marketing of whiskey through ads in newspapers and magazines
meant intense competition between the various
purveyors of liquor. The main players were the distilleries
and the wholesalers, both of whom targeted saloons and hotel
bars because they bought liquor in bulk (i.e., by the case or barrel).
Distilleries initially had the edge because their product was
consistent and reliable. This contrasted with the wholesalers
who, in the years prior to the Pure
Food and Drugs Act of 1906, blended raw alcohol with extracts
and beading agents to create something that looked and tasted like aged
whiskey, but was instead a cheap and often toxic imitation (read a recipe book
used by Rectifiers and Blenders for creating a liquors sold as "rye
whiskey" and "bourbon"). Once the Pure Food Act had
been passed, however, competion intensified and both distilleries and
the larger wholesalers tried to lure new customers with advertising
premiums. For example, an order for a case of whiskey might
be rewarded with a free corkscrew, a glass serving decanter or tray --
and a half-dozen thin-walled shot glasses.
distilleries and wholesalers had been using advertising premiums as a way of
increasing sales for many years before the practise became widespread -
and Co. of Covington, KY being a prime example.
Myers & Co. where distillers who produced one brand
only, "Fulton Whiskey", and they promoted it heavily via mailings to
liquor retailers, saloons, bars, and even individuals.
panel above was taken from a 1902 Christmas holiday flyer and featured
several offers, with the number of free gifts that one
received being proportional to the
size of the order (see complete flyer).
The offer notes that:
"From this date until
December 31, 1902, and not thereafter, we will present every purchaser
with a handsome nickeled Tray, a half-dozen engraved Whiskey Glasses,
and a patent Cork Puller, which requires only the turning of the handle
to extract any cork. This outfit will be in every case of 12
Fulton Whiskey shotglasses are among the most common pre-pro glasses
that have survived to today, standing testament to the success of
Meyers & Co.'s marketing strategy and the popularity of its
whiskey. Three examples of such glasses are displayed below.
A few liquor dealers ran ambitious incentive programs that rewarded
loyal buyers with coupons or certificates that could be traded for
various items from a special catalog (the programs were
reminiscent of and were probably based on the S&H
Green Stamp program that first began in 1896 and continued
operating through to the 1980's). Rewards included small
items such as pens and glassware, but also musical instruments,
firearms, furniture, and even farm implements!
The best-known of these reward programs was operated by the Kellerstrass
Distilling Co. of Kansas City, MO. (flip through the pages of
one of their catalogs), but there were many others, including one run
by the Cloverbottom Distilling Co. of New York, NY. One of their
advertisments from a 1903 edition of Munsey's Magazine is shown below.