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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Beer = Freedom

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

John Gannam did some lovely work for the United States Brewers Foundation's long-running campaign of beer ads. We'll talk about Gannam's career on another occasion.

What's more fascinating to me though, is the motivation behind this series of ads. Keep in mind that they ran during the McCarthy Era. Around that same time Senator Estes Kefauver was crossing the country rooting out organized crime. With PTAs and church groups burning comic books and politicians finding commies in the woodpile and mobsters under every rock, no wonder an industry reliant on a unionized labour force and traumatized by the memory of prohibition might want to take action to associate itself with "friendly" and "freedom-loving" as presented through homey imagery that exuded warmth, geniality, neighbourliness and tradition. No slick, modern stylization in these ads; when Gannam wasn't painting the portrait of America's freedom-loving beer drinker, the USBF called on the likes of Haddon Sundblom or Douglass Crockwell. In a time of bomb shelter building and enquiries into un-American activity, the message from the brewmeisters was, "beer belongs...enjoy it!"

You'll find more of John Gannam's beautiful work here.

1 comment

  1. Thanks for a great post, Leif. I love to see Gannam's work-- it is so rarely reproduced. I was surprised in hindsight at how tightly rendered his beer ads were. His ads for sheets and towels (from your linked flickr series) seem so much stronger-- they really took advantage of the medium and were loose and bold as only watercolor can be. I caught your promise that you would have more to say about Gannam in the future, and I look forward to hearing it.

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