Royal Society’s Copley Medal and brought much attention to his scientific work.
He began to offer the treated water to friends as a refreshing drink. In 1772, Priestley published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air, in which he described a process of dripping sulfuric acid (or oil of vitriol as Priestley knew it) onto chalk to produce carbon dioxide and forcing the gas to dissolve by agitating a bowl of water in contact with the gas.
And here’s More About Priestley from the Birmingham Jewellry Quarter, whatever that is:
But his most important work was to be in the field of gases, which he called ‘airs’ (he would later chide James Keir for giving himself airs (oh dear!) by adopting the term ‘gases’ in his Dictionary of Chemistry, saying ‘I cannot help smiling at his new phraseology’). Living, as he did at the time, next to a brewery, he noticed that the gas given off from the fermenting vats drifted to the ground, implying that it was heavier than air. Moreover, he discovered that it extinguished lighted wood chips. He had discovered carbon dioxide, which he called ‘fixed air’. Devising a method of making the gas at home without brewing beer, he discovered that it produced a pleasant tangy taste when dissolved in water. By this invention of carbonated water, he had become the father of fizzy drinks!
But perhaps my favorite retelling comes from the riveting History of Industrial Gases:
The relevant findings were published in 1772, in Impregnating Water with Fixed Air
20. By this process may fixed air be given to wine, beer, and almost any liquor whatever: and when beer is become flat or dead, it will be revived by this means; but the delicate agreeable flavour, or acidulous taste communicated by the fixed air, and which is manifest in water, will hardly be perceived in wine, or other liquors which have much taste of their own.
Priestley’s apparatus for experimenting with ‘airs.’