Budweiser Clydesdales Debut On April 7, 1933

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Today, of course, is known by many names: National Beer Day, Beer is Back Day, Legal Beer Day, Brew Year’s Day, and New Beer’s Day. And that’s because while the repeal of the 18th Amendment wouldn’t be ratified until December 5, 1933, the Cullen-Harrison Act took effect on April 7, 1933, having been enacted by Congress on March 21 of the same year. And that meant that at least some lower-alcohol beer could legally be served in about twenty states in the United States, which I imagine after a thirteen-year drought was a welcome relief to beer lovers everywhere. Here’s the nutshell history from Wikipedia:

The Cullen–Harrison Act, named for its sponsors, Senator Pat Harrison and Representative Thomas H. Cullen, enacted by the United States Congress March 21, 1933 and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt the following day, legalized the sale in the United States of beer with an alcohol content of 3.2% (by weight) and wine of similarly low alcohol content, thought to be too low to be intoxicating, effective April 7, 1933. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt made his famous remark, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

Of course, he actually signed the bill on March 22, 1933, which is when he made that remark, still a full sixteen days before he could actually do so.

According to the Cullen-Harrison Act, each state had to pass similar legislation to legalize sale of the low alcohol beverages in that state. Roosevelt had previously sent a short message to Congress requesting such a bill. Sale of even such low alcohol beer had been illegal in the U.S. since Prohibition started in 1920 following the 1919 passage of the Volstead Act. Throngs gathered outside breweries and taverns for their first legal beer in many years. The passage of the Cullen–Harrison Act is celebrated as National Beer Day every year on April 7.

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And while you often see this photo of Budweiser’s Clydesdales pulling a beer wagon to deliver beer in Washington for the president at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt, this could not have been taken on April 7, but would have been a few weeks later at the earliest. Although the clydesdales did debut today in 1933, it was not in Washington D.C. Here’s the story, from Anheuser-Busch’s website:

On April 7, 1933, August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III surprised their father, August A. Busch, Sr., with the gift of a six-horse Clydesdale hitch to commemorate the repeal of Prohibition of beer.

Realizing the marketing potential of a horse-drawn beer wagon, the company also arranged to have a second six-horse Clydesdale hitch sent to New York on April 7 to mark the event. The Clydesdales drew a crowd of thousands on their way to the Empire State Building. After a small ceremony, a case of Budweiser was presented to former Governor Alfred E. Smith in appreciation of his years of service in the fight against Prohibition.

This hitch continued on a tour of New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, thrilling thousands, before stopping in Washington, D.C., in April 1933 to reenact the delivery of one of the first cases of Budweiser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The St. Louis hitch also toured in celebration, stopping in Chicago and other Midwestern cities.

Shortly after the hitch was first introduced, the six-horse Clydesdale team increased to eight. On March 30, 1950, in commemoration of the opening of the Anheuser-Busch Newark Brewery, a Dalmatian was introduced as the Budweiser Clydesdales’ mascot. Now, a Dalmatian travels with each of the Clydesdale hitches.

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Original Budweiser Clydesdale Six-horse Hitch and Beer Wagon, in front of the St. Louis Brewery in 1933.

And here’s the story from Wikipedia:

The Budweiser Clydesdales were first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. August A. Busch, Jr. presented the hitch as a gift to his father, August Anheuser Busch, Sr., who was guided outside the brewery by the ruse of being told his son had purchased him a new car, but instead was greeted by the horses, pulling a red, white and gold beer wagon. The hitch proceeded to carry the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis brewery in a special journey down Pestalozzi Street in St. Louis.

Recognizing the advertising and promotional potential of a horse-drawn beer wagon, Busch, Sr. had the team sent by rail to New York City, where it picked up two cases of Budweiser beer at New Jersey’s Newark Airport, and presented it to Al Smith, former governor of New York and an instrumental force in the repeal of Prohibition. From there, the Clydesdales continued on a tour of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States, a journey that included the delivery of a case of beer to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House.

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The Budweiser Clydesdales are still going, of course, and have been a great marketing tool for the beer company. My daughter is a horse lover, and has been doing equestrian vaulting (essentially gymnastics on the back of a moving horse) since she was six-years old. When she was seven, in 2011, I took her to see the clydesdales at the Fairfield Budweiser brewery. I had called ahead, and we had a private tour of the brewery first, which was fun, and then the horses arrived in several specially designed trucks and put on a demonstration in the parking lot. We watched as they unloaded them, groomed them and then got them ready. Then they hooked them up to the wagon and they circled the parking lot. My daughter had a great time and the horses, to her at least, were beautiful and the attention to detail they put into them was amazing. Anyway, here’s a few photos from that trip.

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My daughter Alice, ready for the brewery tour.

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The horses arrives.

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Alice in front of the beer wagon.

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After getting the horses ready, they started hitching them up, one by one.

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Until they were all hitched and ready to go.

Scrappy’s Beer Parade

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As regular readers will know, I’m a huge cartoon nerd. Today, March 8, 1933, the cartoon “Beer Parade” was released by Screen Gems, and created by the Charles Mintz Studio. It was a Scrappy cartoon.

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Here’s more about Scrappy, from Wikipedia:

Scrappy is a cartoon character created by Dick Huemer for Charles Mintz’s Krazy Kat Studio (distributed by Columbia Pictures). A little round-headed boy, Scrappy often found himself involved in off-beat neighborhood adventures. Usually paired with his little brother Oopy (originally Vontzy), Scrappy also had an on-again, off-again girlfriend named Margy and a Scotty dog named Yippy. In later shorts the annoying little girl Brat and pesky pet Petey Parrot also appeared. Huemer created the character in 1931, and he remained aboard Mintz’s studio until 1933. With Huemer’s departure, his colleagues Sid Marcus and Art Davis assumed control of the series. The final Scrappy cartoon, The Little Theatre was released in 1941.

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Posters for the “Beer Parade”
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Here’s the synopsis of the cartoon from its IMDb page:

Scrappy and Oopie, though little boys, happily celebrate the return of beer after fourteen years, with the help of brew-guzzling gnomes, apparently from the “Rip Van Winkle” story. They leave an allegorical “Prohibition” figure (ugly old man in stovepipe hat) stripped and chased off.

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Here’s another description from a user review at IMDb:

Scrappy and Oopie are partying with some gnomes who are enjoying beer from barrels. A mean Prohibition Agent appears and attacks the barrels with an axe, but Oopie will defend the right of people to enjoy their lager in this cartoon released a month before beer sales were legalized.

It had been a long fight and this typically bizarre Scrappy cartoon has the two children strongly in support of drinking. Although they do not partake themselves, they certainly use startlingly strange methods typical of Dick Huemer’s series. It is a pretty good one because it does not ease up in the second half. Dick and his staff certainly made it clear where their sympathies lay!

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This is from Scrappyland, a website dedicated to Scrappy:

Plot summary: Scrappy and Oopy joyfully serve beer by the barrelful to dozens of drunken elves until Old Man Prohibition shows up. The boys and the little men assault him from the ground and the air–even using explosives–until he chooses to bury himself. Whereupon the good times roll once more.

(I particularly like the moment when Oopy, having rigged up a rope to trip Old Man Prohibition, tugs at it to verify that it’s tight enough to do the job.)

The cartoon is an obvious allegory concerning prohibition and its repeal. But it was released on March 4, 1933, when the federal ban on alcoholic beverages was still in force, so its celebration of unrestrained imbibing was anticipatory.

FDR, who famously made repeal part of his campaign, had taken office in January; a couple of weeks after the cartoon debuted, he signed the Cullen-Harrison act, which permitted the sale of wine and 3.2 percent beer starting the following month. In December, prohibition on the federal level was fully repealed.

Prohibition was never enforced all that rigorously in cartoon land. The 1929 Silly Symphony The Merry Dwarfs presaged The Beer Parade by showing its title characters quaffing beer; 1931’s Lady Play Your Mandolin, the first Merrie Melody, takes place in a saloon and is full of tippling animals, although it’s possible that it’s set in Mexico. But the sheer quantity of beer in The Beer Parade–served by two small boys without any adult supervision–remains startling. It’s unimaginable that anyone would have made a cartoon with this theme a few years later. Or today.

(Scrappy and Oopy aren’t shown drinking in the cartoon, but they are depicted brandishing foamy mugs themselves, and do seem to be in an awfully exuberant good mood.)

He’s reviewing it from a YouTube video where someone at a public screening simply videotaped the cartoon and then uploaded it. But it’s subsequently been removed from YouTube. And as far as I can tell, Scrappy cartoons have not been released on either videotape or DVD. Which is a crying shame, because it looks like it was an amazing cartoon.

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This is from Scrappyland, a website dedicated to Scrappy:

Dr. Richard Huemer–the son of Scrappy’s creator–shared this New Years’ card which was sent to his father by Joe De Nat, the Mintz studio’s musical director. The card depicts Scrappy and his Mintz stablemate Krazy Kat pumping beer into a mug inhabited by a piano player and a mermaid (presumably representing Mr. and Mrs. De Nat). Assuming that the references to 1933 and the new year mean that the De Nats distributed this card around January 1, 1933, prohibition was still in effect, but the recent election of FDR meant that its days were clearly numbered.

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Prohibition Party 2016

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My friend Paul Marshall sent me this delightful little story about the state of the Prohibition Party in 2016. And yes, that Prohibition Party. Believe it or not it’s the oldest independent third-party still active, and they field a presidential candidate every four years. The party was founded in 1869, and its single defining platform was that they were, and still are, “opposed [to] the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages.” I knew they were still around, hoping to convince people that Prohibition was really a good idea, and we should try it again, despite all evidence to the contrary. But what I didn’t know was just how small they’ve become.

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In their heyday, before the 18th Amendment passed, they were active in American politics and contributed to the discussion, and even after Prohibition was enacted, continued to agitate for even stricter controls until they faded into obscurity. How obscure? In the 2012 national election for President of the United States, the Prohibition Party candidate, Jack Fellure of West Virginia, received 518 votes. But that’s not even the low point. One of their 2004 candidates, Earl Dodge of Colorado (there were two that election due to a split in the party), got 140 votes. At their peak, in 1892, John Bidwell of California received 270,770, which represented only a little bit less than half a percent of the roughly 63 million people then in the U.S. Seven times they cracked the 200,000 vote line, though not since 1916. The last time they hit over 100,000 votes was 1948, and 1976 was the last time they garnered more than 10,000. In the last three elections, less then 1,000 people voted for the party candidate.

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2008 Prohibition Party presidential candidate Gene Amondson of Washington state, the last year for which they’re selling buttons on the party’s website store. When I say store, it’s actually a Cafe Press store, and the party website itself was created for free using Wix.com. The party coffers are apparently not very full.

According to the Guardian article by Adam Gabbatt, A sobering alternative? Prohibition party back on the ticket this election, revealed that this year’s candidate is Jim Hedges of Pennsylvania, and his running mate is Bill Bayes of Mississippi. Hedges is actually the only known member of the Prohibition Party to have held any elected office — local, state or national — in the 21st Century, when he was the Tax Assessor for Thompson Township, Pennsylvania between 2002 and 2007.

Gabbatt went to Pennsylvania to interview the candidates, and it’s a fascinating read. It’s interesting to hear him talk so matter-of-factly about such an anachronistic idea that most people have moved past, with the obvious exception of the anti-alcohol groups that still exist. But even they seemed to have abandoned trying to get Prohibition going again (even though they’d certainly be in favor of it). Instead, they’ve been slinging mud and trying to disrupt the manufacture and sale (though especially access and advertising) of alcohol pretty much since before the ink was dry on the 21st Amendment.

Not surprisingly, the makeup of the membership skews to an older demographic, and according to Hedges “the current members are over 50, many in their 70s and 80s, and many are ultra-conservative.” But one of the most surprising reveals in the article is just how small the Prohibition Party of today really is. Hedges said that there are “currently about three dozen fee-paying members, who each contribute $10 a year.” So that’s $360 the party receives in dues for the year, plus there was a trust set up in the 1930s that provides additional funds. In most elections recently, that’s allowed them to be on the ballot in just one state, though this year Hedges is hoping to make it onto the ballot in six states, with an ultimate goal of getting 1,000 votes in each. But he’s realistic about his changes of becoming president, which he states are simply. “Zero. None whatsoever.” Still, despite the great divide between his party’s platform, and my own politics, I still think he’d make a better president than Donald Trump. If only there were a button available.

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Jim Hedges and Adam Gabbatt in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, taken by Guardian author Adam Gabbatt.

Beer In Ads #1867: Facts Versus Fallacies #67


Thursday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 67 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “67,” and is about how in every state that already had a prohibition in alcohol, it was failing miserably, and was impossible to enforce. In Alabama, in one city alone — Birmingham — it was estimated that 500 packages of alcohol were delivered every single day to residents who’d ordered them from out of state. So yeah, that worked.

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Beer In Ads #1866: Facts Versus Fallacies #61


Wednesday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 61 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “61,” and is about a canard that’s still used as propaganda by prohibitionists today, which is that people who drink alcohol are criminals and that one leads to the other. But even statistics at that time (as today) did not support that claim, and in fact a majority of incarcerated people were not alcoholics. They go on citing several experts of the day, all with he same opinion, that drinking alcohol does not cause someone to become a criminal, despite the ludicrous cries of the anti-alcohol wingnuts.

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Beer In Ads #1865: Facts Versus Fallacies #57


Tuesday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 57 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “57,” and is about yet another false claim by the Anti-Saloon League at their annual convention in Atlantic City, when they claimed that a report offered showed that thousands of people in Pennsylvania were giving up drinking. Sadly, this still happens frequently today, and the report showed no causation and was shown out of context. Statistics from another source, the I.R.S., contradicts their claim, of course.

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Beer In Ads #1864: Facts Versus Fallacies #55


Monday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 55 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “55,” and is again about Maine and especially how Massachusetts is accused of supplying alcohol to them, demonstrating more evidence that the local option — which is really a “local prohibition” — cannot work and should be abandoned. And that’s from people within the Anti-Saloon League at one of their own meetings, causing some amount of embarrassment to the prohibitionist position.

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Beer In Ads #1863: Facts Versus Fallacies #54


Sunday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 54 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “54,” and is about how Maine has fared with their 50-year prohibition, which began in 1846. Apparently, a prohibitionist group complained to the sitting governor that he should enforce the law, but he responded that he did not have the authority to do so, that only the legislature could do something, and that they had even impeached several sheriffs for not doing their jobs, only to have their replacements do even less to stop prohibition. So it would appear that Maine’s efforts at stopping people from drinking was an abject failure, and yet still prohibitionists continued agitating for a national ban on alcohol, knowing full well it was unlikely to do any good whatsoever.

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Beer In Ads #1862: Facts Versus Fallacies #50


Saturday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 50 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “50,” and in this one the message is simple. Pass legislation for a prohibition and thousands will lose their jobs, entire industries will be decimated, governments will lose large sums of tax revenue and, after all that, it won’t even stop people from drinking alcohol. So yeah, that sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

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Beer In Ads #1861: Facts Versus Fallacies #49


Friday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 49 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “49,” and this is another weird one, equating workmen’s compensation cases, which at the time was new law, to drinking. One of the prohibitionist’s arguments was that drinking in the workplace was a dangerous problem, but statistics show that in federal workmen’s comp cases only one involved intoxication, and that one was thrown out. Statistics from other states show similar results, with very few cases involving alcohol, taking the wind out of the propaganda sails for prohibition.

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