Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Gallo Girl

Bottom front page of Jane Friendly's Food Section, July 1, 1954, San Francisco Chronicle.

Found among my grandmother's papers: Aunt Jane Reilly was the first model for the Gallo wine girl commercial (it's a chalk rendering, she said the artist had to make her look Italian). Beginning in 1954, various permutations of this Vino Paisano di Gallo ad appeared in magazines and on billboards across the nation—including in Times Square.

This ad was an image I saw throughout my childhood. I thought everybody's aunt appeared on the back page of the Sunday funnies. Reading them after church was a family tradition. I loved The Phantom, Little Orphan Annie, Prince ValiantBlondie, and Peanuts... The anti-Irish sentiment in Bringing Up Father was over my head. But I remember my grandmother muttering over it. I used to save Prince Valiant, and The Phantom cartoon strips in a scrapbook—because of the horses, I guess.
During World War II, because of paper shortages, the size of Sunday strips began to shrink… to save the expense of printing color pages. —Wiki
Sometime after the Korean war, William Randolph Hearst's  San Francisco Examiner and the de Young's  San Francisco Chronicle, rival newspapers, merged and created a splashy fat Sunday Paper in living color. 

During the week, my grandmother read San Francisco News Call Bulletin which had different funnies, and no ads featuring Aunt Jane. When the Call Bulletin foundered in 1965, my grannie mourned. My grannie had no use for Hearst or The Examiner, but she loved to clip Kenneth Rexroth's columns. She had no use for the Chronicle either. Called them all a bunch of yellow journalists. Which was the equivalent of being a red commie. But the Sunday paper merger brought images of my aunt's likeness to the coffee table weekly.

I guess the likeness is close enough. When my Uncle John came home from Korea, and saw the ad blazoned in Times Square, he said, "Hey that's my sister! What's she doing up there?" to his army buddies. They said, "Yeah, right," not believing a word. But when they got home to San Francisco, she was an overnight sensation. Because of this ad, I imagine an entire generation of good Italian boys were looking for their Gallo Girl in all the wrong places.

I still haven't found the color version of the ad. I assume it was when Ernest and Julio Gallo changed the name of Vino Paisano di Gallo. I wonder if Gallo went to full color when it was on the back page of the Sunday Funnies.

Full color printing is a misnomer. The ad is red and green, the overlapping colors makes the brown bottle color. Color was a pricy prospect in the newspaper publishing business. Only front and back pages merited any color splashes. So when the Sunday Funnies were printed in full color (yellow, cyan, magenta), it was a very big deal.

This half-page ad on the front page in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, is dated July 1, 1954. It took quite some time cleaning it up in Photoshop. Check out the price for a bottle of good dago red. I think the wine later morphed into Carlo Rossi. Gallo was up and running, turning suburbanites onto to cheap wine, buying out wineries from Sonoma to Stanislaus, and expanding their Modesto cooperative winery plant, including making the bottles. They helped build the industry. How many of you still have those old Gallo gallon jugs with the thumbhook, laying around?

I remember Grandma getting her Gallo wine jugs filled at the source. She favored Carlo Rossi. Her Italian neighbors, the Bianchis, the Schivos, Berinis, and the Tanzis made pilgrimages to the Italian-Swiss colony watering hole in Asti in Sonoma County for refills. Apparently, Tim Tanzi's grandmother bought it by the crateload, as getting to Asti was an arduous affair in those days. No Highway 101. I know the Gallo plant is in Modesto, so this must've been in the family. Younger brother Joseph Gallo had the Cheese Factory in the town of Sonoma. The Gallo brothers also bought wine from winery cooperatives in Sonoma and Napa too.

I found that the Vino Paisano di Gallo trademark of E & J Gallo Winery patent was filed June 8 1953, they opened for business in early 1954, so this is really the first ever Paisano ad; there were also television ads as well. I would dearly love to find the full color version of the ad from the late 50s. I've looked for it online. No joy. It was as if my mind were playing tricks on me, until I found the ads. This may be the first time that these Vino Paisano ads have appeared in print (on the internet), since the 1950s. Salud!

Full page ad, page 5, Sunday Pictorial Review, San Francisco Examiner, 1955


Old and Sold Antiques Digest  California wineries, Escalon, Modesto, 1955
E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto  (this is truncated, for full version, please go to Old and Sold Antiques Digest)
On a spring day of the last year of Prohibition, two youthful brothers, Ernest and Julio R. Gallo, visualized the coming rebirth of the California wine industry, dormant during the dry years. They thought of creating a modern winery and imagined that someday in the future homes throughout the nation would proudly serve wines from shiny bottles bearing their family name. Wine also had not had the chance to catch up with the progress of modern American marketing ways and this was the ideal time to do something about it.
Ernest was twenty-four and Julio a year younger. They had been brought up in the tradition of good wine, born as they were in the third generation of a California winegrowing family, whose forebears had cultivated vineyards and made wine in Italy's famed province of Piedmont. 
Ernest and Julio Gallo borrowed and scraped enough dollars together to rent a warehouse in Modesto to house a few casks and a grape crusher and to serve as a winery until they could build a cellar of their own.  In the old warehouse the first Gallo vintage was crushed and fermented that same year, I933.
A few months later they built a small wine cellar on the outskirts of Modesto. It was built and ready for use in 1935.
At first the Gallos made only red and white table wines, selling them in bulk to wholesale bottlers. In 1937 they began to produce port, sherry, and muscatel in addition to their table wines.
In the Gallo vineyards at Modesto, new varieties were grafted onto old rootstocks. Additional vines were planted to grow the choicer varieties suited to local soil and climatic conditions including Petite Sirah, Palomino, Mission, and Salvador. 
The brothers realized that, while in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties a wide assortment of choice grapes for all wine types was grown, Napa and Sonoma in the north coast counties provided the best grapes for dry table wines. Accordingly they selected grapes from each of these several regions to complete the assortment of varieties grown on their own vines.
It took seven years before the Gallo brothers felt that they were producing wines of the quality they wanted to market in bottles under the Gallo family label; it was 1940 when they first appeared on the market. A following of consumers soon developed and Gallo advertising began.
The company concentrated on trying to please the consumer. The Gallo brothers and their staffs interviewed buyers of their wines to learn the exact qualities of wine flavor, of dryness or sweetness, and of color that pleased house holders. 
 In recent years a light and mellow wine of the "vino rosso" type was developed with success, the Gallo "Vino Paisano," and in 1953 a Rose was marketed with promising results, made from Grenache grapes grown in the Gallo family vineyards.
The Gallos entered into long-term arrangements with other wineries, beginning with the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery of St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa County, owned by some 150 growers. The brothers also provided an outlet for grapes and wines produced by their neighboring growers; in 1953 the Gallo winery began to receive the entire vintage of the Modesto Cooperative Winery. Similar arrangements were made with the Del Rey Cooperative Winery Association of Fresno, owned by eighty-five growers; with Frei Brothers of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County; with Vella Brothers Winery of Salida, Stanislaus County; with the St. Helena Cooperative Winery, Napa County growers. In all the Gallos provide an outlet for a thousand California wine-grapegrowing farmers.
In 1954 the Gallo brothers decided to eliminate the hundred-mile transportation of grapes from the southern San Joaquin Valley to Modesto. They acquired the historic Las Palmas winery, near Clovis, Fresno County, and initiated a remodeling program to bring the winery buildings and equipment up to modern standards.
By 1954, the Gallo production and marketing principles had proved their value and the brothers had come a long way since that day in 1933 when they first formulated their farsighted plans.
Much credit is due to the Gallo brothers, to bring sound winesmostly of the generic types-to the American public at a very reasonable cost and creating thereby many new customers for the wine industry. 

The Gallo brand wines available include the following:
Table wines: RED: Burgundy, Chianti, Claret, Zinfandel, and Barberone;
WHITE: Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Rhine, Chablis, Light Dry Muscat;
ROSE: Grenache Rose (an outstanding wine of its type);
Aperitif and Dessert wines: Pale Dry Sherry, Cocktail Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry, and Cream Sherry; Port, Tawny Port, and Ruby Port; Marsala, Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica; Dry and Sweet Vermouth;
Berry and Fruit wines: Blackberry, Loganberry, and American Concord Grape Wine (from grapes grown in the Pacific Northwest).
A featured wine, and one of the best of its kind, is the popular "Vino Paisano di Gallo," an "old country style" table wine of the "vino rosso" type.
A Life of Winemaking at Wineries of Gallo... wine Spectator California Wine Oral History Series UC Berkeley, page 26

Life Magazine, has a mention of Vino Paisano, E. & J. Gallo, page 34, October 9m 1962. Pretty cool, the entire magazine, including ads, is scanned under Google Books, but it's slow searching. 

After I posted the ad on Facebook, my cousin sent me a YouTube link to a 1986 commercial  for Gallo Wines. The theme music, "Hymne" is by Vangelis. Something their Fresno Stag and Thistle pipe band plays on the bagpipes. So the Celtic crossover continues.

An aside: In 1986, the Gallo brothers sued their younger brother Joseph for selling cheese in the town of Sonoma branded with the Joseph Gallo Farms name. We loved his rich creamy jack cheeses, and it was always a treat to visit the store off the town square near the mission. Nothing like a free sample of aged jack cheese, or pepper jack from Joseph behind the counter. It was a big scandal, Joseph crowed that he got screwed out of his inheritance, but Ernest and Julio were powerful cocks-o-the-walk by the 1980s, and poor Joseph lost the lawsuit. He was allowed to use only his first name to market his cheese, under the label of Joseph Farms. 

Gallo is derived from rooster (gallus in Latin), but I think that's too easy a translation. It could be derived from Gallilei (from the Greek) which refers to someone from Galilee, or the Italian-Swiss Galli (derived from Gallo). The Gallo family hails from Piedmont—the foothills of the alps, near the Po Valley.

The Gallo/Galli patronym probably comes from the Cis-Alpine Gauls, a name for the Helvetii and Tauriscii (and the Boi, Cenomani, Venetii) Celts of Gallia-Cisapina. Tribes who settled the plains of the Po River Valley, in Northern Italy—you know, those warriors who crossed the alps with Hannibal in 218 BC? Yep. Po, from Bodinicus, probably from the Boii tribe.

The Italians conveniently don't like to remember that part of history. They'd like you to think Italy was settled solely by, well, the Italians. That old Caesar adage, wipe out all the Celts. Didn't happen. The Galli fought on both sides of that battle. Yeah, the Celts sacked rome and the Italians never forgave them for it. But the legacy of the red-blond haired, grey-eyed Celts remains. 

We won't mention the Medieval Irish monks who overran Italy, setting up monasteries and brewing potent medicinal herbal liquors and fortified wines for whatever ailed you. They were not celibate, mind you. Went agains their religious beliefs, to the apoplexy of Rome.


History of the Sunday comics

I found this link Prince Valiant, Sunday Pictorial Review, tying it to the San Francisco Examiner, 1954. No Paisano ad, though. Apparently people collect this stuff!

By right, this post straddles two years. It started out as a small paragraph on Facebook. On Jan 1, 2015, I extensively revised it.

Found in my grandmother's papers: my aunt Jane was the first model for the Gallo wine girl (they had to make her look Italian)l, and various permutations of this ad appeared in magazines and on billboards across the nation—including Times Square. An image I saw throughout my childhood. I thought everybody's aunt appeared on the back page of the funnies. Still haven't found the full color version of the ad when they changed the name from Paisano to Gallo. This is a half page front section ad in the Food section of the San Francisco Chronicle, July 1, 1954. Check the price of the wine.
The Paisano trademark of E. & J. GALLO WINERY patent was filed June 8 (1953), they opened for business in 1954, so this is really the first ever ad; there were also television ads as well.

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