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The Long and Short of It

In 1934, the American Distilling Company published this recipe booklet to promote their Old Colony Gin, 3 Monks Rye and Meadwood Bourbon products. They hired Russell Patterson to illustrate it. Patterson was an influential artist in the 1920s–1940s, creating magazine covers and cartoons with a keen eye toward style and fashion. His artwork had an outsized cultural influence on the idealized representation of women. We’re here to enjoy his artwork, but this exhibit also asks what—in addition to some liquor—is being sold here?

Front cover

Right off the bat, the cover features a woman holding a cocktail. Unlike the other women depicted in the booklet, this one seems less elegant, maybe even a touch demimondaine. But still, she’s got her own cocktail! Prohibition had only recently ended, and—finally, if grudgingly in some circles—women were directly welcomed into American cocktail culture.

Indeed, the booklet mainly features drawings of well-dressed women in their prime—Patterson’s specialty—enjoying social drinking. They’re invariably depicted in evening dress inspired by the fashions of the day. It’s possible that this booklet is even intended to target women like the one above, who might wish to serve drinks.

One of the most remarkable drawings in the booklet, mainly for the surprising angle of view.
Another remarkable drawing: just look at her expression!
This drawing is primarily about what she’s wearing. And she happens to be standing at a bar.

Patterson’s men are either sleek young sharps with slicked back hair (mannequins) or goofy caricatures of elder affluence, all in uniform formalwear. Common to all the depictions is class and glamour (and whiteness).

By the 1930s, butlers and top hats are already anachronistic, but potently symbolize capitalism and wealth.

For another interesting item from our collection featuring Russell Patterson’s artwork, please see Manhattans Bronxes and Queens.

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