Category Archives: Publicity

See you later!

alligator sheetmusic copy
‘Beim Alligator in Wien’ by Erich Bertel, s.d., unknown illustrator.

The girl on her fierce-looking alligator seems oblivious to her perilous ride. Her garter belt is peeking out, but she only cares for her new handbags. ‘Beim Alligator in Wien’ is a publicity song issued by the Viennese Alligator workshops and stores, selling (alligator) handbags.

Beim Alligator in Wien, label on back cover of sheet music
Detail from the back of the cover Beim Alligator in Wien

We checked the addresses of the old ‘Beim Alligator‘ stores in Vienna. To our pleasant surprise we discovered that one of the shops still exists.

alligator vienna
Alligator shop, Rotenturmstrasse 19, Vienna

The sheet music dates from the late 20s or early 30s, a period at which the illustrator might have read about The California Alligator Farm.

Farm.h5This was a strange amusement park founded in 1906 near Los Angeles. With over a thousand alligators on exhibition the farm offered weird attractions. One could watch the alligators being fed with live chickens…,

Chicken_Dinner_California_Alligator_Farm_Los_Angeles_California_13691-600x382or admire Okeechobee, a 500 (ahem!) year old senior reptile.

Okeechobee_500_Years_Old_California_Alligator_Farm_Los_Angeles_CalThe children could enjoy the pleasure of a carriage ride…,

Children Joy Ride at the California Alligator Farmor a bareback ride on an alligator. Rather unsafe for small children, I guess.

California Alligator Farm, Los Angeles, California, half-tone postcards with applied colour, ca. 1910s

The farm’s brochure boasted about its speciality: ‘Alligator Bags Ornamented with Genuine Alligator Heads and Claws’. A promotional photo shows a large alligator-skin bag on top of an incubator full of cute alligator babies. The caption reads: ‘From start to finish’. Gruesome!

An incubator ‘Made Especially for Hatching Alligator Eggs’. The caption on the photo reads ‘From start to finish, California Alligator Farm’. ca. 1910s.

Also sickening is the undercover documentary from the animal rights group PETA. Still today, alligators and crocodiles on farms in Texas and Africa are cruelly bred, skinned and slaughtered. It moved Jane Birkin to try to dissociate her name from the luxury ‘Birkin crocodile handbag‘ made by Hermès.

Well, I’m relieved that I never owned a ‘gator bag’. Probably couldn’t afford it either…

See you later.

Hop, Skip and Jump

meco partituur copy
‘Meco Fox-trot’ by Jan von Lindern, published by Rademaker’s in 1923.

This cover shows an elegant man and his equally refined lady friend teasing each other with a Meco milk chocolate bar. They seem eager to take a bite. The fox-trot was ordered by the chocolate factory Rademaker’s as publicity. The chocolate bar with a light blue wrapper was sold in tins. The brand name Meco was designed in a typical De Stijl yellow typeface: the M has rectangular corners and is rotated ninety degrees to form an E.

Tin for Meco chocolate bars (1925- 1935)

Meco milk chocolate bars were made by Rademaker’s Royal Cacao and Chocolate Factory in The Hague, Netherlands. On the backside of the sheet music cover we are presented with publicity for their other specialities: Haga vanilla chocolate, Fenix Cacao and their most important sweet Haagse Hopjes.

achterkant meco034 copy
Left, backside of the cover with publicity for Rademaker’s products. Right, a tin of Fenix cocoa.

Haags-hopje-470x295Hopjes are coffee-flavoured candies. They are as Dutch as tulips and were named after baron Hendrik Hop (1723-1808) who let inadvertently simmer a mixture of coffee, cream and sugar too long on his stove until it caramelised. Baron Hop liked this sweet so much that he ordered his baker Theodorus van Haaren to recreate these lumps of coffee. Baron Hop was very enthusiastic and offered the sweets to all his classy and noble guests. The lumps of coffee  were soon exported as a luxury product all over Europe. First they were sold as Baron Hop’s bonbons.

hopjes blikFrom 1880 on they were called Haagse Hopjes. The hopjes became so popular that a real hopjes war started as many brands claimed to be the producer of the original hopje. Rademaker’s was but one of them, although they definitely were the first to wrap the sweets into an individual paper.

familie raThe Rademaker family, in the middle Johannes Rademaker (1843-1916) founder of the Rademaker's Company - photo Haagse Beeldbank, about 1900demaker
The Rademaker family, in the middle Johannes Rademaker (1843-1916) founder of the Rademaker’s Company – around 1900 (source: Haagse Beeldbank).
hopjes strand
Although the hopjes were very popular, the hopjes stall at the beach in Scheveningen seems not very successful. The people on the beach definitely prefer a lemonade or other sweets. 1905 (source: Haagse Beeldbank).
fabrik rademaker 2
Rademaker’s factory, 1891 (psource: Haagse Beeldbank).

The first Rademaker’s factory in The Hague burned down in 1901 and a new one was built elsewhere in the city with a remarkable oriental-looking front.

rademakers fabriek ossters
Rademaker’s factory, about 1910 (source: Haagse Beeldbank).

At the end of the 20s the factory proved too small and again a new one was built, this time as a modernist structure.

rademaker fabriek 3
Rademaker’s factory, about 1930 (photo Haagse Beeldbank).

An early commercial dating back to 1925 shows us the production process of the Meco chocolate bars and of the Haagse hopjes.

Today the Haagse Hopjes aren’t Dutch anymore. They are owned by a Swedish firm and produced in Italy. In Belgium we are still producing a coffee-flavoured sweet in a beautiful wrapper, the Caramella Mokatine. It is made from the original 1925 recipe by Confiserie Roodthooft in Antwerp.

mokatine enkelAs far as we know Roodthooft did not order any sheet music but we can imagine how the cover would look…

mokatine cover
Left, Le Caid, foxtrot by Raoul Moretti, illustrated by de Valerio, published by Salabert in 1923. Right, Beduinens Karlekssang, foxtrot by Ejnar Westling illustrated by Tiberg, published by Elkan & Schildknecht in 1925.

Torpedo March

Torpedo (07417_1)Look at the lady freewheeling elegantly downhill. The speed doesn’t scare her because she can rely on her Torpedo brake. The other cyclists, although well equipped with the right sportswear, don’t trust the gravity and have to walk beside their fixies without brakes.

Carl Alfredy, a specialist in writing music for advertising purposes, composed the Torpedo-Naben-Marsch promoting the famous bicycle hub patented by Ernst Sachs.

Ernst Sachs with his penny-farthing

Ernst Sachs (1867-1932) was an athlete who raced penny-farthings (or high wheel bicycles), tricycles and two-wheelers. He had a keen interest in mechanics and filed his first patent for a bicycle hub in 1894. Together with Karl Fichtel he established the Schweinfurter Präzisions-Kugellagerwerke Fichtel & Sachs, ultimately simplified to Sachs. In 1898 Fichtel & Sachs started to produce coaster brakes (a rear brake on a bicycle that is activated by pedalling backwards). Five years later Ernst Sachs patented the torpedo hub, which combined drive, freewheel and back-pedal brake. Previously, he had sent his entire development department out to camp in the Alps to fine-tune the hub. There, his team tested the brakes at breakneck speed on the Passo dello Stelvio. The local press was fascinated by ‘the column of cyclist flashing down the mountains, almost without moving their legs. And they could miraculously bring the bicycle to a full stop, without apparently doing anything.’

testing de brake
Sachs’ team

Helped by an elaborate publicity campain, the Torpedo turned out to be a huge succes and was produced throughout the twentieth century. One of Torpedo’s most famous faces was the superstar Alfredo Binda, triple worldchampion on the road and five-time winner of the Giro d’Italia.

alfredo binda
Alfredo Binda, world champion in 1927