Vintage: California Wine Labels of the 1930s

Rediscover California’s culinary design history

Two new books, Vintage: California Wine Labels of the 1930s and Well Aged: California Whiskey and Spirits Labels of the 1930s, illuminate a near-forgotten artisanal legacy tucked among the archives of the California Historical Society’s Kemble Collections on Western Printing and Publishing. In the midst of the Great Depression, hundreds of thousands of bottles of mass-manufactured, highly alcoholic wines and liquors invoked fantasies of the good life—due in no small part to their inebriating contents, but also aided by exquisite labels produced on an industrial scale by the anonymous designers working for the Lehmann Printing and Lithographing Company of San Francisco. Mass production does not typically correlate with the finest quality, but the Lehmann factory defied expectations: working within a house style defined by vivid hues, adventurous lettering, and Art Deco sensibility, these labels exhibited a seemingly inexhaustible creativity executed at the highest standards of craftsmanship. And as much as the labels advertised a particular brand, they also marketed the myth of California. The Lehmann artists frequently employed images of a romanticized past, whether medieval or Mission era, to brand the product as the fruit of an idyllic paradise free from the ills of history or even contemporary anxieties. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the beautiful labels gathered in Vintage and Well Aged reveal startling contrasts to—and similarities with—today’s design-driven culture.

Published in collaboration with the California Historical Society

About the Authors

Christopher Miya has been a barista, a teacher’s assistant at a continuation high school, a shuttle driver for foreign exchange students, a rude record store clerk, a nice record store clerk, and a (mostly nice) bookseller. Currently he is sales manager at Heyday, where he has worked since 2013. He can be found most days in his adopted home of Oakland, California.

Ashley Ingram is a designer and Bay Area native. She holds degrees from the Design Institute of San Diego and The Art Institute of California at San Francisco. A past life involved interior design, but books are her true calling and these days she gets to spend her time poring through typefaces, photo layouts, and cover designs. When not nerding out over InDesign she can be found hiking the Marin headlands with her two sweet pups, swimming in the ocean any chance she gets, wearing a lot of gray, and never bringing her lunch to work.