Pre-Prohibition Beer Labels ( before 1920 )
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Beer labels were first added to U.S. bottles somewhere around 1870. No one knows the exact date for sure, but it was definitiely a few years after the end of the Civil War. For the next 50 years breweries would begin to produce beer labels that would vary widely, from simple text to elaborate lithographic artwork, all in the hopes to expand their market area and distinguish their beer from the many fierce immigrant competitors. For the first 20 years the infrastructure did not exist for the beer label industry to grow. Technology & the U.S. economy changed quickly during the 1880s, and the beer label industry began to flourish.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, beer labels changed quickly (& for the better). The U.S. economy began to grow with industrialization & a flood of immigrants brought with them both Old World brewing knowledge & a thirst for beer. The labels of this era benefited from patriotic themes, as well as extremely talented immigrant artists. The U.S. beer industry enjoyed unsurpassed growth approaching the onset of World War I (1914), until finally being crippled by the passing of the Volstead Act, and 13 years of National Prohibition (10/28/19 to 12/05/33).
Pre-Prohibition beer labels were produced from 1870-1919. Many of these labels are among the rarest beer labels known. The most sought after Pre-Prohibition labels come from very small breweries that were in business for a short period of time. Diecuts labels also tend to be the most collectible, along with those labels that featured brewery scenes & patriotic themes. As with any beer labels, the condition is most important. The smallest flaws will detract from their value.[ I have just redesigned this entire website. This page & others will be updated shortly.]