Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Seelinger

Today is the birthday of Joseph Seelinger (June 23, 1863-October 17, 1939). He was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph F. Seelinger, who owned the Erie City Brewery for a time. Originally founded in 1861 by George Frey, Seelinger bought in 1870, renamed it the Joseph F. Seelinger Brewery in 1872, but closed it for good the same year, and relocated to Norfolk, Virginia and opened the Onyx Saloon.


This short obit is from Find-a-Grave:

Joseph Seelinger aged 76, operator of one of Norfolk’s Bygone popular restaurants, and who entertained such prominent personages as President Grover Cleveland, when the latter came to Norfolk on duck hunting trips, died yesterday afternoon at 4:30 at his residence, 318 Mowbray Arch.

Mr. Seelinger came to Norfolk in his early life from Erie Penn. and became widely know throughout the city by the fastidious diners with whom cost was not a factor. In the gay days of Norfolk his place was the center of fashionable gatherings, especially around the holiday seasons.

Mr Seelinger was an active member of Norfolk Lodge No. 38, BPOE. He was the son of F Joseph and Elizabeth Stemmer Seelinger, he is survived by his sons Sherman E and Joseph P Seelinger and two daughters Mrs. C J Aydlette and Mrs C C Dixon.


The family never looked back and found success with the restaurant saloon in Virginia. There’s also an entertaining account of the time Saloon Owner “Joe” Went Gunning with Grover Cleveland. That may be Seelinger in the trade card below, but nobody seems to be able to confirm it.



    • Tom Seelinger says

      Teresa, I believe your great grandad (the Joseph Seelinger of Norfolk, VA) was my great grandad’s brother (whose name was John and died in Richmond at age 26).

      I believe that his father, F. Joseph Seelinger mentioned in the article, was Franciscus Josephus Seelinger of Rulzheim, Germany.

      If you have also traced your ancestry to that level, I’d much appreciate your letting me know if you can either confirm or otherwise inform me of more accurate information ASAP as I happen to be travelling to Germany in a few days.

      Thanks for any help you can give,

      Tom Seelinger

  1. Laura says

    My grandfather was Harry Oliver seelinger, norfolk va. His father, my great grandfather, was Joseph p seelinger. F. Joseph seelinger, was my great great grandfather. F Joseph and Joseph p, father and son, both ran the onyx and back bay hunting lodge. My grandfather Harry used to tell me tales of his father and grandfather being in the restaurant business. My grandmother told me wonderful stories of Joseph f and Josephine seelinger, as well as mary, Paige and Jack seelinger. President grooved Cleveland was in fact a dear friend and frequent visitor of both the onyx and the hunting lodge. The onyx had a few guest rooms and that is where the president stayed. Josephine seelinger have my grandmother a bedspreadand lace from the onyx when it closed from the room the president slept in, she believed. It is treasured in our family and the lace has been used under both my mother’s and my wedding cakes. We have a few photos of Josephine and Joseph p seelinger and all their children and we believe photos of the prior generation but no names but the family resemblance is too strong in eyes, we call it the seelinger eyes. The name John and sherman are very familiar yo us and on our family tree but few facts known. If you can shed light, please advise. Thank you.

  2. Laura says

    I believe Teresa in this comment string is mary seelinger’s granddaughter, great granddaughter of joseph p and josephine seelinger, great great granddaughter of f joseph seelinger. We are directly related. We have previosly been in contact and lost touch. Both my mother and I would love to hear from her again and meet, as we live within easy distance of each other.

  3. Laura says

    Correction to my reference to my great great grandfather’s name as ‘f joseph seelinger’. I only know him as Joseph seelinger whos son was Joseph p seelinger and together they ran the onyx and hunting lodge and all other details I gave in above comment are correct. Forgive typing-getting used to this new key pad. From the onyx we have lace and a bedspread that josephine said was from room Cleveland stayed in when they closed it. There is little if anything stated about Joseph p and his father. Joseph being in business together and running the onyx etc together but it is a fact that Joseph p was in business together and that is the family business my grandfather’s father made his money in. Josephine and Joseph p seelinger also lived in fairly grand style until the stock market crash, difficult financial times and closing of the oynx. Again 4 kids: Paige, Jack, Mary and Harry Oliver-my dear grandfather and best buddy. This family was very dear and best friends with the Oliver family, of Oliver funeral homes norfolk va and honored in my grandfather’s middle name.

  4. Laura says

    I was named for my grandfather Harry’s grandmother, Laura-my great great grandmother-“Joseph’s” wife. Gotta love family names and references and history, etc. Do you ever wonder what our dearly departed relatives would think about all this modern day researching of them??? Lesson to us, document ourselves!

    Btw-anyone ever thought about a Seelinger reunion? If you’re a seelinger, with roots in norfolk va, chances are we are all related. Could be very cool!

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