Avling Øresund Porter

Porter is never far from mind, just as with India Pale Ale. And I’ve been reading or writing a lot about porter lately, Swedish ones, Belarusian, Polish, now Lithuanian.

So how about a Canadian one, especially when I encounter a fine example?

Not sure what the foreign-looking “o” means, but the taste rocks. Flavourful malt sustains the 6% ABV, ditto the assertive, English-style hopping.

It’s more a sustained, drying effect, than bitter. Sandy or mineral-like you might say, not citric or flowery.

The brewery calls it a “robust porter” which certainly applies, as many in the genre have a malty, English stamp.

 

 

It brought to mind but perhaps trumps the porter brewed before Covid-19 at Creemore Batch brewpub in downtown Toronto (currently shut under Covid).

They share an elegant, chocolatey note that denotes a traditional London or north European porter. There is, too, that slightly burnt/charcoal taste at the end, not overdone as in too much craft porter or stout.

Avling brewpub is also in Toronto but in an eastern quadrant, on Queen Street. There was a steady line-up, well-separated, on the sidewalk this morning to buy beer from their “hatch”.

The right taste, the right stuff.

 

 

 

“Epstein’s Brewery”, its Fate in Vilnius

Former Szopen Brewery in Vilnius

The Pale of Settlement, the part of western Russia where Jews were permitted to reside without special authorization, included Vilna, or Vilnius, and much of present Lithuania. Vilnius is the capital, a city of much historic importance including to the Jewish community.

A number of breweries in the region had Jewish founders. One continues today in the form of Lithuania’s Kalnapilio-Tauro, part of a group owned by Royal Interbrew of Denmark. All component brands are brewed now in Panevėžys, a sizeable city in Lithuania.

The Kalnapilio limb had separate origins, creation of a landed capitalist in the early 1900s, Albert Foight. Tauro, or Tauras, had 19th century origins in Vilnius in the form of the Szopen Brewery.

We saw in Part II of my series on Jewish-owned breweries in Belarus that in the 1930s “Shafen” had a branch in Lida. It was managed by a Lida resident, to compete with the two local breweries.

That “Shafen” is Szopen. Szopen was founded in Vilnius by two Jewish businessmen in 1860. They associated with Wilhelm Szopen, the brewer, whose name was used to identify the business.

Szopen later purchased the full interest although the other two continued as directors. Kurier Wileński writes on Lithuanian history and stated in a blog essay of 2013:

The first brewery was established in ‎‎Lukaszniki (Vilnius) in 1860. Two Jewish businessmen—Abel Sołowiejczyk and Iser Berg Wolf—were its founders. They fetched to Vilnius a brewer Wilhelm Szopen who soon entered into partnership with the owners and ca 1866 the brewery in ‎Lukaszniki came to be called the Szopen Brewery. In the course of time Wilhelm Szopen became the owner of the brewery, albeit its founders remained in the board of directors ….

Szopen Breweries highly expanded, since from the beginning of 1890 in the company there were employed over 50 workmen and produced up to 300 thousand buckets of beer, a bucket—as a unit of measurement in Russia—was approx. 12.3 litres. Therefore  ….

However, there was also the competition between Jewish businessmen in Vilnius and in 1897 Szopen Breweries were taken over by an affluent Jewish entrepreneur—Mordechaj Owsiej Epstein, the owner of the brewery in Popławy.

The hulking Szopen structure still stands, now converted into studio apartments. This image, titled “Epstein’s Brewery” is from 2017 when the conversion was still ongoing.

Wileński limns the future of the brewery into WW I and the 1930s, at the start of which Szopen was producing 30,000 hL per annum. He mentions the Lida agency connection.

I may add, from 1923 Vilnius (Wilno) was part of Poland. Lithuania did not recognize this and used Kaunas as de facto capital. Vilnius was comprised then of a majority of Poles and Jews.

Wileński states Szopen was nationalized in 1940 – the Soviets controlled Lithuania from June – and after Lithuania regained independence, the name was changed to Tauras.

Tauras was adopted (state a number of other sources) at the end of the war, which may be the meaning here, but in any case not in 1990, when Lithuania ceased to be a Soviet socialist republic.*

Tauras-brand beer is still marketed, as seen in its dedicated website. Bottles and cans are depicted (see Products) carrying the 1860 founding year. A sparse historical timeline is included.

Abel Sołowiejczyk and Iser Berg Wolf are not mentioned, that I could see from Google translation. Wilhelm Szopen is, and “M. Epstein” in connection with the joint stock company formation.

Wileński’s essay is helpful, and a good guide to anyone interested to delve further, particularly with benefit of the relevant languages.

Almost all Lithuanian Jews were killed by the Nazis or their auxiliaries, under the German occupation which lasted from June 1941 until January 1945.

As to whether Mordechai Epstein survived, or his heirs did, or they had connections to the brewery after the war, I don’t know, but all seems doubtful.  I have not been able to find any biographical information.

……….

*The company timeline, referred to below, seems to suggest the Tauras name was adopted in 1950, but in any case it was before 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus. Part IV, the Beers of Indura

This continues from Part III, and is last in the series.

Yedidia Efron* (1878-1951) was born in Indura, also known as Amdur, Grodno District, Russian Empire. Today Indura is in Belarus.

His family emigrated to Argentina when he was 17, in 1895. He became an educator, well-known in the Jewish-Argentine community. Not long before he died he wrote a memoir, later published in Buenos Aires as Amdur, mayn geboyrn-shtetl.

It means My Home Town, Amdur. The book appeared in 1973 and has been partly translated in English, see in KehilaLinks, here.

A chapter is of some historical brewing interest, and not a little amusing to boot.

I should say that the time period precedes the Nazi extermination of Jews. A Russian pogrom did arrive, in 1905, but Efron had already departed. While Christians in town are described as a separate community, Jews and Christians lived and worked together, and generally had peaceable relations, according to Efron’s account.

The town constable was not a Jew but took pride in speaking Yiddish. Jews and gentiles of different backgrounds had lived together for hundreds of years in what is now Belarus, by then.

The book is mainly a “domestic” picture, warmly written. It describes incidents and personalities peculiar in some cases to Jewish communities at the time, but most people today can relate to it I think, especially who know the small town.

Some chapters are sentimental in nature, à la musical and film Fiddler on the Roof. Of course, as the author explained, he was writing 55 years after leaving Indura.

The town was majority Jewish in the late 1800s. It retained a substantial Jewish population into WW II, some 25,000. The Nazis killed almost every one plus many non-Jewish residents, 10,000 by one estimate.

For this and other background on Indura that describes a visit in 2000, this essay by Jim Yarin in KehilaLinks is illuminating. The image below is of the town synagogue, today abandoned (source: Wikipedia).

 

 

In this chapter, Efron mentions the town brewer, Reuven Birbrayer, whose surname seems derived from his trade. Efron states (tr. Hannah Fischthal):

He had a beer brewery, the only local industry in Amdur. Reuven’s beer was considered to be good, especially when fresh; it cost 6/bottle. There was another kind of beer that was brought from Grodno, from Kuntz’s factory, a much better one; in Amdur we called it “Barish” beer. There were drunken quarrels about the derivation of the name: some said the root is from the word “barish” [a bargain drink] because it is drunk at the conclusion of a transaction; others decided that the word was used because the beer was from Barish [Bavaria] …. This was truly a thorny topic. Yeshua-Velvel the butcher used to ask, “What’s the difference? On both you say the same “shehakol” [the benediction over liquids other than wines].”

Unpacking this statement at this remove is not easy, but I’ll try. My thinking is Reuven’s beer was top-fermented, so ale-type, not lager. Hence probably why the beer didn’t keep in bottle, surely sans pasteurization then.

As we saw earlier, the bulk of brewers in the Pale of Settlement had shifted to bottom-fermentation, or lager, by the 1880s. And many adopted pasteurization with it.

But some still held to the old ways including probably Birbrayer in his small town. Efron explains he was not well-educated, which may be neither here nor there but I mention it for what it’s worth.

The words “from Bavaria” and “brought from Grodno” might suggest the beer wasn’t made in Grodno. It may have been German beer, or Polish.

The Polish Beer Labels site records at the time a brewer called Kuntzmüller in Drezdenko (Driesen), across a broad expanse of Poland from Grodno.

The old trading town of Driesen was then in Prussia, hence a part of Germany. Maybe “Kuntz” sent lager – so Bavarian-style – to Grodno. Perhaps an actual Bavarian brewer named Kuntz did. Or there could have been a Kuntz brewing in Grodno, yes.

“Barish” in my opinion meant Bavarian. Similar words in Russian and Polish mean Bavarian. A Polish brewery in the 1890s in Grochow, near Warsaw, labeled its “Royal” brand Piwo Bawarskie – Bavarian beer, per Polish Beer Labels. Other Polish breweries did similar.

The term therefore was known in a brewery setting outside Germany, to mean Bavarian-type lager.

Then, too, Yeshua-Velvel the butcher asked “What’s the difference?”, as in Judaic tradition, both town beer and the prima import received the same blessing.

He will have the last word.

N.B. For evocative images of Indura today see in the Shtetl Routes site.

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*The name is variously spelled in different accounts.

 

 

 

 

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part III: Side Trip to Galicia

In my last two posts I considered the situation of two Jewish-owned breweries in Lida, formerly in the Russian Empire, later in Poland, and now in Republic of Belarus.

As prelude in the first piece, I cited evidence that Jews owned a fairly high percentage of Russian breweries, some 30%, in 1910. It was noted these were generally small, and declining in number.

In the late 1930s the Pupko brewery was producing 40,000 hectolitres per annum, and Papiermeister likely I’d estimate 30,000 considering the ratio of employees. Even if Papiermeister was more efficient, or its product appealed more to the market, it seems doubtful it exceeded that production.

I discussed 1936 commentary on Papiermeister stating both breweries reached efflorescence before WW I. This meant I think, not necessarily that production stagnated, but in terms of the economic cycle for that industry.

I will consider further examples of Jewish-owned breweries in Belarus, but before that want to draw attention to a paper by Greg Gembala, The Role of Jews in the Polish Beer Industry.* It appeared in KehilaLinks, a website that documents and memorializes pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Europe.

The paper considers a different but not very distant (relatively) region, Galicia in the Austrian Empire. Today, what was eastern Galicia comprises western Ukraine, while western Galicia is now in south-eastern Poland. The article is a “macro” look at the history of brewing in this region and the Jewish place in it up to WW I.

It is interesting too because one can see a similar arc elsewhere (irrespective of Jewish involvement): the transition of small-scale, “agricultural” brewing to large, efficient units, with a consequent winnowing of small actors.

Galicia is especially useful to examine this pattern. The acceleration occurred faster in the western part, with the development by Jan Goetz of a brewery in Okocim, and one by aristocrat Karl Olbracht in Żywiec. Gembala writes:

Both breweries quickly became the most powerful beer producers of Galicia. Industrial breweries utilized new methods of beer production and up-to-date cost-intensive equipment, such as steam machines used for grinding the crops, moving the pumps and mixers.

He mentions a third brewery in Lemberg (Lviv in modern Ukraine) that also reflected this new industrial scale. The brewery meant was, I believe, Lviv Brewery, created by the Prussian entrepreneur Robert Doms. Doms is not named but is clearly an analogue to the other two for Eastern Galicia.

Gembala explains that by contrast, Jewish Galician breweries were small or at best medium-size. By his metric, large meant greater than 100,000 hectolitres annually. Medium-to-large was 50,000 to 100,000. Smaller medium, between 20,000 and 50,000, and small under 20,000.

Gembala sets out crisply how Jews came to find a role in the smaller end of this business:

… the decline of medieval cities and growing anti-Semitism of the burghers, merchants, and craftsmen, who feared growing Jewish competition, resulted in increased migration of the Jewish population from cities like Kraków or Poznan to small towns and villages of Galicia and Ukraine. The noble landlords welcomed this development. On one hand, they gained experienced craftsmen and merchants who settled in their towns and estates, and on the other hand, they saw the Jews as ideal agents in dealing with the serf peasants. The system of the “arenda”, or leasing of mills, distilleries, inns, and breweries, became widespread in Poland, especially in Volhynia and Galicia ….

The typical agricultural brewery as part of the “folwark” noble estate infrastructure existed until the mid-18th century. From the second half of the 18th century, breweries were separated from the “folwark” in order to create individual business units with separate book-keeping and profits. However, they were still closely connected to the agricultural resources of their region. The typical small Galician brewery employed between four and eight people, mostly peasants. They used to carry the grains to the mill, bring the malt to the brewery, participate directly in the beer production, and transport the product to local …

Leasing may not have characterized brewing everywhere in the East; it is not clear for example whether some Jewish-operated Russian breweries in 1910 were leased vs. fully owned.

Still, the overall pattern is clear – unceasing industrialization of brewing. The process generally occurred faster in Western Europe than the East. Gembala identified the markers of such change: adoption of pasteurization, a high degree of mechanization, and a shift from top-fermentation to lager production, which he quantifies for the latter 1800s.

The new firms likely benefitted as well from more sophisticated sales and marketing capability.

The investment for this transition, and specialized business skills needed to manage it, were not within the range of most small players. This pattern has played out again and again in many parts of the world.

Gembala joins micro to macro by including a list of Jewish brewery owners and lessees in pre-WW I Galicia – a valuable historical compendium.

Another factor may have contributed to diminish Jewish involvement in brewing: a long history of legislation, in Galicia, Poland, Prussia, and Tsarist Russia to restrict Jews from leasing breweries and keeping taverns. The ostensible reason was to prevent abuse of alcohol among the peasantry. For background on this aspect, see “Tavernkeeping” by Jacob Goldberg, in YIVO, the Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. 

Jewish involvement therefore declined in this sector. As noted earlier Gembala makes a key observation, that industrialized brewing took longer to actualize in eastern Galicia. Consequently, agricultural breweries retained importance, there, longer than in west Galicia.

This explains I think, or in part, the survival of Pupko and Papiermeister in Polish Belarus into the 1930s. While a different topic, it is fair to say that Russia industrialized brewing later than Central Europe and the West. Leninist Communism further delayed the process.

The first industrial brewery in Russia emerged in Samara in 1881, making German and Czech lager styles. It was the vision of an Austrian, Alfred von Vacaro. The signature brew, branded as a Vienna type, was later known as Zhigulevskoye.

An image in Wikipedia Commons still suggests something of the industrial power that structure must have projected in 1880s Russia.

I would argue the Eastern predilection for spirits, wines, and malt drinks of low alcohol, notably kvass and table or other weak beers, further retarded development of modern breweries.

It is interesting that breweries in the region today often produce these drinks in addition to beer. Lidscoe Brewery, discussed in my Part I, is an example.

Perhaps, too, general economic conditions in Russia in the late 19th century discouraged creation of more breweries of industrial scale.

The Whitbreads of London, the Drehers of Vienna, Heinekens of Holland took much longer to implant in the East. And, after Communism, Western brewers often took the reins, who after all had a good head start. Numerous foreign brewers own today breweries in Belarus and other parts of Eastern Europe.

Returning though to Papiermeister and Pupko of Lida, it is clear their businesses, still productive in the late 1930s, were destroyed by ruthless totalitarian ideology, connected to their Jewish ownership.

Part IV follows, last in this series.

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*Checking further, I believe the full name is Grzegorz Gembala, who writes on Polish history. It appears he wrote a longer article, extracted in KehilaLinks.

 

 

 

 

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus, Part II: Papiermeister Brewery

Most sources I reference in Part I for Pupko Brewery also mention Papiermeister Brewery, as both were in Lida before WW II. They were the town breweries, and both Jewish-owned.

At that time Western Belarus including Lida was part of Poland. Before WW I, the Russian Empire governed these areas.

Less information is available about Papiermeister than Pupko, at least in English. One reason is Papiermeister ceased brewing with the advent of WW II, while the other continued and today is Lidscoe Brewery.

A further reason: sadly, it seems the last Papiermeisters in the brewery did not survive the Holocaust. At least, I can find no evidence they did.

However, a certain amount can be pieced together. The Kehila genealogical site mentioned in Part I links to a 1936 account of Papiermeister. It was provided by Leon Lauresh, a historian and engineer in Lida today I understand.

The label that follows is from that account. One can see Papiermeister elected a bear symbol, while Pupko used a deer. Many Polish breweries used animals as graphic enhancement for their labels – elephant, stag, boar, etc.

 

 

The account is in Polish but Google translation provides a good rendering in English. Salient points:

– founded 1871 by Jakub Papiermeister (sometimes spelled Papirmeister and Papiermejstra, depending on source and language)

– owned (1936) by heirs of the founder

– 25 staff including office force, hence somewhat smaller than Pupko, which had about 40 employees in this period

– owned a sawmill, like Pupko

– barley sourced from Kujawy (central-north Poland), not locally although moves were being made in that direction

– hops from Lublin, a famous hop centre as beer people know

The brewery disappeared with war, how exactly I am not sure, but clearly it had ceased operating when Pupko was commandeered for the German Army. One source, which unfortunately I did not retain, states a drunken soldier burned it down.

Papiermeister on July 1, 1930 placed a box ad in Tribuna Akademicka, the Warsaw journal I mentioned earlier for a similar ad by Pupko. It states a telegraph address and phone number, but no street address (via National Library of Israel).

 

 

Tartak Spadk refers to the sawmill business.

The brewery by other accounts was founded in 1874, two years before Pupko started, as the label above suggests. Another label for Papiermeister, in the Polish site Polish Beer Labels, also states 1874 as founding year.*

(Click on “Lida” in the left margin, and the labels appear in excellent resolution, some in Cyrillic from before WW I).

The Papiermeister beer types ahead of WW II, as shown on labels in Polish Beer Labels, are Jasne (literally clear, presumably pale or light lager), Dubeltowe, and Ciemne, meaning dark, probably a Munich Dunkel-type.

While Dubeltowe might in some cases be stronger than the others, this was not invariable. Some labels exhibited in Polish Beer Labels state the same, often low alcohol for export and double beer, for example.

The Lidscoe historical timeline discussed in Part I states Pupko double beer used extra malt, and half as much hops again as the basic beer. It does not state this double was stronger, though.

Aharon Papiermeister was a brewer with Lida connections in the late 1800s. He later migrated to Palestine (1892) and with his brother Baruch bought land at Rishon le Zion. They sought cultivate grapes, to sell to the winery later known as Carmel, associated with Baron de Rothschild.

This Geni entry for Aharon, in the Complete Profile provides further details of his career.

I suspect that Jakub, founder of Papiermeister Brewery, was another brother or relation of Ahron even though Geni does not mention a Jakub Papiermeister.

No son of Aharon in the Geni site is named Jakub. Still, there had to be a connection to Jakub and the Lida brewery, in my view, particularly as Geni states Aharon conducted early experiments to brew beer at Rishon le Zion.

Sefer Lida, a book published in Israel in 1962, memorializes prewar Jewish life in Lida. A chapter by Abraham Gelman (tr. by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg) gives a flavour of the town breweries:

There were two beer breweries that were famous in all Poland. One was owned by ELIMELECH PUPKO, and the second was owned by PAPIERMEISTER. They transported beer in kegs and in bottles throughout Poland. There was also a division of the Vilna beer brewery “Shafen” under the management of TAUB. There was also a division of a Warsaw beer brewery “Haverbush and Shileh”, under the management of WALLMAN and ROSENSTEIN.

The “divisions” probably were bottling plants, or depots. This shows that even in small Lida, the two local breweries had to meet outside competition, something ensured by a liberal economic order. In turn, they “exported” to remain competitive, an activity that seemed regional in scope (Poland) by the 1930s.

The 1936 account states both breweries had reached ascendancy before WW I. Indeed Pupko, for its part, entered its beer in European expositions and won medals. This type of elan is gone by the “low, dishonest decade” that was the 1930s, in W.H. Auden’s famous phrase.

Capitalism did not characterize postwar, Soviet-dominated Belarus, but it does today, at least to the extent that Pupko’s successor, Lidscoe Brewery, is owned by a Finnish group, Olvi PLC. At least two other foreign brewers have interests in the country, Carlsberg and Heineken.

For a fuller understanding of Lida history, an essay in the Sztetl site is illuminating. Aspects of its economy did enjoy growth in the late 30s, not invariable pattern in Poland at the time. Jewish business could be adversely affected as well by anti-Semitic agitation that built from 1935, for example campaigns to encourage Poles to boycott Jewish business.

More information on Papiermeister in Lida may reside at the Alivaria Beer Museum in Minsk. I hope to visit one day.

See our Part III, which draws parallels between brewing in Galicia and Western Belarus.

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*This site is a superb resource that needs to be better known by beer historians. It contains labels from breweries in almost 200 localities in Poland or former Poland, most prewar. Papiermeister and Pupko made styles also made by many of these breweries. Many interesting features appear, certainly many porters, even two English-style ales. Many Gratzer labels, too. A few labels are in English, for export bottlings (1930s).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jewish Breweries in old Belarus. Part I, Pupko Brewery.

Introduction

It has been my impression that between 1880 and 1980, Jews generally did not engage in commercial brewing, modern Israel apart. They were active in brewing science, and in retailing and wholesaling beer, but not in production.*

There was involvement in distilling in some countries, but that is a separate drink and business.

Exceptions did exist, certainly, some of which I discussed earlier, but few it seems in Great Britain. There is some irony here, as in modern times Britain has been among the most tolerant of nations toward the Jews.

James Death, in The Beer of the Bible (1887), wrote that no English brewery was Jewish-owned, despite brewing being a lucrative trade in the country. That may be an exaggeration, as how could he really know? But stating it in a respectable, indeed learned book tells a certain tale.

I turned my mind recently to Eastern Europe, which I hadn’t considered earlier, specifically the Pale of Settlement.

Jewish Brewing in Pale of Settlement

The Pale of Settlement was the western fringe of the Russian Empire where Jews had the right to reside, unlike the rest of Russia with some exceptions. The Pale emerged at the beginning of the 19th century with Polish partition, but vanished with the end of WW I.

The lands comprising the Pale were largely coterminous with the earlier Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, preceded by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jews had lived continuously in these lands since the 1200s.

Britannica states:

The 1897 Russian census indicated that most of the Jewish population in the empire remained confined to the Pale. Almost 5,000,000 Jews lived within its boundaries, while roughly 200,000 lived elsewhere in European Russia. The majority of Jews lived in towns and townlets, though the largest communities were in the cities of Warsaw, Lódz, Vilna (now Vilnius), and Kishinev (now Chisinau) … The Pale effectively ceased to exist during World War I, when Jews in great numbers fled to the Russian interior to escape invading German forces.

In 1897 Russia’s total population was 125,640,021, see the Russian History Blog.

The image below shows the Pale of Settlement in 1901.

 

 

Grodno (Hrodna), at the western end of modern Belarus, near Poland, is name of both district and town. The Grodno district includes the town of Lida, which birthed the Pupko Brewery in 1876.

In 1910 Russia had 381 breweries, of which 110 were Jewish-owned, hence almost 30%; see pp. 314-315 of the 1911 study Emigration Conditions of Europe, which examined prospects for continued Jewish emigration to the United States.

Poland has a separate table, which shows Jewish capital was employed in 45 breweries, presumably excluding Galicia, a province then of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The total number is not stated.

The percentage of Jewish ownership for Russia, and probably for Poland, was much higher than for other countries, in part reflecting the substantial Jewish population in the Pale. The Report noted many Jewish firms were small, judged by the number of employees and mechanical power utilisation.

Therefore, 30% does not necessarily reflect the production percentage. Some Jewish breweries were sizeable though, winning awards at European exhibitions and gaining more than a local market. Pupko was one.

The Coming of Holocaust

Jewish life in Eastern Europe in that period could be dolorous, not to mention dangerous, due to unrelenting anti-Semitism.The persecutions started (in the modern period) with repeated pogroms in the Russian Empire, e.g. 1881 in Kiev.

Serious outbreaks later occurred in centres of Jewish life such as Kishinev, Odessa, Minsk, Kyiv, and Grodno, with thousands killed and injured and property destroyed.

Anti-Semitic measures, social or governmental, were ratcheted up in the Thirties, Nazi Germany the main example. The animus manifested as well elsewhere in Central and East Europe.

With World War II the Soviets occupied Western Belarus, then part of the Second Polish Republic, joining it to Eastern Belarus under their fief. There followed, deportations of business classes, which included many Jews, to Siberia and elsewhere far East.

The Nazis brought the Holocaust. Almost all Jews in Grodno (the town) and Lida were killed, there or after deportation. Small bands survived who escaped from ghettoes or trains and fought in the forests as partisans.

For Belarus as a whole, there are varying estimates, but the great majority of Jews perished, mostly shot or deported to death camps. Two-thirds of European Jews as a whole were annihilated by the Nazis – civilian men, women and children.

In the late 1930s in Poland including Western Belarus, Jewish businesses not affected by economic malaise continued to operate until the war, Pupko Brewery included.

Pupko Brewery Resources

As far as I know, no general history of Belarus brewing has been written, apart the obvious language barrier I would face. At least two modern books have been written on Polish beer history, one dealing with the “Borderlands”, or the former eastern provinces, removed from Polish sovereignty after WW II.

The latter is Piwo to napój niezbędny by Sławomir Jędrzejewski, published in 2012. It is an evident resource for those wishing to go more in-depth.

The website of the Alivaria Beer Museum in Minsk is attractive but does not set out historical content. I would think – hope – the Museum covers Pupko history, and may visit one day.

I cannot easily obtain the books mentioned, and if I did, language again is a barrier, so I will reply on my own researches as laid out below.

Brewery Website

We can start with the brewery website as, yes, the brewery still exists, although long out of Pupko hands. The name now is Lidskoe Brewery, with the main brand spelled Lidskae.

Lidskoe is owned by Olvi PLC of Finland, part of a small affiliate group that includes A. Le Coq in Estonia, which has importance in porter history.

The Pupko family was well-known in Lida, whose Jewish population was significant before WW II. For the interbellum period, according to Encyclopedia:

In 1921 there were 5,419 Jews (40% of the total population), reaching 6,335 (a third of the total) in 1931.

The percentage of Jews earlier was higher, but emigration was depleting their number. The Sztetl site states that in 1897 the percentage was 68% – presumably supplying a natural market for Pupko.

Elements of the Polish Army and Air Force were based in Lida between the wars, see this Lida entry in Wikipedia. This presence probably assisted the brewery’s fortunes.

The image below shows Lida around 1930 (source: Wikipedia link stated).

 

 

The timeline/infographic in Lidskoe’s website is well-researched and handsomely designed (indeed an inspiration to other breweries to do similar). I will summarize elements, but the full document is indispensable.

It starts by outlining pre-1800s beer and brewing in Belarus. Then it states:

Nosel [Nissan] Zelikovich Pupko, a citizen of Lida, builds a brewery at his own land plot. Long and narrow piece of land, as large as a half of a hockey field, stretches from the Vilenskaya street to the Lideika river. First batch of beer was marked on the factory chimney brickwork: the letters «Founded in 1876» can still be found there. Pupko’s house is located by the street, and the yard contains the factory buildings: double-stored factory with the office and separate buildings of the drying room and fermenting block.

A woodcut-style illustration, clearly a modern rendering, shows a bearded Nosel Pupko with draping black coat and hat in front of the brewery.

The chimney with founding year in patterned brickwork still stands at the brewery, as shown in the website. Other elements of the original structure endure, for example, a set of stairs installed around 1900, made of iron to resist fire. The original site is now much-enlarged and covered with tanks and other accoutrements of modern brewing.

The timeline reproduces a label of the first branded beer, c. 1900, noting:

In 1899 or 1900, the first known label of the factory emerges: «Dinner beer of N. Pupko’s Brewery». It is a cheap, popular beer. … The factory mark — the deer leaning against the barrel — can be found on thirty labels of the factory.

The deer still appears in current labels. The following, interwar label is from a label collection maintained by the National Archives in Krakow:

 

 

Nosel aka Nissan died in 1900. The brewery had a scale and reputation beyond the typical town brewery in Belarus, and benefitted from new technologies such as steam power.

Pupko was among the larger breweries in Belarus before WW II, although its exact size in the league table is not known to me. It had its own sawmill, no doubt using prime Memel oak for casks, easily available to Lida.

With war and political changes the Pupkos adapted. In WW I they made kvass and a no-alcohol beer, and in the 1920s, a low-alcohol (2%) table beer. I discuss below other beer types made over the brewery’s history.

Historians consulted by the brewery believe a Pupko grandson established a brewery in Umam, Ukraine in the late 1930s, called Bavaria.

The Lida brewery was seized by the Soviets after invading Poland in 1939. The Pupkos then in charge, brothers Mark and Shymon, left. The Germans took over in July 1941 after their invasion. The brewery was not bombed, in order to make beer for the army. The staff was retained, and the Pupko brothers brought back.

The site continues the history of the brewery, below I focus on WW II with reliance as well on additional resources.

Genealogical and Historical Resources

The families and activities of Jews in prewar Lida are reconstructed and memorialised at numerous websites. Most refer to the Pupko brewery, and provide additional information.

Foremost is this page at Kehila, a Jewish genealogical site. Some information was provided by Leon Lauresh, I understand an engineer and historian in Lida who has researched the brewery’s past.

He provided an image of the brewery itself, a painting rendered in 1916. It shows a courtyard surrounded by buildings of various design, the ubiquitous 19th century fire chimney, and what appears a dray and barrels.

Accounts are linked in Polish and Russian, which online translation permits to understand to a point. In 1900 the brewery was left to four sons, Itske, Gersh, Abram, and Meilakh, who continued and expanded the business.

In the early 1930s Meilakh was sole owner and by the advent of WW II, his sons, Mark and Shymon, ran the brewery.

The main (English) part of the site states:

In 1936, 28 workers and 8 technical specialists were employed at the brewery. 40,000 hectoliters of beer [4,200,000 quarts] were produced annually.  Raw materials used in 1936 were 157,3 ò. barley, 950 kg of hop, 87,7 ò. malt.

Details are given for brands and mechanization in this period, e.g., the brewery had its own “gas plant” (for carbon dioxide, likely) and power plant. The site also states:

There were branches of the firm [at least bottling plants, as some of the details in labels formerly online showed] in Baranowiczi, Nowogrudok, Hrodno [Grodno], Wilno [Vilnius], Molodeczno, Luninec, Pinsk,  Bereza, & Wolkowysk.

In 1929-1930 the brewery placed box ads in the Warsaw-based, Jewish-oriented Trybuna Akademicka, which published mainly in Polish (via National Library of Israel). Parowy means steam, to denote a mechanized operation.

 

 

A link in Kehila states after Lida was liberated in 1944 a British Royal Air Force party visited the town, on a secret mission. It was inspecting a new Russian YAK fighter. Beer was ordered from the brewery. The Lidskoe chronology mentions this as well.**

The brewery operated until mid-1943 when the remaining Jews in Lida including at the brewery were deported and mostly killed by the Nazis.

Mark and Shymon managed to survive, and departed overseas after the war. A Pupko descendant in Mexico, who ran a chemical plant there, visited Lida in 2005. She met with historians and remaining Jews in town.

I encourage again a review of these resources for a fuller picture.

Brewery Engineer Lochbihler

German soldier Joachim Lochbihler supervised the plant for part of the war. Before the war he was a brewery engineer in Nürnberg, hence the assignment. I believe he was in the Wehrmacht (German Army), not SS although some survivor accounts refer to SS.

42 people worked in the brewery when he was in charge.

Waitman Wade Beorn, a U.K.-based scholar of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, has authored the book Marching Into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus (2014).

In the section linked he writes that Lochbihler protected Jewish brewery workers from SS roundups, first, by ensuring that some workers could live in the brewery, and subsequently (after he left the brewery) by warning staff to join partisans in the forest.

At the war’s end Lochbihler was held in an American POW camp as a suspected war criminal, but was freed upon favourable testimony from Jewish Lida survivors, including the Pupko family.

Jewish Lida memorial sites relate the Lochbihler episode, substantially as Beorn did, whose book relied on survivor accounts. Lochbihler demonstrated a humanity evidently very rare in this context, something to be noted.

Beers of Pupko and Lidskoe Brewery

Lidskoe has provided an invaluable service to beer historians by including on its site archival brands and labels reflecting different eras.

The narrative accompanying is illuminating. The beers evolved over time, as is expected. The main blonde lager produced today dates from 1967.

In the 1940s the main types were Vienna, Pilsener, and Munich beers, apparently developed at a research institute in the mid-30s. When the Soviets took over in 1939 the style names were changed to avoid a “capitalist” connotation.

Beers earlier included a strong, well-hopped “double” beer. A March beer, close to 6% abv, was brewed in the early 1900s and again in the 1940s, but not today.

A “Tsar’s” beer in the Empire period was flavoured with coriander, cinnamon or caramel, which is interesting unto itself. As far as I can tell the Pupkos never brewed a porter.

Today, the extensive line includes porter and stout, a few craft styles, and the Koronet line, expressed as English-style. There is a Koronet light I.P.A. I am not clear if this is top-fermenting.

The vintage labels are atmospheric. One shows a seated man with bottle in one hand, glass in the other, wearing traditional folk costume and headdress. The same image may be seen on eBay currently (see third row).

As a further resource, a striking display of Pupko labels appears in Polish Beer Labels, see here (click on “Lida” in localities on left margin).

Epilogue

My grandparents were mainly from the Pale of Settlement including Grodno. They arrived as young children in Canada before WW I. Due to their families’ foresight and intrepid spirit, but also Canada’s generosity to accept them, I am, in all likelihood, here today to write this.

Until recently though, I knew almost nothing of Grodno or Belarus, or their breweries.

Part II follows below, on Papiermeister brewery.

Note: images above are in each case linked to their original source. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

………….

*Jewish families did have an important role in hop factoring in Germany until, and apparently after, the Nazi regime, this has been documented in recent years.

**The RAF has often come up in my brewing research. Mandate Palestine, Iraq, and British Malaya are all examples.

 

 

 

 

New England Charms the Big Apple

Welcome to the Hotel Pennsylvania

A vintage menu of 1936 points to the future of American dining and wine, from the New York-based Gourmet Society.

The menu is archived here, in the invaluable collection of Johnson and Wales University. It was typed and mimeographed for members and presents today a charming aspect. Pioneering radio journalist and speaker Mary McBride spoke at the dinner, a notable figure of her time.

She is pictured below with Eleanor Roosevelt (via link above).

 

 

The Gourmet Society, a heterogenous group of New York movers and shakers, invited public figures to its events. Food and drink were primary, but not exclusive, for these “modernes”. They also engaged in debates of the day, increasingly fraught with the approach of WW II.

The Gourmet Society was helmed by J. George Frederick, an advertising executive turned food author. The Society was active from 1933 until c. 1960. I discussed the Society and a number of its menus earlier.

The 1936 dinner was given at the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York, across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden. Then comparatively new, Hotel Pennsylvania is still a New York fixture although the mid-century glamour has faded.

But in the 1930s, the hotel was ideal to host a creative dinner of “cosmopolites”, as Frederick termed his band. The menu that night was representative of coastal and interior New England. Offerings included turkey pie, oysters casino, stuffed potatoes, and squash pie.

Different states’ names were attached to each dish but this was largely a flourish, e.g. Vermont turkey pie.

The dishes have more than a British tinge. Oysters, pie of poultry, or winter vegetables – all could have appeared in Dickens or Thackeray. The rum similarly, albeit the Victorian “quartern” measure had been abandoned in a modernes’ Manhattan.

The Anglophile flavour ties into the first European settlers in the Northeast U.S., and much of Maritimes Canada for that matter. Frederick would write notes for each dish, sometimes offering the recipe.

 

 

The “Sauterne”, a generic label from a restored California winery, was a brave choice. It took imagination for prewar epicureans to select such an item over established French or German wines.

1936 is only three years after Prohibition, which had wiped away a wine industry in full ascension prior to WW I. But in F.D.R.’s New York, the Gourmet Society found inspiration in a re-born industry to match its American food theme.

The rum recalled the heyday of New England rum manufacture, especially in Medford, Mass. It is doubtful Medford rum would have been served at a formal dinner before Prohibition. By the late 1930s, the product was viewed in a different light, as a tradition almost lost.

It was similar to how India Pale Ale was viewed by craft brewers after the last industrially produced example, Ballantine India Pale Ale, had departed the market.

The Hotel Pennsylvania dinner was a construct, a cultural event, not just tonight’s dinner or even festive dining as such. It was urbanites, hipsters if you will, viewing food as other than simply sustenance or tradition.

George Frederick and other leading figures of New York’s early food scene presaged luminaries to come: the Beards, Kerrs, Rays, Reichls, Flays, and many more. They forecast our food trucks, food halls, baking competitions, and Zoom dinners. And much else that constitutes today’s culinary world.

 

 

Enchanted Forest

Brewery and Boudoir

Perfume and beer are ostensibly unrelated subjects, yet connections exist as will be seen below. (True, a brain inflamed by a heady brew will lyricize its scent, but metaphor is at work there).

Memel oak is a form of “Quercus robur”, or common European oak. There were vast stands in Russia and Poland. In past generations in Britain it was considered “the” wood for brewers’ casks, among many other uses in industry.

Memel was the Prussian Baltic city now called Klaipėda, in Lithuania. It was an important port (among others) from which the eponymous oak was shipped. Regardless which port sent it, wood of the requisite quality was called Memel, or Crown Memel.

I’ve had numerous postings on Memel oak in British brewing. This one collected many of the points.

In brief, until World War I Memel wood enjoyed near-universal use for British ale and porter barrels. Dublin-based Guinness, in contrast, adopted the tight-grained American white oak, “Quercus alba”, as did some minor porter brewers in England and Scotland.

These casks were not lined on the interior, or “coated”, in cooperage vocabulary.

American brewers used barrels made of their own, aforesaid white oak. In this case, the interiors were coated with brewers’ pitch, to prevent contact with the beer. Canadian brewers probably did similar, but I have not seen confirmation.

As a vestige of Memel’s former importance in brewing, the historic Traquair brewery in Scotland still uses fermentation vats made of Memel oak. See images in the company’s website, under “How the Beer is Brewed”.

In a posting in the blog Pat’s Pints, Traquair’s vats may be seen more clearly, including their natural russet tinge. The colour appears in freshly harvested Memel logs, as shown in my earlier post mentioned.

So important was Memel wood that the Russian Czars sought to bring the forests under their control, according to a 1936 story in the New York Post. The Post was concerned, not with beer though, but my other subject here, perfume.

It recounts that a Lorna Terry worked for a perfume and apothecary firm on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. She devised a scent for a Russian singer, Tamara (pictured below), whose full name was Tamara Drasin Swann. She was well-known on the New York stage in the 1930s. Some accounts have her origins as Ukrainian.

Tamara often played an exotic or vamp, a stock figure on the American stage at the time. She died in a plane crash near Lisbon in 1943 while on tour with the United Service Organisation. For more biographical detail, see her Wikipedia entry, here.

Even those outside the workshops of perfume makers know their complex formulas often seek to evoke the forest, glade, or grotto. Terry wanted moreover to devise a scent that conjured associations with Tamara’s birth place.

The reporter wrote: “Miss Terry uses [oakmoss] as being redolent of the Memel Oak for which Russia has been famed for centuries”.

Oakmoss, a lichen which grows on oak trees, was used to generate or enhance this effect. It is a venerable ingredient in perfumes, sourced in eastern Europe, not America – or not very easily in America. Its oakmoss simply lacks the right stuff.

A wartime (1942) article in New York’s Malone Evening Telegram reported:

Sixteen American oakmosses have been found to date, only one of which can be used, and it is not as satisfactory as the imported lichen. This one, Evernia vulpina, came from Oregon. The Givaudianian, a perfumery journal, says this lichen would be usable as a war substitute provided it can be found somewhere in great abundance.

 

 

A further idea of oakmoss in perfume can be gained from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which in 1959 profiled the Italian fashion designer Simonetta Colonna di Cesaro Visconti (1922-2011). A successful businesswoman, of noble birth, she had launched her perfume brand Incanto some years earlier.

Incanto means, enchanted. The story artfully described her blend:

The fragrance is complex in character, although essentially floral-woodsy in type. The Sicilian jasmine and a rare woody oil provide an exquisite topnote, rose and mignonette from Northern Italy contribute their floral importance, and for sophistication there are accents of tabac and oakmoss.

Interestingly in our context, Duchess Simonetta had Russian blood, through her mother. See further on Simonetta by Cara Austine in the website, Celebrity Dressmaker.

The dark forest has an enduring resonance in many cultures, often with magical or mystical connotations. Perfumers drew on the mystique to create intoxicating scents, as did Lorna Terry for her femme fatale client, as did Duchess Simonetta for her upscale trade.

The actual scent of oakmass in perfume evokes the forest, earth, bark, and leather: see a concise explanation in the Byrdie website by Catherine Helbig.

Today, the Balkans in south-east Europe sends its oakmoss crop to perfumeries around the world. Balkan oak is “Quercus frainetto”, another oak species, also called Hungarian and Italian oak.

While differing in some respects from Memel oak, Hungarian oak was also extensively used in breweries. See e.g. an American consular report from 1887. 

Some vats today to age craft beer are fashioned from Italian oak, e.g. at the Scottish Brewdog’s Tower Hill location in London. (I was told this during a personal tour).

The image below, via Wikipedia, is the painting The Perfume Maker, by Rodolphe Ernst. It shows some of the ingredients and implements of old-time perfume-making.

 

 

Turning to beer, might we infer that Memel staves added an ineffable something to British beer? Even though wood casks were well scoured before each use, the wood must have communicated some taste to the beer. Memel oak was known, by contrast with American oak, for its subtle effect on beer, that much is clear.

Maybe the taste complemented English hops, which can be arbour-like and, in current beer parlance, “twiggy”. It all connects in an odd kind of way, doesn’t it? To our mind it does.

Traquair in Scotland persisted with Memel vats because it had to give the beer something. Perhaps it was a lightly earthy note – see the discussion in Pat’s Pints. Other reviews of Traquair beer note something similar, but nothing approaching the vanillin blare, we might call it, of American oak.

Of course, the American tang is appreciated for bourbon whiskey, and Chardonnay wine, but those are different drinks. It must be said some craft beer is stored, today, in uncoated American oak. The taste noted for whiskey and wine is appreciated in beer by some, too.

Perfume seems still to prefer oakmoss from Europe, so the equation for Europe as I’ve limned it is lacking Stateside, where modern craft brewing began.

It is pleasing to note Lorna Terry’s employer Caswell-Massey is still in business, selling fine fragrances and soaps from its New York base. See details in its website.

The firm remains American-owned, and is one of the oldest continuing businesses in the United States. Maybe a file deep in storage lists the formula for Tamara’s perfume, which conjured the bowers and glades of a Czar’s domains.

As for Incanto, a perfume of that name is marketed today by Salvatore Ferragamo.

Note re images: the images above are identified with source linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Used for educational and research purposes. All feedback welcomed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Third Case of Bass

No ones wins them all, and Bass was no exception. Some trade mark lawsuits, taken to protect the widely-known triangle symbol for Bass Pale Ale, were rejected in the courts.

I’ll choose an instance that continues the theme in my last two posts, viz. if type of beer defendant sold made a difference. We saw once that it did, and once it did not.

Henry Zeltner Brewing Co. was in many ways the obverse of Bass. A small brewer in Bronx, New York, an 1878 league table of lager brewers in the New York Sun had it near the bottom. Nonetheless the brewery lasted from 1860 to about 1910.

In those years, you could make a nice living for your family serving a local market, and Henry did.

This timeline at the Tavern Trobe website is helpful, with photos and label depictions. The founder, Bavarian-born Henry Zeltner, ran the business for 38 years, until his death in 1898.

Bass Ratcliff by contrast was a major international firm, and litigious to the max. The vigilance was well-displayed in the United States where agents and bottlers were active to distribute Bass nation-wide.

A short obituary in American Brewers’ Review states that Henry died on June 9, 1898, of pneumonia, a common scythe in the days before antibiotic drugs. At the time of his death, litigation with Bass over a Zeltner trade mark was unresolved. Henry had won before Justice Townsend of the New York District Court, but Bass appealed.

Henry was vindicated by the appellate decision in 1899, but fate had robbed him of satisfaction to see the final result.

The appeal judges simply affirmed the decision “below”, of Justice Townsend, who dismissed Bass’s argument in a single, well-drawn paragraph.

Henry’s trade mark looked this way in one depiction (image via Tavern Trove):

 

 

As a reminder, Bass’s classic mark looked like this (image via Brewery History Wiki):

 

Judge Townsend felt the marks were quite distinguishable. He laid emphasis too on Henry’s product: lager, not ale, a “different class”. See the decision, here.

The judge considered that “the shape, color and collocation of symbols and letters” in Henry’s trade mark did not mimic those in the Bass label. Further, the colour of Zeltner’s bottles, and his cork and closure, differed from those of Bass.

This Zeltner tray, at an antiques website, lends credence to the judge’s decision. It shows the term “Old Fashioned Lager Beer” over the trade mark, the outer circular band in bright blue, and a white background offsetting the red triangle – the red, white, and blue of America, Henry’s adopted homeland.

Still, the triangle is there, in red. In a previous case, a triangle alone, even uncoloured, did the defendant in.

Are court cases to be completely rationalized? No, that is what jurists of the “realist” school think anyway. Then too, it’s always down to the specific case. On this outing Bass lost.

One wonders if the stress of the court battle led to Henry’s passing at only 67, not a young age for the time, but still … I think it not unlikely.

Henry was a stalwart of all-malt brewing, old-school all the way. While lager had eclipsed ale in the New York market, Henry’s kind of lager was going out, in favour of “Bohemian” cereal adjunct brewing.

Being a small player, probably the road ahead was hard enough, but the Bass fight could not have helped. Court battles can be sapping, even when you win.

Henry’s family continued the business for some years, but by 1910 was no longer brewing at 190th St. and 3rd Ave., Bronx, New York.

Ale and art

Brewers’ Initiative Post-War

An innovative public-private partnership, ahead of its time by decades, was “Ale and Art”, introduced in 1946. It was a joint effort of the Central Institute for Art and Design and four brewers in London.

The idea was to give commissions to notable London artists to produce original works to brighten the brewers’ pubs. Many were still getting on their feet again after the war.

The storyvia the Associated Press, was reprinted in numerous Australian newspapers. The program was launched at a pub popular with Antipodes airmen during the war, which explains I think the Australian angle.

From the account:

During the next 80 weeks, as he sits in his favourite pub, the Englishman will gaze at the work of over 30 artists, many of whose pictures are well known in the London art galleries. And the pictures are not just “extra-special” advertisements of public houses, quite the contrary. Although the brewers financed the scheme and made some suggestions as to subjects, the artists had a more-or-less free hand. They ranged far and wide through London and the Home Counties, painting churches and villages, hop fields and country market places, maltings and the River Thames.

In the concise, even tone typical of British journalism then, the public spirit of the gesture was made clear: the art was not expected to promote beer and breweries, as such.

Augustus John was the leading artist, quoted in the story. He quipped that brewers should support art because artists are some of their best customers.

Brave London, which had fought hard against the Nazis, was grey, half-destroyed, and exhausted. And still to be on rations for years. In this environment the government and brewing executives had the foresight to boost post-war pub trade by providing paid work to artists, who can usually use it.

Art and Ale would have cost relatively little, and was an inspired example of government and private cooperation. The brightening came in a heightened experience for pub patrons and cash in artists’ pockets.

 

The Cogers pub profiled is, I believe, today’s St. Brides Tavern. See here, at the Pub History site, for more information, source of above image. Cogers was – still is – the name of a storied debating society. The term came from cogitate, not codger a la old geezer.

Cogers club used to meet at or near this pub, it may have been a pub behind called the White Hart.

Both were located in a stylish 1930s Edward Luteyns block. Originally the pubs were separate buildings, elements of which were retained by Luteyns. The club met in one but I think it was St. Brides, which faces Salisbury Square. The other pub is now site of an airy City restaurant, appropriately called Luteyns.

One wonders what became of John’s paintings for the scheme. Maybe some still hang in St. Brides.

John’s name appropriately named a pub in Hampshire, in the village where he lived (perhaps still, but we are not sure).

The art plan would seem ideal for right now, as pubs re-open in the UK and around the world under loosened Covid 19 restrictions. They could all use a fillip.

Some craft breweries pre-Covid encouraged artists in different ways, but it might be done on a wider, organized scale, to help pubs reset after a highly unusual year.

While no one would (or should) compare Covid to WW II, this art plan of the late 1940s would suit our conditions right now.

Note re image: image above was sourced from the Pub History site linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Image used educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.