In 1955, John Sullivan was driving through rural Minnesota to deliver a few of the latest merchandisers from the brewery. As the Point of purchase manager for Hamm’s beer, he passed the time listening to the radio, until the powerful Twin Cities station started fading in and out. The angel sweet harmonies of the Chordettes “Mr. Sandman” brought him a dream as he daydreamed. As he looked towards the ditch, the hypnotic pattern of two snow fences overlapping in a frozen field captivated him. The motion of his car provided the movement as the section of snow fencing passed by. This became the “eureka moment” for John as he had the foresight to patent this effect and bring it to Lakeside Plastics the next year. The result? The Hamms rippling waters sign,which was housed in a drab gray housing that resembled a TV cabinet. This sign has the outdoors scene ABOVE the Hamm's logo glass and a lined film scrolls behind it.
This sign had a stationary outdoor scene affixed to the front glass,with a series of vertical lines printed on the reverse. An inner lined scroll rotated slowly within, providing the illusion of moving water below the pine trees. Below the scene was a reverse painted glass insert with the Hamms logo on the left and “From the land of sky blue waters” printed to the right side. On the western version, this reads “Refreshing as…” This version was distributed in the pacific northwest and California markets. Collectors around here refer to this sign as the 56 TV box rippler.
The second motion sign utilizing John Sullivan’s patent was the “Hamm’s panoramic rippler” (often called the “65 anniversary rippler” in collecting circles) Richard W. Thomas was the Point of Sale Manager for Hamm's. He was transferred to St Paul from Baltimore, MD, when Hamm's pulled out of the old Gunther brewery in 1963. The first project he managed was the "Hamm's Panoramic Rippler" in 1963. Few people know that the sign was actually produced and distributed during early 1964. There were two types of Hamm's Panoramic Ripper signs produced, a two Wire and a three wire sign. This referred to the internal mechanics and electrical system. There was no difference in the outward appearance. This sign has outdoor water scenes on each side, framed in a curved, plastic “ wood” frame, with the illuminated Hamm’s crown logo in the center. The logo also has the motion effect behind it, produced by the same inner rotating scroll with the vertical lines. The center logo is dimensional, with the crown/pine tree logo and the words Hamm’s extending an inch from the blue background.
The Five Point of Purchase display companies that were asked to develop the "third rippler" in 1968 were:
- a) T.A. Schutz - Chicago
- b) Price Brothers/Embossograph - Chicago
- c) Eddy & Associates - Milwaukee
- d) DCI - Milwaukee
- e) Lakeside Industries who were just across the river in Minneapolis.
Four of the companies presented concept drawings for the third rippler design. DCI never worked on a concept. No prototype models were made during the concept stage,but one hand made prototype Scenorama sign from Lakeside was made with the Hamm's Crown Logo in 1968. The dream that this sign might still exist is one of my favorite “brew-fantasies.” A total of 200 prototype Scenorama three-foot signs were manufactured in 1969. All 200 have a CIRCULAR Hamm's logo. These were used to test the engineering,electrical and visibility in select markets.The final number of signs that were produced (three foot and six foot versions) were 135,000 at a cost of approx. $ 10 a piece (that is in 1968 dollars,which is still darn cheap). The entire inventory of signs were manufactured between 1969 and 1973. This total includes 3-foot motion and stationary models, some with "Born in the land of Sky Blue Waters" "On Tap" etc. etc. The six foot units were placed in package stores, and consisted of motion and non motion versions, clock versions, non-clock versions,etc..Beer signs with clocks were banned in California,Utah and a few other states,so these versions usually had a food or beer scene inserted where the clock would be. There are moving and NON moving versions of both signs. Your best bet is to remove the case and VERIFY which version you have.
There is also an “urban legend” concerning a certain profanity in the scene of these signs. Supposedly,the artist hired by Lakeside agreed to produce the artwork for a flat fee. After it was finished, he spent a lot more time on it than he’d planned, so he asked for more money. Hamms refused, so there was a court case to decide the outcome. He lost, and had to hand over the finished scene. But as a parting shot, he placed the “f-word” after the birch tree seam (which is where the scene is taped together) in the water. If you look closely, you can make out the letter f, but the rest takes a little imagination.Some people argue they have the “rare profanity version” but its in every sign. That is…if it IS there. YOU make the call! (depending on how many beers you’ve had,your mileage may vary)
The Hamms scenorama won the POPAI - OMA Gold award in 1969 for Permanent Display for Beer.
Replacement parts are available for these signs, and there’s no better feeling than rescuing and restoring an old Hamm’s sign back to its original glory. Put a dollar in a jar every time you are complimented or hear a story about your sign. A few years and it will be paid for! The motion is truly mesmerizing, and brings back memories of sitting with my dad at our local hamburger joint as a kid. Maroo’s Tavern was a short walk from our house, so my Dad would often take me there for a burger. Ernie Maroo wore a wry smile above his grease stained apron and always had an unlit cigar stub in his mouth. I usually had a bottle of Orange Crush to drink with my burger, and Dad would have a tap Grain Belt or Hamm’s. I never got tired of waiting for the campfire and canoe to reappear on the scenorama Ernie had behind the bar. When we finished our meal, it was time for a game of shuffle bowling or pinball. ( Maroo’s tavern is also where I discovered my first video game, Space Invaders)
My wife's Grandpa was the brewmaster (Andy Spahl) for Hamm's in St. Paul, so Hamm's is on its third generation within our family. Whew...I think its time for a cold one!
If you’ve always wanted to OWN one of these iconic signs, click back to our SIGNS FOR SALE page and drop Steve an email to see what we have in stock this month.