English Lad Ale: circa 1940
Traditionally in art a black horse with a white spot on the forehead has been considered lucky. Finding this can took some luck by a friend of mine in Massachusetts. He found about a dozen of these with a metal detector in some woods off of a back road. Listed in United States Beer Cans as # 60-4, this used to be one of the rarest cans around. In the revised edition of Lew Cady's book, Beer Can Collecting, the author lists this can as one the the rarest, noting that there was only one indoor example known and no dumpers. Since Cady wrote that in 1981, more have been discovered, including this one which was " scatter-dumped " in Massachusetts in May 2003.
|The beer was brewed by Westminister Brewing Company in Chicago, which was associated with Manhattan Brewing Company, which had been part of Al Capone's brewing operation during Prohibition. By the time it was producing legal beer, however, Capone was in Alcatraz, slowly losing his mind to the effects of advanced syphilis. So by the time this can was produced it was no longer "Al Capone's Brewery." Capone was released from prison in 1939 and retired to Florida where he died in 1947.|
Capone, no longer running breweries. (Photo Library of Congress)
English Lad Ale and English Lad Beer was sold in 12 ounce flats, cones and quart cones under the Westminister, Manhattan and Prima Brewing company names from about 1938 until about 1942. As was common in many early cans, this one featured opening instructions showing consumers how to open it with a new-fangled can opener called a "church key."
Westminister Brewery, years later.
The horse on the can was based on a real early twentieth century race horse named English Lad. English Lad, who had a distinctive white spot on his forehead which you can see on the label design won the Hyde Park Stakes at Washington Park in Chicago in 1903. This was the last time this race was run at the original Washington Park. In 1904 he won the Chicago Derby and the St. Louis Derby, two of the biggest races in the country. Also, although he was shown as a bay on the can, in reality English Lad was chestnut.
The Library of Congress site has several photos of the real English Lad from the Chicago Daily News Collection. These photos, and the descriptions, are taken from the American Memory Collection at the website of the Library of Congress .
|Image of English Lad, with jockey mounted, being led across paddock by an African American handler past horsemen at Washington Park Race Track which was located between East 61st and East 63rd Streets, South Cottage Grove Avenue and South King Drive (formerly South Park) in the Woodlawn community area of Chicago, Illinois. SDN-001657, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society .
|Image of English Lad, racehorse, with jockey mounted, cantering on track near grandstand filled with spectators at Washington Park Race Track which was located between East 61st and East 63rd Streets, South Cottage Grove Avenue and South King Drive (formerly South Park) in the Woodlawn community area of Chicago, Illinois. SDN-001687, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
Beer Can Collectors of America. United States Beer Cans (Beer Can Collectors of America: Fenton, Mo) 60.
Beer Can Collectors of America. "Horse Racing and Beer: The Sport of Kings and the King of Beverages" Beer Cans and Brewery Collectibles . 32/3 June/July 2002. 9.
Cady, Lew. Beer Can Collecting (second edition). (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1981) 183.
Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society. Found at the Library of Congress, American Memory, Chicago Daily News Collection .
La Susa, Richard J. "Phantom Breweries of Chicago" Beer Cans and Brewery Collectibles. 33:2 April/May 2003. 4-7.
Pospychala, Phil and Joe McFarland. The Great Chicago Beer Cans. (Libertyville, Il., Silver Fox Productions, 1979) 13, 32-33, 67.
Van Wieren, Dale P. American Breweries II (West Point, PA., East Coast Breweriana Association, 1995) 78, 82 .
Thanks to BCCA historian Kevin Kious for additional information about the horse, English Lad!