Historic Beer Birthday: John Welde

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Today is the birthday of John Welde (March 2, 1839-August 2, 1901). He was born in Baden, Germany and came to Philadelphia in 1856, when he was seventeen. In 1884, he founded a brewery in Philadelphia, and the following year a business parter, John Thomas, joined the business, and they called it Welde & Thomas, later adding “Brewing Company” to the name. In 1904, it was consolidated with several other breweries into the Consumers Brewers Co., which remained in business until closed by prohibition in 1920. The brewery reopened after repeal in 1933 as the Trainer Brewing Co., but only lasted one year.

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Here’s a biography of Welde from the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetary:

In 1884, John Welde, a German immigrant, established a brewery in Philadelphia on the corner of Broad and Christian Streets. A year later, he formed a partnership with John Thomas, a Philadelphia native, who had been a partner in another brewery. Together they created Welde and Thomas, a brewing firm that was later reorganized into the Welde and Thomas Brewing Company. They moved to a new location and modernized the facility with innovative equipment, growing the brewing capacity of the plant to 50,000 barrels per year. In March 1897, Welde and Thomas, along with five other breweries were consolidated under the title of the Consumer’s Brewing Company. The combined breweries were able to produce approximately 300,000 barrels a year.

John Welde was married and had at least one son, Frederick, both of whom predeceased him. John died in Philadelphia in 1901 and is buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Beer and brewing have held an important place in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia history. The first brewery in the City was erected in 1683. William Penn constructed a brew house on his Pennsbury Manor estate in Bucks County. In the 18th century, the drink of preference in most taverns was beer or ale. By 1793, Philadelphia was producing more beer than all the other seaports in the country. The first steam engine was installed in Francis Perot’s brewery in 1819. This was the height of technology and the first time an engine was used to produce beer. Lager beer was first introduced in 1840 by Philadelphia brewer John Wagner. At the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876, the United States Brewers’ Association constructed the Brewers’ Building to showcase all aspects of brewing. At one time, there were more than 100 breweries operating in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas.

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This biography was printed in the “The Columbian Exposition and World’s Fair Illustrated,” from 1893:

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This description is from an Advertising Print for Welde and Thomas Brewing Co., created around 1895, and now in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

This colorful framed print, an ad for the Welde and Thomas Brewing Company, of Philadelphia, also commemorates the 1895 America’s Cup race between the American yacht Defender and the British Valkyrie III. Imagery of the yacht race dominates the print and the American vessel, the ultimate victor in the match, holds primacy of place. Defender’s full sails provide a dramatic canvas for the names of two of the company’s products: Penn and Sanitas Beers. These brands, along with Quaker, were among those brewed by Welde and Thomas.

Three detailed insets border the print. One shows “Penn’s Brewery of 1682” in Pennsbury, Buck’s County; another shows the Welde and Thomas buildings at Juniper and Fitzwater Streets in Philadelphia; and the third is an image of William Penn holding a bottle of beer. The ad deftly aligns Welde and Thomas beer to icons of American success: the very founding of Philadelphia and its early embrace of brewing as well as an American yacht’s triumphant defense of the America’s Cup.

German immigrant John Welde established a brewery in Philadelphia in 1884, forming a partnership with Philadelphia businessman John Thomas the following year. In 1886, they moved to the Juniper and Fitzwater Streets location and invested in new equipment, increasing their capacity dramatically. In 1897, Welde and Thomas consolidated operations with five other breweries, organizing under the name Consumer’s Brewing Company. Thomas died in 1899 and Welde in 1901.

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