National Bohemian Bank Can: circa 1969
This month's can is a bank can from National Bohemian in Baltimore. It's one of my favorite cans from that brewery. You can find it at most can shows for $20-25.00. I paid $30, which was too much. I think the brewery either gave this can away or sold it to visitors to the brewery. Along the bottom of the can it lists the cities where National had breweries: Baltimore, Detroit, Miami and Phoenix. That places the can between 1966 (when they opened their Arizona branch) and 1973 (when they left Detroit).
I feature this can as this month's COM because I wanted to show the various souvenirs that breweries issued over the years. Bank cans were one of the most popular.
Bank Cans and other Brewery Souvenirs
Brewing industry trade journals recommended tours as a good way to win new customers and to win local support for breweries. Tours varied in their length and how much detail they revealed. Smaller breweries that couldn't afford full time tour guides sometimes trained salesmen to do tours. Breweries could print pamphlets and booklets to pass out to visitors. Some provided food and they usually gave away free sample of their products. According to a 1947 article in American Brewer, breweries provided things such as pretzels, sandwiches, cold cuts and even buffet dinners. One Texas brewery featured a Mexican dinner with some tours.
The 1947 article warned, however, of visitors that regularly used the tours to get free beer, abusing the company's hospitality. The author recommended reviewing the hospitality part of the tour, and making sure it wasn't overdone.
Breweries could follow up after the tour with letters to the visitor and, of course, material to take home. Bank cans were only one type of souvenir you could get on a brewery tour. The page below shows some of the items people could pick up (usually free).
Pamphlets & Booklets
This is a 1950s booklet from Jacob Ruppert Brewing Company in New York City. It's about 40 pages long and full of B&W photos of the inside of the brewery and some of the people who worked there.
I don't collect bank cans, but somehow I've accumulated several of them. This one is from Christian Heurich Brewery in Washington, DC. This brand came out in 1955 and the brewery closed in January 1956, so it's easy to date this can. A DC native told me that taking the tour of Heurich's brewery, and getting to taste the beer, was a rite of passage in DC in the early 1950s.
Most of these are salt and pepper shakers. I have only a few, mostly from breweries I am interested in. Here we have Barbarossa from Red Top in Cincinnati, Burger from Cincinnati, Esslingers from Philadelphia, Fehr's from Louisville, and Fort Pitt and Old Shay from Pittsburgh.
Mugs were popular give-away's from many breweries. I've seen a lot from Falstaff and Fehr's in Louisville used to also give them away, apparently with kegs of their beer. People also made their own mugs from empty cans. I have an example of a homemade one with my November 2010 COMs.
There are numerous other items breweries gave away. Before Prohibition breweries gave away match vaults (small metal containers that kept wooden matches dry in your pocket) and watch fobs. They also gave away small pocket mirrors, match books, combs, booklets, recipe books, etc, as well as bottle and can openers. Collectors call these items "Breweriana" and they allow collectors to expand their collection beyond cans and bottles.
"How Breweries Have Applied Plant Tours in Promoting the Sales of Their Beer" American Brewer. (March 1947)