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Museum to host exhibit dedicated to breweries

| June 22, 2017

COSHOCTON – “Breweriana—Preserving the History of the American Brewing Industry” will premiere at the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum on June 24 and run through Sept. 24. The exhibit portrays America’s brewing past through industry packaging and advertising over the past 130 years. The term “Breweriana” refers to any article containing a brewery name or brand name, particularly collectibles. Hundreds of breweries will be represented by a wide array of objects from tin signs and trays to cans, bottles, coasters and taps. Most of the breweries are long gone, but visitors will recognize the names of the cities and small towns where they once thrived. The diversity of items will quench your thirst for beauty, history, wit and comedy.

Were beer advertisements in 1916 any different than todays? Yes and no. Beautiful people and sexy women were common. Humor was also used, often by showing serious people doing silly things. But there were eye-catching differences, too. When breweries wanted to show how productive they were, they showed their plants spewing out smoke from their stacks and sometimes exaggerated the size of their brewery. Another popular motif was to link the beer to Germany or England. Illustrations abound of people dressed in European clothing while drinking beer in their drawing rooms, at the local pub or while taking a break from a fox hunt. Of course any time we look back a hundred years we are surprised by the stereotypes that were acceptable in that age. The brewing industry was no different than its times.

Today regional and microbreweries are popping up all over. One might call it a revival of 19th century American production styles, similar to Europe’s ongoing approach. Imagine a time when many towns (and all cities) had their own brewery and you’ll have an idea of the diversity of places and brands represented in the show. Typically, breweries were located near rivers and canals to allow transportation of both raw materials and finished beer. Take a look at just one river in Ohio, the Tuscarawas, which begins in southern Summit County and continues through Stark, Tuscarawas and Coshocton Counties, eventually adding to the Mississippi. While only 130 miles in length, 27 breweries used it or its adjacent canal for transportation. You’ll see on display photos, signs, and trays from many of these breweries, such as Giessen & Bakers Brewery (Canton), The Massillon Brewing Co., Dover Brewery, and The Tuscarawas Valley Brewing Company (Niles).

Coshocton County is eminently suited to host such an extensive and unique display of brewing advertising. The specialty advertising industry was launched in Coshocton in 1884. It began when newspaper man Jasper Meek made use of his steam printing press to lithograph a shoe store ad onto a burlap school bag. Only a few years later (1890), Henry Beach, Meek’s competitor, developed a process to lithograph on metal signs using a steam press, a first worldwide. As a result Coshocton became the center of advertising art in America and perhaps, for a time, in the world. By the turn of the 20th century, there were more artists living in Coshocton than in any other American city, barring New York. They were creating images for signs and trays, most of which advertised breweries or beer from all over the United States and even Europe. After prohibition was enacted in 1920, a number of companies went out of business; others survived by switching to advertising soda or making calendars. The Meek Company, renamed American Art Works, became known for its Coca Cola trays.

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum’s Breweriana exhibit is one of the largest displays dedicated to the history of beer in America. Unlike Germany and other European nations, the US has no federal museum dedicated to beer. A few private museums have been started in the past ten years. Consequently, the exhibit is a must-see, not only for its historical value but for its wonderful graphic art. Exhibit sponsors are the Beach Company, Joshen Paper and Packaging, and Novelty Advertising. The Ohio Arts Council also helped fund this event with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum also has four permanent galleries: The American Indian Gallery displays prehistoric tools and points and 19th c. basketry and beadwork. The Historic Ohio Gallery includes local history, a hands-on area for children, an impressive firearms display, and an advertising art display (including the printing press Jasper Meek used for the first articles of advertising art). In the Asian Gallery, Chinese and Japanese sculpture, decorative arts and weaponry are displayed. The Golden Gallery features a WWI display, a Victorian nook, and the Newark Holy Stones.

The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum is open daily from noon to 5 p.m. The museum is located at 300 N. Whitewoman Street, in Historic Roscoe Village, Coshocton. A restored canal-era town located along the former Ohio & Erie Canal, Roscoe Village offers many attractions. Costumed interpreters lead tours through the restored buildings, and numerous shops are situated within the Village. For more information contact the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum at 740-622-8710 or visit its website: [email protected].

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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