N.L. liquor corp. to change ‘Old Sam’ logo over concerns about racist branding

N.L. liquor corp. to change ‘Old Sam’ logo over concerns about racist branding

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corp. says it will change the logo — but keep the name — of a locally bottled rum brand that appears to depict a laughing Black man.

The Crown corporation said Monday its research into the 200-year history of Old Sam Rum did not unearth any direct evidence that the image on its labels was rooted in racist stereotypes.

But in a statement announcing the character’s removal, the agency reported it is impossible to reach a definitive conclusion about the logo’s origins.

“Although we may believe the imagery is not related to negative racial stereotypes, we cannot conclusively state that those linkages may not exist or be perceived in that light,” the statement read.

“Given NLC’s values and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and acceptance, therefore, we believe that the time is right to evolve the Old Sam brand and adjust the visual identity of the product accordingly.”

The corporation announced a review of the product this month after a staff member raised concerns.

The move followed several other companies making changes to their labels — including PepsiCo’s Aunt Jemima pancake products and Mars Inc.’s Uncle Ben’s rice — as global Black Lives Matter protests have prompted fresh scrutiny of racism in product branding.

While the NLC’s review of Old Sam got underway, the New Brunswick Liquor Corp. stated that as of June 19, it would pull the brand’s products from its shelves and conduct a full review of its own catalogue.

The NLC reported Monday that its “extensive research” suggested the person illustrated in black-and-white on Old Sam labels may be the founder of Edward Young & Co. Ltd, the company that originally owned the product.

The corporation said its research, which has not been made public, included looking at trademark and other filings, historical labels and the history of the rum industry in Guyana — areas the NLC said “yielded limited additional information.”

Text that was removed from the product website shortly after the NLC’s statement on Monday vaguely described “Old Sam” as a man who sold rum products in Guyana in the 1700s. It said the rum “has a personality as unique as its namesake.”

“Sam was a man who demanded much of himself, his workers and his rums, but brimmed with generosity for guests and friends,” the text read.

“Merchants, naval officers and New World adventurers alike found their way to his post on the Demerara River to share a story, a laugh and a taste of the latest blend.”

The NLC told The Canadian Press in an email that research suggested the person on the label “is likely” Edward Young of Edward Young & Co. Ltd., because he had used his image on other products in the past.

The corporation said it removed the description of Old Sam from the product website in light of this discovery.

“It is possible that regardless of the founder’s name, over subsequent decades, the person on the bottle became identified with the name Sam, which is what the story on the website depicts,” the statement read.

There are two Old Sam Rum products in the collection of spirits produced by the NLC’s manufacturing division.

According to the company’s website, the rum is imported from Guyana and blended and bottled in St. John’s. The rums have been sold in other Canadian provinces including Alberta, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

The NLC says the rebranding will happen “in the coming months” but the “historic and beloved ‘Old Sam’ name” and recipe will both remain.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2020.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press

Newfoundland

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Races resume at Central Alberta Raceways

Central Alberta Raceways opened for the June 20-21 weekend.

Calgary singer Erin Ross to be featured at ‘Entertainment in the Park’ July 15th

Roots/blues musician can hardly recall a time when she wasn’t passionate about performing

46 new COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday in Alberta

Province has completed more than 500,000 COVID-19 tests

PHOTOS: After a two-year hiatus, the Castor & District Museum is open for business

The hours are Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 2 until 4 p.m for the duration of summer

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Serbia bans mass gatherings after virus lockdown protests

Serbia bans mass gatherings after virus lockdown protests

Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature

Mississippi seeing big virus outbreak in state legislature

CDC head sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

CDC head sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

Bolivian president has COVID-19 as virus hits region’s elite

Bolivian president has COVID-19 as virus hits region’s elite

Confusion, frustration abound as feds weigh options for $900M student program

Confusion, frustration abound as feds weigh options for $900M student program

Parents concerned about children’s social lives, survey says

Parents concerned about children’s social lives, survey says

WE details thousands in fees for Trudeaus as volunteers await revamped program

WE details thousands in fees for Trudeaus as volunteers await revamped program

Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says

Canada not ready for second wave of COVID-19, Senate committee says

Most Read