Rare “Satan-et” Sign Sells at Auction

Rare "Satan-et" sign from early 1900's

This gorgeous “Satan-et” embossed metal sign just sold at auction for $40,000 on March 18, 2022.

The history of this soft drink and its mascot is just fascinating. “Satan-et” was trademarked on April 13, 1914 and sold in the USA until the early 1920’s. Marketed as “Satan-et, The Drink with a Wink” and produced by the Garrett Corporation of Norfolk, Va, this drink with its bold, bright signage and distinctive brand identity was surely a head-turner back in the day, as it still is today.

Why the Devil mascot??

The choice of the devil as a mascot may seem like an odd one, however, the name and imagery was derived from a fellow by the name of Harry H. Gardiner. Gardiner was a daredevil that, beginning in 1905, successfully climbed over 700 buildings in Europe and North America, such as the Flat Iron Building in New York City. He called himself “Satan-et,” a reference to his daredevil ways, and was even described as a “human-fly” by President Grover Cleveland. A 1905 Muscle Builder article quotes Gardiner as saying, “One hundred and twenty of those who have sought to imitate me in this hazardous profession have fallen to death. There is no chance of ‘rehearsing’ your performance. Each new building is an unknown problem. If you do not guess the right answer, death awaits below, with a breath of up-rushing air, and arms of concrete.” Gardiner endorsed the soft drink, soon taking equity in the company, and his publicity stunts made him a perfect choice as the front man for the brand’s ad campaign.

a unique specimen

This particular sign is one of only two known to still be in existence and is the one in best condition. It measures 39.5″x13.5″. If you look closely you can see that in each corner the devil is in a different pose with different facial expressions. The image of a smiling, winking devil (the H.H. Gardiner variety of course) suspended in the middle of a glass of soda certainly sticks with you and lends such a fun, whimsical note to the sign. Unfortunately, this soft drink had a rather short lifespan and while its possible that the branding might have put folks off back then, it’s that same branding that makes this signage so interesting today, especially when you learn more about its daredevil namesake H.H. Gardiner.

This sign was part of the Bob and Sharon Jarman Collection and went for $40,000 plus buyers fee on March 18, 2022 at Richmond Auctions in Greenville, SC.

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