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Brief Background

Ethnic groups, such as Native-American and Chinese, have constituted a considerable part of the advertising culture in the United States. Numerous popular twentieth-century advertising used African-American images.  At this time, African-American and other ethnic groups were used generously as a part of advertising slogans and trade marks.  Some of these images were politically correct and some were not.  "Old Sleepy Eye" represented an image of a Native American used widely by a flour company.  Cream of Wheat used the dignified image of an African-American chef named "Rastus".  On the politically incorrect side, there was the black image of "Coon Chicken Inn"  used by a restaurant chain in three Pacific Northwest states.  One of the most egregious images was "Ni--er Hair Tobacco", used by the American Tobacco Company on the tins of their product.

One of the more popular images of a black person was used by Green River Whiskey, "The Whiskey Without a Headache."  As the original owner, J.W. McCulloch claimed it to be "the standard by which all other whiskies are judged."  He issued many advertising items, the most famous of which was a lithograph with the inscription, "She Was Bred in Old Kentucky."  It featured a snaggle-tooth old Black man and horse with a five-gallon demijohn of Green River Whiskey strapped to its saddle, both standing outside the Green River Inn.

"It is said by experts that this is the best known advertising picture in the world.  Its owners do not claim this, but there is no doubt of its worldwide popularity," McCulloch said.  He alleged that his whiskey had received the highest awards at eight world expositions and claimed in 1915 that it "has been used by the U.S. Public Health and Marine Hospital services continuously and exclusively for eighteen years and is now so used by all departments of the government."

Green River Whiskey items are today highly collectible thoughout the United States and were produced for at least five decades by different distillers.  There were two distinct periods during which Green River Whiskey was heavily advertised, the two being separated by National Prohibition.