Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Museum Highlights: Usborne Ginger Beer Bottle

This week's artifact is a stone bottle that once contained ginger beer. This museum coordinator remembers enjoying malt drinks the last time she traveled to Barbados. This brewed drinks are not what we think of when we think of beer, instead, they are easier to think of as a brewed soda as they typically contain no, or a negligible amount, of alcohol. The sodas we most commonly get are syrups with CO2 added, not brewed like they once were.

One of the more popular brewer of beer in Newfoundland used to be Gaden's, with their distinctive sea lion on an ice flow logo. In fact, at the start of WWII, Newfoundlanders didn't really drink sodas, but drank beer in cherry, grape and orange flavours (Daly 2015). US servicemen who arrived on the UST Edmund B. Alexander in 1941 discovered this quickly. Dominick (Tony) DeAntonio, in particular, found out that he couldn't treat his future wife to a pop when he met her early in his time in St. John's, but instead opted for a beer (Cardoulis 1993).

Gaden Keep Kool bottles from the 1940s or 1950s. From Wicks 2002

Other drinks were imported, such as Usborne "None Nicer" Brand Ginger Beer. Not much could be found about this bottle, but Ascott-Under-Wynchwood has always been known for its bread, blankets, and beer, and brewing has been going on in the area for centuries. It is difficult to find information about Usborne themselves, but the bottle itself was made by Pearsons in Chesterfield. Chesterfield has long been famous for its pottery. It was an area of pottery production in the Roman era, and in the 1700s became famous for its salt-glazed pottery with its distinctive brown colouration. Pearsons had been in operation from the early 1800s until 1993 or 1994 making bottles, jugs, plates, bowls and other ceramics. There is an extensive history of Pearsons Potteries at this Chesterfield Forum.

The maker's mark reads:

Pearsons Potteries shipped internationally, so this bottle must have been made in Chersterfield, filled with ginger beer in Ascott-Under-Wychwood (now typically just called Wychwood), and shipped to Newfoundland where it eventually made it to the collection of Wayne King who kindly donated it to the LBMCOC Museum.

If you have any stories to share about this or any sodas or beers you remember enjoying, please feel free to post them below.

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