A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 07, 2005
Rushing/Working the Growler
The "growler" was a pail that men would send down to the local bar for more beer. In the 1880s. this was called "rushing the growler" or "working the growler."

A "crowler" (can + growler) was invented in 2013.


(Oxford English Dictionary)
growler
U.S. slang. A vessel in which beer is fetched. to rush the growler (see quot. 1888).
1888 N.Y. Herald 29 July (Farmer), The employment by hands in a number of factories of boys and girls, under ten and thirteen years, to fetch beer for them, or in other words to rush the growler.

20 June 1883, Trenton (NJ) Times, pg.2, col. 2:
The growler is the latest New York institution. It is a beer can, the
legitimate outgrowth of the enforcement of the Sunday liquor law. Young men stand on the sidewalk and drink their beer out of a can, which, as fast as emptied, is sent to be refilled where-ever its bearer can find admittance. It is called the growler because it provokes so much trouble in the scramble after beer.

15 September 1883, National Police Gazette, "New York Naked," pg. 6:
The "growler" was "worked" with a vigor and frequency that completely exhausted the financial resources of the crowd in half an hour.

22 September 1883, National Police Gazette, "New York Naked," pg. 6:
The shrieking and laughing grew wilder than ever, and when, with a hiccough, it was announced by the amateur bartender that the keg was dry, a loud chorus demanded that all the "growlers" in the house should instantly be "worked." Upon which four drunken actors, each with a wash pitcher in his hand, staggered down stairs in the direction of the nearest beer saloon, leaving the ladies, myself and Mr. Doyster to get away with the demijohn in the interim.

19 January 1884, National Police Gazette, pg. 3, col. 4:
The choicest beer of the celebrated Bechtel brand (brewage of 1883), ran like water, and every time the grand old beaker of Lemege faience ($1.99 at Ridleys), gave out, the venerable "growler" (as it was playfully entitled by some of the more volatile young Israelites present) was immediately borne to
the nearest saloon, where, with a princely disregard of cost, it was quickly replenished with another quart of the amber fluid.

26 April 1884, National Police Gazette, pg. 12:
Working the Growler.

12 October 1884, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 3:
WORKING THE "GROWLER."
A Saloonkeeper's Views on Selling
Beer by the Can.

31 July 1886, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 14:
DECLINE OF THE GROWLER

NEW YORK BEER-SELLERS TO BOY-
COTT THE PECULIAR RECEPTACLE.

How Its Use Began and Grew in the City --
Angry Salooonkeepers Denounce the Folly
of Giving Twenty Cents' Worth of Beer
for Seven Cents -- The Rise and Fall of
the Growler, and How It Has Furnished
Fun for the Toughs -- Some Specimen
Bricks.

THE days of the growler are numbered. Forty-three saloonkeepers, members of the United States Lager Beer Sellers' Association, met yesterday and sounded its knell. Before it disappears from the proud place it has held for years, as the boss bibulatory institution, it is only fair to give the growler that place in history that it has so richly earned. The picture at the head of this column shows the first growler ever worked in this town. It was owned by a truckman named Huggard, who lived in the Sixth Ward many years ago. He used to send his son Bill out to the corner with it three times every night for a quart of beer. It costs 14 cents and filled six glasses of the style you see beside it in the picture. Barkeepers made a fair profit filling it and welcomed its visits.

Within twelve months after the honest truckman's venture the growler had become a synonym of reproach among beer-dispensers. Why? At first they all began to welcome the quart kettle that came to their bars. It held only two pints and not another drop could be piled up in it. Then a Yankee Sixth-Warder conceived a great scheme to beat the bar. He bought a brown crockery pitcher, like the one in the picture alongside of these lines. It held between a quart and three pints. The Yankee man had a "pull" in the ward, and when he carried his pitcher to the corner saloon and unblushingly called for a pint the trembling barkeeper dared not refuse to fill the growler till its sides dripped. Meekly he handed it across the bar and took seven cents for 20 cents' worth of beer. He dared not protest. From this one bad example grew scores of imitators. In a few months the Sixth Ward was overrun with men who insisted on getting double measure for their money. Soon the wicked practice spread all over New York, until now it presses down on all the saloonkeepers, except the very gorgeous ones, like a broad and thick sheet of lead.

Forty-three saloonkeepers met in Kasefang's Hall on Seventh avenue yesterday afternoon and growled about the growler. They formed themselves into the "United Lager Beer and Liquor Dealers' Association of New York," for the sole purpose of waging war on the growler trade. Henry Schlescher presided and spoke bitterly against the kettle and pitcher practice.

"We give five glasses of beer," he said, "for a pint and get only seven cents for it. It is driving us to poverty."

Anton Sching, with a rumbling bass voice and a mustache that swept his breast, got up and roared oratorically in German about the wickedness and oppression practiced on all saloonkeepers by the odious growlerworkers. Incidentally, he said that modern society was all wrong, anyhow, and tthat Johann Most is a hero.

Then up rose Hermann Lehmann with a smile on his kindly face and a nickel-plated beer-tap in his hand. On the upper side of the tap was a glass-faced dial, whose hand made one revolution every time four glasses passed through the spigot.

"I move," he said, "that our association charge 10 cents for a pint of beer of four glasses. That will rescue us." Everybody cheered and said "Aye." That settled the growler's fate. Next Wednesday afternoon the association will hold a mass-meeting in the same place, at which they will trample oratorically on the growler and bury it forever.

This is not a portrait of a dynamic bomb. It is a faithful representation of the deadliest and greediest growler that grows. It never was a pure and innocent leaf-lard can. Far from it. The wicked tinsmith who designed its lines had in his mind's eye a machine that would serve equally well to fetch four quarts for 14 cents from a helpless or unsophisticated barkeeper, or to whack the head of any man who offended the gang that owned it. Hundreds of villanous pails like this cruise every warm night between low saloons and rows of idle trucks that abound in dark side streets and alleys all through the thickly-populated parts of New York.. Any downtown policeman will tell you that he would rather face a boat-load of man-of-wars-men than a drunken "growler gang." Early in the evening young fellows from 18 to 25 years of age spend hours in singing and emptying their beer pails. It is the cheapest kind of amusement so far as mere money goes. Seventy-seven cents and a judicious amount of bullying will furnish enough beer to infuriate the eight or ten fellows who perch on the truck and insult passers-by. They spend hours at the sport. At 12 or 1 o'clock the real fun begins. By that time the growler has got in every bit of its fine work. The first man, or woman either, that comes along is likely to be knocked on the head with the heavy pail -- just for fun. If the policeman who happens along is very lucky he will collar one or two of the toughs and fight his way to the station-house with them. Just as likely as not they will tell the police justice next morning that they were "doin' nothin', only singing'," and they are lectured and discharged. Whoever has been often in police courts Sunday mornings has seen this kind of thing happen dozens of times.

If the late Mr. Gibbon were writing of the Decline and Fall of the Growler he would point out that the picture which comes in just here portrays the last stage of decay in that once honored institution. Starting in life as a custodian of tomatoes, this can had a steaming and red-labeled future before it. In an evil hour it fell, under the influence of a crafty opener, and soon dissipated its vegetable treasure. The road to the gutter was easy, and it was the most natural thing in the world that there it should fall in with a trembling man with a tattered coat, ragged hair, and blurred features that were always saying, "Please don't kick me." He, too, had known better days. He used to be a trusted bookkeeper until he fell into the growler habit and began sending out for a quart of beer twice a day. Slowly but surely he sank until he lost his job and couldn't get another. The only trace of his earlier days was his love of working the growler.

At last he had not even the money to do that, and when he stumbled over the bright, empty can one day he mumblingly thanked "his luck" for it. He began to keep early hours. Any day you may see him at dawn draining sidewalk kegs into it. When it is full to overflowing he shallies off to a friendly lumber-yard or coal wharf and tosses off its contents greedily. He won't live long at it. And the growler itself. What will be its fate?
-- New York World.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, December 07, 2005 • Permalink