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1889 Cap Anson and Buck Ewing "Burke Ale" Beer Poster
Starting Bid - $50,000.00 , Sold For - $188,000.00
Offered here is the finest known example of the preeminent baseball advertising poster of the nineteenth century: the "Anson-Ewing Beer Poster." In fact, this iconic poster is universally recognized as one the great masterpieces of all American advertising posters. The glorious multicolor stone lithograph poster was issued in 1889 in promotion of Guinness Brewery's "Finest Pale Ale" and "Extra Foreign Stout," both of which were sold under the company's "E. & J. Burke" label. In addition to its obvious extraordinary quality and display value, as intended, the content of the poster gives it great historical significance. During this period the consumption of beer and ale was quickly becoming America's second favorite pastime next to baseball. In fact, the American Association, a rival Major League that was later referred to as "the beer and whiskey league," was formed in 1881 in direct response to the banning of beer and Sunday games by the National League. Guinness sought to promote that burgeoning relationship by seeking the endorsement of the two greatest ball players of the era, Cap Anson of the Chicago White Stockings and Buck Ewing of the New York Giants, for its Finest Pale Ale and Extra Foreign Stout. The company spared no expense on this project, both with reference to the caliber of the players from whom they sought endorsement, and the artwork and uncompromising production values of the poster itself. The result of the collaboration between Guinness Brewery, the players, and Wagner & Co. Lithographers, one of the country's premier lithography companies of the era, was the production of this extraordinary advertising display.
Both Anson and Ewing are pictured in their respective uniforms as they take a break from a game to enjoy a refreshing glass of beer. Anson is seen enjoying a glass of Finest Pale Ale, while Ewing opts for a glass of Extra Foreign Stout. The timeless appeal of this piece, aside from the colorful graphics and high-quality production values, lies in the artistry of the scene as a whole. In what was then a nostalgic homage to the game's early history, Anson and Ewing are pictured relaxing outside a large retiring tent. Such tents, which were holdovers from the game of cricket, were a common site at ball games during the 1850s and early 1860s, but were no longer in vogue at the time. A large banner displayed above the tent reads "Champions," which most likely refers to the many championships won by each player's respective teams in the preceding years, to which they now toast. Pictured in the background is a game-in-progress scene (presumably between the White Stockings and Giants), with the field bordered by a filled-to-capacity grandstand. The foreground image further promotes the company's products, as Anson is sitting on a keg of Finest Pale Ale and Ewing is resting his arm on a barrel of Extra Foreign Stout. Boxes of "Burke's Old Irish Whiskey" and "Garm Kirk Scotch Whiskey" are also visible among the barrels. Perhaps the most amusing details are the numerous empty bottles of each respective beverage that are strewn all along the ground at their feet, along with various pieces of baseball equipment (base, ball and box, and bat). Also in the foreground, lying next to a beer barrel, is letter of endorsement from the brewery that bears an "Arthur Guinness Son & Co." seal. The name of the lithography company, "Wagner & Co. Lith - 75 Murray St. N.Y.," is printed in the lower right corner of the poster.
One of the most interesting aspects of this piece, discovered during our research (and for which we gratefully thank Howard W. Rosenberg, author of the definitive biography of Anson) is a near-contemporaneous newspaper reference to the poster. From this newspaper account we learn that the scene pictured here was not borne in the mind of an artist, but was instead actually staged.
Please Note: For the complete text of the two newspaper articles, one from 1895 and one from 1897, referencing the poster with quotes by Cap Anson and Buck Ewing respectively, please go to the longer complete catalog description at:http://www.robertedwardauctions.com/auction/2008_preview/1.html
This 1889 advertising poster represents the first documented paid endorsement of a product of any kind by baseball players. It is also certainly the first advertising piece featuring players in promotion of an alcoholic beverage, which is ironic in that the use of alcohol at games in the 1880s and 1890s was such a big issue that there was concern for the future success of the game itself, as a pastime suitable for attendance by the entire family, and not just for a "rough and rowdy" crowd.
The Anson-Ewing Beer Poster lithograph is exceedingly rare. Only three examples are known. Of the three known examples, the offered piece is in by far the finest condition. It is essentially perfect. This poster grades at least Excellent to Mint. All of the colors are strikingly bold, flawless, and vibrant; and the poster exhibits none of the tears, creases, or stains so common to similar displays of this vintage. The poster (18 x 24 inches) has been professionally cleaned for preservation purposes (no restoration) and has been handsomely mounted and framed (with special UV protection glass) to total dimensions of 26 x 32 inches.
The Anson-Ewing Beer Poster is one of the greatest and most legendary icons in both the historic baseball and classic American advertising poster collecting worlds. This is a true museum-caliber item that would be a centerpiece in even the most advanced private or museum collection. In fact, as noted, that is literally already the case with the other two known examples. This poster is one of the most extraordinary items Robert Edward Auctions has ever had the privilege of offering. We have always hoped to someday have the opportunity to present an example of this poster at auction, but had no idea it would take 37 years of waiting. It was worth the wait. This spectacular example is by far the finest in existence of the "Anson-Ewing Beer Poster," considered by many to be the single most beautiful baseball advertising poster ever created, and one of the most magnificent and important of all American advertising posters. Reserve $50,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $188,000.00
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