The year before World War II ended, 1944, the United State Brewers Association and the United Breweries Industrial Foundation merged, creating the United States Brewers Foundation (USBF). During the final year of the war, the USBF created an advertising campaign to promote beer as “America’s Beverage of Moderation.” As Skilnik argues, “the brewing industry was more cooperative after Repeal simply because of the fear that Prohibition could come back, not necessarily to project a pure aura of patriotism, although I’m sure there was some of this involved. The brewers also realized that their biggest competitor was the liquor industry so something had to be done to woo people off the hard stuff and back to beer.”
Henry M. Stevens, the director of the J. Walter Thompson Co. (now JWT, one of the most famous ad agencies in history), worked personally with the advertising committee for the USBF and created both the “Beer Belongs” campaign and the “Home Life in America” series. He remarked during the advertising committee’s presentation to the USBF’s 1946 convention that during the war “another broad trend in public thinking developed. With each year of the war there came a vast and growing appreciation of our country itself, of what it stands for, of everything American.”
This thinking had led to the first year of the “Beer Belongs” series of ads in prominent American magazines. Nine ads were produced in 1945 by eight different fine artists. The series was published in magazines, reprinted in books, and over 100,000 requests from consumers were received for reprints of the ads.
Encouraged by the success of that first year, the USBF decided on a more ambitious campaign. It was still “Beer Belongs,” but beginning in January of 1946, it also became the “Home Life in America” series, with each ad being numbered. The first ad, “Uncle From the West,” by Stevan Dohanos, ran in Time magazine March 7, 1946. It later was published in Life, Colliers, U.S. News and several others. It reached an estimated 14 million people, a little over 13 percent of the adult population.
Four years later, at the USBF convention in San Francisco, the advertising committee again reported on the success of the ad campaign in a presentation entitled “The Position of Beer in American Life.” Comparing beer consumption from 1940 to 1950, they noted it had increased by two-thirds and in 1950 nearly two-thirds of American families bought beer to drink in the home, while in 1940 that figure was less than half.
Beer Is Wholesome
The goal of making beer synonymous with home life was chosen precisely to combat the incessant attacks by prohibitionist groups, who continued to target the beer industry during and after the war, but it wasn’t the only reason. Of course, refrigerators helped, too. Skilnik suggests that the industry’s choice of the home as a target “had less to do with fighting off prohibitionists and more to do with refrigerators in the home, the containerizing of beer and even the return of GIs after WWII. Veterans came home, got married, took advantage of the GI Bill, built homes and/or moved to the suburbs, started the post-war Boom Years and began to make up for years lost… at home with a beer or two.” This, he explains, “is why there was also an explosion of cookbooks from breweries during the ‘40s through the ‘60s, maybe even the 1970s. The new market was the home beer drinker, not the regulars at the corner tavern.”
“Obviously as beer becomes more traditional in more and more homes as belonging to pleasant living, good fellowship and sensible moderation, its position becomes increasingly invincible to attack,” Henry Stevens explained during his presentation. To illustrate how popular the “Beer Belongs” slogan had become, Stevens reported that he’d recently seen a soft drink ad with the copy “Coca Cola belongs!”
USBF President Carl Badenhausen, from Ballantine’s, explained that proactively advertising the positive aspects of the industry was predicated on combating the major problems facing the industry, which he declared to be: 1) “The ever-present threat of prohibition,” and 2) “The need for getting a wider social acceptance of beer and ale.”
The new series of ads, the “Home Life in America” series lasted until 1956 and a total of 120 different numbered ads were produced. They were numbered from 1 to 119, but there were two different number twos. Except for the first and last years of the campaign, roughly a dozen ads were produced each year to correspond with the monthly magazine schedule. The ads also followed the seasons so you have beach scenes during the summer and Thanksgiving each November.
The first year, the artists employed were considered more “fine artists” rather than illustrators. Beginning in 1946, all of the artists were illustrators, though they were among the best known of their day. On the initial list, even Norman Rockwell was listed among the artists contracted, though he never contributed to the series.
Several other artists who’d done covers for the Saturday Evening Post did work on the series, however, including Douglass Crockwell, who did many covers for the magazine that made Rockwell a household name. He often signed his works with only his first name to avoid confusion with his more famous contemporary. Crockwell did a total of 67 ads for the USBF, far more than any other artist. Illustrators Stevan Dohanos, John Falter and Mead Schaeffer also created numerous covers for the Post and other prominent magazines. For the “Beer Belongs” series, Falter did eight, Dohanos seven, and Schaeffer just one, meaning Saturday Evening Post cover artists accounted for nearly 70 percent of the entire series.