Category Archives: Publicity

A Nice Cuppa

‘Ich lass mich gar zu gern (Teekanne Javalied)’ by Carl Alfredy, published by Musikverlag Metropol (Berlin, sd). Illustration signed ‘molge’.

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.

Advertising for Teekanne’s textile incentives : small silk gadgets offered by Teekanne with their product.

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.

Advertising poster for Teekanne, by Jupp Wiertz
Advertising poster for Teekanne, signed with PL monogram.

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.

Advertisement for Tee-Bomben by R. Seelig & Hille (the trademark owner of Teekanne)

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.

Double-chamber teabag.
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.
‘La tasse de thé’ by Joseph Szulc, Gaston Dumestre & Roger Ferréol, published by Salabert (Paris, 1920) and illustrated by Atelier Salabert.
‘Tea for two‘ by Vincent Youmans & Irving Caesar, published by Salabert (Paris, 1924) and illustrated by Roger de Valerio.

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!

Alcool de Menthe Américaine

Alcool de Menthe Américaine‘ by Henri Kling, published by Oertel (Hannover, s.d.)

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.

alcol 6
No one should be fearful of tropical fevers when in possession of l’Alcool de Menthe Américaine.

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?

From ‘Feuille d’avis de Neuchatel’, August 14, 1884.

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.

Judgment of May 20, 1893 in the case of Ricqlès against Bonnet & C°.

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.

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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. Their hors concours participation was at 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.

mentheThe 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!

Dutch Cigarettes, Part 2: Wajang & TABA

Wajang Fox-Trot (I love you) by David Monnickendam published in 1930, The Netherlands.

In our sheet music collection we found a second Dutch song promoting cigarettes. Its colourful cover shows an Indonesian wayang puppet playing the saxophone, mixing East and West. Wayang kulit is the traditional puppet-shadow theatre in Indonesia. The Wajang cigarette brand was launched in 1930. From a Dutch newspaper announcement we learn that the Wajang Fox-Trot song was published in the same year.

An announcement for the Wajang Foxtrot in the ‘Nieuwe Apeldoornsche courant’,  May 22nd, 1930.

For centuries the Dutch had auctioned tobacco originating from the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Then, in the 19th century the tobacco trade and industry grew more important as the tobacco plants were cultivated in the Dutch colonies in Borneo, Sumatra and Java. It is during the Dutch East Indies colonial period that Effendi Frères (again this French chic!) produced the Wajang cigarettes. Just like Caravellis cigarettes, Wajang offered to their customers a collection of tobacco silks: black patches embroidered with a variety of wayang figures. There were different series of these Wajang silks included in the cigarette packs. A newspaper advert suggested to use them for decorating a tea cosy: You open the box and while the delicious scent of tobacco reaches you, you are greeted by the silk embroidered Wajang figurine, which lends itself beautifully to be used for all kinds of handicrafts.

Wajang advertisement in the ‘Leidsch Dagblad’, January 1930

Just as for the previous Caravellis post, the Wajang  back cover shows different ways to use the silks. My personal preference is the picture of the symbolic Dutch windmill hung before a tapestry of colonial Wajang silks.

Back cover of the sheet music Wajang Fox-Trot.

Some ladies were extremely handy with the tobacco silks: this elaborate sleeveless evening gown was made from 1.280 Wajang tobacco silks!

Sleeveless long evening gown, Source: Museum Rotterdam.

We even found a third Dutch sheet music cover in our collection  —from the same period— which promotes tobacco. It is called TABA-Marsch. A rather wealthy and haughty man is enjoying a cigar. His smoker’s paraphernalia is displayed on a side table. In the background, seemingly arising from the cigar smoke, looms a smiling tobacco labourer or koelie (coolie). The strong labourer carries a stick of tobacco leaves on his shoulder.

Taba-Marsch‘ by Louis Noiret & Kees Pruis, illustrated by Jacob Jansma, 1924.

It is a beautiful illustration but it strongly suggests the offensive colonial attitude of the Dutch at that time. The island archipelago of the Dutch East Indies (a Dutch colony, now Indonesia) was a society with huge class differences. The indigenous people and imported workforces had to live in neighbourhoods or kampongs divided and based on ethnicity. The coolies working on the plantations were contract labourers. Their rights, and more importantly all kinds of restrictions were established with the Koelie Ordonnantie (Coolie Ordinance) of 1880.

Three Chinese coolies, Javanese women and their superintendents on a tobacco plantation in Sumatra, ca 1900. (source: Rijksstudio)

The penal sanction was the most outrageous part of this Ordinance which stipulated that a plantation-owner could punish his coolies in any manner he saw fit, including fines. The reasons for punishing a coolie could be many, including laziness, insolence or desertion. Whipping thus became a common practice on the tobacco plantations of the Dutch East Indies. These type of sanctions were gradually abolished from 1931 onwards.

Poster for the TABA exhibition. Left: in 1923. Right: in 1924. Both illustrated by Jacob Jansma.

TABA was a large tobacco exhibition (1923 and 1924) held in Amsterdam. Jacob Jansma created the posters for it and used the same illustration for the sheet music. The reason for this exhibition was the malaise in the tobacco economy in Holland.

Tobacco traders in action in Amsterdam’s ‘Frascati’ marketing house (1927) (source: Rijkstudio)

During the First World War the Dutch economy had blossomed. Thanks to the Dutch neutrality and without foreign competition, the tobacco industry and trade had free rein on the national and international markets. But after WW1, the sudden decline in export and the foreign competition led to massive dismissals in Holland and in the colonies. Hence the TABA exhibitions in order to crank up the business.

A visualisation of the Paleis voor Huisvlijt to attract participants in 1923.

The 1923 TABA exhibition took place in a large hall, the Paleis voor Volksvlijt (Palace for Popular Industriousness). Inspired by the Crystal Palace in London, it was made of glass and cast iron and it was likewise destroyed by fire much to the chagrin of the Amsterdammers. 

TABA exhibition in the ‘Paleis voor Volksvlijt’, Amsterdam, 1923.

In 1924 TABA moved to the RAI, a newly built ‘state of the art’ exhibition hall, but this event counted significantly less visitors.

Above: the RAI in 1929 (Beeldbank Amsterdam). Below: an artist’s impression of the RAI to lure foreign exhibitors to the TABA, by Waldmann (1924). (Beeldbank Amsterdam)

In 1925 a new attempt was made to move TABA back to the stylish Paleis voor Huisvlijt and to create an even greater event with lots of foreign exhibitors, but the enterprise failed before it even started.

Enough now for this post. Let’s move on to Tobacco Road with the Winter brothers. YEAH!