Today’s art is a beautiful lithograph from 1889 featuring both beer and baseball, our recent topic during the MLB Playoffs and World Series. Although the lithograph is essentially an advertisement, its age, historic nature, value and artistic beauty make it artistic enough to be featured here, at least in my opinion. Known as the Cap Anson and Buck Ewing “Burke Ale” Beer Poster, it is the first known time that a baseball player was paid for his endorsement for advertising. The two baseball players were Cap Anson, of the Chicago White Stockings (the team that eventually became the Cubs, the modern White Sox took their name from the Cubs’ abandoned nickname in 1900), and Buck Ewing, of the New York Giants (now, of course, the San Francisco Giants, on their way to the World Series). The beer being advertised is essentially from Guinness, their Finest Pale Ale and Extra Foreign Stout, both of which were sold under the label “E. & J. Burke,” which was for Edward and John Burke who, had a liquor importing company and was licensed by Guinness to sell their products under that name, beginning in either 1849 or 1880 (accounts disagree) and continuing through the start of Prohibition.
Here’s the description from Robert Edwards Auctions, who auctioned one of only three known posters in 2008:
Both Anson and Ewing are pictured in their respective uniforms as they take a break from a game to enjoy a refreshing glass of beer. Anson is seen enjoying a glass of Finest Pale Ale, while Ewing opts for a glass of Extra Foreign Stout. The timeless appeal of this piece, aside from the colorful graphics and high-quality production values, lies in the artistry of the scene as a whole. In what was then a nostalgic homage to the game’s early history, Anson and Ewing are pictured relaxing outside a large retiring tent. Such tents, which were holdovers from the game of cricket, were a common site at ball games during the 1850s and early 1860s, but were no longer in vogue at the time. A large banner displayed above the tent reads “Champions,” which most likely refers to the many championships won by each player’s respective teams in the preceding years, to which they now toast. Pictured in the background is a game-in-progress scene (presumably between the White Stockings and Giants), with the field bordered by a filled-to-capacity grandstand. The foreground image further promotes the company’s products, as Anson is sitting on a keg of Finest Pale Ale and Ewing is resting his arm on a barrel of Extra Foreign Stout. Boxes of “Burke’s Old Irish Whiskey” and “Garm Kirk Scotch Whiskey” are also visible among the barrels. Perhaps the most amusing detail are the numerous empty bottles of each respective beverage that are strewn all along the ground at their feet, along with various pieces of baseball equipment (base, ball and box, and bat). Also in the foreground, lying next to a beer barrel, is letter of endorsement from the brewery that bears an “Arthur Guinness Son & Co.” seal. The name of the lithography company, “Wagner & Co. Lith – 75 Murray St. N.Y.,” is printed in the lower right corner of the poster.
The Robert Edwards Auctions also has a lot more information about the poster. According to Collectors Corner, the poster “sold for an astonishing $188,000, setting a record for a baseball-related advertising poster and a record for any American advertising poster featuring a product of any kind.”