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The Hamm's Beer bear was a cartoon mascot used in television production and print advertisements for Hamm's beer. Typically, the bear would dance around in a pastoral setting while the "Land of sky blue waters" jingle was sung in the background. Its name (never mentioned in the commercials) is Sascha, after the wife of the founder of the company.
The Hamm's Beer bear was created by Patrick DesJarlait, an Ojibwa, in 1952 for an advertising campaign produced by the Campbell-Mithun advertising agency. For a period, a real bear named Sascha trained by Earl Hammond appeared in commercials as well.
The idea came from Cleo Hoval, an account person with Campbell-Mithun, who then asked Ray Tollefson to try drawing a bear that he might like after many others had tried. Cleo liked the bear that Ray drew. Ray drew many scenes and situations for Hamm's advertising and ultimately was asked to create a book on "How to draw the Hamm's Bear" since so many artists would need to draw the Hamm's Bear due to demand. Ray created the book and later he went on to create the little flame girl for Minnegasco and Albert & Stanley for Grain Belt Beer.
The Hamm's Beer bear was featured on endless array of signs, glassware, and merchandise such as clocks, ceramic miniatures, and ashtrays. It was so well-known and identified with Minnesota that the St. Paul Pioneer Press named the bear as a runner-up on its list of "150 Influential Minnesotans of the Past 150 Years" in 2000. By that time, however, parent Miller Brewing had discontinued it over concerns it might be interpreted as marketing beer to children; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco had recently been forced to discontinue its Joe Camel character for similar reasons.
The Hamm's Bear is immortalized in David Frizzell's "I'm Gonna Hire a Wino" whose lyrics include "When the Hamm's Bear says its closing time, you won't have far to crawl."
In 2002, to commemorate the bear's 50th anniversary, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based group of Hamm's memorabilia collectors called the Hamm's Club proposed erecting a six-foot granite statue of the bear. The monument would stand near a waterfall named for William Hamm, a former company president, in Como Park, and would not mention the word "beer," but the City Council declined the offer in 2003, in part because the original location which was near a playground. The statue was placed on the 7th Street Mall in September 2005.
Desjarlait went on to become a successful artist and is well known for his striking use of watercolors depicting Ojibway life in his ancestral home of Red Lake, Minnesota. Desjarlait's family still reside in Red Lake and he has one daughter, Patricia, living in Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico.