Perfect for Beer Week: Esslinger’s Little Man
Perfect for Philly Beer Week (or Father’s Day), we’re excited to announce the latest t-shirt in our partnership with Shibe Vintage Sports, the sports apparel store on 13th Street in Midtown Village. The store is offering a Vintage Brewery and Bar Series of t-shirts that are also available online at the Foobooz Store.
This just launched shirt features Esslinger Brewery’s “Little Man,” Philadelphia’s answer to Baltimore’s Mr. Boh.
Get the shirt today at Shibe Vintage or order online from the Foobooz Store.
For more on the history of Esslinger’s Brewery, Johnny Goodtimes (quizzo host and co-owner at Shibe Vintage) shares the details.
Esslinger’s Brewery was started by George Esslinger in 1868 at 1012 Jefferson Street, near what is now Temple University. About a decade later, he moved the brewery to an alley just off of 10th and Callowhill, where it would remain for almost a century. You can still see that much of that brewery today, as it has been repurposed as a few different business since the brewery closed.
During Prohibition, the Esslinger brewery was sold to the Brown family, and they’re the ones who came up with the iconic “Little Man” logos seen on the shirt. That logo was seen throughout the city on billboards and in advertisements from the 1930s up until when the brewery closed in 1964.
Esslinger’s primary claim to fame is that they were the first Philly brewery to sell beer in cans, doing so soon after Prohibition was repealed. The cans were an immediate hit, and soon enough beer in cans was ubiquitous.
Esslinger’s had an even bigger hit in the early 1950s, with their “quiz cans”. Each can had a series of trivia questions on them, which people were encouraged to ask their friends at parties*. The cans were a sensation, and helped Esslinger make it through the early 50s, a rough time for local breweries (in 1953 alone, four local breweries closed.)
Esslinger’s was one of the Philly Final Four, along with Gretz, Schmidt’s, and Ortlieb’s. In the early 60s, Esslinger’s acquired the Gretz labels, but they themselves went under soon after. The brand was sold to the Jacob Ruppert Brewery of New York City in 1964. When Ruppert’s went out of business, the Esslinger brand moved to the Lion Inc. Brewery in Wilkes-Barre. They continued to produce Esslinger’s until 1980, when the brand finally disappeared from shelves and into the dustbin of history. That is, until 25 years later, when we saw this incredible logo and knew that we had to resurrect it on this incredibly comfortable Next Level t-shirt.
Special thanks to Rich Wagner and Larry Handy for their contributions to this piece.
*Needless to say, if any local breweries want to bring back trivia cans, shoot Johnny Goodtimes a line. He’s got a trivia question or two lying around his office.
Esslinger’s Little Man [Foobooz Store]