Thursday, February 20, 2014

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 130

Rainier beer truck, 1905
Not originally a postcard this is an old photograph that has been turned into a card and found at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle.  It shows a motor driven delivery truck for the Rainier Beer & Malting Company and is dated 1905.  The brewery was established in the 1880s and used horse drawn vehicles until 1905.  This would have been one of the first motor delivery trucks for the company.  The workmen are wearing typical leather overalls of the early 1900s to protect their clothing and work gloves on their hands.  Some of the work they performed would be done with a forklift today.  Extra crates containing beer bottles are stacked on top of the truck roof.  The running board and exterior rails look like that was how they rode on the side of the truck and jumped off to make quick deliveries.

Other nice features of this card include the gentleman standing on the street in a suit and hat of that time period and the dress in the store window showing the women’s style of 1905.   Notice the solid rubber tires on the van and the wheels that look more like wagon wheels than automobile wheels.  The engine is under the carriage.  The front of the van resembles a horse drawn coach.  Even the storage space on top is similar to that used to transport extra luggage on a stagecoach. 

Rainier was a popular brand of beer in the Pacific Northwest with beer produced beginning in 1878 and officially founded in 1884 by Edward Sweeney who established the Claussen-Sweeny Brewing Company.  In 1893 Sweeney’s company merged with two other breweries.  Prohibition began in Washington State in 1916 and by 1920 was nationwide.  All breweries had to cease production of alcoholic beverages in the United States but some moved their operations to Canada.  After the repeal of Prohibition in 1935 the company was purchased by Fritz and Emil Sick of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada and began brewing beer in Seattle again changing names a few times until finally becoming the Rainier Brewing Company.   A second brewery for Rainier beer was located in Spokane, Washington but that one closed in 1962.   Rainier won several awards for the quality of the beer especially the "pale lite" variety.  Beginning in 1977 the company changed ownership several times and eventually the Seattle brewery moved to the Olympia beer brewing facility in Tumwater, Washington, then ceased brewing beer locally in 2003.  Today a type of Rainier beer is brewed in California. 

Several advertising campaigns and souvenir items for the company became sort of pop culture with jubilee cans and Christmas cans, the reindeer cans and hundreds of other designs with some that are considered very collectible and rare especially the Christmas cans.  One example of this type of advertising is the beer tray shown in the photo below that was issued in 1913 and is known as the “Lady and the Bear. “ Rainier beer with the iconic “R” symbol that appeared on the roof of the brewery building is at the top of the tray, Strength and Purity on the sides, and the name of the company at the bottom.   Except for a couple of spills and a glass ring to mar the tray it is still in pretty good condition even after 100 years. 

The large red “R” that stood atop the brewery and became a landmark was removed when Tully’s coffee leased the building in 2000 and can now be found in the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle.   A large green “T” for Tully’s coffee that was brewed in the Rainier facility replaced the “R” for a few years.  In 2013 a replica of the original “R” replaced the “T” and once again the city has the recognizable Rainier landmark. 

For more interesting historical information about the Rainier company see:

Rainier beer tray, "The Lady and the Bear," 1913

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