In the November 2009 issue of All About Beer magazine, I wrote an article entitled Beer Belongs (beginning on page 44), about the famous ad campaign by the United States Brewers Foundation that ran from 1945-1956. If you come here from the magazine, below is some additional text and also some galleries displaying all of the advertisements from that period of time that I know about. I may be missing one from either the beginning or the end of the series, before and after they were numbered, since we have no idea how many were produced during those years. The Home Life in America series, which was numbered, I believe is complete. I am indebted to the Beer Institute, who provided scans of some of the ads, and helped me fill in a few gaps. If you’ve come here through a link, I would encourage you to read the main article in All About Beer first.
The year before World War II ended, 1944, the United State Brewers Association (USBA) and the United Breweries Industrial Foundation merged, creating the United States Brewers Foundation (USBF). During the final year of the war, the USBF created an advertising campaign to promote beer as “America’s Beverage of Moderation.” The campaign was known as “Beer Belongs” and began in 1945, though in 1946 it began numbering the ads as a part of a series entitled “Home Life in America.” It lasted over a decade, with the last numbered ad being produce in 1956. Well-known artists and illustrators of the day were commissioned to paint idyllic works showing an idealized post-war America — exclusively white I should point out — enjoying their post-war prosperity in a variety of settings, but with beer, naturally, at the center of it all. The ads are, I think, strikingly beautiful in most cases, and are some of the best examples of commercial illustration from the time period. I have four originals of these ads in my home and love them.
There’s surprisingly little information about the ad campaign as a whole, and most accounts say there were 115 paintings done from 1946-56. I have discovered, however, at least 136 different advertisements. The main series began in 1946 and was called the “Home Life in America” series, and was numbered from 1-119. But there are two different #2 ads that I’ve uncovered, bringing the total to 120. The year before, 1945, at least nine additional ads were produced similar to the main series, the primary difference being they’re not numbered. Then, in 1956, there were at least seven more produced that are similar to the series but, again, are unnumbered. Five years later, in 1961, the USBF members voted to revert to the original name, the USBA, which had been in existence since 1862, making it the second-oldest trade organization in our nation’s history.
So then, back to the ads I’ve found, there were:
- 9 (1945 Unnumbered)
- 120 (1946-56 Numbered)
- 7 (1956 Unnumbered)
- TOTAL = 136
Each one included a title, the author’s name and information about the series. The one below is typical of the series. It’s number 42, was painted by Douglass Crockwell in 1950 and was titled Getting the Boat Ready. He was one of the most poplar artists they used, having done 70 of them, including all thirteen in 1949. Alone, he accounted for nearly half of the ads.
The Non-Artistic Elements
At the bottom of each work of art they used several different templates used to promote the brewing industry and beer as a part of everyday life. Taglines used in virtually every ad were “Beer Belongs,” a shortened version of “In this friendly, freedom-loving land of ours — beer belongs … enjoy it!” So a portion of the “beer belongs” line is used in every ad. Beer is also characterized in each ad as “America’s Beverage of Moderation.” Below are some close-ups of a selection of the different elements used in the bottom section of the ads. It’s not exhaustive, but gives you a flavor of how they were trying to spread the positive message of beer in society.
When you’re taking it easy — what makes a glass of beer taste so good?
Malted barley —
Tangy hops —
Pure, clean water —
Important minerals —
The way it “goes with everything” —
Malted barley and other grains —
The way it “goes with everything” —
Beer and ale — mealtime favorites
Beer belongs … enjoy it
In this home-loving land of ours … in this America of kindliness, of friendship, of good-humored tolerance … perhaps no beverages are more “at home” on more occasions than good American beer and ale.
For beer and ale are the kind of beverages Americans like. They belong — to pleasant living, to good fellowship, to sensible moderation. And our right to enjoy them, this too belongs — to our own American heritage of personal freedom.
In addition to the shining whiteness of the society depicted, the images also show primarily a man’s world in which women were expected to be docile and submissive. Here’s how the Cold War Blog discusses it, using this particular ad, Dad Takes On All Comers, #96, by Douglass Crockwell.
[The ad] sponsored by the United States Brewers Foundation, presents the reader with a very different depiction of what life is like for women in America. This image highlights a number of important changes that have taken place during the post-war period and into the McCarthy era, including the complete re-structuring of time and a shift in gender roles. The image illuminates the new ideas about foreign relations and national security, domesticity, work and leisure, and, more generally, what it means to be an American. The advertisement is entitled “Home Life in America,” which suggests an image of both America as a nation and Americans as people that are unified, singular, and homogeneous. The women pictured in this ad lead distinctly different lives than Mary Martin; however, both the women in the beer ad and Mary Martin are offered as good models for how the average American woman should serve her country. Mary Martin and her peers were principally concerned with helping their nation win World War II by participating in the production of goods. In contrast, women of the fifties are instructed to strengthen their country and fight communism by raising and supporting a “good American family with good American values.” Marchand (1982) writes, “with the home symbolizing the security and stability recently thwarted by war and depression, the paramount role [for women] [i]s homemaker.” Through ads like this, “the popular media romanticize[s] domesticity and elevate[s] it to the status of a national purpose” (Marchand, 172). Indeed, at the bottom of the full-page ad, one reads “in this friendly, freedom-loving land of ours…Beer Belongs – Enjoy.” “Beer belongs” in America, the land of democracy, prosperity, and “good Christian values.” Communism, on the other hand, does not. In order to ensure that this is a reality, women must fulfill their duties as devoted wives, gracious hostesses, good mothers, and, most of all, patriotic Americans. Unlike women of World War II, modern women of the fifties are warned against spending their time outside the home. As Ladies’ Home Journal puts it, “You Can’t Have a Career and Be a Good Wife.” The United Brewers ad communicates to the reader a number of shifts that have taken place. Leisure, rather than work, is central to this advertisement, reflecting a broader change in the way Americans spend their time. In an era of opulence, American families enjoy their new homes with spacious lawns. With the man grilling and the woman serving cold beers to her guests, this ad exemplifies women and men stepping into new roles and allocating their time in a very different manner than before. This is how “home life in America” is and ought to be if America is to remain strong in light of communist threats at home and abroad.
While there are obvious truths in that, I can’t say I agree with all of it. In the ad they picked, only one of the women in it is serving, the other two are playing croquet. But the most interesting thing omitted from this critique, and indeed from the ads themselves, is that I recall reading that because women were in most cases the person in the household who actually purchased beer for the home, especially where it was available in grocery stores, that advertisers began shifting their ads to reflect that. So showing subservient women doesn’t seem the best way to reach them, though perhaps it was so ingrained that few questioned those gender roles, at least not the majority of the target demographic for the ads. Looking at the series as a whole, they do seem a reflection of the social politics of the time for the most part. Of course, all the people shown are beautiful and apparently quite well-off, newly middle-class at worst. There are no scenes in seedy, downtown bars, no non-Caucasians at all, and no tiny apartments. Everything is big, white and suburban — and everybody is smiling and having a good time — showing at best a sliver of society as a whole.
As I mentioned earlier, I have four originals of these ads framed and hanging in the hallway between my kitchen and the garage. I’ve had them for years, but last year I developed a renewed curiosity to find out more about them and the entire series. There’s actually very little information about the Beer Belongs ad campaign out there, at least that I could find. I’ve spent at least the past year, off and on, searching the internet concentrating on auction websites, advertising, artists and illustrators and have been able to piece together what I believe is a complete list of all of the ads. As far as I know, it’s the only list there is, unless there’s one gathering dust in a library or someone’s attic somewhere. I’m relatively sure about the numbered ads, though I can’t say whether or not there are additional unnumbered ones from 1945 and 1956, but these are the ones I’ve found so far. If you have any additional information, supporting or contradicting what I’ve presented here, please let me know so I can make this as accurate as possible.
I’ve found digital copies of all but one of the ads so far, though a lot of the images are far from ideal. Many, unfortunately, are small photos or scans from auctions, but at least I could verify their existence and get a sense of what they looked like. Happily, for a number of them I have better, clearer images and I scanned the four I own, though due to the size of my scanner I had to do them in two parts and stitch them together. If you have an original or a better digital copy of one that’s small or fuzzy, I would be grateful for a better image of the ad. I will give full credit to everyone who sends in graphics I can use. The goal is to have a complete gallery of these beautiful old ads. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
The Collection of Advertisements
Each of the Flickr galleries below is best view in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify the ads.
Part 2: 1946-1956, The Home Life in America Series
The main series ran for eleven years and 120 ads were produced. Even though, in a sense, this was the second phase of this type of ad, it is the most popular incarnation of the ads and the ones that most people are familiar with, which is why I’m starting with this gallery.
Part 1: 1945, The Unnumbered Ads
1945 was the first year that the United States Brewers Foundation “Beer Belongs” ad campaign began, and at least nine ads are known. Unlike in later years, the ads are not numbered, though they bear many similarities to the later ads. One of the two main differences are that they do not appear to be a part of the “Home Life in America” series that began the following year with the numbered ads. The other, according to an advertising website, is that the first year the ads were done by so-called fine artists and in later years were done by commercial illustrators. Each of the nine ads from 1945 is painted by a different artist (except for Julien Binford, who did two), whereas the later years saw 120 ads done by eleven illustrators.
Another unique feature of the first year ads is that reproductions were apparently available free of charge, as longs as the request was made within the year. Each of the first-year ads contained the following text.
The slideshow below includes the 9 ads from 1945. Some of the images are not ideal, but are the best examples that I could find for them.
Part 3: 1956, Unnumbered Ads After The Home Life in America Series
After No. 119 in The Home Life in America series, a few additional ads were produced with similar elements, but which were not numbered. The slideshow below includes the 7 unnumbered ads from 1956. Some of the images are not ideal, but are the best examples that I could find for them.
Part 4: Extras
As detailed in my article, the Beer Belongs ads grew out of working with the U.S. government during World War 2. A successful series entitled “Morale is a Lot of Little Things” was produced by brewers during the war, a few of which are included in the gallery below, along with some related ephemera. The gallery below also included two spoofs of the ads, a sure sign of their popularity.