Wagner’s Old Time Beer Charger “Friends”, Forest Park Brewing Co. 1910

Wagner Forest Park Brewery Charger Sign, St Louis, MO. Ca. 1910

Wagner Forest Park Brewery Charger Sign, St Louis, MO. Ca. 1910

I’m happy to share this unique Forest Park Brewery Charger Tray made to promote Wagner’s Old Time Lager Beer. This beautiful 16” round charger features a young girl with her face and arms embracing her horse. It is labeled “Friends” on the bottom rim and reads on the top “Wagner’s Old Time Lager Beer, Forest Park Brewing Co. St. Louis.”

Wagner's Old Time Lager Stoneware Beer Mug, Forest Park Brewing Co., 1910

Wagner’s Old Time Lager Stoneware Beer Mug, Forest Park Brewing Co., 1910

This is an especially hard to find vintage collectible because The Forest Park Brewery released very few advertising items in their short seven years of business from 1910-1917. The Meek Company made the tray in Coshocton, Ohio, considered “the birthplace of advertising art”. I like the tray’s intense colors of blue, brown, cream, gold and red. The horse scene is unique to the St. Louis’ marketplace even though it’s considered a stock tray used for other products.

The Forest Park Brewery was established in 1910 at 3662 Forest Park Blvd. in St. Louis, MO. Owned by Ed Wagner, Sr., he decided to build this brewery across the river from his other brewery, Wagner Brewery in Granite City, IL after it was bought out in 1907 by the Independent Brewing Association.

The Forest Park Brewery was known for it’s unique “coffee pot” shape. It produced two malt style beers brands; Forest Park and Old Time Lager. Both beers were advertised to be “as good as the German imports”.   Tying the taste into a German imported beer made sense since St. Louis had a large population of German heritage in the early 1900’s.

Unfortunately, with prohibition impending and sales declining, the Forest Park Brewery went bankrupt in 1917 and it closed. However, Papa Joe Griesedieck of the Griesedieck Brothers Brewery family bought the building and produced “Hek”, a prohibition era beverage during the 1920’s.   When prohibition ended in 1933, the Griesedieck family started the Falstaff Brewery in the same building. Today, parts of the original building still stand but not as a brewery.

Beer Serving Trays and Chargers used for Advertising

Wm. J. Lemp Brewing Co. Beer Charger

Wm. J. Lemp Brewing Co. Beer Charger

Since the late 1800’s, breweries have used trays to advertise their company name and products. Most beer trays were circular about 12 to 13 inches in diameter and were designed as serving trays to carry drinks to patrons. Others were oval or rectangular, and most were made from lithographed tin. Some smaller ones were used as tip trays for customers to put tip money on when paying their tab. Although in reality, these small tip trays were often used as coasters and ashtrays.

Another style of beer tray is the oversized “charger” in a circular shape and ranging from 16 to 24 inches in diameter. Brewery chargers with colorful lithograph artwork were mostly intended just for decorative advertising on walls because of their larger size, sturdiness and hanging brackets on the back. The lithographed beer chargers were a spinoff of the original chargers used in dining areas as large meat serving platters.  However by the 1890’s, when lithographed artwork was imprinted on an oversized tray, this new form of advertising tray was also called a charger. Breweries quickly saw the benefit of getting their product advertised on a large, colorful and distinctive tray. Chargers were hung in restaurants or taverns to help showcase their brand for many years.