At one time, the Kentucky Bourbon Affair had an event at the Filson Historical Society where Bill Thomas, Jared Hyman and I held an appraisal fair. It was a lot of fun and many interesting items came in for appraisal. These two advertising pieces from the Perkins and Manning Co. of Owensboro were particularly nice items brought in for appraisal.
Perkins and Manning Co. were rectifiers in Owensboro before Prohibition. Like many rectifiers of the time, they did not own a distillery and purchased barrels from the local distilleries for their whiskey sales. They might have married whiskey from different distilleries together to create their house flavor profile or they might have blended the whiskey with neutral spirits, fruit juice and caramel coloring. Or, they may have done both methods to create their brands. These advertising pieces do state you could purchase their whiskey in bulk (by the barrel) or by the case. These particular advertisements are for their “Kamp’s Rye”.
The advertisements are for “Old Joe Perkins Whiskey”. Joe Perkins was most likely the Perkins of the Perkins and Manning Co. The two lithographs are a pair and you need to see both of them to understand what is going on in the images. The theme of the two lithographs is “The Sportsman’s Choice” with the first image showing a man and his bird dog hunting during the winter.
The second image is a man back in the camp getting a drink of whiskey from a companion hunter. Hunting and fishing have always been a theme for whiskey advertising. It is interesting in that the advertising never shows the person drinking while holding a gun. They wanted to show responsible use of their product. In the camp image, the gun is set aside while he is drinking.
There are many advertising lithographs from this period with hunting as a theme. The Filson has a lithograph on milk glass from Bernheim Bros. advertising I.W. Harper Whiskey. It depicts a cabin wall with a gun and a day’s worth of birds hanging from a hook and table with a bottle of I.W. Harper on a small table underneath the game. The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History also has several pieces with a hunting theme. Other themes include hunting dogs, fishing, canoe trips and other outdoor activities.
After Prohibition, the distilleries still used the same themes to advertise their products, but they were not large lithographs, but rather print advertisements in magazines and newspapers. Cabin Still was advertised in all of the fishing and hunting magazines with similar images as those used by Perkins and Manning Co.
Wild Turkey was another brand that did a lot of outdoor sports-themed advertising. In the 1960 and 70s, hunting and fishing-themed decanters were popular. Brands such as Cabin Still and Geo. Dickel would sponsor Bass Fishing Tournaments. Ducks Unlimited had several distilleries issuing decanters of their Bourbon to help the group raise money.
Outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing have always been a theme of whiskey advertising. The outdoorsman was a large market for whiskey. This is true even today. You can see it in advertising, but even in events at the Kentucky Bourbon Affair. Whether it is fishing in the lake at Four Roses’ Warehouse Facility, or shooting clay pigeons at Wild Turkey, the themes of hunting and fishing are still an important part of whiskey advertising.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller