Theo Gier Vineyards, Oakland, CA. Hanging Sign, Circa 1905

Theo Gier was a well-known wine producing baron in the late 1800’s in the present day Napa Valley Region outside San Francisco.    Headquartered in both Napa and in Livermore, Mr. Gier started his business career in Oakland at 511-515 Fourteenth Street where he started a General Store and sold large quantities of whiskey.   Eventually the Business became known as the Theo Gier Co. Wine and Liquor Merchants.

Pictured here is a beautiful advertising tray with a pre-drilled hole for hanging from the Theo Gier Co. in Oakland, CA.    The scene illustrates two sophisticated couples at a table enjoying wine while a young girl looks on, with a glass of wine in her hand!  This tray was manufactured by the Kaufmann and Strauss company in New York and is circa 1905.

In the late 1800’s whiskey was outselling other styles of liquor including wine and beer by quite a bit.   However, Mr. Gier advertised heavily for their whiskey selection which provided more profits than selling wine at the time.    By doing so, he was able to invest shortly thereafter in land in Alameda County, which allowed him to go back to his educational roots in Germany which was the science of making wine.

The flagship brand of whiskey for the Theo Gier Company was called Metropole which was sold in both flasks and amber colored blob style bottles.   Mr. Gier was a very good marketer, and today collectors can still find quite a few Victorian advertising trade cards advertising his products, including Metropole, often with children on them.   I am not sure today if the idea of using children to sell whiskey would be acceptable to the public?

Mr. Gier must have been quite a businessman.    He quickly expanded his whiskey sales into a wine producing empire, first starting in Livermore, followed by a second winery in Napa, and eventually developing a third location in St. Helena, CA.   All three locations had over one thousand acres of land on them!  This alone allowed him to become one of the first wine barons in the region due to his massive land holdings and vineyard production.  Mr. Gier’s wines were awarded many medals in wine competitions throughout the United States, solidifying his status in the industry.

Unfortunately like so many other businesses at the time, the passage of the laws enacting prohibition put an end to his business empire.   It is well documented that Theo Gier continued to produce alcohol during prohibition which caused him to be arrested and jailed for breaking the Volstead Act law.   The vast financial empire which Mr. Gier assembled quickly fell apart since there no longer was a use for vineyard properties.  Prohibition ended a way of life for Mr. Gier just as it did to so many other business owners at the time.