BREWERY GEMS ARTICLE: 

Guide for dating Post-Prohibition Acme Breweriana

This article is intended as a aid in dating breweriana, specifically for Acme collectibles from the period 1933 to 1953.

The following paragraph applies to beer labels of all brands of beer - not just Acme.

Acme Lager Beer label ca.1933Beer labels provide clues as to age when they carry citations mandated by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. From April 1933 to Sept. 1935, all beer labels were required to include the U-Permit number (which identified the brewery that produced the beer) and the alcohol content of the beer. Additionally, from 1933 to 1950, they were required to include the statement: "Internal Revenue Tax Paid."

When the Volstead Act was amended on April 7, 1933, beer could again be brewed, but not in excess of 3.2% by weight, or 4% by volume. It wasn't until the 21st Amendment was ratified on Dec. 5, 1933, (nullifing the 18th Amendment) that pre-Prohibition strength beer was legal.

From the alcohol content of 3.2% shown at the top of the label here, it's apparent that it was in use only from April to December of 1933.

 





ACME LABELS

The Following is specifically for Acme, and illustrates the progression of their flagship, "Stein-girl" label.

Acme Lager Beer label 5% ca.1933-35
1933 to 1935 - Full strength beer was made legal in December 1933. The label, at left, reads: "over 5½% alcohol by volume." In August, 1935 the newly formed Federal Alcohol Administration mandated that alcohol strength can not be specified on beer labels. So this label dates from Dec. 1933 to Aug. 1935.
Acme Lager Beer label 1935-36
1935 to 1936 - The label at right, without the alcohol statement, was in use from August '35 until April 1936, when the "brewed by Cereal Products Refining Corp." was removed from the label (see above), and "Acme Breweries" replaced "California Brewing Assn."
Acme Beer label "Non-Fatening" 1937-40 1937 to 1940 - The first major change in the background graphics is made, and the stein girl moved to the left, plus a single, enlarged, lower banner with the word "Beer" was added - dropping the word "Lager." This version also carried the notation: "Non-Fattening" in red, placed between "Acme" and "Beer." They were soon ordered to remove the claim from the label but continued using it in their advertising.
Acme Beer label ca.1940-46 1940 to 1946 - Further simplifications were made to the label's background graphics by removing the figures above and to the right of the "Acme" banner, and the font for the capital letter "B" was simplified.
Acme quart  label Victory Size 1942-46 1942 to 1946 - Just four months into WWII, bottle caps were being rationed and Acme promoted buying quarts to save caps. Their slogan in print ads was: "Party Size for the Economy-Wise." See the second 1942 ad below.

Two months later, in June '42, they came out with this new label and the slogan: "Victory Size for the Economy-Wise" - which was placed on the label. Rationing continued awhile after the war, and in 1946 they came out with updated graphics and a new banner for the quart labels by replacing the word "Victory" with "Party" - see label below.
Acme quart  label Party Size 1946-48 1946 to 1948 - The label's background figures, between the "Acme" and "Beer" banners, are now wearing contemporary clothing. Labels for the smaller size bottles didn't have any banners at the top like this quart size.
Acme Beer label ca.1948-50 1948 to 1950 - The small, background figures are now gone and the banner with "Beer" is shorter and smaller, plus the word "Beer" is now all in black and in a smaller font than "Acme."

This was Acme's last "Stein" Girl label.
two labels for Acme's Gold Label beer 1950 to 1954 - In 1950 the "Stein Girl" label was dropped in favor of the label (far left) with a simplified modernized font.

Then in Oct. 1952, the label was changed again with "Acme" reduced in size, emphasizing "Gold Label." But the label changes didn't help with sales. Fourteen months later the company was sold.
Acme Beer label ca.1959 by Grace Bros. 1959 - The Acme Brewing Co. had been sold in Jan. 1954, but the Acme brand remained with partner, Bohemian Distributing. In 1959, Bohemian contracted with Grace Bros. of Santa Rosa to again produce Acme. They reprised the 1940 version of the Stein Girl label, but in a size comparable to the 1948 label.


ORGANIZATION SYMBOLS From 1933 to 1961 there were four symbols in use that often appeared in display ads, prints and posters. These were not exclusive to Acme.

National Recovery Act logo Acme Beer fan with NRA logo ca.19331933 to 1935  The National Industrial Recovery Act was passed in 1933 to regulate industry in an attempt to raise prices and stimulate economic recovery after the Depression.

 

The thumnail image at right shows an Acme fan with the the NRA logo, but also the slogan: "America's Favorite" which was used only in 1933.

 

 

United Brewers Industrial Foundation logoAcme Beer 1939 ad with UBIF logo1936 to 1942  The United Brewers Industrial Foundation (UBIF) was a self-regulating organization for member breweries.

 

The ad at right displays the UBIF logo, and a slogan that was used for the 1939 advertising campaign.


 

Brewing Industry Foundation logoAcme Beer cowgirlsign by Petty 19431942 to 1944  The  Brewing Industry Foundation (BIF) was a reorganization of the UBIF, above.


The image on the tin sign at right was painted by Petty for Acme in 1943, and displays the BIF logo in the lower right corner.
 

 

 

United States Brewers Foundation logoAcme Beer ad ca.1946 by Varga1945 to 1961  The United States Brewers Foundation (USBF) was formed through the merger of The United States Brewers Association and the above BIF. The new organization became a public relations arm of the the brewing indusrty.


The ad at right displays the USBF logo, and a slogan that was still being used in the 1946 advertising campaign. Also, the bottle label was introduced in Jan. 1946.

 

 


While mandated information on labels, the label graphics, and the use of organizational symbols all provide dating information, Acme's advertising campaigns can narrow the time frame in dating their breweriana.


ACME AD CAMPAGINS

In general, Acme adopted an ad campaign at the beginning of a calendar year and stayed with it the entire year. But this was not always the case. Sometimes there was more than one campaign for a given year or one that was only used breifly. Additionally, there were some that were repeated, and in the case of the non-fattening claim - lasted almost as long as the company.


Acme ad from Sept. 1933 America's FavoriteAcme Beer convex glass sign ca.19331933 -
This Sept. 1933 ad leads with the Non Fattening claim and also uses the slogan, "America's Favorite."

The convex glass Acme sign at right also has "America's Favorite" which dates the piece at 1933.

 




 

Acme ball tap knob ca.1934Acme ad July 1934 The Favorite1934 - Acme must have concluded that its beer couldn't be "America's Favorite" since they were just a West Coast brand, so they modified the slogan for their print ads to "The Favorite."


The phrase was also used on this ball tap knob, ca. 1934-35.



 

Acme Beer ad Prince of Pilsner ca.1935Acme Prince of Pilsner card ca.19351935 - This ad from Sept. 1935 continues to use the tagline "Non Fattening" and adds the Slogan: "Prince of Pilsner" for the 1935 ad campaign.
 

The card at right uses "The Prince of Pilsner" as well as "The Favorite" - suggesting an early 1935 printing. 

 




1936 introduction of Acme Beer in cansEnglishtown Ale introduction Oct. 1936Acme ad from Aug.1936 introducing the steinie1936 - Acme introduced two new containers and an Ale, so the marketing focused on that rather than any new slogans. But they continued with the "non fattening" tagline.

This ad (left) from January '36 introduces Acme Beer in cans - called a Keglet.

The ad at right is from August '36, and introduces Acme Beer in "steinies."

The ad (far right) introducing Acme's Englishtown Ale appeared in Oct. '36.




Acme Beer label dieteticall non fattening Apr. 1937Acme Beer glass ca.1937Acme beer can dietically non fatening Aug. '371937 -  In March '37 the Federal Trade Commission ruled that Acme could not claim that their beer was non-fattening without supporting verbage. So Acme added the qualifier "dietetically."The new claim was added to their labels in April '37 - as can be seen on this steinie (left).

In August '37 Acme edited the can to read "Dietically Non-Fattening" as show in the ad at right.

Another item that may date from 1937 is this Acme sham style glass. The only clue is the red "B" which when compared to the '37 label above indicates that the glass dates from 1937 to 1940.


 

Acme ad Where there is Life theres Acme1938 Acme poster Where there is LifeAcme Bucking Bronco beer glass ca.19381938 - This year's campaign slogan was "Where there is LIFE...there's Acme!" The glass at right has the same image as the ad at left, dating the glass to 1938. The slogan was used on posters as well - far right.Englishtown Ale label ca.1938

Also in '38, the bottle label for Englishtown Ale was changed. The can's graphics weren't changed until 1940.





Acme ad June 1939 where there is Life & ActionAcme Pposter Life & Action ca.19391939 - This July 1939 ad shows that this year's campaign merely added "Action" to the slogan.

The poster at right displays the 1939 slogan.









Acme ad Quality Wins Again ca.1940 Pacific Can Co. Marvel-Lined Acme Beer can 1940Acme poster 1940 Quality Wins Again1940 - The slogan for the 1940 campagin was "Quality Wins Again!" and was used on numerous posters and other print media.

A good bit of 1940 advertising was used to promote Acme's new can (far right) from the Pacific Can Co. called "Marvel-Lined."

1940 Acme print by Petty
1940 was also the year Acme introduced the first of three Petty girls, continuing with the Non-Fattening tag-line.

 

 


1941 Acme ad They All say Yes!Acme fan They All Say Yes! ca.19411941 - The slogan for 1941 was "They all say..Yes!"  This fan (right) uses the slogan, and the same image also appears on a cardboard, die-cut sign - with the slogan.

Acme's Englishtown Ale tin sign ca.1941This year they also adopted the slogan for their Englishtown Ale - "There's a pip of a NIP in every sip!"

1942 Acme Beer Sign by PettyThis was also when the second pin-up girl by George Petty was introduced.




 

 

Acme 1942 High IQ adAcme poster 1952 You'll Go Fo Acme1942 - This year was the introduction of the slogan: "the beer with the high I.Q.(It Quenches!)"

This war time slogan: " You'll go for Acme Beer" was only used in '42.



With the onset of WWII, the rationing of bottle caps prompted Acme to promote buying quarts so as to minimize their use. This April '42 ad depicts a quart size bottle without a special label, and along the bottom of the ad is the slogan: "Party Size for the Economy-Wise!"

In June, Acme changed the quart label by adding a banner along the top stating: "Economize with Victory size."




Acme Beer ad Geo. Petty cowgirl Apr 43Acme Beer Cowgirl chalk by Petty ca.19431943 - Acme's limited advertising during the war resulted in a repetition of the "High I.Q." campaign. Also in '43, was the introduction of the third Petty girl - the popular "cowgirl." They used her image in posters, tin signs, a tray, and even this back-bar figure.

Additionally, rationing cut production levels, and The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture required that breweries allocate 15% of their production to the military.
 




Acme ad by Vargas 19441944 painting by Varga for Acme1944-45 - Again, Acme just continued with the "High I.Q." campaign. The image in the ad at left is a pin-up by Varga and gives a nod to the Victory gardens. The full size print at right shows the full image.

1944 Acme bottle topper by VargaAlso included is another pin-up from Varga for 1944, showing a gal climbing a fence carrying a bag of Acme beer.
Olive-drab Acme beer can WWII

Due to the increase in war-time restrictions, metal was limited to canned beer for servicmen. Luckily for collectors some of these olive-drab beer cans found their way home after the war. Even though the war ended in Sept. 1945, shortages and rationing continued into 1946.



May 1946 ad for Acme Beer High IQ1946 Thanskgiving poster for Acme BeerAcme print 1946 non-fattening1946 - Continuing government controls mandated that beer production be reduced 30% until shortages were overcome.

The "High I.Q." campaign continued and the "Dietically Non Fattening" tag-line returned (at right). Also at this time, Acme adopted Albert Staehle's bear cub as an element in its advertising. Both are evident in this Thanksging poster.





Acme intro qne-way bottle June 1947Acme's Bock beer returns 1947Acme Beer can for 19471947 - By '47 war time restrictions and shortages were gone and Acme introduced a number of changes. The slogan: "The Age of Acme" was introduced, and can be seen on the ad (right) announcing the return of the beer can for the general public - and with a new label. Then in June they introduced their one-way bottle.

Spring of 1947 saw the return of Acme's Bock Beer - after a five year absence - also in cans.




Quest for Fortune ad 19471947 ad by Varga Finest Acme ever brewedAcme Quest Stein wall display ca.1947Acme commissioned Claude Buck to do a painting reflecting California's past, and framed copies were distributed in 1946. Due to the popularity of Buck's painting, Acme adopted "the Age of Acme" tag-line, plus the slogan: "Fine Beers Since 1860" - which can be seen at the bottom of this 1947 ad. A discussion on the genesis of this misleading slogan can be found on the Acme history page (go to: 1860).

Besides the framed print, Acme produced a chalk, wall display that mimics the figures on the print's beer stein.

Another slogan adopted in '47 is "The Finest Acme ever brewed.." and in one case was used with a Varga pin-up (far right).




1948 ad for Non-Fattening Acme Beer1948 die-cut Acme Beer sign1948 - The "Dietetically Non-Fattening" tag-line remains in effect, as does last year's "Fine Beers since 1860" as can be seen on this ad (left).

Additionally, last years slogan was modified to say: "The Finest Tasting Acme ever brewed" - as seen in this die-cut, cardboard sign (right).Acme Christmas card 1948 by Varga

For '48, Acme used a new Varga pin-up for their Christmas Greeting card. The same image appeared widely in their advertising.



 

1949 Acme ad Hi IQ and Slow BrewedAcme display figure of The Champ ca.19491949 - Acme revives the "High I.Q." slogan, but now  it's "Higher" and the I.Q. stands for "It's Slow Brewed Quality!" instead of "It Quenches!"

Acme wins 6 to 4 dice ca.1949Acme Wins 6 to 4 button 1949Then in Oct. '49 they did a blind tasting and the results were expressed as "Acme is prefered six to four, ask for The Champ."  They came out with a display figure of "The Champ" and used his cartoon depiction in their ads.

They also gave out these dice with only sixes on one, and fours on the other - plus "Acme Wins."





Acme Gold Label bottle & can intro Oct. 1950May 1950 new Acme beer canNew Acme Beer can May 19501950
- They continued with the "Acme Wins 6 to 4" slogan until the May release of their new can of Acme, Light Dry Beer. The can was quite a departure from the old can in that it was decorated to look like a glass of beer. Then in Oct. '50, they made a bold move and changed the name to "Acme Gold Label" - as shown in the ad (far right).
As part of the change they chose a new font for "Acme" and it's iconic, red "A."






Acme Gold Label poster ca.1951Acme beer glass ca.19511951 - This was the third year of a downturn in advertising, and a decrease in promotional items. This year's only new campaign carried the slogan: "gimme Gold Label." They also offered a 7oz. size bottle they called a "nugget" that sold for 20¢.

This footed, pilsner glass was one of the few collectibles distributed in '51.






intro Bull Dog Beer Summer 1952New look for Acme's Gold Label Beer Oct. 1952Bull Dog Ale by Acme 19521952 - With slumping sales, Acme tried an entirely new approach to their advertising. Instead of going after the female shoppers, with claims of non-fattening beer, they went for the men with a new product - Bull Dog Beer.

Encouraged by its acceptance they soon introduced a Bull Dog Ale.

To prop up their Gold Label brand, in Oct. '52, Acme changed the label by de-emphasing "Acme" and putting all the emphasis on "Gold Label." They also changed the design of the can from the "glass of beer" to match the bottle label, as shown in the ad far right).



Jul 53 Bull Dog beer ad Jack DempseyBull Dog Beer ceramic display figure by Acme1953 - Acme appeared to be in decline and the Bull Dog brand was all that was doing much. In a last ditch attempt to get the public's attention Acme hired ex-world heavy weight champion, Jack Dempsey to promote the brand. The results were satsifactory but not enough for the company to carry on.

In late December '53, Liebmann Breweries of NY offered five million dollars for Acme's SF & LA breweries - and the offer was accepted.

The SF plant became the California Brewing Co. (br. of Liebmann Breweries, NY) and in March of '54, they introduced Bull Dog Stout. The rights to the Acme brand was retained by Bohemian Distributing and in 1959 they contracted with Grace Bros. to re-introdued Acme Beer.




MISCELLANEOUS ACME BREWERIANA

Acme distributed a great many lighted signs over their 20 year run. Unfortunately it's difficult to assign a date to these items since there's no clues other than the style of lettering, and Acme didn't change that much.


Acme neon signAcme lighted sign
Acme lighted signAcme neon sign
Acme lighted signAcme neon light
Acme lighted signAcme on ice beer sign
Acme neon in redart deco Acme beer sign




Tap knobs are much like these lighted signs, in that they don't provide much information. However, with the first knob you have the slogan "The Favorite" - which has already been identified as a 1934-35 slogan. The next two don't reveal any clues, but the last knob has the modernized font that was adopted in 1950.

Four Acme ball tap knobs

I hope the above information helps date your Acme breweriana.
 


Now perhaps you can help me. Here are three Acme mugs made by J.J. Fulop - Calif. and I know little about them.
It was suggested that these were made for the Sequoia Room - the hospitality center at Acme's LA brewery, but I haven't been able to confirm that. There are just these three bacic designs, but they're hand painted and were done in many different color schemes. I haven't been able to find anything on the maker either. Can anyone help with this?

Three Acme beer mugs by Fulop
 



If you have any Acme items to sell or trade - please get in touch.




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