High Grade: The Beer That’s Liquid Food!

I have a bunch of stuff crammed into boxes. I don’t even know what’s actually IN some of the boxes. There are books and papers and documents and potentially collectible stuff that I’ve acquired over the years, most of it coming from the bowels of my father’s book store. Sometimes I see stuff I don’t remember ever having seen before. Like yesterday, when I saw a postcard lying on the floor, near a box ominously labeled “eBay.” This was the postcard (right click for a larger image):

I have to admit I’ve never heard of High Grade Beer, “The Beer That’s Liquid Food,” but, damn, that’s a cool-looking brewery. I investigated further.

According to The Handbook of Texas, “The Galveston Brewing Company (1895-1918) was one of the few regional breweries that survived Prohibition. Adolphus Busch and William J. Lemp of St. Louis were both major stockholders of the corporation that raised $400,000 to found the Galveston Brewing Company in 1895. The brewery formally began operations on February 3, 1896. The pre-Prohibition physical plant consisted of a large ice plant that could produce seventy-five tons of ice, and a modern brewery that could produce 75,000 barrels of beer a year. The plant also had cold-storage rooms and railroad tracks on two sides of the building. The company dug several wells that gave a water supply of two million gallons a day. The Galveston brewery was so well constructed that it survived the Galveston hurricane of 1900 with only minor damage. The major product of the Galveston brewery before Prohibition was a beer called High Grade.”

Sounds like a pretty amazing operation (I’m not sure about post-Ike, but I think the building still stands).

I found a couple of amusing ads for the beer that appeared in the Galveston Daily News. These two ads appeared in 1908 and 1909, and this campaign featuring the annoying “Otto” seems to have gone on for quite some time. The first one, from 1908, is my favorite:

The kids … they love the beer.

The second one, from 1909, isn’t as “enlightening” as the first, but it gives a nice nod to the hard-working (and always sober) Galveston brewery workers:

More successful, I think, (and certainly less didactic) is this typically lovely example of early-20th century advertising art, featuring beer-loving mermaids prettily washed up on the rocks below the Galveston seawall:

I am endlessly fascinated by the weirdness of advertising.

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4 responses to “High Grade: The Beer That’s Liquid Food!

  1. I have a very large framed lithograph of this…not just a postcard. Would be interested in knowing the value. It came out of an old dance hall my husbands grandfather owned in Texas. If you have any information, please e-mail me @ bvacek2001@yahoo.com

    • It’s a beautiful example of advertising art. I would contact an auction house for an estimate. I know that some beer advertising can be quite valuable.

      • I did contact the company you told me about and they are interested in the lithograph I have. Can you tell me what your postcard says at the bottom left. Again you can e-mail me at bvacek2001@yahoo.com Thanks for the advise.

  2. I’m afraid I don’t have the original postcard featuring the mermaids (I have the top postcard featuring the brewery). I’ve enlarged the mermaid image to try to read it, and it looks like the first word is “copyright,” but I’m afraid that’s all I can make out.

    Good luck with your lithograph!

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