Advertising for Beer: Local Identity and the Klondike Brewery, 1900–1920
First published advance onlineOctober 1, 2019
Yukon entrepreneur Thomas O’Brien opened the O’Brien Brewing and Malting Company, better known as the Klondike Brewery, in Klondike City in 1904, after the population of Dawson City had dramatically declined following the end of the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–1899). O’Brien’s decision to open a new business following the gold rush reflected his hope that Dawson would continue to develop and modernize, and O’Brien intended to be part of this growth. The Klondike Brewery operated from 1904 to 1919 and was the first brewery in northern Canada. Local newspapers—the Yukon Sun and the Dawson Daily News—frequently reported on the progress and activities of the brewery during its construction and operation, and O’Brien took advantage of the media to advertise his products. He used both his brewery and its promotion to highlight not only what was special about his products, but also what he believed Dawson’s future could be. These ads emphasized the beer’s homegrown origins, they celebrated Klondike beer using Klondike cultural imagery, and they emphasized the brewery’s modern nature. O’Brien not only sold beer, but he sold an idea to those who remained after the rush. We argue that the ways in which O’Brien branded and marketed his products, specifically his beer, tapped into a developing sense of local cultural identity among the post-gold-rush settler population in Dawson City, and that O’Brien used his brewery to shape his idea of Dawson’s potential future.
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