Cheers... Prost... Salud... Skål... Kampai... whatever the language, here's a toast to a brand new year and decade! May 2011 bring you health, happiness, friendship, and of course, many wonderful antique finds! Speaking of good cheer, take a look at this remarkable vintage pub sign I discovered at a recent New England Antique Show's event. Just looking at it makes me thirsty... to learn more about its great history!
This stunning sign clearly would catch the eye of teetotalers and drinkers alike! Here we have an English pub sign from the 1920's. The back of the sign is made from a heavy sheet of metal. Its bold black, white, blue, and tan front is porcelain - perfect for facing the ever changing outdoor elements. The sign features three working class men all clearly enjoying a pint or two. The words "Generous Briton" on the bottom of it refers to the name of the pub where the sign originally hung. The piece is signed by the artist and has a very high level of art direction and style, not typically seen in these types of signs.
Pub signage has its origins in Roman times and traditions. Centuries ago, it was customary for eating and drinking establishments to hang grape vine leaves outside their shop doors to indicate that wine was available inside. In what is now known as the United Kingdom, shopkeepers substituted small evergreen bushes for grape vine leaves as these were not readily available given the English climate! Additionally, at that time, a long pole - most likely used to stir the beer - was also placed outside the door to show that beer was sold inside. An establishment that sold both beer and wine would have both a pole and an evergreen bush.
It is interesting to note that today in the UK, there is a 600+ year old law in place that makes it compulsory that inns - where many pubs are located - must have a sign. And why is that? So that official "ale tasters" (sounds like a dream job...) could identify each drinking establishment and record their findings for the public record. Fast forward a few years to 1751; at that time another law was passed that made it a requirement that every pub or inn had a name registered with the prefix ‘at the sign of’. This clearly institutionalized the need for pub signs and forever brought this distinctive form of art to mainstream British culture. Like "Generous Briton", the sign on the left for the "Cleveland" Pub in England is also from the 1920's.
And what about "Generous Briton?" During and right after the industrial revolution in England, many pubs and institutions took on names that had "optimistic" connotations that reflected the country's new place in on the global stage. In previous times, pubs often derived their monikers from religious, sporting, occupational, or royal influences. A quick Google search reveals over a dozen pubs in England called "Generous Briton". This photo on the left is of one of these establishments, located in Costock. It is impossible to know for sure if the sign's original establishment is still in business. It is safe to say, given the timeless importance of pubs in England, that the spirit of it sure is!
Let's buy Bob Veder of the Glass Menagerie a drink in thanks for introducing us to this most interesting English pub sign. Glass Menagerie is located in Bolton Landing, NY and specializes in 19th and 20th century large scale signs, posters, advertising, and ephemera. To learn more about this pub sign - which will also be on display at the upcoming New England Antique Show's Wilmington event - please contact Bob directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-414-9363.
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