Beer history marketing

Boddington’s Pump Clips, 1963

Macro shot of Boddington's logo on old paper.

Here’s a little detail that caught our eye in the Boddington’s Brewery board minute books, from August 1963: an order for pump clips.

Advertising — Pump Clips.

It was decided to place an order with Nightingale Signs Ltd for 5000 Pump Clips, yellow barrel design, at 3 and 4 each, to be apportioned as follows:-

2500 Bitter Beer
1250 Best Mild
1250 Mild

We didn’t notice any earlier reference to pump clips in these documents, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any — we had half a day to read the lot and might have just missed them. And even if this is the first mention of pump clips, it might just be that no-one bothered to write it down before this point.

But, still, our gut feeling is that this was recorded precisely because it was the first time — it was something new for Boddington’s, and literally remarkable.

We haven’t spent any time studying the subject, really, except when Oliver Gray asked for our input on this article, but our cautious assumption, based on photos and marketing materials like these, from 1984 and 1994 respectively…

Young's Pump Clips 1984 and 1994.

…is that the ubiquity of pump-clips, like logo-printed glassware, is essentially a development of the Big Six era that came alongside TV advertising and the growth of national brands. Before the 1960s, there wasn’t much need for them, because most pubs sold standard beers from the breweries that owned them, and you either wanted a pint, or you didn’t. There was no hard sell, and bars usually looked something like this:

Black-and-white photo: beer pumps without clips.
Ceramic Beer Pumps, by Humphrey Spender, 1938. Copyright Bolton Council Image ref. 1993.83.16.21

Nowadays, a naked pump handle would lead most British drinkers to assume they’d run out of beer, wouldn’t it?

The numbers of pump-clips Boddington’s ordered is interesting, too — a 50/50 split between mild and bitter sounds about right for the early 1960s, when the Financial Times was reporting on the decline of mild and the rise of bitter, kegged or otherwise.

Anyway, that’s it — just a little note for a quiet Sunday. As you were. Carry on.

UPDATE 17.04.2016

John Lester collects breweriana and sent us this fantastic photo of what is probably a pump clip from the very batch ordered in 1963. (See his comments below.)

Boddington's pump clip from the 1960s.

7 replies on “Boddington’s Pump Clips, 1963”

From Barclay Perkins adverts, I know that pump clips existed in the 1930’s. Though I remember in the 1970’s tied houses didn’t always bother with them. Especially if the brewery only had Bitter and Mild.

As Ron says, pump clips were in use well before the 1960s, though they didn’t become common until the 1950s. Originally they were little more than a small badge – often enamel, for early examples, but otherwise plastic – advertising “Flower’s IPA”, “Usher’s XXX” or whatever; in many cases there was no pictorial representation of the trade mark. Sometimes these early pump clips lasted for many years: in the “Welsh Pony” in Oxford in the early 70s, for example, an enamel Bass clip (which did show the red triangle trade mark) stood next to a rectangular plastic clip simply reading “Morrell’s Bitter”. More elaborate pump clips did begin to appear by the 1960s, and the Boddington’s examples of 1963 no doubt fell into this category (I have a 1960s Boddington’s pump clip somewhere that could be part of the 1963 batch).

John — interesting info, thanks. Are you a collector and/or expert? Would be interesting to read a lengthier history of the pump clip if so.

As you might be able to tell, we worded the post *very* carefully to avoid claiming that 1963 was year dot for pump clips or anything like that!

In the late 1970s, it was still common for many Greenalls pubs selling Mild and Bitter not to have pumpclips. Also the glass-cylinder diaphragm metered pubs tended to be unmarked, although later it became more common to have plastic badges in front of them.

I am indeed a collector – of various kinds of brewery memorabilia – but whether that makes me an expert is perhaps debatable; however, I‘ll give some thought to the history of the pump clip. In the meantime, I’ve dug out the Boddington’s clip I mentioned, and on the reverse the maker’s name is shown as Nightingale (Blackburn) Ltd. I’m pretty confident it’s from the batch to which you referred (ordered from Nightingale Signs). Let me know if you’d like to see a photograph.

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