BEFORE PROHIBITION (Pre-Prohibition or Pre-Pro).
Signs that still remain for brewers and their beers before Prohibition and over a hundred years ago, i.e. before 1920, are relatively rare. The more common beer signs used in a saloon or tavern were often discarded once Prohibition started. When brewers were able to resume making beer upon the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, about 14 years after it began, new signs were provided and subsequently the older signs, if any had been retained, were usually discarded. However, there were also some unique Pre-Pro signs made to be displayed on the brewery premises or in finer establishments. Even though few of these more unique signs were made, and some may have only one or two of a kind, because they were so unique, they were sometimes retained by those associated with a brewery after Prohibition. Such signs are particularly coveted by collectors.
MEYER RIEDLIN BREWING Co.
After William Riedlin made an investment in the Bavarian Brewery in 1882 and became partners with John Meyer, the two decided to name the brewery after themselves in 1884. The sign on the side is one of two that were in an 1884 group photo of the brewery workers. It is not known whether these signs may still exist. It appears they were hand carved from wood. Of interest is that the sign references Bavarian Brewery, and Meyer & Riedlin's was a beer, not the name of the brewery. In addition, the symbols of the lions in the shield would later be used in the Bavarian Brewing Co. trademark, shown in the sign below.
BAVARIAN BREWING Co. c. 1890
This was a very early corner sign made for Bavarian probably made in the 1890's by the Cincinnati Sand Blast Co. It was painted on reverse glass, has glue chip lettering, a zinc frame and probably a wood backing. Around 1900 it was hung in the Rathskeller and used for a group photo in 1902. It was also prominently displayed in the Bavarian Tap Room after Prohibition until the brewery closed in 1966. Please see the Tap Room for photos of this sign as it was displayed. As depicted in the top of the sign, an image with two lions became part of the trademark for Bavarian. Above this image it appears there may have been some flaking on the sign. The image shown is from a professional black and professional photo taken by the brewery and that is from the Schott Family Collection at the BC Museum. Unfortunately, a color photo was unavailable and the whereabouts of this sign are unknown. However, there is an image of a similar sign made for Kamm & Schellinger Brewing Co.
REVERSE GLASS SIGN c. 1900
Known as a Vitrolite sign, this sign was made by the Meyercord Co. in Chicago, IL, beginning around 1900. These signs are made of milk glass usually with either a tubular metal or wood frame. The graphics were painted on the exterior and the glass could be flat or curved. They curved signs were typically used as outdoor corner signs, as many saloons were located on corners. These signs were later made so that lighting could be inserted in the frame to illuminate the sign. Some of the earlier signs were also modified to accommodate lighting. Vitrolite signs were made for many brewers, as well as other types of firms, e.g. distillers, cigar makers, dairies and others. They are extremely collectible.
MIRROR SIGN c. 1900
This sign below measures about 18 inches wide and was from the Cincinnati area. It has no other markings, but because of its origins, it is assumed to be from the Bavarian Brewing Co. in Covington, KY. Often saloons Pre-Prohibition had exclusive agreements to sell beer from only one brewery, or the saloon was located in a building owned by the brewery. This sign provided notice of the only type of beer the saloon served.