Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hiram Walker Imperial Whiskey (1955)

Good morning!

Would you look....would you just look...at the advertising gentlemen I dug up today. In 1955, Hiram Walker whiskey ran a series of promotional ads for their "Imperial" brand featuring manly men, doing manly things. In the mold of Hemingway, drinking, carousing, and wrestling bison/kingfish/legionnaires in a bare knuckles fight to the death are activities that go hand and hand in the Eisenhower era. So why not think about how "manly" a belt of this premium blended whiskey would make you feel through these fifties' visual aids? I get whiskey thirsty just thinking about the African savannah....

Before you get too invested in the whimsical Wes Anderson-y color palette and kitsch quality of the illustrations herein, let me first tell you that every one of these ad-men are REAL people. How would you like to be a big game hunter and have your "agent" (do they have agents?) call you up with an offer for a year's worth of whiskey (and in hi-ball days, we're talkin a LOT of whiskey) for a single promotional appearance in Life magazine? I'd say yes in a Kwazulu heartbeat. Russell Aitken (above) did, and he even got a little inset of his tête à tête with a Cape buffalo in the wilds of Africa. Besides being an artist whose "Surrealist sculpture.... is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art", his New York Times obituary also reveals that he was the #1 skeet shooter in the country in 1949, "shot socially with...[The Women playwright] Clare Booth Luce", and is credited with having shot and killed the largest water buffalo on record (jeepers!). LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS I JUST LEARNED BECAUSE OF THIS WHISKEY AD. Also, nice hat, mister. But let's not stop there... 


This innocuous looking beard-o is Sacha Siemel. The disembodied jaguar head snarling over his left shoulder in the shadow of a spear is to represent the more than 300 jaguars he apparently stalked and killed during the course of his career as a big game hunter. In 1914, having emigrated to South America from Latvia, he was taught by a native Brazilian how to become a "Tigero", or a hunter who hunts jaguars with only a spear. You can read all about his primitive yet effective bow-and-arrow-and-or-seven-foot-long-spear technique, as well as his subsequent film appearances with legendary big game hunter Frank Buck at this website.

I know you know who Louis L'amour is, and if not, he's the undisputed "king" of the Western paperback. Did you know he looked a little like a more handsome, black Irish Van Heflin? I didn't! I love that the text here lists his interests this way: "His hobby? Writing. His business? Adventure." Can I put that on my next job application?

Mainly I included Chuck Meyer, big game fisherman (is that a term? What do you call "adventure fisherman"?), because of his AWESOME PATCH. "Mako Shark Spinning Light Tackle Record" refers to the incident you can in the inset, in which he landed a 261 lb Mako Shark using a 12 pound test line. I'm not sure what that means, but I am sure that I want a patch like that, so I need to start reading up on fishing, I guess. Read an article he wrote for a 1956 issue of The Rotarian on landing a 100 lb Marlin here. Need more encouragement? How about this illustration from the aforementioned article?

Yeah, I thought so.

Last but not least, another fish guy with awesome patches is Alfred Glaskell, Jr. According to his NYT obit, "In 1953, he set the world record for the largest marlin ever caught on a hand-held rod and reel. At 1,560 pounds, this record remains today, and the worlds largest game fish resides on view at the Smithsonian Institution.":

If you think the fish looks big in the illustration, look at the actual picture of it with Glaskell. It's like a dinosaur! How can such a thing live in the twentieth century outside of my nightmares?

Anyway, hope you weren't too sicked out by all the game hunting and instead now have a hankering for high seas adventure and whiskey!

Seen any crazy vintage advertising lately? Read of any Hemingway-esque exploits of the midcentury? Do tell!

See you guys tomorrow.


  1. Haha, Hiram is the first name of Mr. Lodge from the Archies! Veronica's dad!

  2. My youngest son, Booby (you read it right) shot and killed a deer with a BOW at age nine! They mounted the head and it has the most darling "So glad I am dead" mortuary smile.

  3. it makes me sad to see those huge fish, like wow this thing lived SO LONG that it got SO BIG. I think Ill kill it! I guess I'm not cut out for being a manly man. haha.



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