‘Old Crow - For Those in the Know’

Old Crow from the 1950s and 1960s, plastic store displays and bottle stoppers exhibit the two different designs of the trademark characters.

Col. James Crow, leaning against an old oak tree, states in an advertisement in 1948: “You can’t hurry my whiskey any more than you can hurry this tree.”

Viewing the magazine advertising in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, there were several changes in the trademark. In the 1940s a realistic, garden variety crow was included in the advertising. Life magazine, June 14, 1948, states, “Those in the Know – Ask for Old Crow.” A black crow is the center of attention, in fact it is larger than the featured product in the half page ad.

In the 1950s the Old Crow Distillery Company caught the public’s attention with full page color ads. The top half of the page featured art work with the appropriate titles. Life magazine, June 18, 1951, pictured “A Shipment of Old Crow for the European Trade,” and the statement “The past century saw James Crow Whiskey carried by clipper ship to England, Scotland, and other countries, where it was hailed as America’s finest.”

Life, March 24, 1952 featured “Daniel Webster Visits James Crow’s Distillery,” and “The great orator pronounced his friends Crow’s Kentucky whiskey the finest in the world.” At the bottom of the page a cartoon- type crow, dressed in a top hat, gold vest and spats , white shirt black ties , and white eye glasses , looks down at a bottle of Old Crow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky .

The Old Crow trademark is more prominent in the 1960s. The figures in store displays made of black plastic had a bright red vest, a black top hat, white spats and a walking cane. Some of the old Crows had fragile plastic eye glasses. These eye glasses are often missing on the collectable figures these days.

The realistic crows and the cartoon type trademarks were abandoned and the trademark figures have two basic designs that I know of. The advertising of the past helps document the dates of trademark characters.

According to Joleen Robison and Kay Sellers book, Advertising Dolls Identification & Value Guide, the earliest figural was a 4.5-inch Old Crow with glasses. It is pictured without a base. They also mention figurals made in after 1956 that do not have glasses.

The three soft plastic Old Crow figurals measure 13.5 –inches, 10-inches, and 4.75- inches. These measurements include a base the Old Crows stand on. Incised marks on them all include “OLD CROW.’’ Marks on the back of the figures identifies the Old Crow Distillery Company.

The larger Old Crows are counter displays. The small bird are bottle stoppers used after the bottle is opened. Other item to look for are swizzle sticks with the old Crow trademark character as a handle, drinking glasses and ash trays with Old Crow pictures. Paper collectibles include whiskey labels and magazine advertising.

“Old Crow, the greatest name in bourbon,” was first made by James Crow in 1835. As a collector of the Ad World, I have come to the conclusion you can’t hurry Old Crow collecting any more than you can hurry the oak tree! The collectibles are few and far between.