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By Jess Kidden

Before bottled beer became economical and common (especially after the widespread use of pasteurization in the mid-1800's) in the US, if one wanted beer outside of the saloon, it was usually draught beer filled and carried out in a growler, aka a "can" or "bucket" of beer. Many different containers (including pitchers, other pottery or glass jars and jugs, etc) were used to carry beer home or to work - the most common "growler" was a 2 quart galvanized or enameled pail as seen in these illustrations. Pitchers/jugs, however, tho' not as nostalgically romantic, were also routinely be referred to as "Growlers". See Stoneware jugs or pitchers as Growlers While many children were employed by parents and others to "Rush the Growler" (or "Rush the Can"), as can be seen in the photo directly above, adults also were "Bucket Boys" or "Kesseljunges" (a German term apparently used in Milwaukee in particular). Note the notched poles above which will be used by the "boy" to carry the growlers back to the workplace, as is being done with the empties (above left). The beer in a growler was sold as a "pint" but most bartenders by tradition filled a growler with close to a quart of beer- the excess space taken up by the generous head on the beer. During the early 20th century when the "nickel beer" was standard, a growler fill was commonly5-15˘ (see prices below left). While the origins of the "Growler" term is much in dispute on brewerianaand etymology sites, some contemporary sources suggest that it was the constant conflict between the two parties - the bartender who's filling atwo quart pail with a pint of beer - and the customer looking for a full pail- which caused the "growling".


(Above) Two famous turn-of-the-century photographs, both titled "Rushing the Growler".



(Above) A "Blue Mottled Growler"  being advertised for 10˘ and (left) a "TIN BUCKET" that "will serve as a beer growler" on sale in Texas for a nickel.



(Above) An idealized view of workers drinking beer from a growler from a contemporary brewery beer tray.  Note the small glasses.  Buyers expected the "pint"growler fill to be the equivalent of at least 4 glasses of beer.



The "Bucket Trade" was frequently attacked during the decades leading up to Prohibition in 1920 by the same anti-alcohol "Temperance" forces that would result in the 18th Amendment. Laws were passed in many communities to outlaw the growler entirely (sometimes with the support of saloon owners and brewers). Washington DC, in particular, was one such community, but similar laws were passed in many other urban areas. Here's the language of an Arkansas law: Sec. 564. Canning Beer Prohibited. —That it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation owning, operating, managing or controlling, or bartender or any employee working in any dramshop, tippling house or saloon to sell, or permit the sale of, draught or keg beer deposited, or to be deposited in cans, cups, buckets, jars, bottles, jugs, crocks, pitchers, or other utensils than glasses or steins, and drunk or to be drunk on the premises; or to permit what is commonly termed and known as "canning beer," "rushing the can," or "rushing the growler," to be drunk on the premises where the sale Is made. Ord. A'o. 1768; The "Bucket Trade" was frequently attacked during the decades leading up to Prohibition in 1920 by the same anti-alcohol "Temperance" forces that would result in the 18th Amendment. Laws were passed in many communities to outlaw the growler entirely (sometimes with the support of saloon owners and brewers). Washington DC, in particular, was one such community, but similar laws were passed in many other urban areas. Here's the language of an Arkansas law:

Sec. 564. Canning Beer Prohibited. —That it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation owning, operating, managing or controlling, or bartender or any employee working in any dramshop, tippling house or saloon to sell, or permit the sale of, draught or keg beer deposited, or to be deposited in cans, cups, buckets, jars, bottles, jugs, crocks, pitchers, or other utensils than glasses or steins, and drunk or to be drunk on the premises; or to permit what is commonly termed and known as "canning beer," "rushing the can," or "rushing the growler," to be drunk on the premises where the sale Is made. Ord. A'o. 1768; January 29, 1912. Little Rock (Ark.) Regulations pertaining to the growler trade.—Twenty cities prohibited the growler trade and 24 other cities, reported some restrictions on it. Several restrictions were in the form of prohibition to sell in this way to women and to minors. Wilmington, Del., required an extra license of $25 from dealers who supplied the growler trade. Four cities withheld the growler privilege from saloons, permitting it only in the case of dealers other than those selling by the drink. Eight cities limited the quantity which might be sold in a growler. One pint at a time was the limit set in Paterson, N. J. ; a quart in Allentown, Lancaster, and York, Pa.; and a gallon in Oakland, Cal., and Galveston, San Antonio, and Houston, Tex. - Census Bureau, 1915

Pressure was put on local law officials to enforce laws concerning minors buying beer and "exposes" of the "bucket" boys and girls were a feature of many newspapers of the era. In the Cherry Hill section of NYC Father Curry was a well-known campaigner against the growler being filled by children. Sunday closings laws, often ignored (Sunday, often the only non-work day at the time and so a popular day for growler sales) were also being enforced better, leading to the creation of "Duck"- a closed metal flask-like growler that came complete with a hook to allow the owner to secure it to the inside underarm of his coat, to hide the beer from public view and the police while "rushing the growler". In some areas, "duck" became synonmous with "growler" and the term would be used for other, typical pails, buckets and cans.


(Above) a variety of "Graniteware" buckets of the size and design that were typically used as growlers- the same units are also referred to as "berry buckets". (Photos from internet auction and sales sites).
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History of Stoneware Jugs or Pitchers as Growlers
History of Stoneware Jugs or Pitchers as Growlers

Stoneware jugs or pitchers as Growlers

A collection of ads and one cartoon that suggests that stoneware/earthenware jugs or pitchers were also routinely known as growlers, despite the more common, nostalgic memory as the classic beer growler being the tin can, pail or bucket.
History of The Growler - Servings Per Half Barrel
History of The Growler - Servings Per Half Barrel

In a 1985 illustration of various glasses and containers for draught beer,  Anheuser-Busch lists both a "bucket" (at the unusual size of 55 ounces- a bit shy on a half gallon) and a "wax carton" similar to a milk carton.  At the time, New York State had enacted a mandatory 5˘ bottle deposit and the company was trying to encourage some retailers to switch to selling draught beer to go to avoid charging the deposit and the trouble of accepting returns.
History of The Growler - Gretz Brewing Company
History of The Growler - Gretz Brewing Company

The growler would be featured in many advertising campaigns for beer, brewers having always stressed the "old fashioned" aspect of their brands.  (Right)A coaster using the logo of Philadelphia's Gretz Brewing Company
History of The Growler - "Rush The Growler!"
History of The Growler - "Rush The Growler!"

(Above) ad from the "West End Brewing Co. (today known as the F. X. Matt Brewing Co. - brewers of Saranac) of Utica, NY advertising their then flagship "Utica Club" brand.
History of The Growler - "Silver Growlers"
History of The Growler - "Silver Growlers"

With the invention of the beer can just a few years after Repeal in 1935, many brewers would connect the pre-Prohibition "can of beer" with the new package and use the growler in it's advertising for their new canned beers.
History of The Growler - Half Gallon Bottles
History of The Growler - Half Gallon Bottles

(right)  Tho' not as common, an example of a bottled beer being advertised as a "modern" growler.  The large (18" tall) half gallon bottle, often called a "picnic" bottle, was used by a number of Eastern and Mid-Western breweries before and after Prohibition.



Unlike the canned beers advertised above, the picnic-bottled beer was like the beer from a true growler in one other way- it was not pasteurized, and so had to be refrigerated or consumed soon after purchasing it.  Thus the reference to "Real Draught Beer".
History of The Growler - The Beer Can and The Growler
History of The Growler - The Beer Can and The Growler

The Beer Can and The Growler
History of The Growler - Growler Still an Option
History of The Growler - Growler Still an Option

A news photo from 1946 (during the post-WWII grain restrictions) shows that up until then the "growler" had still been an option in this New York City bar.
History of The Growler - 1960's Growler
History of The Growler - 1960's Growler

In the Baltimore area, the "growler" lived on into the 1960's, where local brewers supplied logoed glass jugs (which, according to one source, took on the "duck" terminology), as can be seen in this photo  from an auction site.
History of The Growler - "Picnic Growlers"
History of The Growler - "Picnic Growlers"

In some Western states, several breweries (like, left,  Becker's of Utah and Wyoming) sold their beers, unpasteurized and  bottled at the brewery, in "jugs" - half gallon bottles, shaped like a large "steinie" bottle. (In the East and Mid-West, such beer was usually packaged in half-gallon "picnic" bottles).