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COM: February 2009

Regent Jamestown Can: 1957

Regent Jamestown. Regent Jamestown. Regent Jamestown.

This month I picked an somewhat different commemorative can from Virginia, a Regent Beer from Century Brewing in Norfolk that was issued for the 350th anniversary of Jamestown in 1957.  There were lots of commemorative cans issued in the 1970s, most notably the Bicentennial sets.  But this 1957 can was one of the few issued before the 1970s wave of "collectable" cans.

The Jamestown Festival

Jamestown 1957 logo.

1957 Jamestown Festival Logo

The 1957 Jamestown Festival was not the first time Virginia celebrated the first successful English colony in what would become the United States.  There was a small celebration in 1807 for the 200th and a somewhat larger one in 1857 that featured  former President John Tyler, a Virginia native.

In 1907 Virginia hosted a tri centennial exposition which took the form of a World's Fair.  The actual site of the original Jamestown colony was not adequate for the large celebration planned in 1907, a situation that would be repeated in 1957. So the 1907 celebration was held not too far away near Norfolk on Sewell’s Point. The roads to the site were inadequate, so Virginia built additional roads, rail lines were added and streetcar lines from nearby Norfolk were extended . Moreover, new hotels were built to house the expected visitors.

1907 Exposition.

A somewhat fanciful vision of the 1907 Fairgrounds.  For more images see The Ocean View Virginia site. (link opens new window)

The fair opened in April, 1907, even though most of the buildings were not yet complete. President Teddy Roosevelt opened the exposition by hosting a naval review (another naval review would be held in 1957). Over fifty ships from countries around the world participated, including sixteen battleships. One of the highlights of the 1907 exposition was a re-enactment of the first battle between ironclad warships, the USS Monitor vs. the CSA Virginia (Merrimac) which took place in nearby Hampton Roads in 1862.

The 1907 celebration modeled other fairs of the time. The different states were invited to opened exhibit buildings and twenty-one did so. There were also the standard industrial displays including one for brewing. See my June 2006 COM, a Dixie Beer, for some more details on how a Roanoke, Virginia brewery won medals at the 1907 Fair.

When the Exposition was over, over three million people had visited, but the fair had lost several million dollars. The fair grounds themselves became Norfolk Naval Base in 1917 and many of the individual state’s exposition buildings became housing for high-ranking officers.

The 1957 Fair organizers were well aware of the difficulties of 1907. They followed a different model than the 1907 organizers, who had copied the common World’s Fair models of the time. The 1957 celebration would be organized around historical themes celebrating not only Jamestown but the Battle of Yorktown which was held nearby. The organizers worked with the National Park Service to plan events that would link the two sites together along with Williamsburg.

As in 1907, the 1957 celebration required the building of new infrastructure, including new scenic highways linking Jamestown and the Yorktown battlefield. They decided against building a full-size replica of the Jamestown fort near the original site. Archaeologists thought that the James River had long since washed away the original site. They were wrong, it was rediscovered in the 1990s.  See the APVA website. (opens new window),

The 1957 planners were worried that the construction would disrupt some of the other archaeological sites which were still unexplored.  As a result, they carefully planned what facilities would be placed where.  Recognizing the need to move the anticipated traffic into and out of the area, the last section of the Colonial Parkway linking Jamestown to the other two points of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia (Williamsburg and Yorktown) was rushed to completion. Erosion had severed the original land bridge to Jamestown Island and had to be restored. Virginia created the Jamestown Festival Park on adjacent land to the isthmus. The state also commissioned three full-size replicas of the ships which had brought the original colonists, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery.

The 1957 Jamestown Festival celebration was a huge success with over a million visitors, most notably a state visit by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Prince Philip. Afterwards Jamestown remained a prime tourist attraction, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown. The brewery that produced this month's can, alas, did not last as long. Century continued producing low-cost beer until 1967. It became the Champale Products Corporation until closing in 1980.

A detail from the 1957 can showing John Smith and Pocahontas.

Century Brewing

I covered Century Brewing with my January 2008 COM, a Tudor Ale.  It was a fairly brief article, and I still don't know much about the brewery.   Time for more research!  But, notice that after Century Brewing took over from Ruppert's Virginia operation in 1953 their Regent Beer used a label very similar to Ruppert's, no doubt to keep Ruppert's customers.

Virginia Ruppert Beer can.
A Ruppert Beer can from Norfolk. 

More on the Jamestown Festival

I scanned in a pamphlet from the festival. To see a larger version of each page, just click on the small version below. Links each open a new window.

Cover.
left side.
center.  
right side.
Overview.
Pamphlet back.

 

Sources Used:

Hampton Roads Naval Museum, 1907 Exposition

Final Report to the President and Congress of the Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown Celebration Commission (Washington, DC, 1958)

Hudson, J. Paul. A Pictorial Booklet on Early Jamestown Commodities and Industries.  (Virginia's 350th Anniversary Celebration Corporation, 1957)

McLennan, Sarah. Jamestown 350th Anniversary, 1957 (Encyclopedia Virginia)

Wikipedia, Jamestown Exposition  and Jamestown Rediscovery

 

 

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