I have encountered another newspaper cut with advertising for Aquarius recently. With it design depicting a modern Shanghai women sipping a soda, it is probably from Old Shanghai time. The theme of modernity and luxury through drinking Aquarius is very similar to the other ads I found.
However the design seems very late in the period, probably more 1940s that earlier. Thus, I would guess the ads was designed in the 1945-1949 period, but I have no further information so far.
1920s have a reputation to have been memorable years. The roaring twenties were called “Les années folles” in French, meaning the crazy years. The start of the 2020s did not disappoint in craziness, although definitely not is such a fun way. To close this year where I finally started to write regularly again, here is a the 5 most read articles in the Shanghailander blog in 2020.
1 – The rise and fall of the Majestic Hotel The story of the star of Shanghai nigthlife in the 1920s, that disappeared in the 30s seems is a regular on the top search posts of the blog. The reason why I wrote this post in 2017 was my own interest and the lack of information available on the topic. Apparently I was not the only one searching
2 – China General Omnibus Company It seems that I am also not the only one to be interested in Old Shanghai transportation, in particular the bus network of the International Settlement. This post from 2017 also includes a pretty unique map of the bus network itself from 1937.
3 – Old Shanghai tramways Another post on public transportation in Old Shanghai. This topic seems to attract attention. This post from 2017 includes a map of the International Settlement tram network and a tram ticket from the 1920s.
4 – Sainte-Thérèse Church First post of 2020 in the top 5. It is focused on the mysterious catholic church in the middle of the few remaining lilongs of JingAn district.
5 – Aquarius Water then and now Published in the middle of a hot summer, this post tells the story of the Shanghai brand of mineral water Aquarius, and its famous Orange Squash. Through modern advertising, the brand became one the Shanghai favorite, that is being relaunched in a modern version in 2020.
Best wished from the Shanghailander blog for 2021! If you want me to share or publish information about Old Shanghai, people places, documents and other related topic, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
In recent post “Aquarius then and now“, I wrote about water company Aquarius and it’s famous Orange Squash. I did not realize that the drink continued to be available in Shanghai for some many years.
In fact, the soda was popular in the 80s but seems to have disappeared since. The above ad is surely from later than the 30s and 40s, though it is difficult to know when. Fortunately, somebody decided to use the brand again. Although it’s still not widely available, I ran into a vending machine selling it… and could finally get a taste of it.
Just like croissants from Park Hotel (see post “Tasting Old Shanghai“) or going to Deda restaurant (see post “Deda Cafe“), this is a way to experience the taste of Old Shanghai, but also remained in Shanghai culture for decades. The nostalgia marketing campaign for Aquarius Orange Squash is targeting Shanghai people that used to drink in their youth during the 80s, decades later after they first came on the market. In that, they have become part of the new Shanghai culture, as much as the Old Shanghai one.
I recently wrote a post about Coca-Cola and its advertising in Shanghai. The soft drink was bottled in Shanghai by Watson’s Water, a brand that is still sold in Shanghai. Its main slogan was “every bottle is sterilized”, showing the need and attention to clean water then, like today. Its main competitor Aquarius, 正广和，a brand that is also still sold in Shanghai today.
Aquarius water was originally founded in 1893, producing “water both still and sparkling, for the table”, as noted in “Sketches in and around Shanghai”, published in Shanghai in 1894. The factory was located away from the city, at the cross of Broadway and Seward Road, meaning right behind the Astor House Hotel, in today’s Hong Kou district. Like it’s competitor, it became an essential supplier of water and drinks for foreigners and wealthy Chinese.
As displayed in above add, the “every drop is distilled” shows the attention for water purity and safety just like today. One of the main drink on offer in the Shanghai heat of mid June was Aquarius Grapefruit Squash, to be drink with Gin as a refresher.
Aquarius was advertising in Chinese newspaper as seen above, linking is sparkling water with the high life of the day, elite activities including horse riding, tennis, swimming and dancing. Since the ad is in Chinese, it was clearly aimed at the Shanghai bourgeoisie that was rapidly growing at the time. Orange squash was surely a soft drink competing with Coca-Cola.
Soft drinks brands had also a number of promotional objects to give out to customer. My favorite one is the serving tray (top picture) that was surely used in the restaurants, bars or hotels in Old Shanghai. Along with it came the bottle opener (see below), that it still very usable today. I even found a picture of the actual Aquarius water bottle, though I have never seen the bottle itself.
The Aquarius brand is still in use in Shanghai, with one of the main depots in Min Hang district. Funny enough the current logo is still the same as the original and the Chinese name is still the same, though now in simplified characters.