Blarney and Baloney: Eight Times Non-Irish Companies Advertised by Putting On the Green

By Amos Staff

While St. Patrick was indubitably Irish (well, by way of Britain) and has a holy day celebrated by the Irish for centuries, St. Patrick’s Day with all its modern festivities, raucousness, and traditions is more American than Irish. As a strong celebration of all things Irish, green, and/or lucky, it was given its current identity from the American-Irish immigrants. Still, St. Patrick’s Day and “Irishness” are very enmeshed in the modern vocabulary and most people believe our current customs tied to the 17th of March belong to the Emerald Isles. One thing is certain, in the twentieth century, putting on the green in the name of capitalism was gnáth (common) for companies from many companies that had not a lot to do with Ireland, aside from marketing.

Here are eight truly craic ones:

From 1941, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies

Spring fresh from Battle Creek, Michigan, ”this dish has more come-hither than a Kerry piper’s tune.” They hadn’t yet advanced to every elementary school student’s favorite March version: the green-dyed rice krispie treat.

Also from 1941, Chesterfield Cigarettes

Weirdly, Chesterfield cigarettes were born in St. Louis in 1873, using a mix of Virginia and Turkish tobacco. At the time this ad was made, Chesterfields were manufactured by a different company in Durham, North Carolina. Their fun slogan ”Blow Some My Way” first appeared in 1926. By 1948, they claimed to be the brand preferred by ”professional smokers.” [Can you still get paid for that, we wonder?] This ad features Patsy Garrett, who is probably best remembered by middle-aged folk as that lady from Benji and the Cat Chow commercials.

From 1950, Ten-B-Low

This concentrated ice cream (in a can!) is a little difficult to research. But it looks like it existed in the 40s and 50s (a ration-friendly treat that survived until the rise of a middle-class appliance situation in which most homes had plenty of freezer space? Hell if we know). We enjoy a lot about this one: including that they chose mint for green “flavorand not lime. So maybe McDonald’s shamrock shakes had a canned and condensed precedent. If you notice, at the very bottom of the recipe, there is an address to GET MORE RECIPES. And, internets, we’re super tempted to try.

1951, Lucky Strike Cigarettes

“St Patrick’s is a lucky day for all us Irish folk, But every day is lucky when it’s Lucky Strike you smoke!” While this company originated as an American company selling chewing tobacco in the 19th century, by 1900 it specialized in cigarettes. By 1934, the company’s higher-ups tried to influence the fashion industry in the U.S. to make Lucky Strike’s package colors stylish— they ended up changing the package colors. The company is part of a British/American partnership now. But we like looking back at this ad: when they shoved Baby St Patrick’s Day in the bottom corner and made a holy/unholy trinity of an Irish pageant winner, a ballerina, and a fully American hillbilly.

1950s/early 1960s, Libby’s

We are big, big fans of serving suggestions and boy, oh, boy, this is pretty grand. We think they’re suggesting baking shamrock/clover leaf shaped pie crusts and painstakingly filling in the crusts with a mosaic of corn and peas. Sure to please any palate as long as you garnish with parsley. Of course, the ”holders” may be clam-shell style tins or bowls (as anyone will have on hand) but we’re still leaning with pie crust (idle hands of housewives are the devil’s playground). While the four-leaf clover definitely speaks ”luck” (just ask the little lady), it’s really the classic three-leafed shamrock that is the more Irish shape (St. Patrick used the three leaves of a shamrock to illustrate the Trinity. Sadly, he’s not around to ask about the stem.). Libby’s began in the nineteenth century as an American company. Its name now belongs to several-ish international companies via license. At the time of this ad? Ar fad, not Irish.

1961, Kool-Aid

Born from the remains of Edwin Perkins’ “Onor-Maid” and ”Fruit Smack,” Kool-Ade was born in 1927. In 1931, this American brand became Kool-Aid. (The Kool-Aid smiling pitcher didn’t appear until 1954; Kool-Aid Man with arms and legs arrived in 1974.) Honoring Perkins, Kool-Aid is still the official drink of Nebraska. Fun facts about this ad? (1) Note again the substitution of 4-leaf clovers in place of the trinitarian shamrock and (2) the subtle incorporation in the note of the Irish names ”Kate” and ”Duffy” and the use of the lucky number seven. Plus, we would like to remind people that the staggering amount of a quart constitutes 32-ounces, the modern Big Gulp or large drink. People back then maybe didn’t hydrate sufficiently or something.

Also 1961, Smirnoff!

This one’s pretty subtle: no leprechauns, no rainbows or clover/shamrocks. Just Erin O’Brien holding a green leprechaun-ish hat. Smirnoff, of course, being started in Russia and then moving to the U.S. and international production markets, oddly enough is now produced and distributed in Ireland among 11 other countries. Its current owner is based in the UK. We feel like the screwdriver belongs, cocktailwise in time, to the 60s and 70s. And, let’s face it, ”Even the Irish like orange this way” is [chef’s kiss].(As a side bar, the model, Erin O’Brien was born in Hollywood and once sang to Helen Keller. She married a guy with the last name of Fitzgerald. So, the Éireann is strong with the model’s nomenclature or something on this one.)

1963: Schlitz; Schlitz Brewing Company

“Ah, The Irish sure know how to make beer.” The ad is for a Milwaukee brewing company begun and operated by German-Americans. We have to think that someone was a kleine irritated at giving the Irish such credit but hopefully we’re wrong. This ad is also fun because it emphaszes the word ”gusto.” Gusto is Italian, based in Latin. Also, we know that the buttoniere is a green carnation. But it looks like broccoli. The ad also refers to parades (the first St Patrick’s Day parade was in New York in 1762) , which notably really became a national deal around 1962 when Chicago first dyed its river green. (Okay, so it was for purposes of monitoring sewage but it became SO MUCH MORE. ANNUALLY.)

Random Notes:

Why isn’t Irish Spring soap on here? Irish Spring soap, a Colgate-Palmolive (U.S.) product was first released in Germany in 1970. It followed in the U.S. shortly thereafter. In the mid-80s, the fragrance and formulation were slightly changed. Most of the advertising (“Clean as a Whistle!”) focused on the Irish countryside, not St Patrick’s Day or lucky anything, per se. According to Wikipedia (make of that what you will), most Irish people don’t know what Irish Spring soap is as it isn’t actually sold there. Which, of course it’s not.

In the light of prejudice against the Irish immigrants in the 19th and early 20th century in America, when did Irish heritage become ”acceptable?” It seems that the prejudice against the ”dirty Irish” gradually was supplanted by later immigrant waves from Italy and Eastern Europe. The prejudice against Catholicism (a concomitant prejudice with the Irish) most likely peaked in the 1920s and 1930s with the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan. By the 1960s, the Kennedy family and John F. Kennedy particularly, had ”normalized” Irish-Americans in power and neutralized (mainly through Kennedy’s speech) the fear of Catholics, especially those of Irish extraction.

As of 2021, more than 31.5 million Americans claim Irish ancestry. This is second to German (43 million). Half of the presidents of the United States, including Joe Biden, have heritages that, in part, go back to Ireland.

Leave a Reply