As visual merchandising evolved, more and more companies began providing material to promote their products. Dawes Black Horse Brewery was no exception. It commissioned the artist Ross Butler (1907-1995), to produce two large painted plaster figures representing a pair of black Percherons, based on horse sculptures that Butler had made for the American Percheron Association in 1938. Only the mare of the pair remains and is held in the Musée de Lachine collection.
Butler later produced smaller black stallions, in cast iron or plaster, of which the Musée owns three different versions, all signed. These statuettes promoted the brewery or its flagship brand, with the name written in contrasting colours on the base, and provided visibility for the brand and its emblem. Ross Butler’s horse figures are of a calibre unmatched by the work of other artists who made statuettes for Dawes Black Horse Brewery. The accuracy of the proportions and the quality and meticulous finishing of the casts are remarkable.
Around 1948, the brewery developed a new type of statuette: replicas of the magnificent Black Horse stallions surrounded by neon tubing that emitted a green glow and highlighted the animal’s silhouette. The electrical system (two transformers to activate the neon gas) was housed in the base of the piece, where the advertising message appeared. Each statuette weighed 13.6 kilograms and was displayed in a tavern, on a special shelf supplied by the brewery.
The statuettes caught consumers’ attention, of course, but their appeal paled in comparison to that of the live Percherons the public could see on tours of the Black Horse stables. The superb black horses, reminiscent of those the brewery once used for deliveries, still paraded at agricultural fairs and horse shows in Canada and the United States, keeping the emblem’s prestige alive and well.