Continuing my Philadelphia theme for Philly Beer Week, Thursday’s ad is old one, from 1873. The brewery is Bergner & Engel’s, which used to be located on 32nd and Thompson. I just love these old posters showing off the brewery at its best that were common in the latter half of the 19th century.
Here’s a description of the poster from the Library Company of Philadelphia:
Since the erection of the first brewery in Philadelphia circa 1683, beer making has been a near steady Philadelphia industry. Following the introduction of lager beer to the Philadelphia market in the mid-19th century, German-American brewers dominated the field. The firm of Bergner & Engel, formed in 1870 between longtime brewers Gustave Bergner and Charles Engel, symbolized the best of the best of that era’s nearly one hundred, mostly German-American run breweries. Operating from a plant built for Bergner in 1858 at 32nd and Thompson streets, the brewery served as the forerunner in the establishment of the industrial neighborhood known as Brewerytown.
This circa 1875 print, a chromolithograph by German-born lithographer Charles P. Tholey, evokes the vitality of the brewing industry and documents the eye-catching imagery of advertising for the city during the 19th century. The advertisement conveys the expanse of the Bergner & Engel plant that included ice houses, a brew room, fermenting and cooling rooms, store rooms, offices, and dwellings. The numerous factory wagons loaded with kegs of beer to be delivered, the visible construction dates of the ice houses, and the several returned and cleaned barrels demonstrate the success of the company. To catch and keep the viewer’s eye, Tholey also employed subtle details such as the excited dogs, the probable job seeker soliciting a worker on break, and one of the proprietors, Bergner, conversing with an employee in front of his office.
Unlike advertisements of today, the product for sale does not serve as the focus of the print. Rather, the factory comprises the image. Competition for consumers was not based on the quality of the good, but the quality of the establishment in which the product was produced. Regarding the circulation of such prints, rather than posting them publicly in stations, on buildings, or fences, businesses probably enclosed the advertisements with product shipments sent to their distributors throughout the country. Enterprises such as Bergner & Engel anticipated that their retailers would display the prints in the public spaces of their establishments to promote their products to a broader base of consumers.