American Brewing Co ABC Beer Serving Tray

American Brewing Co  Beer Serving Tray 1905

This is a tin beer serving tray manufactured by the American Brewing Company based in St. Louis, Mo Circa 1905. The tin tray features the company’s flagship A.B.C. beer brand. This piece is often referred to as a “bullet design” because it looks like a bullseye target in the center. The tray was manufactured by Chas. Shonk Company from Chicago. A.B.C. Beer often used their advertising slogan “King Of All Bottled Beers” to describe its Bohemian beer brand.

The American Brewing Co. was marketed extensively around the world in the United States, Mexico, South America, Japan, Philippines, Egypt, and Cuba. Their beer advertising was worldwide and extended to point of purchase displays, signs, serving trays, steins, clocks, magazine ads, trade cards and postcards. The A.B.C. company publicized in its advertising how they exported beer globally.

Another A.B.C. beer serving tray was the  “Temple of Commerce” oval tin tray that featured a goddess holding a scroll, stating, “A.B.C. Beer famous in the world of commerce.” It notes St. Louis U.S.A. on the bottom for its manufacturing location. The rim of the tray showcases drawings from some of the different areas A.B.C. sold its beer: Japan, Philippines, Egypt, Alaska and New York City.

The American Brewing Company 

The American Brewing Company (A.B.C.) began in 1890 in St. Louis, Missouri as a family brewery with the Koehler family. The start of A.B.C. actually began with the end of another Koehler family brewery, Excelsior Brewing Company. Excelsior originated in 1857 and lasted until 1889 when it sold out to the St. Louis Brewing Association syndicate.

However, the Koehler family quickly returned to the brewery business and soon became an early successful industry giant selling all over the world in the United States and foreign countries. They produced their own malt and specialized in bottling their beer. The company successfully shipped to distant locations in the United States, Mexico, South America, Japan, Philippines, Egypt and Cuba.

As A.B.C. expanded its distribution across the country, the company also specialized its advertising in specific new markets. The company’s advertising touted how they exported beer worldwide. One magazine ad featured a photograph showing a long train of the brewery’s boxcars driving away from the enormous St. Louis plant. The ad read “The St. Louis A.B.C. Beers are famous the World Over.” It also stated “St. Louis A.B.C. Bohemian Bottled Beer shipped to Manila, Philippine Islands, Nov. 1898.”

Some point of purchase advertising sent to South America included phrases in Spanish. One magazine ad appealed to the fun loving crowds asking “Bohemians of the American World to stand by their favorite beer. It promotes health and good cheer.”

A 1902 Redbook Magazine ad featured a woman holding a bottle of the A.B.C. Bohemian beer and stated “The A.B.C. Bohemian Bottled Beer, containing the very heart and marrow of the Bohemian Hops. Its creamy body makes for rich, red blood and puts solid healthy flesh on the wasted frame.”

A.B.C. even targeted its advertising on the back of a children’s “First Book of ABC’s”. A child reading the book would find “ Z is for Zeal to be shown in good things. Be it little maids, peasants or kings. A.B.C is the King of All Bottled Beers.”

When Prohibition hit the United States from 1920 to 1933, it was a huge setback to large shipping breweries like A.B.C. So for a while, the company produced a brand cereal beverage and soft drinks. As a way to get through the Prohibition era, the A.B.C. Company ultimately fell under the umbrella of the Independent Breweries Company (IBC). However, once Prohibition ended, the bankrupt IBC saw a chance to sell some of its breweries to regain its investment. A.B.C. was one of them and was sold to a Chicago syndicate.

The next several years were troublesome for the A.B.C. brand as it re-entered the competitive market following Repeal. The company filed bankruptcy, had legal woes, reorganized and changed hands a few more times. At one point, the St. Louis A.B.C. Brand was owned by the Al Capone led brewing syndicate out of Chicago. It was said that Mr. Capone’s “boys” damaged the brewery one night when it was heavily vandalized.  The ABC Company eventually went out of business in 1940.