Friday, February 25, 2011

Booty: Clicquot and Yo Ho Ho!

Triple P’s good and true mates over at Under The Black Flag recently posted the 1950s vintage ad above and I felt honor bound to share it with the rest of the Brethren. If you’re at all like me, you remember “playing pirate” at some point during your childhood too. We were never as fancy as these young buccaneers – Mom was a nurse and would never have tolerated makeshift cutlasses much less slingshots – and of course it was a few decades later than the ‘50s but you know what I mean. The interesting thing about this ad, beside the piratical bent of course, is the company that produced it.

Clicquot Club Company, or Beverages, had no affiliation with the Veuve-Clicquot Champagne consortium and was an entirely American business. Founded in 1881 by Henry Millis in the town of Millis, Massachusetts, Clicquot was originally a sparkling cider company. In 1885 a town sprang up around the manufacturing plant – Millis, which eventually became Millis-Clicquot and is now just Millis again. About that time Clicquot changed its focus from bottled cider to ginger ale. Henry Millis insisted on only the best ingredients, importing ginger from Jamaica and sugar from Cuba and, because of this attention to detail, Clicquot became the premiere manufacturer in the new “soft drink” industry.

It goes without saying that others were working on the same idea and by the end of the 19th century bottlers like Coca-Cola were outstripping Clicquot in sales. It didn’t help that Millis clung tenaciously to his “only the best ingredients” policy. He finally threw up his hands and quietly sold the company in 1901. The new owners stuck with the name but mounted an aggressive advertising campaign that rivaled Coke’s. By the 1920s they even had a radio show featuring a musical group called The Clicquot Club Eskimos. In 1938, Clicquot became the first soft drink to be sold in cans and by the ‘50s their ginger ale was sold all over the U.S. and Canada, in the Caribbean, the Philippines and throughout South America.

Coke never left the scene, of course, but its new competitor Pepsi edged Clicquot out in sales by the late ‘50s. Colt Beverages bought Clicquot and was in turn purchased by Canada Dry who closed all the Clicquot plants, including the immense factory in Millis which at one time had its own train station. An era in soft drink history ended in 1965.

Clicquot bottles and cans are quite collectible as you might imagine and websites devoted to them can be found. This
one is particularly informative. And then there’s this guy, who for a resident of Alaska is kind of interesting.
I'll go out on a limb and say we will surely see young pirates in ads in the future, but the Eskimo Boy is probably a thing of the past.


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That's a pretty funny post. The only thing missing from those kids playing pirate is an eyepatch... That was always a staple for us when we played pirate as kids.

The Eskimo Boy seems to be the original logo of Cliquot beverages dating back to the original bottles. I don't know why or who came up with the idea, but I think you're right that it's pretty safe to say you wouldn't be able to get away with that one today. Too "politically incorrect"...

Pauline said...

Ahoy, Timmy! Yep; I'm pretty sure you couldn't even get a pass on The Innuit Boy.