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SIGNS: Overview

Signs for retail and commercial use have an ancient history dating to the ancient Romans and Greeks, who used a whitening area outside of stores for postings. The Chinese appear to be the first to use paper signs, which began in the ninth century, if not earlier.  There have been a wide variety of different types of signs in America, beginning with some of the first settlements. They likely began with wooden signs. However, lighted signs didn't begin until the late 1800's.  An excellent display of signs in the U.S. is available at the American Sign Museum




 Please click the above image to access the museum's web page. 


Due to varied types of signs used by the Bavarian Brewery, they were divided into the following categories:

            (including Lithographs in Stationary)

Similar to signs, but treated separately herein, are Posters.


The first group of sign categories, before and after Prohibition, are discussed below.

BEER SIGNS Before Prohibition, or Pre-Prohibition (Pre-Pro).

The use of signs for  brewers and taverns in the U.S. probably began with wooden signs. Signs were also painted on buildings. When electricity became available commercially with the electric arc beginning in 1870 they provided illumination onto signs. However, it wasn't until around the early 20th Century that incandescent lights were used, which allowed signs to be created from bulbs, or more commonly, to be backlit. Backlit signs could be made by installing lights inside boxes of wood or metal boxes that had cut outs for letters and/or shapes that were often covered with glass, or that simply illuminate images or letters on painted on glass. As incandescent lighting was becoming prevalent just before Prohibition, most signs before then were of wood, metal, glass, mirror or simply on the outdoor sides of brick or wood buildings. During this period before 1920, most saloons or taverns had exclusive agreements with one brewer. So, the emphasis was often to promote a saloon, rather than to to promote a beer or brewer.  Nevertheless, if a brewer was to supply a free sign to an establishment, it would have the name of that brewery and/or its beer. In addition, within a brewer's offices or tap room, or in finer drinking  dining establishments, some larger and more detailed signs and posters were made to promote a beer or the brewer. Examples of most of most of these early beer signs can be found under Signs: Pre-Prohibition.

Lithographs were also used in the brewery business before Prohibition. It originated in Bavaria, Germany, in 1796 and became more practical in the 1820s. It was often used to create maps in the the mid 1800s. It is a process that involves drawing an image onto a plate, in the beginning on limestone and later usually on metal. It is created by treating a hand drawn image with a special solution, such as water and oil. The image is then transferred to paper, can be used multiple times and is often framed. To produce a lithograph in color, each color is applied separately. It was common for many breweries to obtain lithographs depicting their buildings and it was used as a form of advertising, often appearing in newspaper ads, or framed and placed in establishments. They also appeared on the stationary and invoices of brewers, and was used in this way by the Bavarian Brewing Co., as shown in Stationary. The lithographs used by this former brewery were enlarged and are presented as an exhibit in the former Bavarian Brewery, on the second floor hallway of what is now the Kenton County Government Center in Covington, KY. Please use this link to view this exhibit.

After Prohibition 

The sign industry changed a great deal during almost 14 years of Prohibition beginning in 1920, due to the use of lighting. One of the most impactful types of lighting in the 1930's for a couple of decades was neon lighting, which was first used in the U.S. in the 1920's. Even though neon was first available only in a red color, different colors were introduced the the 1930s making it much more appealing. Please see Signs: Neon

Some materials formerly used before Prohibition were also used afterwards, such as mirrors, reverse glass and metal signs, but rather infrequently. The Pre-Pro use of wood signs were essentially abandoned after Prohibition, as they were much more expensive and less durable than than alternatives provided by newer materials and improved technology, particularly plastics. 

Brewers began to become much more aggressive with providing different types of advertising and promotional items after Prohibition. However, for Bavarian Brewing Co., such advertising memorabilia are more limited until shortly after WWII, or around 1946. This is because the brewery didn't reopen until 1935 and few if any advertising materials of any type were made for Bavarian before 1938 due to the limited financial resources of the firm, and before its bankruptcy in late 1937.   For the period between 1938 and 1942, the new ownership of the brewery was  increasing its brewing capacity and distributorships, re-establishing itself with newspaper and radio ads and apparently decided to provide relatively few promotional advertising items at that time. WWII began in 1942 and the country was under rations with a substantial portion of the country's men serving abroad until 1945. This reduced the need to utilize promotional advertising not only for Bavarian, but for other brewers as well. The brand names for Bavarian during this early post Prohibition period between 1938 and 1945 were; Bavarian Beer, Bavarian Master Brand Beer, Schott Ale and Cincinnati's Pride Beer. It wasn't until 1946 that the brewery established it's flagship brand beer as Bavarian's Old Style Beer, and then modified it to Bavarian's Select Beer in 1957. It's during this two decade period from 1946 until the brewery closed in 1966 that most signs and other advertising items for the aforesaid beer names were made and distributed by Bavarian Brewing Co. In particular, the development of plastics, lead to the more prevalent use of plastic or glass faced backlit signs beginning in the late 1940's. Please see Signs: Backlit


Note:  If you have any signs or other objects or images of Bavarian Brewing Co. items not shown on this web site, and particularly between 1935 and 1946 under the various brand names previously noted for this time frame, please let us know.

Trademark from Tray B in B.png

The Historic and Former
Bavarian Brewery

In Covington, Kentucky

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