Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Theurer

Schoenhofen
Today is the birthday of Joseph Theurer (May 24, 1852-May 14, 1912). Born in Philadelphia of German descent, who became a well-known brewer in both his native Pennsylvania and Illinois. After he married Emma Schoehofen, he became VP of his father-in-law’s Chicago brewery, the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company in 1880. After Peter passed away in 1893, Theurer became president and remained at the helm until his own death in 1912.

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Here’s a biography from Find a Grave:

Joseph Theurer, who was of German descent, was born in Philadelphia in 1852. He became one of the most knowledgeable brewers of his day. He served as Treasurer of the Illinois State Brewers Association from 1898 to 1911 and he held title of President of the United States Brewing Association from 1903 to 1905.

Joseph arrived in Chicago in the Fall of 1869 and worked as an apprentice to brewers Adam Baierle and K.G. Schmidt. In 1871, he had been working at the Huck Brewery for less than a week when the brewery was destroyed in The Great Chicago Fire.

So he returned to Philadelphia for a year to work at the brewery of Bergdoll & Psotta. And then headed back to Chicago in 1872 to work at Bartholomae & Leicht brewery until 1874. He was also employed for one season at the Clybourn Avenue Malthouse of F. Wacker & Co. before returning to Philadelphia until his marriage to Peter Schoenhofen’s daughter, Emma Schoehofen, in 1880.

Upon his marriage to Emma, he became Vice President of Schoenhofen Brewing Company in Chicago until his father in law Peter’s death in 1893. Joseph took over as President of Schoenhofen Brewing from 1893 until 1911.

In 1896, Joseph commissioned what is now known as the Theurer-Wrigley Mansion. The Mansion, built in the late Italian Renaissance style, was designed by Richard Schmidt and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The 20,000+ square foot mansion features 11 bedrooms and 6 baths. Furnished with nearly all Tiffany light fixtures, many have been removed by previous owners or sold. An original Tiffany stained glass window from the Mansion is currently on display at the Chicago History Museum. Recent reports show the Mansion being listed for 9.5 million dollars as a foreclosure in 2011, but it has since been purchased and is currently occupied by a single owner.

On May 14, 1912 Joseph died from pneumonia and was laid to rest along with Peter Schoenhofen in the magnificent Egyptian revival style tomb in Graceland Cemetery. Services were conducted on May 17th in front of the tomb and conducted in both English and German. Attendees included members of the Illinois and Cook County Brewers Associations as well as a large number of charitable organizations, family and close friends.

Joseph was survived by his widow Emma, two sons, Peter S. and Joseph Jr., and two daughters Miss Margareta Theurer and Mrs. Marie (Richard) Ostenrieder.

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The Encyclopedia of Chicago has a concise history of the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co.:

Peter Schoenhofen, a Prussian immigrant, was in Chicago working in the brewing trade by the 1850s. In 1861, he started a partnership with Matheus Gottfried; they were soon operating a brewery at Canalport Avenue and 18th Street where, during the early 1860s, they made about 600 barrels of lager beer a year. In 1867, Schoenhofen bought out his partner, and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co. By 1868, annual output had increased to about 10,000 barrels. During the 1890s, when the business was owned by the City Contract Co. of London, England, annual output reached 180,000 barrels. Around 1900, the Schoenhofen family regained control of the company, which employed about 500 people at its brewery on West 12th Street by 1910. During this time, the company was also known as the National Brewing Co. The company’s “Edelweiss” brand of beer was a big seller. Operations shut down during Prohibition, but by 1933, after the national ban on alcohol production was lifted, the company was back in business as the Schoenhofen-Edelweiss Co. After being purchased by the Atlas Brewing Co. in the late 1940s, Schoenhofen became part of Dewery’s Ltd. of South Bend, Indiana, in 1951, and thereafter assumed the Dewery’s name. By the beginning of the 1970s, there was nothing left of its Chicago operations, although Dewery’s reintroduced the famous Edelweiss brand in 1972 after nearly a decade-long hiatus.

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Today, the land where the brewery was located is known as the Schoenhofen Brewery Historic District and to see earlier photos of that area, Forgotten Chicago has a short history, with lots of pictures.

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