Robert E. Lee: “The Pride of the South”
[Hat-Tip to Mark Benbow, who passed along this article from the Sept-Oct, 1996 issue of the American Breweriana]
A few weeks back I shared an image of Robert E. Lee which was used by the J.W. Kelley Company of Chattanooga, Tennessee to market its Deep Spring Whiskey. The whiskey was sold between 1903 and 1915. Lee’s image, as well as other high-ranking former Confederates, were used to sell a wide range of products throughout the postwar period. Immediately following the repeal of prohibition the Seitz Brewing Company of Easton, Pennyslvania began marketing Dixie Beer which featured Lee astride Traveler. Out of concern that few people in Pennsylvania would be interested in drinking such a beer the company decided to market their product through a distributing company in North Carolina called Southern Breweries, Inc.
Shortly thereafter a letter was sent to Seitz from the Virginia Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy expressing disapproval over the use of the Lee’s image: “His name is too sacred for us to allow this without hearty disapproval. Because he is enshrined in our hearts as the ‘Pride of the South’ The Division requests that his label be withdrawn.” They chose to comply. It’s unfortunate that more information is not available from the article, but it does reveal the extent to which the U.D.C. went to control public consumption of Lost Cause icons. It is impossible to know whether the U.D.C. was concerned that Lee was being used to sell alcohol or that it was being done by a northern company. After all they apparently had no issue with a southern company using Lee’s name and image to sell whiskey. It’s an interesting story given our tendency to focus on the steps the U.D.C. took to control the content of school primers and other publications about the Civil War and the “Old South.”