Joë Bridge created the imaginary character Ugène,a Parisian Joe Sixpack from the Twenties. Joë Bridge was a French lyricist, cartoonist and sportsman. He was famous for his posters and press cartoons. Here is his beautiful portrait.
He had his own advertising workshop and was one of the first to create a complete product marketing campaign by combining a brand mascot (Ugène), a rhyming slogan (‘Ugène pass’ moi l’Odorigène’),cartoons and a song. The product he promoted was a kind of pomander: the odorigène. This pocket-sized nasal inhaler was meant to provide a continuous olfactory shield against the bad odours of the city. It was a small flask containing perfumed oil and a wick to diffuse the fragrance by capillary action.
Joë Bridge’s advertising poster demonstrates how the odorigène could be very useful in a bad-smelling metro.
And —thanks to its antiseptic vapours— the odorigène also helped to prevent influenza and contagious diseases.
The odorigène, what an invention! We’ll stop now and smell the roses*.
On our way back from Berlin we did not enjoy our rather bland breakfast. But the tea was lovely and its brand name Teekanne rang a musical bell.
Back home we searched our sheet music collection and sure enough we found the above stunning cover. It was probably designed by Heinrich Molge for the German tea company Teekanne, a firm founded in 1926 that still exists. Molge (1888 – ?) was a Dresden based artist of whom we know little but that he was half of the graphic artists couple Molge-Koch. The Asian red and white teapot however is still used as today’s logo of the Teekanne company.
To thank customers for their loyalty, Teekanne offered small silks. These promotional gifts, popular during the early 1900s, could be stitched on tablecloths or cushions to embellish them. In the tobacco industry these little textile gadgets were more common, as seen in our earlier posts about Dutch Cigarettes.
Teekanne engaged excellent illustrators for their advertising campaigns. Also, their tea blends were packaged in lovingly designed tin boxes.
Teekanne played an important role in the invention of the teabag, that ‘ordinary’ item that we are so used to. The history of the teabag starts in 1901 with two American ladies who obtained a patent for a tea-leaf holder. We do not know if they ever commercialised their invention. The first modern tea bags in the Western World were hand-sewn fabric bags. The story goes that the New Yorker Thomas Sullivan sent samples of his tea leaves in small silk bags to potential buyers as a sales gimmick. His customers wrongly supposed that these were meant to be popped into a teapot and loved the idea. So this Sullivan, and others, started selling tea in single-serve bags. However, customers started to complain because the glue used to seal the bags left a bad taste to their nice cup of tea.
During the First World War, Teekanne adapted the idea and started mass producing round cotton-gauze bags sewn by hand, and tied close with a piece of string. These tea bags —also filled with sugar to offer energy— were called Teebomben (tea bombs). The Teebomben were distributed to the German soldiers on the front line. Alas, soon they got the reputation among servicemen of only colouring hot water to a brown concoction.
After the war the German inventor and self-made engineer Adolf Rambold started to work for Teekanne. And in 1929 he invented the world’s first tea-bag-packing machine. Twenty years later he invented the double-chamber tea bag: the tea is filled in two chambers allowing an optimum flow of water around the tea which results in a fuller tea flavour. In the same year he proposed a new tea-bag-packing machine which produced these double-chamber tea bags. His machine sold all over the world and revolutionised the tea market. I never analysed my teabags before but indeed the double chamber is still used for today’s tea bags.
The two following ‘tea songs’ from our collection were very successful in their days. Apart from a hit, Tea for Two even became a standard.
Now, let’s start to bake a sugar cake and have a tea for two…
Possibly you would prefer Bourville’s version of the famous song in the film La Grande Vadrouille. Certainly a memorable hot scene!
For the aficionados of Teekanne, hereunder is the German publicity printed on the back of their sheet music. To be read with a nice cuppa, of course!
Our story starts with a cover for a commercial song to promote an ‘American’ mint alcohol. Well, not very American as you will learn from the little fait divers we are about to tell.
But first this. Mint alcohol is a solution of essential mint oil diluted in alcohol. Not the best of recipes if you ask me, but hey someone even invented menthol cigarettes.
According to a publicity from 1884 the menthe américaine could treat cholera. It was also a mixture of the highest quality to stop epidemics, and a remedy for dyspepsia, stomach cramps, head aches, nausea, colonial fevers or in the event of one or other epidemic. Mmm, haven’t we seen similar effects for an alcoholic beverage before?
This advertisement tells us that the medicinal drink was an American creation by R. Hayrwardt & Cie from Burlington in the United States, and exclusively imported by Jules Lecoultre, who owned a drug store in Genève. Now this Burlington-origin was a clever find because there are over a thirty places called Burlington in the US. Hard thus to verify the credentials of the merchandise…
In 1893 the company of Jules Lecoultre (by then Bonnet et Cie) had to appear before the court. Its biggest rival Ricqlès, who was selling L’Alcool de Menthe de Ricqlès, accused Lecoultre of fraudulently inventing the American house ‘R. Hayrwardt & Cie’. And indeed, after having searched the whole USA no such firm was found. Nonetheless the court ruled that —although being unfair— it didn’t matter that the advertisement was not entirely truthful because this fabrication did not actually harm Ricqlès.
So the court was lenient: a little white lie about the origins of your product couldn’t harm anybody. However, when it came to winning medals, now that was an altogether other matter: only the strictest rules could be applied, as we’ll see next.
At one point Jules Lecoultre and his then associate Bonnet raised billboards all over Geneva, showing off all their medals and certificates.But they shrewdly omitted to mention for which competition Alcool de Menthe Américaine had been admitted ‘hors concours’. Ricqlès also brought this to court and claimed that Lecoultre & Bonnet mislead the public in letting it believe that they had participated at the Parisian World fair, while in fact they had only received a silver medal. Theirhors concoursparticipation wasat a much lower graded fair in Genève. The court ruled that this was indeed an act of unfair competition to falsely promote the superiority of a product. As a consequence, Bonnet & Cie had to adapt all of their billboards!
Medals were clearly very important in these days.
The polka Alcool de Menthe Américaine was composed by Henri Kling (1842 – 1918), a French-German horn virtuoso and professor at the Conservatoire in Geneva. He was also a prolific composer but with a penchant for the lighter music.
His peculiar Kitchen Concert for piano, snare drum, funnel, forks, glasses, shovel, egg beaters, wooden spoons and other kitchen utensils was probably written as (a Christmas) entertainment for children.
Let the kid in you enjoy Henri Kling’s culinary rhythms. Fascinating!