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COM: July 2017

Burger's Camel cone (mid 1930s)

Burger cone.

This time let’s look at one of the early cone tops from the mid-1930s, the Burger Beer from Cincinnati. It’s somewhat hard to find, and very desirable for its eye-catching graphics and colors. But first, what does this can have in common with a church in Rome, San Carlo ai Catinari? How about the use of a camel as a symbol of temperance? If you look at the fresco in one of the pendentives painted by Domenico Zampieri (1581-1641) you see a camel peering around the feet of the seated figure of Temperance.


The camel representing temperance, or prohibition, is a familiar emblem to those of us who collect breweriana, especially if you also collect prohibition-era material. Images showing the camel, often looking for a drink, appeared on postcards, cartoons, and sheet music. Many of the images made variations on the same joke: “A camel can go eight days without drinking. But who wants to be a camel!”

Camel postcard.

Deciding to coopt the symbol for themselves, in 1908 the Illinois Prohibition Party adopted the camel as its logo replacing the previous images; a fountain, and a rising sun. The national Prohibition Party followed suit soon after by adopting the camel as well. (It’s still the party symbol of the Prohibitionist Party. Yes, it still exists.) They claimed the camel was chosen because it could smell fresh water from a great distance. The watch fob shown here could have been worn by a prohibitionist as a sign of his support.

camel watch fob.
Camel watch fob.

Like a lot of breweries Burger made malt syrup for “home baking” during the dry years. While some was probably used for this purpose, a lot of it was also used to make home-brewed beer. Burger’s brand was “Buckeye” and featured, yes, the camel.

camel postcard.
Buckeye Malt Syrup sign from 1931.
Camel matchbook.
Buckeye Malt Syrup matchbook.

The slogan “Vas you efer in Zinzinnati” on the camel’s covering was a popular local saying. It gently and affectionately made fun of the city’s local German population and its influence. Burger used the slogan again in the mid twentieth century. I remember seeing Burger ads on the scoreboard at Riverfront in the early 1970s with a little burgermeister asking that question.

Are you thirsty?

On the cone tops the banner on the camel simple has a capital “B”. There’s not enough room for more. (There are two different versions of the camel on the label, but I only have the one to show you.) On the giant 1/16 th barrel Burger cans from the same era the banner reads “Are you thirsty?” In each case however, the camel is undoubtedly there as a swipe at the drys. On the malt syrup advertisement it can be seen as a sly wink at those who were using the product to violate prohibition laws. The somewhat inebriated look on the camel’s face adds to the effect. On the early cans it was a jab at Prohibition’s failure, especially the “Are You Thirsty” on the giant 1/16 th barrel can! Eventually the camel began to lose its impact as a symbol, and a little burgermeister replaced it.

Below: a 1919 cartoon showing using the camel to represent Prohibition (click to see larger version)

click to see camel cartoon.




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