The Battle of the Little Bighorn is arguably one of the most famous battles in American history. The battle began today, June 25, 1876, and concluded the next day. It was “known to the Lakota and other Plains Indians as the ‘Battle of the Greasy Grass,’ and commonly referred to as ‘Custer’s Last Stand,’ [and] was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of U.S. forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory.”
History aside, it’s also considered to be one of, if not the very first, item of American breweriana created. It was used as a promotional item, a framed chromolithograph of a painting of “Custer’s Last Fight” by lithographer Otto Becker, who based it on an earlier oil painting by Cassilly Adams. Anheuser-Busch gave them to customers who carried their Budweiser beer. It was created in 1896, twenty years after the battle took place and also twenty years after Anheuser-Busch was founded.
Here’s a history of it from the National Museum of American History:
Considered one of the most reproduced lithographs of its time with over 150,000 copies distributed to saloons and dining establishments, this print was used as an advertising promotion for Budweiser Beer. This chromolithograph on paper is based on the Cassilly Adams painting that was inspired by the narrative of the battle by a scout named Curley. The original painting by Adams was completed in 1888 and sold to John Ferber who owned a saloon in St Louis, Missouri. Adolphus Busch acquired the painting along with a saloon when the owner couldn’t pay his bills for the sum of $35,000 in 1892. Eager to have the original copied for advertising, he commissioned the Milwaukee Lithographic Engraving Company. Their artist, Otto F. Becker, produced a 24X40 inch painting that was then divided into six sections and given to other artists to create the color plates used to produce the 1896 advertising prints.The restored Becker painting hangs in the St. Louis board room of Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated. The original Adams painting was destroyed by fire on June 13, 1946. Versions of the advertising print vary according to margin size and legend content, but the first run edition resulted in 15,000 prints. There have since been 18 subsequent editions totaling over 1 million copies according to Anheuser-Busch. The colored print depicts the battle between General Custer’s troops and Indian warriors at Little Big Horn. Custer is featured at center waving a saber and dressed in a fringed buckskin. The remaining cavalry officers, with the exception of Custer’s brother Tom, are dressed in military uniform. Indians are armed with scalping knives, tomahawks, clubs, spears and rifles. The dead appear in foreground, with several identified in the bottom margin. The background depicts a peaceful landscape. Custer’s medals and banners are depicted in lower left margin while a mounted Indian poses beside a monument in lower right margin. Text below the image advertises the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Assn.
Below is a description of the reproduction from an auction website selling a copy of it.
Custer’s Last Fight / Anheuser-Busch / Budweiser. 1936.
Twenty years after the Battle of Little Bighorn, Anheuser-Busch appropriated this image by Otto Becker to promote Budweiser, a beer founded the same year as the fight. Depicted at center is General Custer, brandishing a saber and holding a gun. While the other officers appear in military uniform, both he and his brother are wearing fringed buckskin. The majority of the dead appear in the foreground, the most famous of which are noted in the text below. Also shown are the General’s various medals and banners alongside a small scene of a Native American on horseback in front of a monument. The original painting was a gift by Anheuser-Busch to the Seventh Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry.