When a German immigrant named Theodore Hamm purchased the Excelsior Brewery in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1865, he probably couldn't have imagined that 100 years later a cartoon bear named Sascha would be more highly regarded than the liquid produced by his namesake brewery.
But while the brewery was transferred from owner to owner (Heublein, Olympia, Pabst, and Stroh’s have all taken their turns managing Hamm's), Sascha endured until only recently, when its current owner, Miller Brewing, dropped the mascot in order to head off charges that it was marketing its products to children.
Thanks to Sascha, today Hamm’s is quite famous for its collectibles. The most prized items of Hamm’s breweriana are the signs that were made for taverns and bars, particularly the motorized Scenorama signs (spelled, variously, as Scene-o-Rama, Scenarama, and Scenerama) made by Lakeside Plastics of Minneapolis in the early 1960s.
Large Scenoramas measure more than five feet across and feature working clocks—some feature scenic photographs of lakes and streams whose surfaces appear to be moving, others do not. Smaller, three-feet-wide Scenoramas of the same era come in moving and non-moving versions as well.
Ripplers were produced in 1956 and 1965. The earlier version of this sign is often called the TV Box Rippler because the scenic is housed in a frame that resembles a 1950s television set. The 1965 Rippler was made for the brewery’s 100th anniversary and features a tumbling waterfall on the left panel, a shimmering lake on the right, and a 3D Hamm’s logo in the center.
Other vintage Hamm’s beer signs include the Starry Skies and Blinking Mugs signs, which are bordered on one side by the edge of a home constructed of either paper or plastic bricks. The version of this sign with a moon on the horizon is the most rare example. The Sunrise/Sunset sign features a view of a lake from a wood-framed porch—the light on the lake and in the sky above it appears to change from day to night. Versions of this sign include one with a quartet of goblets above the Hamm’s logo and another with a small clock in the same spot.
Finally there was a Flipper Barrel sign (images in a horizontal beer barrel rotate as an internal mechanism flipped them) and there were several plastic signs of either a skating...
Like Budweiser and scores of other brewers, Hamm’s produced beer steins for its fans. A rather formal 100th anniversary stein was offered for sale in 1965, but many more, such as those created in the early 1970s to celebrate Oktoberfest (these were lidded) and St. Patrick’s Day, featured Sascha prominently.
A Brazilian company called Ceramarte made many of these ceramic steins, as well as salt-and-pepper shakers around the same time. More ornate are the lidded, high-relief steins from the 1980s made in Germany by a company called Gerz.
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