Vol. 4, No. 1, Saturday May 05, 2007

by dick bales
When it comes to Illinois shot glasses, I usually tend to categorize them into two separate groups: one, Chicago, and two, everything else.

Chicago is truly in a class by itself. The city boasts some of the finest shot glasses in existence. A few of my favorites include Casting Club Rye, Sunrise Pure Rye, and Morning Joy.

Pyramids in Pre-Prohibition Illinois

But the rest of Illinois isnít exactly a glass junkyard. It has several wonderful specimens, and some of the best are those shots that I call the Zahringer glasses.

It certainly is timely that I write about these now, as several specimens have turned up on eBay in recent weeks.

John Zahringer operated the Oriental Liquor Company in Peoria, Illinois. This city is in the central part of the state, in (where else?) Peoria County. Zahringerís brand names include "Camelís Head," "Oriental," "Oriental Uplands Rye," "Peoria Country Club," and "Zahringer." The pre-pro data base indicates that Zahringer was in business in Peoria from 1914 to 1919.

John Zahringerís glasses feature a very unusual illustration. The data base describes it as a "complex design featuring a frosted camel head emerging from an outlined silver moon with grain stalks in the background, a sun rising behind two pyramids and palm trees, an obelisk, and a temple portal with an Egyptian man/sphinx within."

Part of Illinois is known as "Little Egypt." Is this where Zahringer drew inspiration for his glasses? Consider, for example, the logo of Southeastern Illinois College.

At first this seems plausible, but this is undoubtedly not the case. The towns in "Little Egypt" with names like "Cairo" and "Thebes" are in the far southern part of the state, and as noted above, Peoria is more centrally located.

No doubt Zahringer adopted this design simply to illustrate the mystique of his "Oriental Liquor Company." (Remember Agatha Christieís 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express? It begins with famed detective Hercule Poirot boarding the train in Istanbul, Turkey, for a journey to France.)

There are at least five distinctly different Zahringer glasses. The first example reads "ZAHRINGERS PURE STOCK." Note that the word "ZAHRINGERS" is in large block text that is all the same height.

(1) (2) (3)

The second glass also features the words:  "ZAHRINGERS PURE STOCK," but the text is completely different, with a raised "Z." This glass also includes the words "SOLE OWNERS" by the pyramid, and the "fine print" at the bottom is quite different.

Note that the first glass shown here appears on page 200 of Historic Shot Glasses. The pre-pro data base indicates that this first glass is "similar but earlier" than the second example that is pictured here.

The third glass reads "Peoria Co. Club/SOLE CONTROLLERS."  This simple design with just the words "PEORIA, ILLINOIS" at the bottom is completely different from the fourth glass, which features the words, "Peoria Co. Club./WHISKEY./SOLE OWNERS."

Number four also has "fine print" at the bottom of the glass that does not appear in the third example.

The fifth and final glass is a simple "text only" glass that asks, "Met Zahringer Yet?"


Is it possible that John Zahringer commissioned this glass when he first started his company? Then, as he became more prosperous, perhaps he designed the more orate (and undoubtedly more expensive) examples shown above. This is a nice theory, but we will probably never know why this fifth example is so different from the previous four glasses.







Zahringerís unique illustration enthralled even Barbara Edmonson. On page 215 of Old Advertising Spirits Glasses she exclaims that an ad on page 31 of Snyderís WP "gives prices and illustrates their remarkable pictorial trade mark!"

Three of these five glasses have been sold on eBay within the last two months. Example #1 sold for $53.00, the third glass sold for $63.00, and the fifth example traded hands for only $10.00.

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