|"Hyball Ginger Ale" ©1908 by the Sethness Products Company. |
This is a label from the massive Beer, Ginger Ale and Mineral Water label collection of Henry Stephens III. He collected between about 1905 (at age 22) and 1925. Stephens was the heir to a lumber fortune and put his money to good use, drinking beer, creating art and traveling the world. He graduated from Harvard in 1905 and went to Heidelberg Germany the next year, looking to continue his education. He was accepted in to Universitšt Heidelberg in Germany and spent several years there, eventually earning a PhD. During this time he toured Europe, spending a large amount of time in Hungary where he met his wife Mariska, in Zalaegerszeg.
In 1912 he returned to the US and moved to Waters, Michigan where he built a large farm, owned a minor league baseball team and served as president of the Otsego County Fair. He built the famous Bottle Fence in the town. He paid the local children a penny a bottle for the raw material. In the basement of his estate was a mural containing the names of local lumbermen created entirely out of thousands of pre-Prohibition bottle caps.
Later that year he was inspired to take his first trip to South America, spending most of his time in Buenos Aires. He returned in 1914 and toured the continent, saving beer and mineral water labels as souvenirs, and writing his adventures in a book called "South American Travels". In the 700 page book, he makes reference to beer or brewing nearly 100 times, once referring to his label collection directly! Soon he became president of an Otsego County bank, and in his spare time pasted and annotated his accumulated labels in a folio.
He returned to South America again in 1916 and went on a tour of Europe in 1924. He spent a lot of time in Cuba during Prohibition (no surprise). He made his last trip to Cuba in 1928. He died at age 48 in 1932 - just months before Repeal.
The folio collection was passed down to Henry's daughter-in-law. And she sold it to me in early February of 2016. It was with some great hesitation that I cut it up, as I do see him as a founding father of the label collecting hobby and the book, something of an historical document. But cut it up I did. Over 1000 labels. Hopefully many collectors will be the happier for it. Most of Dr. Stephens' labels were peeled off the bottles as he drank them, however some are in exceedingly poor condition, and I suspect they were either found or were gifts from people hoping to add to his collection. Others, especially the American labels, appear to be unused stock. So based on the travel documents that can be found online the dates of these labels can be estimated as such:
America before 1905-1920 (Prohibition)