Sunday, May 3, 2015

page 74 -- Rising Sun, Elijah Morse

updated 15 November 2015
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Surprisingly, honest conversations about racism in America sometimes begin with those who collect or exhibit trade cards or antique bottles. Jack Sullivan, who was named to the Hall of Fame by the Federation of Historical Bottle Collectors in 2012 has written several posts on his blog, "Bottles, Booze and Back Stories" that are of interest in this regard. The Federation enumerates Sullivan's accomplishments on their award page:
"Author of an incredible number of bottle and pottery-related stories, Jack Sullivan’s name has been a familiar one to collectors for many years. He has written extensively for collector publications in the U.S., England, Australia and Canada. ...[H]e writes frequently for Bottles and Extras, the Ohio Bottle Club’s Ohio Swirl newsletter and the Potomac Pontil, the online publication of the Potomac Bottle Club. ...He also has written three self-published books on whiskey containers and other collectibles. Jack also maintains two online blogs devoted to aspects of collecting and history – “Bottles, Booze and Back Stories,” and “Those Pre-Prohibition Whiskey Men.” His collecting interests include glass and ceramic whiskey containers, whiskey collectibles, breweriana, hillbilly items and paperweights. Jack holds B.A. (1957) and M.A. (1960) degrees in journalism from Marquette and a PhD in international relations from American University (1969)...."
I have not had a chance to review all of his writings, but can recommend the following posts from Bottles, Booze and Back Stories:
  • Black History Month: A Fourth Look at Whiskey Advertising (February 2015) "For this post I have grouped ... [images] around three themes:  1) The use of what apparently was believed to be black language patterns, 2) the depiction of children, and  3) blacks shown at an occupation.  For last I have saved an illustration that, at least for me, was startling."
  • Blacks in Whiskey Advertising III (February 2013) "This year I have gathered another group of images from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several of them disturbing but nevertheless instructive."
  • Black Waiters: "Fetch, Toby, Fetch" (February 2011) "This year my Black History blog will concentrate on blacks in wait service. Here my conclusion is that whiskey ads often treated black waiters with more dignity before, rather than after, Prohibition."
  • Blacks in Whiskey Ads - 150 Years (February 2010) 'The depiction of African-Americans in whiskey merchandising over the past 150 years has reflected societal changes. The trade card “Essence of Old Virginia,” for example, has been dated from 1859, on the eve of the Civil War. It advertises “Wheat Whiskey” of the A.M. Bininger Co. of New York City. The obvious message conveyed is how happy Southern slaves are playing music and dancing for their white masters. The ad surely was scorned by Abolitionists."




The Rising Sun manufacturing complex is captured on Google Street View in this Sept 2013 shot from 870 Washington St., Canton MA.


The Rising Sun building is in the left background of this view.

Page 87 of the Earl J. Arnold Advertising Card Collection has additional information on Rising 

Sun and its founder Elijah Morse. The draft of the Canton Bicentennial History Book (Canton Historical Society) sums things up for us thusly:
"One of the most influential Canton manufacturers and politicians in the late nineteenth century was Mr. Elijah Morse. He was elected to the state legislature in 1876 and was elected to the state senate in 1886 and 1887. He served in four sessions of Congress and would have served a fifth term if his health hadn’t failed. Mr. Morse resided in Sharon at the time of the Civil War when he enlisted as a member of the Massachusetts 4th Regiment. During their campaign against Port Hudson, Louisiana, he was captured by the Confederates during their raid on Brashear City.
"When Elijah returned from the war in 1864, he obtained a formula to manufacture stove polish from Dr. Charles Jackson, a noted Boston chemist. He began production of the polish in small amounts, selling it from door to door, eventually building a factory on the east side of Washington Street just north of Sherman Street. In 1868 he joined forces with his brother Albert and formed Morse Brothers.
"The company had Plumbago (graphite) mined and shipped in bulk from Ceylon. Once the raw product arrived in Canton it was ground into a fine dust and mixed according to the formula, compressed into cakes and packaged for sale. The paste or polish was distributed under two names, Rising Sun Stove Polish and Sun Paste Polish. The product was sold in wrapped cakes, and tins. The tins were made of good American tin and manufactured on the factory grounds. Mr. Morse was a true believer in advertisement and made Rising Sun Stove Polish and Morse Bros., Canton, Massachusetts U. S. A. well known around the world. Elijah Morse died in 1896 at which time his sons gained control of the company and continued the business. As advances were made in new types of stoves the market in this country for their product began to drop and the business suffered. On July 19, 1912 the last advertisement for the polish appeared in the Canton Journal and shortly thereafter the doors closed."

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