In 1884, eight years after George Armstrong Custer’s death, the Anheuser-Busch brewing company commissioned an original oil painting, Custer’s Last Fight, by Cassilly Adams. It was reproduced as a lithograph by F. Otto Becker in 1889 and distributed as an advertising poster by Anheuser-Busch. This depiction of the Battle Of the Little Bighorn undoubtedly hung in more saloons than any image before or since, and fixed the iconography of Custer’s last moments in the national imagination.
Click on the image above to enlarge.
It’s inaccurate on a number of counts. Custer had short hair at the time of the battle, and the fighting probably never got so close and tangled. The Indians were better armed than Custer’s troopers, with repeating rifles, and, except for isolated charges to count coup, would have picked off the soldiers from a safer distance.
Still, it served the Custer myth, which his wife Libbie (above) spent the rest of her long life burnishing, primarily through a series of well-written memoirs of her years on the plains with Custer. They are considered factually accurate but obviously have a slanted point of view.
According to the Brookston Beer Bulletin website the lithograph is the oldest piece of American breweriana known to exist.