World History of Male Love - Home Page Museum

  This Bud's for Zeus
Ganymede as poster boy for the "King of Beers"

Budweiser Beer ad - Kirchbach originalToday homosexual love and gay sex are common themes in billboards found in the gay neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Castro. But outside the country's gay enclaves male love in advertising is virtually non-existent. Surprisingly enough, this was not the case in 1905. At the turn of the century, Anheuser-Busch, now known for ads depicting scantly clad women with huge breasts, relied on gay sex to sell its beer. Ads showing the naked boy, Ganymede, carried away by the Budweiser eagle (a parallel to Zeus, commonly represented as an eagle) were released to the mainstream public. The King of Heaven drinks the King of Beers, the Budweiser people seemed to imply. Drink his beer and his young boy toy might not be that far behind.

The campaign seems to have been a successful one. During its heyday, the demand for the beer increased from 1 million barrels in 1901 to 1,600,000 six years later, a level not surpassed until 1937. Many Americans were probably not aware of the myth the ad referred to: Zeus falling in love with his boy and carrying him off to live with the gods. But the homosexual theme couldn't be more obvious, as naked boy and bottle of beer (two prizes that go hand in hand?) are carried off by the Bud eagle. Were the marketers of Budweiser clued into unspoken homosexual urges of their customers? Did gay sex in advertising prick some unconscious homosexual thirst, only to be quenched by the King of Beers? Over the years, the Budweiser practice of selling beer by selling sex continued unabated, though the naked boy was eventually replaced by objects of desire of a more conventional sort . . . or perhaps convention itself changed.


Budweiser Beer Promotional Tray Budweiser Beer Ad Budweiser Beer Mug


This "Modern Version of Ganymede" depicts a reproduction of the popular 1905 point of sale wall hanging, in which Adolphus Busch applied a homosexual twist to the selling of beer. In this version, the ancient Greek topos has been further modernized by the addition of various symbols of progress, like the smokestack belching black fumes and row upon row of factories, with which the average drinker of the day would have been well acquainted. Everything is placed in an incongruous bucolic setting.

Plastic service tray with lithographed image, 17.50" x 12.75" Anheuser-Busch promotional material, 1987.


Zeus and Ganymede Resources

click on this link for a full list of myths, videos, articles and artworks about the love between Zeus and Ganymede

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following form of citation:
Editorial Board, World History of Male Love, "Museum", This Bud's for Zeus: Ganymede as Poster Boy for the King of Beers, 2002 <http://www.gay-art-history.org/gay-history/gay-art/gay-sex-advertising/budweiser-beer-gay-boy-advertising/budweiser-zeus-ganymede.html>
This magazine ad parallels the famous homosexual myth of Ganymede's abduction by Zeus. Here, the Bud eagle, representing Zeus, carries both naked boy and beer for an "introduction of Budweiser to the Gods." Based on an original drawing by F. Kirchbach (1892), the ad was commissioned by Adolphus Busch in 1903. Busch, the beer magnate and "captain of industry" who raised the company to its present level of prominence, owes his remarkable success more to his sales acumen than his beer making abilities. What did old Adolphus know about the sex appeal of a cute gay boy that his successors have forgotten?

Magazine ad for the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, 5"x8", Theatre Magazine, February 1906

The slogan on the sign reads:
"Modern Version of Ganymede" Introduction of Budweiser to the Gods
Part of an archival series, this beer stein revives a popular turn-of-the-century advertising sign in which Ganymede is being carried aloft to Mt. Olympus. The eagle clasps a bottle of Budweiser®, while Ganymede waves a parchment touting the product's 1903 apotheosis: Budweiser's Greatest Triumph: Declared superior to the best Bohemian beers by the Imperial Experimental Station for the Brewing Industries in Prague. Difficult to imagine, but presumably the brand then had some flavor to it, unlike the bland slop dished out today to the thirsty masses yearning to be stupefied. We also cannot fail to notice that Kirchbach's gloomy raptor has shape-shifted into a bald eagle, adding a patriotic dimension to a sexual innuendo: who ever knew that the American eagle was into boys?! Back in 1904 at least, no one found anything amiss with that. Perhaps we today can take the ad as a harbinger of an ideal America still to come. After all, if love civilizes, how much more civilized would the US be if its boys were free to love other boys, instead of just terrorized into chasing girls?

Ceramic beer mug, 6.5" high, Anheuser-Busch promotional material, made in Brazil by Ceramarte in 1993.
 








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