Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gems from the Archives

Archival research is one of the many things occupying my time. Usually it involves lots of microfilm, and the need to trace down some obscure reference. Recently, however, I’ve increasingly been making use of some of the new digital online archives—like the Library of Congresss Chronicling America—that offers a quite distracting searchable interface. Distracting because you can quickly and easily find all kinds of interesting and useless information. As with these two advertisements for Consumers’ Brewing Company. The first was in the Washington, D.C. Colored American on June 15, 1901, appearing on page 3. Below is a second Consumers ad from the Washington, D.C. Evening Times that appeared in the April 9, 1901 edition on page 8. Consumers’ Brewing Company was in Rosslyn, VA, right across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., so it makes sense to find their ads in the majority of the Washington, D.C. papers. I came across the first ad while looking for a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem in the Colored American; I was amused by the image, so I proceeded to search the database using the brewery’s name to see what else popped up. Because who can get enough of an adult bear taunting cubs with a full stein of beer? Certainly not me! Sheer genius! Other delightful ad copy points to the “medicinal value” of Consumers’ porters and ales, as well as the fact that it is “recommended for family use” (Alexandria Gazette, September 3, 1900, page 1). Ah, history. So old and so foolish.

Anyway, after examining the search results on the Chronicling America site, I turned to the internet to see what else I could find out about Consumers’ Brewing Company. Which, as it turns out, was not much. Though more than I anticipated. This is from One Hundred Years of Brewing (Chicago: H. S. Rich & Co., 1901): “In 1895 the Consumers’ Brewing Company, of Rosslyn, VA, was organized for the brewing of lager beer, light and dark. A plant was erected on the Potomac river front, lighted by electricity and refrigerated artificially. It was ready for occupancy January 1, 1897, and since then porter and ale have been added to the brewery products” (207). By 1902, the brewery had changed its name to Arlington Brewing Company, and it attempted to stay afloat during Prohibition by producing Cherry Smash. Here is a picture of the brewery from around 1920 when it was producing Cherry Smash; the building itself was torn down in 1958; this picture shows the brewery from across the river—the building is in the upper right corner. I also found a reference to Consumers’ in American Brewers’ Review from October 20, 1896, indicating that Consumers’ had ordered a “50-ton refrigerating machine” from the Vilter Manufacturing Company of Milwaukee, WI (140). So there you have it: a completely pointless post about a long-defunct brewery. And yet this seemingly large digression, one that has consumed most of my afternoon, has left me in a delightful mood.


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