Billy Baxter's RED RAVEN SPLITS... for the morning afterBy Marianne Dow
A while back, I purchased a pretty lithographed tin Red Raven Splits serving tray, picturing a pretty lady hugging a red bird. In researching it I found a little about the company, and images of a lot of other very cool Red Raven advertising items. The graphics are so colorful and fun. What a great display this would be if it were my own real collection, instead of my digital image gallery. Any Red Raven collectors in our readership? If so, send in some pix of your treasures. Meanwhile, enjoy this post.
So, what's a Red Raven Split?
Not an alcoholic beverage, it was sold as a hang-over cure, so it was sold in bars as well as restaurants, hotels, and stores. Started in the 1890s, and still around after Prohibition, it apparently met it's demise when the FDA started regulating things. The company then marketed Billy Baxter soft drinks for a short while.
But you're still wondering, what's a Red Raven Split, right? Not a sweet soft drink, it was an aperient water, somewhat bitter, similar to Pluto Water or Hunyadi Janos, sold in a small bottle.
aperients - definition . medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/aperients n a substance with the ability to purge the digestive system of a given agent. aperient. 1. mildly cathartic. 2. a gentle purgative. ~ From the Latin for ''to open''
Glossary of wine terms -
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_wine_terms Split: A wine bottle that holds approximately 6 oz
FDA1930 -- The name of the Food, Drug, and Insecticide Administration is shortened to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an agricultural appropriations act.
1933 -- FDA recommends a complete revision of the obsolete 1906 Food and Drugs Act. The first bill is introduced into the Senate, launching a five-year legislative battle.
1938 -- The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FDC) Act of 1938 is passed by Congress, containing new provisions:
And Who Is Billy Baxter?Billy Baxter was the alter ego, if you will, of William J. Kountz, Jr., the man who started the Red Raven Corp. and the Duquesne Distributing Co of Harmerville, Alleghany County, PA. It looks like Duquesne was incorporated in 1892.
It's difficult to tell which came first: the concept of selling Red Raven Splits or Kountz's writings about Billy Baxter's wild revelries. It appears that Kountz wrote a humorous booklet called One Night In New York Society, which was well received in gentleman's clubs, bars, etc. with patrons reading the stories out loud, and clamoring for more.
Kountz quickly penned several more booklets, and now they included advertising for his product, Red Raven Splits. Was that the plan all along? Orders started coming in for more books, and, 'oh, what the heck, some of the bottled water too'.
As printed in Kountz's 1899 book, Billy Baxter's Letters --
"Issued by the Duquesne Distributing Co. to show its great love for the American people, and to incidentally advertise the Red Raven Splits."
According to an entertaining article in Mahin's Magazine (a business magazine about using advertising techniques), published in 1902 [read text here or see images below], this was an original and hugely successful stealth/gorilla advertising campaign. The books were hugely popular, with 1,000s printed. You can find them easily on ebay. The books were profitable in and of themselves, in addition to the Red Raven Splits business.
While Red Raven Co. continued selling Splits on into the early 1930s, and then marketed Billy Baxter labeled soft drinks for just a few more years, alas, poor WJ Kountz did not last as long. He died of peritonitis, even before the 1902 article was published. Perhaps his stories of Billy Baxter's drinking fun were drawn from life. And Red Raven Splits was born out of a personal need for a hang-over cure.
After all, one of the later advertising slogans was: For High Livers' Livers.
Peritonitis - Causes www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Peritonitis/Pages/Causes.aspx
Red Raven Splits and Billy Baxter Advertising Image Gallery
Red Raven succeeded with advertising tag lines like:
- ASK THE MAN
- PAPA HAS A HEADACHE
- FOR THE MORNING AFTER
- FOR HIGH LIVERS' LIVERS
"Ideal Laxative for Women ... for Sale in All Drug Stores and Fully Guaranteed... Red Raven Splits. Duquesne Distributing Co."
"Red Raven Splits Laxative Water. For the morning after...only Red Raven Splits will bring you back. Red Raven Splits did the trick before Prohibition...is ready for you now at every fine hotel, club, drug store, grocer."
Billy Baxter items:
Findlay Antique Bottle Club
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