Who drinks Canadian Club Whisky? According to this 1942 ad, its the sort of man who enjoys a day of adventure on wild Santa Catalina Island, hunting boars, water skiing, and communing with other esteemed fellows.
Since the mid 19th century, as leisure travel became more accessible, writers and travelers popularized the curiosities and dangers of untamed lands. In particular, there was an exploding fascination with the sport of big game hunting.
Fortunately, the hero of our ad didn’t need to travel all the way to India to bag his 200 pound tusker. Instead, he could seek his thrills closer to home, off the coast of California. And what better way to quench the thirst of a hard day’s hunt than with the exotic taste of imported whisky, the finest in “87 lands”.
This ad appeared in a 1942 issue of Cosmopolitan (which at the time, was a literary magazine).
History of the Island
Santa Catalina Island lies just 26 miles off the shore of Long Beach, CA. The island was first inhabited over 5000 years ago by a Native American tribe. They named their island Pimu and referred to themselves as Pimungans or Pimuvit.
In 1542, the Pimungans welcomed Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to the island. As one does, he claimed it for Spain and named it San Salvador after his ship. Twenty years later, it was rediscovered by Captain Sebastian Viscaino, on the eve of St. Catherine’s Day in 1602. He gave it the official name of Santa Catalina, in honor of the saint.
As was typical in settlements of the time, the native population quickly succumbed to disease introduced by the newcomers. Over the next two centuries, the remaining survivors were forced onto to the mainland to work in the Spanish missions and ranches.
By the mid-19th century, Catalina was looking upon as a wilder outpost of the Wild West, and Californians crossed the ocean to establish cattle ranches, fishing posts and gold mining operations on the untamed island. As the island’s reputation grew, tourists came in droves to experience its exotic beauty firsthand. Those needing to rest their horses and their heads for the night could find accommodation at the Eagles Nest Lodge.
In 1919 William Wrigley, Jr. of Wrigley chewing gum fame bought the island and established the resort destination of Avalon. During this era, the island was also a popular Hollywood filming location. In fact, the 150 or so bison that still roam the island came from a herd of 14 left behind after the filming of the 1924 Zane Grey Western, “The Vanishing American.”
Pig Hunting on Catalina Island
Over the years, humans also introduced other non-native animal species to the island, including deer, pigs and goats. As these animals were destructive to the native flora, sport hunting was encouraged to control their population. Thus came into the picture our Canadian Club drinking hero. After doing his part to aid conservancy on the island, he retired to the old Eagles Nest Lodge to enjoy his favorite beverage.
Little did he know, his rare day out was about to become even rarer. Later that same year, the U.S. military would close Catalina to the public and turn it into a base of operations for war activities.
In the 1970s, the Wrigley family passed control over the island to the Catalina Conservancy. Since then, the organization has continued to encourage sport hunting to control animal populations on the island. Still a popular tourist destination, the island is home to around 4,000 people today, most living in its only city of Avalon.
Canadian Club Whisky
Canadian Club’s origins begin with Hiram Walker, who founded its first distillery in Detroit in 1858. With Prohibition on the horizon, Walker crossed the nearby border into Canada. He set up shop near Windsor, Ontario, and built a model community called Walkerville to house his growing staff.
Walker’s whisky soon became a favorite choice in gentlemen’s clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada. For this reason, it became known as “Club Whisky”. As its popularity grew, American distillers demanded the word “Canada” be included on the label, thinking this would somehow make it less desirable. Instead, this did the opposite, making it seem all the more exotic and exclusive. Demand only increased, and by 1890, “Canadian Club” became the brand’s official moniker.
Canadian Club became so beloved, that during Prohibition, Al Capone himself smuggled thousands of cases between Windsor and Detroit. It also received warrants from five British royals, making Hiram Waker and Sons the only North American distillery to have earned such an honor.
The Walker distillery still operates in Windsor to this day, producing Canadian Club as part of the Jim Beam portfolio.
More Historic Photos from Catalina Island