In the 1950s Julian P. Van Winkle did a series of advertisements that were folk stories he would tell with a moral that you should drink Old Fitzgerald Bourbon. He later had a collection of these stories published as a pamphlet called “A Jigger of Common Sense”. I have a photocopy of this pamphlet in my archive. The original is in the archive that Diageo now owns.
The cover has a photograph of Julian standing in front of the brass sign that hung by the gates of the distillery. He is dressed in a white suit and hat, pointing at the sign. In the pamphlet there are stories with titles like “ The Day the Rhino came to Town”, “How to Stay Married for Life”, “How to Live a Hundred Years”, and “ How to Read a Whiskey Label”. There are nine stories in the pamphlet. They are very fun advertisements to read and I am sure that they were very effective at selling Old Fitzgerald.
For example, the story “The Day the Rhino came to Town” is about a farm hand who is before a judge for beating up a man who called him a Rhinoceros for the past three years. When the judge asked him why he waited so long to take his vengeance he told the judge that he had never seen a Rhinoceros before until the circus came to town. Julian then goes on to explain that the words “sour mash” are “rhinoceros words”. Most people don’t know what they mean and he then explains the term. Of course, Old Fitzgerald is a sour mash Bourbon.
The story about “How to Stay Married for Life” tells of someone asking Henry Ford on his Golden Wedding Anniversary how he managed this and his answer was “Stick to one model”. You should stick to one Bourbon – Old Fitzgerald. In the story “How to Live a Hundred Years” old Granny Dilworth is asked how she lived to be so old and answered “Because I was born a long time ago”. So was Old Fitzgerald.
In “How to Read a Whiskey Label” Julian explains about Bottled-in-Bond whiskey and the difference between bonded whiskey and blended whiskey. Of course Julian never sold Old Fitzgerald as anything other than a bonded Bourbon.
The other stories are in a similar vein. In a couple of them he used stories told by Abraham Lincoln to make his point. Others are takes on the field hand / stable boy / common man character.
These stories are filled with marketing for Old Fitzgerald. That does not make them less interesting. The history is not always accurate – John E. Fitzgerald is a Kentucky distiller in the “How to Live a Hundred Years” story. They do however have a “common sense” appeal in their telling as they sell the brand. They are good, clean, fun stories that work.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller, from Michael Veach’s personal archives