The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
This September marks a bewildering anniversary for Schlafly Beer. It was four years ago, in September of 2012, that a woman who had taken the name Schlafly upon marrying into the family (after I was born) formally opposed our application for a federal trademark for beer. There’s no need for me to identify this person (the “Opposer”) by name. According to her opposition, the name Schlafly refers “uniquely and unmistakably” to her. Who knew?
The Opposer’s case for denying us a federal trademark was based on her claim that the name Schlafly had not “achieved distinctiveness” with respect to beer. To disprove this claim, we submitted evidence showing that we had been in business since 1991 and were selling beer in 11,000 retail outlets in 15 states plus the District of Columbia. We sell the equivalent of nearly 20 million 12-ounce bottles annually. To put this in perspective, more people consume our beer every year than attended St. Louis Rams games in all 21 of their seasons combined, from 1995 through 2015. The Opposer dismissed our numbers as “paltry.” The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office agreed with us: “There is so much evidence of Applicant’s activity in the marketplace over two decades, with substantial sales to large numbers of customers and attendant notice in the press, that we cannot escape the conclusion that Applicant’s mark and goods have developed market recognition among a segment of the relevant public.” The Opposer’s attorney rejected this conclusion and said he would probably appeal. Stay tuned.
September is also Back to School Time. In that vein I recently heard from an alert reader (AR) named Nelwyn Landry, who had taught me in fifth grade and was featured in this space five years ago. While going through some old papers Nelwyn found something she had been saving since 1958 and forwarded it to me.
TEN COMMANDMENTS OF SCHOOL
By Tom Schlafly
1. Thou shalt not be late for school. (Take the whole day off.)
2. Thou shalt not wear taps to school. (Cleats are more dignified.)
3. Thou shalt not copy. (Let her do it for you.)
4. Thou shalt not peek at another paper. (Have it passed to you.)
5. Thou shalt not run down the hall. (Sliding is more fun.)
6. Thou shalt not skip stairs going down the steps. (Use the bannister.)
7. Thou shalt not throw erasers. (Books are harder.)
8. Thou shalt not whisper in class. (Shouting gets more attention.)
9. Thou shalt not drive the teacher to her grave. (Let the undertaker do it.)
10. Thou shalt not eat candy in class. (Gum lasts longer.)
Upon seeing this for the first time in 58 years, I had no recollection of having written it. In fact, it’s quite possible I wasn’t the author. Admittedly, the manuscript (written in pencil on lined paper) was in my handwriting. (The only class I ever failed was fifth grade penmanship.) And there’s no question that I claimed authorship and did not give credit to anyone else. Nevertheless, I have my doubts about this being an original composition. It’s entirely possible that I read this somewhere (Mad Magazine, perhaps?) and was so taken that I copied it and submitted it under my name. If any ARs have seen this list before and can remember where they saw it, please let me know..
When August Schlafly (my great grandfather) was the same age I was when I wrote The Ten Commandments of School, he was already a budding entrepreneur. I know this from a booklet I received from an AR named Michael Dierberg, the Chairman of First Bank. The booklet was published in 1926, the 25th anniversary of the founding of Union Trust Company of East St. Louis, which was later acquired by a bank that was eventually acquired by First Bank. The booklet included the life story of August Schlafly, the founder of Union Trust Company.
August reported that his first business transaction occurred when he was a young boy walking on a country road in Highland, IL. He found a rusty spade, which he took to a blacksmith to whom he sold it for five cents. By the time August was eleven years old he was living in Carlyle, IL, where he worked in a brickyard making bricks by hand for a wage of fifty cents a day. By the time he was twelve he was working in a general store, earning eight dollars a month.
August and his brothers Fred and John started a business buying debt issued by the county. By 1877 their firm Schlafly Brothers, Bankers was well established in Carlyle and was later converted into a national bank. They went on to establish the First National Bank at Breese, the Farmers’ and Merchants’ State Bank at New Baden, the First National Bank at Edwardsville and the Citizens National Bank at Alton. In 1901 Union Trust in East St. Louis was just the latest in this series of entrepreneurial banking ventures.
As an immigrant with little formal education, August, whose father had died when he was four years old, had to overcome a lot of obstacles in order to build his businesses. As far as I know, however, no one who had married into the family ever challenged John, Fred or August for calling their business Schlafly Brothers.