In the 1940s, the Continental Distilling Corporation commissioned artist Frank Reilly to create a series of historical images of Philadelphia to promote its Philadelphia Blended Whisky, which it referred to as “The Heritage Whisky.” By highlighting key moments that led to the founding of the country and the city’s cultural heritage in its advertising, the company sought to position Philadelphia Blended Whisky as having a rich and enduring legacy.



The advertising copy links the City of Brotherly Love with “a legendary heritage of hospitality,” which is “one of the proud traditions established by Colonial Philadelphia.” Despite the textual emphasis on hospitality, Reilly’s corresponding illustrations don’t touch upon the friendly reception or entertainment of guests, nor do they include any imagery of whisky-drinkers. Separated from the advertising copy, it would be difficult to determine the product Reilly’s images were commissioned to sell. The same can be said for the similar series of Philadelphia Blended Whisky advertisements painted by Simon GrecoJames Bingham, and Edward Everett Henry. This lack of emphasis on the product in the imagery may in part be due to the fact that the Continental Distilling Corporation also released the illustrations as lithographs, likely with the hope the pictures would be treated as home decor. Some illustrations from the series of works by Reilly, Greco, Bingham, and Henry were later published in Gerald W. Johnson’s book Pattern for Liberty: The Story of Old Philadelphia, published by McGraw Hill in 1952. Of the 32 illustrations published in the text, The Illustrated Gallery holds 18 of the original paintings in our current collection.



Frank Reilly was a renowned teacher at the Art Students League in New York for more than 19 years, where his classes in drawing, painting and picture making, and color abstraction were immensely popular and well-attended. Reilly later founded his own school, the Frank J. Reilly School of Art, on West 57th Street, where he taught many who would later become highly-successful artists, such as James Bama, Peter Max, and Ron Lesser. Reilly studied with the anatomist George Bridgman at the Art Students League and apprenticed with Dean Cornwell, helping with the artist’s mural projects. Reilly was known for his meticulous and scientific approach to artmaking, which he passed along to his students through his eponymous Reilly Method that emphasized the importance of an organized palette and the use of structural lines to form the foundation of figure drawing.




Be sure to view our full collection of more than twenty original advertisements for Philadelphia Blended Whisky by Frank Reilly, as well as by Simon Greco, James Bingham, and Edward Everett Henry.