Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

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Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#1

Post by Bob L » Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:46 pm

A burning question for several of us has been to figure out who produced the Imperial OI can. The cans states "Brewed expressly for Wiebel Brewing Co., New Haven Conn." But, we know this much....they are only dumped in the Ozarks, and Imperial was a house brand of 905 liquor stores in St. Louis. Pictures of the can are featured in 905's newspaper ads of the time. But, who produced the can? The prevailing theory has always been that it was a product of Manhattan in Chicago along with all the other cans that feature "expressly for" or similar verbage. The side panels of the Imperial can have a manhattan look to them. But the alternate theory held by some is that this can was actually a product of ABC in St. Louis. Some other unknown ghost brewer couldn't be ruled out either. I spent some more time at the library today viewing microfilm of old 905 newspaper ads in search of some additional insights into this question. I was always firmly in the Manhattan camp, but I have to say that I'm now switching over to the ABC side. Let me acknowledge up front that there was most likely some degree of cross-pollination between ABC and Manhattan as discussed in the previous ABC/Manhattan thread. But I don't believe that all of the ABC Brewing Company cans of the later era were filled in Chicago (Black Dallas, Triangle, ABC, etc.) I just don't think that was the case, at least until after ABC closed its doors for good. In fact, I'm now thinking that the Imperial can came out of the ABC Brewing Company in St. Louis, and this belief is based on the timeline that I will describe below.

By the way, here is the previous ABC/Manhattan thread for reference. viewtopic.php?f=1&t=16734

Let's review the ownership history of the St. Louis ABC brewery.

1935 to 5/37 ABC Corp era, partial ownership by Terre Haute
5/37 to late 38 Still ABC Corp. but fully owned by Terre Haute
Late 38 to 3/39 Brewery shut down, but used as distributor for Terre Haute
3/39 to 1/31/40 Brewery back in operation under Louis Kanne ownership
1/31/40 Brewery shut down for good.

The 905 store newspaper ads are fascinating. They ran a weekly ad every Friday (except for a short period of Thursdays) all through the 1930's and early 1940's. The ads regularly showed pictures of their house brands or other featured brands for sale. Their house brands included Mountain Top, Anglers, Johnny Bull Ale; and they extensively featured Cream Top for sale in steinie bottles and Prima Gold Medal OI cans as their flagship advertisement brands. For a time in late 1938 and early 1939, the featured brands are Prima, Cream Top and Angler. Beginning in mid May 1939, Mountain Top appears as a "new" brand, and then a week later the Imperial can is rolled out as a "new" brand available. The combination of Mountain Top and Imperial are then the dominant beer brands advertised for the 10 month period of time up until mid March 1940. At that time, the Imperial brand is phased out of the advertising. Over the space of 3 weeks, the picture of the can is removed with the ad only listing it by name. And then on 4/5/1940 the ad only only lists "Extra Pale Canned Beer" (without saying Imperial) as the last reference to the brand to ever appear in a 905 ad. Following this, they go back to featuring Prima OI's in tandem with Mountain Top, with the typical lesser references to Angler, Johnny Bull and other typical St. Louis brands available.

So, here's the short story:

3/39 to 1/31/40 Brewery back in operation under Louis Kanne ownership
5/39 to 4/5/40 Imperial brand featured in 905 ads.

This timeline overlay is too compelling to be a coincidence. The Imperial brand surfaces 2 months after ABC comes back to life under Louis Kanne, and then the Imperial brand disappears forever 2 months after ABC shuts its doors, with that final 2 months probably being the time it took 905 to sell off their remaining Imperial inventory. The resemblance of the Imperial side panels to Manhattan cans is perhaps a result of Kanne being an ex-Manhattan guy, probably still connected in some way. Perhaps Manhattan (or their ACCO contacts) assisted their crony Kanne with the label design work. To me, the timing is too compelling. I say the Imperial can was a product of the Louis Kanne era at ABC in St. Louis.

After ABC closed up for good in early 1940, then the various ABC-produced brands (including bottled contract brews for store chains) were picked up by other breweries like Manhattan & Mound City, or were simply dropped, like Imperial appears to have been.

Paul, Herman, Kotto, others......let's hear your 2 cents on this topic.
905 mountain top imperial 2.jpg
Ad from 5/1939 St. Louis Globe Democrat
imperial.JPG
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#2

Post by RustyGoats » Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:46 pm

im with you, id say ABC also, i was looking at the OI book the other night and ABC had some wild off brands and besides the red ABC can they are tuff cans, just off top of my head ..... ABC ALE, BLACK DALLAS, AND TRIANGLE .... and why not IMPERIAL, sounds like it would fall into that group.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#3

Post by Kotto » Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:35 pm

On most of the occasions that I've dug Imperials, ABC's have been laying side by side. In one dump I clearly recall that there were only two brands: ABC and Imperial. No Buds, no Pabst, only these two brands. Hmmm.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#4

Post by Rockbob » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:07 am

Something else to ponder. Who ran the 905 stores? The only brands I've noticed in those 905 ads are Manhattan and ABC brands. Did they carry Bud, Griesedieck, Stag, or even Champagne Velvet? Was 905 a 1930's version of a tied house? Did Manhattan can ABC's brands in Chicago? I dont see why not. ABC was a very small local brewer. No way did they have the capability to ship nationwide. Manhattan had the capacity, and connections to do just that. Yes, ABC had a canning line, however I dont think they had the capacity to brew and can, what, like 5 brands, and ship them all over the country. Kanne may have been listed as owner of ABC, but he also had an office at Manhattan in the same time frame? ABC did can their beers, Manhattan helped.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#5

Post by Cap-Sealed » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:56 am

Everytime I dig ABCs, there's Manhattans right next to them!

Nice research and theories.... Rich la Susa says there is an absence of Imperial info in his Manhattan files.... only one reference.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#6

Post by Bob L » Thu Mar 10, 2011 6:33 am

The complete lack of anything that resembles Terre Haute's influence in the ABC operation is certainly telling. I think the whole Terre Haute thing must have been a cover for Manhattan in some way, and there was no real involvement frome TH in ABC's operations. I think we can all agree that the strings of ABC were being pulled from Chicago, but it's just hard to figure out to what extent. I'm sticking with my belief that canning was being done in St. Louis, even in the later "Company" era, but likely being directed from Chicago. And so I believe the Imperial can originated from the St. Louis plant and then disappeared when the St. Louis plant was closed. The timing is too compelling.

As john said, the Imperial and ABC cans were often found side by side in the Ozarks with enough frequency and exclusivity that it could lead one to think that they were possibly sold together. However, the ABC brand is not listed anywhere in the multitude of 905 ads that I have examined. If 905 stores sold ABC beer, then they certainly didn't promote it in their advertising. Hmmm. 905 did advertise/sell the other expected local and national brands such as Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, Pabst and Old Tankard Ale, Alpen Brau, Griesedieck, Hyde Park, Stag, Falstaff, and yes... Manhattan.

Rich LaSusa told me that he did not find even one single reference to Imperial in the Manhattan files. Not even one obscure reference anywhere.

If only Kanne were still alive and could be interviewed!!

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#7

Post by Bob L » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:05 am

Some quick Googling suggests that the owner of the 905 chain in the 30's was Morris Multin. Got anything on him? Does his name ever appear in the trail of info on the Chicago characters?

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#8

Post by Cap-Sealed » Thu Mar 10, 2011 7:05 am

Bob - lets definetly dump together this year, and we can discuss this topic in depth around the campfire with a few beers after a hard day of digging 30s cans! Start thinking about some dates and locations....

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#9

Post by CMD » Thu Mar 10, 2011 9:52 am

Do New England guys consider it a New England can since it has a CT mandatory?????

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#10

Post by Longhorn Mike » Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:27 am

905 beer post war was produced by... Atlas Brewing (where Kanne was positioned by Greenberg after WWII) and Canadian Ace (Gold Brau) who also canned ABC Beer and Ale...
Was the version of ABC beer & ale produced by Atlas, Gold Brau (and later Wagner, Eastern & Duncan) a continuation of the St. Louis ABC brand or were they the house brand for the ABC liquor store chain in Florida? As a young collector, I remember my dad buying ABC from Eastern in the ABC Liquor store in Orlando during a trip to Disneyland in the late 70's, and I personnally bought ABC from Auburndale FL during a business trip to central florida in the 90's.

I know there is a version of the 9-0-5 cans that uses the same design as the later ABC cans. Were the Atlas and Gold Brau versions sold (and dumped) in the St. Louis area?

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#11

Post by bradflinders » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:16 pm

Cap-Sealed wrote:Everytime I dig ABCs, there's Manhattans right next to them!

Nice research and theories.... Rich la Susa says there is an absence of Imperial info in his Manhattan files.... only one reference.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#12

Post by RustyGoats » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:38 pm

it just sounds to me like the mob had beer breweries in alot of places like the tales of prohibition shows ..... these breweries were all probally run by the same men and organization .... all these cans pretty much have the same look (like manhatten cans do) ABC, MANHATTEN, AND BLACK EAGLE ..... IMPERIAL ..... all these cans have look of manhatten cans or have a tie, so if i had to bet money on it, they were all associated and ran by the mob, with the main brewery MANHATTEN, and branching out into other locations.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#13

Post by Tom Hoefer » Thu Mar 10, 2011 5:10 pm

I have no evidence to bring to the subject, but I love these kinds of threads. Really fascinating to read.

Do we have any evidence that ABC actually installed a canning line? Do we have any records from ACCO that indicate they did. If there is evidence that they had a canning line, something concrete, then I think it's pretty obvious that ABC canned the beers that say ABC on them. Whenever Manhattan brewed for somebody else, like Food City or Whitewater or Lubeck, they did not have canning lines--that's why Manhattan was canning for them. If ABC had a canning line, a very expensive item in the 30s, I guarantee they were using it. Somebody find real solid evidence that they had an ACCO line installed then the argument is over.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#14

Post by Bob L » Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:10 pm

Wow Herman! That's a great piece of detective work.

It seems clear that Manhattan was pulling the strings of ABC to a great extent, likely including the design and ordering of cans from ACCO. But, the mystery remains as to whether any or all of those cans were filled in St. Louis or Chicago. The Imperial, Black Dallas, and Triangle cans have some Manhattan characteristics, but the ABC cans and Old St. Louis cans not so much.

I also find it interesting that the Imperial, St. Louis Black Dallas, and Triangle all have a paragraph style side panel, not the line-item style that Manhattan-produced cans typically had. But, after the Black Dallas label shifts to Manhattan, the paragraph story panel is replaced by the line-item style panel.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#15

Post by ozarkridgerunner » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:13 pm

Sorry I have been tardy here, I worked about 80 hours this week. Reading through all of this is a welcome respite.
PreWar wrote:If Paul can find documents signed by Kanne from the 39-40 time period of ABC ownership showing he was still heading Manhattan dealings, it would be a no brainer.

I'm pretty sure Kanne was back with Greenberg and Manhattan after ABC ceased to exist, and then was placed with Atlas Brewing by Greenberg and Manhattan associates in the late 40's.
I spent a couple hours looking through my files, and the last Kanne document is 3/11/1939. I have quite a few docs that run well into 1942, and they begin to thin out in the later years. That said, I will continue to keep an eye out for Kanne references. I will say this that the disappearance of Kanne in 3/39 lines up with his move to ABC, and suggests he did not come right back after they closed the doors in 1940.
Bob L wrote:I say the Imperial can was a product of the Louis Kanne era at ABC in St. Louis.
Bob, I now agree with you, despite hallmarks on the can that point to Manhattan (probably the Kanne influence as you mentined). Your detective work tipped the scales for me. That, combined with Rich also telling me he thought Imperial was ABC, not Manhattan. That alone tells me Rich believes ABC had a canning line and that he has no evidence to suggest Manhattan brewed and canned brands with ABC listed as the brewer. Clearly there is cross-pollentation between the 2 brewers. The St. Louis Brews book says this of Richs Manhattan records cache:
Manhattan documents were found to be chock full of papers concerning the propsed operation and adverstising of the ABC brewery".
While the 2 Manhattan docs I have that mention ABC cans are compelling, given the vague nature of the ABC reference, I can't make the leap that Manhattan was brewing and canning the ABC brands. Also, the fact that Mountain Top was sold at 905 suggests they carried at least one brand known to have been bottled by ABC (I'm trying to suggest they may not have been adverse to carrying ABC products).

I sent both Rich LaSusa and Don Roussin an email asking them if they had any hard evidence of an ABC canning line and also pointed them at these thread on our message board. I can't think of two people that would have more knowledge of these 2 brewers, and both say ABC canned beer. Hopefully they will be able to put this one to bed :) It's also cool that I am now looking at my Imperial in a completly different light! An new St. Louis can is discovered me thinks! That does not mean the Chicago only guys should get rid of their Imperials though, especially because of the cross pollentation factor. If anything, the Chicago guys should start grabbing the ABC brands just to hedge the ABC is Manhattan bet :smile:
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#16

Post by Cap-Sealed » Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:53 am

The bottom line for me is, that the Imperial has been known for over 40 years as a Manhattan can, so it will stay with my Chicago cans no matter what. Same thing goes for the St Louis ABC cans, it could be proven as truely a Chicago can, but they'll never leave the Missouri can collections!

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#17

Post by oldindiapaleale » Mon Mar 14, 2011 12:49 am

CMD wrote:Do New England guys consider it a New England can since it has a CT mandatory?????

out

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Just to change the conversation in a different direction, I consider this a New England can solely on the fact that it says New Haven, Connecticut on the can. I just got one of these and the Acco can codes indicate it to be a 1939 Chicago manufactured can (68A), so here's a few questions:

Was the Imperial can ever sold in Connecticut? Have any ever been dumped in the northeast?

The New England Breweriana book shows Weibel products of which Imperial is not one of them.

Who were the owners of Weibel? Was there a mob connection linking them to ABC or Manhattan?

We know Weibel closed in 1936 but do we know the circumstances? What are the chances that the brewery suspended operations, with the intention of getting financing to modernize the plant and in the meantime contracted their brands to other brewers?

It just seems odd that you have an "Imperial" brand being canned in 1939 and somebody (Kanne?) pulled "Weibel Brewing" out of a hat to use as a mandatory.

Kind of reminds me of Narragansett in the early 1980s, all the labels said Cranston, RI but it was being brewed in Ft. Wayne, IN.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#18

Post by Tom Hoefer » Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:18 am

PreWar wrote:No comment on the canned Triangle beer being sold in the ad above? Was that previously known info on where it was sold ??
I noticed! Has anybody else seen it advertised in print? I've searched for it in my online newspaper archives to no avail.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#19

Post by Cap-Sealed » Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:33 am

Manhattan Blacked-out Lubeck on ebay!

http://cgi.ebay.com/Lubeck-Royal-Beer-f ... 2a0eefef30
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#20

Post by RustyGoats » Tue Mar 15, 2011 5:09 pm

not to continue the lubeck hijax but it looks like it hasnt been dipped ever ....

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#21

Post by ozarkridgerunner » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:40 pm

PreWar wrote:No comment on the canned Triangle beer being sold in the ad above? Was that previously known info on where it was sold ??
Herman, sorry I missed that and I think it is a first. Very cool. To find an ad from Jefferson City MO that lists Triangle in cans alongside A.B.C. in cans and no mention of Manhattan brands is killer. The August 1939 date lines up with the Imperial. :)
oldindiapaleale wrote:Was the Imperial can ever sold in Connecticut? Have any ever been dumped in the northeast?
Only known to have been sold and dumped in Missouri.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#22

Post by Bob L » Tue Mar 15, 2011 10:29 pm

I too picked up on the Triangle ad. Very cool. I'm just a bit surprised that we never found one in all of our years of digging at the Lake of the Ozarks. Jeff City is up the road from the lake. The can in the USBC & OI books was definately found in the city of St. Louis. I've talked with the guy who obtained it many years ago. The other two faded cans were rumored to have been found in Florida, but I don't know if that is really true or not.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#23

Post by ozarkridgerunner » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:50 pm

PreWar wrote:There must also be a ton of Hapsburg found in ST Louis area... seems every liquor store around including Diemlers was pushing the stuff both in 12 oz and quart cans.
Yep. I believe most Best Hapsburgs have been found in the Lake Ozarks area, although I have found some near Rolla. No big circles or qwats that I am aware of, but have found lots of the others pending "nearly a half a century" and a few w/o the brand. Closest find of Imperials to St. Louis I am aware of was near Sullivan, MO.
PreWar wrote: One thing I find a bit odd, canned brands like Triangle and Imperial never seem to show up as bottled products? Ever see labels for these?
Not aware of any evidence Imperial or Triangle were ever bottled. No actual bottles known and no label examples known (including Bob Kay books). It may be they were "can only" in the same way Mountain Top, Old Union and other brands bottled by ABC have no known can counter part.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#24

Post by ozarkridgerunner » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:51 pm

I wanted to mention that I have seen one Imperial with opening instructions on the lid. It was definitely original. Seems odd for 1939 (older lid, newer can). Probably did not have pressure beads, but I can't say for sure. Maybe just a result of using up some old stock.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#25

Post by Kotto » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:35 pm

The closest to St. Louis that I am aware of Imperial cans being found is Cedar Hill at Echo Lake Resort, which was sadly demolished to make way for a subdivision development about five years ago. Only 30 minutes wet of St. Louis.
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#26

Post by oldindiapaleale » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:39 pm

ozarkridgerunner wrote:I wanted to mention that I have seen one Imperial with opening instructions on the lid. It was definitely original. Seems odd for 1939 (older lid, newer can). Probably did not have pressure beads, but I can't say for sure. Maybe just a result of using up some old stock.
I recently got an Imperial on ebay (from bluffsbrew) and the lid on this can has opening instructions and a non-beaded lid. It's all original and a 1939 ACCO can. Lid also has "STRONG BEER" on it.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#27

Post by Bob L » Thu Mar 17, 2011 1:38 pm

My shelf can, which came from the Swiss Inn dump (aka Hilderbrands camp) at Lake of the Ozarks, has a non-beaded lid with instructions. I have seen them that way from other finds as well. Apparently they used up some old lid stock.

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#28

Post by ozarkridgerunner » Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:39 pm

PreWar wrote:or lids were recovered from another Manhattan enterprise, including ABC St Louis and brought back to the Chicago plant to be used up on the cheap...
I have never seen a instructional lid on any of the cans that list ABC as the brewer.

Just a guess, but Imperial could have been a way for ABC to potentially get over some challenges with the ABC branding because of bad press during all the changes in ownership. Just a guess. I just can't imagine any real association with Weibel other than licensing the name for cheap. Was Black Eagle in cans ever marketed any where near Philly? Any examples of those ever been dumped out east? Anyone ever established a real linkage with Class & Nachod?

Also, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that kotto lives in................................Imperial, MO :)
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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#29

Post by oldindiapaleale » Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:33 pm

How does this fit into the picture:

Likek's OI book states "Circa: late 1938" and "The author believes that, in order for the Manhattan Brewing Company to package and market this specific beer brand in the Connecticut area, they agreed to include the Weibel Brewing Company information on the containers."

I can understand the 1938 being an estimate but what does "they agreed" mean? Who did Manhattan agree with to put Weibel on the cans? The Feds? The state of Connecticut?

Further, why invent a name like "Imperial" for a canned beer to sell in a small market like Connecticut, with credit to a defunct brewery? Why not just Imperial by Manhattan?

If Manhattan (or ABC) was canning house brands this might seem to be a case where some entity in Connecticut, either the owners of the closed Weibel brewery or a distributor fronted the money to have the beer manufactured to sell in Connecticut. Manhattan or ABC produced the beer but then something went wrong and the Connecticut buyers did not have the cash to complete the deal. Looking to recoup their expenses, the Manhat/abc brewer most likely shipped the beer to their pals in Missouri to blow out at a cheap price.

Maybe somebody got "hit" on this deal gone bad?

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Re: Origin of Imperial OI can - ABC, Manhattan or other?

#30

Post by Bob L » Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:42 am

My Imperial has the Instruction lid with also the "STRONG" with it. Never took note of the "Strong" before. My lid is somewhat rusted, but I found this picture on the RB board that is the of the same style lid to give you an idea of what we're talking about. Only difference might be that the S-6 designation may vary from can plant to can plant. I can't quite read it accurately on my can.

Missouri did not use the "strong" designation on cans. I'm used to seeing this designation on lids of cans sold in Minnesota. So apparently some (not all) of the Imperial cans used leftover 1936 vintage non-beaded lids that were originally intended for cans going to MN or some other state that required "strong".
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