While most men simply enjoy kicking back with a beer, Jim Carballido takes it a step further. “I have the collecting bug in me,” says the licensed CPA and information and analysis supervisor at Caterpillar Inc. An active collector all his life, Carballido started out with baseball cards as a kid, then progressed into sports memorabilia—including a wealth of Peoria Chiefs items—which led him to start picking all sorts of things related to his hometown.
About 15 years ago, after discovering a Peoria Brewing Company beer crate at the popular Moss Avenue Sale, Carballido zeroed in on local breweriana—a term that encompasses everything related to beer, from cans and bottles to postcards and advertising. After doing some research, he became intrigued with the city’s boozy past. “I like the rich history of the brewery and distilling industry in Peoria,” Carballido explains. “[It] gives a unique way of telling the story of what Peoria was all about.”
Between 1837 and 1919, 24 breweries and 73 distilleries operated out of Peoria, including the very successful Gipps, Leisy and Union Brewing companies. Once touted as the “revenue city,” Peoria generated nearly half of the federal government’s alcohol tax revenue at its peak production. “Can you imagine,” Carballido asks, “if that was just the tax paid on alcohol, how much was the profit generated from those companies? … You start to get an understanding of how prominent [Peoria’s] whiskey barons… were at the turn of the 20th century.” Of course, Prohibition brought the industry to a screeching halt in 1919, and though the ban was eventually lifted, Peoria’s “spirits” never fully recovered from the more-than-decade-long shutdown.
Concentrating on the pre-Prohibition era of Peoria brewing, Carballido primarily collects advertising pieces: everything from signs, serving trays, glasses and mugs to pins, tap knobs, coasters and foam scrapers. His etched beer glasses are especially unique, as most were destroyed during Prohibition, and he recently acquired two rare porcelain corner signs at an auction—one a Gipps sign, the other a Leisy. Also unique: his 1933 Peoria Brewing Company tin sign promoting Rostock beer and an early Gipps pennant advertising its Amberlin beer. Besides rummaging through flea markets, estate sales and auction sites, Carballido says he’s found much of his collection through other members of the National Association of Breweriana Advertising—an entire group devoted to his passion.
As treasurer of the Peoria Historical Society and an associate board member of the Peoria Riverfront Museum, Carballido is passionate about preserving Peoria’s past, and someday he hopes to share his collection with the community. “That’s a big part of collecting—it’s not just putting it in a box. You want to be able to share what you have,” he explains. “I think a home for it someday at the Peoria Historical Society or Peoria Riverfront Museum would be an ideal place for all future generations to be able to look at it and visit it.” a&s