Today is the birthday of American illustrator and painter Norman Rockwell (February 3, 1894-November 8, 1978) one of the 20th centuries most famous artists. Known for his wholesome depictions of everyday American life, his paintings appeared on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post for almost fifty years, and he frequently did work involving the Boy Scouts, Boys’ Life and such patriotic subjects as “The Four Freedoms.” For a long time, I had assumed his conspicuous absence from the “Beer Belongs” series of ads that the brewing industry did from the 1940s through the 1960s employing some of the best known illustrators of the day, was because he wanted to maintain his wholesome image. But I later found out that he had done quite a bit of advertising work, including for at least one beer company, the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co.
There’s also “Man with Sandwich and Glass of Beer,” which I believe was painted for an unspecified beer ad, between 1947 and 1950. I far as I can tell, it was never used, as I’ve been unable to turn up the illustration in any actual advertisement. If someone as famous as Rockwell had done the ad, it would be highly collectible and would turn up somewhere.
But several years earlier, in 1930, he did do an illustration for the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co., and specifically for their brand, Schmidt’s City Club Beer, which they started brewing in the 1920s as a non-alcoholic beer, though after 1933 it became a golden lager.
The City Club Beer label in 1933.
It looks like they continued to use the image, and who can blame them, for years afterwards, both in other ads and merchandising. For example, they used the artwork as the back of a deck of promotional playing cards for the brewery in 1954.
I’d seen the ad before, and searched in vain for a decent size image of it, finding only small ones. But then over the summer, “thrifting” (which is what my son calls going to yard sales and thrift shops), I found a coffee table book of Norman Rockwell’s advertising work published in 1985. And lo and behold, there was the beer ad. So I picked up the book, scanned the ad, and here it is below in all of its glory. One of the few beer ads by one of the best known illustrators in America. It includes all his trademark folksy charm, and it still relatively subtle for an advertisement, which the wooden case of beer being the most prominent sign of the brand. The bottles have the City Club labels on them, but they’re hard to see sitting on the table. A very cool ad and definitely one of my favorites.