Gunther Ale: 1953
This month's featured example is a local can that can be dumped in Virginia, a Gunther Old English Ale, USBC 78-17. I like the design with the grain stalks on the top and the hops plants at the bottom. The first time I found this can it was in a great dump from the 1940s and early 1950s near Warrenton, Virginia. It doesn't show up as often as the Gunther Beers, but it's a nice can to find when it does appear!
Gunther Brewing: 1881-1959Gunther Brewing was once the most popular brewer in Baltimore, a city that had a very active brewing industry. Gunther Brewing, originally spelled 'Guenther' was founded by Bavarian native George Guenther in 1881 soon after he reached the U.S.. At first he did all the work himself, including brewing and delivering the beer to local buyers around his small brewery. The brewery expanded over the next decades, growing from a capacity of a few thousand gallons to 100,000 barrels a year by Prohibition. The brewery was called "Bay View Brewing" in the 19th century, but with the new (20th) century it became George Gunther Jr. Brewing Company.
By 1900 the brewery was established at 3rd Street (now Conkling and Toone Streets). During the period 1920-1933 the brewery stayed in business brewing near beer as the George J. Gunther Mfg. Company. They restarted after Prohibition first as Gunther's Breweries, Inc. (1932-1935) then as Gunther Brewing. It became one of Baltimore's largest brewers, with a healthy rivalry going with the nearby National Brewing Company, both based across the street from each other on opposite sides of O'Donnell street on "Brewery Hill."
Gunther trucks in Miami, Florida. late 1940s? From the American Truck Historical Society.
Gunther was an early proponent of canning beer, and its first cans are now VERY rare. They expanded their market out of Maryland moving both north and south. In the 1930s and 40s they sponsored one of the area's most popular radio quiz shows, "Quiz of Two Cities." (Its history is on a separate page) By the 1950s Gunther Brewing company was the largest brewer in Baltimore and sponsored several local teams, including the Orioles. Their advertising slogan was "What's the good word? Gunthers!" They kept expanding, adding $7 million in plant improvements from 1954-1959. However, like every other medium or small sized brewer, Gunther was feeling the pinch of competition from the large national brewers, and from would-be nationals like Hamms.
Gunther Ale was not nearly as big a seller as Gunther Beer, but then ales generally were outsold by beer in every region of the US outside of New England, and even in the northeast beers became more popular than ales after World War II. Still, Gunther continued to make an ale, but they did not always sell it in cans. This month's can appeared in early 1953. Gunther Ale also appeared in cans before World War II and afterwards. Some of the distributors' price lists I've checked from 1952, however, only listed Gunther Ale in bottles, so this month's COM may have been the brewery's last effort to sell their ale in cans. (I am still researching how long it lasted). As you'd expect, Gunther's ale cans tend to be much scarcer than most of their beer cans.
Gunther and the Orioles
Gunther was one of the Orioles' original sponsors when the team moved to Baltimore in the 1954 season. Already a sponsor of local football and basketball team Gunthers quickly jumped on the baseball bandwagon. When Baltimore's acquisition of the St. Louis Browns was announced in 1953 The brewery immediately ran a full page ad welcoming the team to Baltimore. Gunthers also announced that they would award a new 1954 Cadillac to whichever Oriole player was voted "most valuable" by the local fans. Weekly prizes would also be awarded to the "best bird of the week." In December 1953 they sponsored a four-hour telethon to sell season tickets. They also sponsored an Orioles Bandwagon truck (see below) which drove around Baltimore playing the song "Get on the Oriole Bandwagon" and passing out information on buying tickets.
The Gunther Orioles bandwagon. The man on the left was sports announcer John MacLean, the man on the right is an unidentified Gunther drive. Photo of the 1959 Orioles from Gunther Beer.
An advertisement from a 1953 Washington Afro-American showing a Gunther beer display. You can just make out a large mockup of the same Gunther Ale can featured on this page. The photo is VERY grainy I know, but it is a scan of a xerox of a xerox! The caption reads... "Bill Alexander, kneeling on right, points to one of Gunther's latest store displays at Newman's Repeal beverage store located at 1908 14th St, NW Shown also from left are, Mrs. Ida Smith, AFRO advertising manager; Andrew Finn, general (sic) of the Washington branch of Gunther Brewing Co., and William Gallagher, salesman."
Dee S. emailed me the Gunther's jingle he remembered. Thanks Dee!
Gunthers got it, Gunthers got it, Gunthers got it too...
that certain something Gunthers got will make a hit with you...
you just cant put your finger on it but just put your lips upon it and you'll say that Gunthers got it,
go get Gunthers too.
Interested in Gunther Brewing?
Check out my other pages:
Beer Can Collectors of America. United States Beer Cans (Beer Can Collectors of America: Fenton, Mo) 33.
Beer Can Collectors of America. Catalog of American Beer Cans. (1993) 390.
"Gunther Promotions Stimulate Interest in Orioles" Modern Brewery Age (February 1954) 73.
"Hamm's Starts First Beer Sales in Area" Washington Post. March 8. 1960.
Van Wieren, Dale P. American Breweries II (West Point, PA.: East Coast Breweriana Association, 1995) 131.
Washington Afro-American. September 26, 1953. The newspaper photos came from the 'Brewing' file in the clipping collection of the Washingtonian Room, Martin Luther King Public Library, Washington D.C. Not all clippings in the file had the date and page number on them.
"West's Biggest Brewery Buys Out Gunther's" Washington Daily News. December 14, 1959.
Upstate New York Breweries: A small page with some photos of nice Gunther's cans. Despite the name, the site has info on other breweries in other states, not just New York.