After my recent post on San Francisco’s original Emanu-El Synagogue I got a link to this photo from Richard over at Sparkletack and in that picture of Sutter Street of just after the earthquake of 1906 there is an advertisement for MJB coffee clearly visible on a wall of one of the destroyed buildings.
That was intriguing, since I actually had written about the MJB coffee ads in San Francisco before here and here, and all the research I had done on the mysterious MJB – WHY? ads pointed at a timeframe of after the earthquake until sometimes in the 1910s for these ads… but here was one done before the earthquake of 1906.
I mentioned this to Richard and he pointed me to a book: “Coffee, Martinis and San Francisco” by Ruth Bransten McDougall, who happens to be the daughter of the founder of MJB Coffee. It’s a spirited and very personal biography of Ruth and her parents Mannie and Renee Brandenstein (later Bransten), which begins with a scene just after the earthquake of 1906 and then moves back to the very beginnings of the MJB brand in the 1880s and on through to the 1930s.
Mannie was a born marketer, and he relished in figuratively and literally painting the town with advertisements for his products, which is why even now, one hundred years after he invented the campaign, one can still find MJB Coffee – WHY? painted on walls in the Bay Area.
Many people in the last hundred years must have passed these ads and wondered… why WHY?
Well… here’s the answer…
At one point, the young Ruth asks her dad: “Why the WHY?” and Mannie’s answer is: “What’s the difference, as long as people ask. That makes sales.”