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THE FIRST BEER TO BE DELIVERED BY AIR. |
By Donald Roussin & Kevin Kious (618-346-2634)
The William J. Lemp Brewing Company issued over 130 different postcards in the years preceding Prohibition. These postcards, some humorous, others featuring real photos, are avidly sought after by many collectors.
One of the rarer of the Lemp photo postcards shows a crowd of people standing in the brewery loading yard, off Cherokee Street, grouped around an early "glider" type aircraft, not much advanced from the Wright brothers' machine that had made its maiden flight at Kitty Hawk less than a decade prior. A wooden beer bottle case marked 'Brewed in the Brewery of Lemp' can be seen being loaded onto the airplane. The postcard carries the caption, 'Falstaff is the first Bottled Beer to be delivered by aeroplane.'
Another seldom seen Lemp photo postcard shows the same airplane, now airborne, flying above the Lemp brewery enginehouse. The postcard carries that same caption and in addition is marked 'Circling the Lemp Smoke Stack.'
Neither of these two postcards carries a date; no "from" or "to" information, or other details of the flight.
However, there is a story behind the 'The First Beer to be Delivered by Air' Lemp postcards. William J. Lemp, Jr., was an early supporter of aviation, and used its novelty value for advertisements, as well as for promotions of flying events he sponsored. These postcards were issued to celebrate the first delivery of beer via an airplane, (at least as far as can be ascertained), which occurred in 1912. The following is an excerpt from a letter dated September 22, 1967, addressed to the 'Advertising Manager, Falstaff Brewing Corporation,' from a John G. Shea, which tells, as they say, "the rest of the story:"
'Your advertising of Falstaff beer in the New York newspapers rings an ancient bell, which, I thought had long since been silenced by the years. Several years ago, as a professional writer on aviation history, I had an opportunity to chronicle the start of scheduled airplane transportation -- which originated between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, in 1914. Visiting St. Pete, I had the pleasure of meeting with Jay Dee Smith -- an 'early bird' airplane pilot, and mechanic to the Benoist aircraft used in the world's first scheduled airline operations.
A chap by the name of Tony Jannus was the pilot of the first airline operation. Jannus was the Lindbergh of that era. He had established several altitude and long distance flying records prior to 'settling down' to pilot the first Benoist 'airliners.' Now among his records was a flight in 1912, in a Benoist-type aircraft from St. Louis to New Orleans. And who sponsored this flight? The Lemp Brewery!
Here's the rest of the story that you should be told before it gets lost in the labyrinths of time:
Smith, who serviced the Benoist aircraft, followed Jannus down the rivers by land. The epic flight started at St. Louis with the Mayor, and various officers of the Lemp Brewery strapping a case of Falstaff bottled beer to the wing, behind the pilot's perch. Jannus was instructed to deliver the case of Falstaff to the Mayor of New Orleans. The flight was to be made in short, daily hops. First day out, Smith -- upon meeting up with Jannus at a predesignated spot along the river -- noticed the pilot was feeling no pain. Further observation revealed the case of beer had been broached -- and Jannus was joyously engaged with the twelfth bottle.
How about the Mayor of New Orleans? Smith inquired. No Problem, Jannus chortled. -- Case flies much better empty!
And that is why the Mayor or New Orleans almost lost his official aplomb while accepting an empty case of Falstaff beer. And now that all the principles are dead, until now, not a person in the Lemp, and later Falstaff Brewing Corporation, knew anything about this!
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