Historic Beer Birthday: Albert Braun

Today is the birthday of Albert Braun (February 27, 1863-February 27, 1895). He was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, and emigrated to the U.S. when he was 25, in 1888. He worked at several breweries, including Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, before settling in Seattle in 1889. The following year he opened the Albert Braun Brewing Association. It was in business only un 1893, when it merged with several other local breweries to become part of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company.

The only photograph I could find of Braun is in the group shot, which in ran in a nostalgia piece in the newspaper, in 1934. Braun is apparently seated at the far left.

This biography is from “An Illustrated History of the State of Washington, by Rev. H.K. Hines, published in 1893:

ALBERT BRAUN, vice-president of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company was born at Dusseldorf, on the Rhine, Germany, in February, 1863. He was educated in the schools of Germany and then traveled quite extensively through the European countries. His business career began under the direction of his father, who was an extensive manufacturer of preserved fruits, vegetables, meats and fancy canned goods, and was continued in the same industry, in partnership with his brother at Mainz, on the Rhine.

In 1888 Mr. Braun sold his interest and came to the United States and, upon the advice of Adolphus Busch, president of the Anheuser- Busch Association, of St. Louis, Missouri, he entered the brewery of Peter Doelger, of New York, and learned the practical workings of the business, completing his instruction in the details at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis.

In 1889 Mr. Braun made a trip through the Northwest, and, after a short visit in Seattle, he was so favorably impressed with the people and location of the city that he decided upon the city as a location for future settlement. He then returned to St. Louis and continued his studies of the brewery business up to March 1, 1890, when he again visited Seattle and at once engaged in the organization of the Albert Braun Brewing Association, which was incorporated with a capital of $250,000, he being duly elected president and general manager. The brewery was erected six miles south of Seattle, very complete in all its appointments, with a capacity of 70,000 barrels per year, the Product finding a ready market in Washington, region, Idaho and British Columbia. Continuing up to 1893, the Albert Braun Brewing Association was consolidated with the Bay View Brewing Company and the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company, and incorporated as the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company, with capital stock of $1,000,000. The affairs of the new association were conducted by the managers of the old breweries, the official corps being: Andrew Hemrich, President; Albert Braun, Vice-President; Edward F. Sweeney, Secretary; and Fred Kirschner, Treasurer.

The company expects to develop brewing and malting into one of the leading interests of the city of Seattle, and as their product has competed successfully with the best Eastern brands there is little doubt of an auspicious future.

Mr. Braun is also interested in various other enterprises of the city and he has perfect faith and confidence in the future of Seattle and the Sound districts.

Dorpat Albert Braun Brewery THEN

According to Brewing in Seattle, by Kurt Stream, Braun was named Vice-President of Seattle Brewing and Malting. Here’s how it went down:



The Seattle Times also has a story about what happened to Braun’s brewery:

ALBERT BRAUN arrived from Iowa soon after Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Within a year and a half, the young German immigrant, with financial help from local and Midwestern investors, built a brewery about 2 miles south of Georgetown.

The serpentine Duwamish River is hidden behind the brewery. Directly across the river, on its west side and also hidden, was the neighboring community of South Park. Braun’s name is emblazoned on the brewery’s east facade, and so it was best read from the ridge of Beacon Hill and from the trains on the railway tracks below.

The brewing began here December 1890, and the brewery’s primary brands, Braun’s Beer, Columbia Beer and Standard Beer, reached their markets in March 1891. The 1893 Sanborn fire insurance map for Seattle includes a footprint of the plant that is faithful to this undated photograph. The map’s legend notes that the buildings were “substantial, painted in and outside” with “electric lights and lanterns” and that a “watchman lives on the premises.” It also reveals, surprisingly, that the brewery was “not in operation” since July of that year. What happened?

The economic panic of 1893 closed many businesses and inspired a few partnerships, too. Braun’s principal shareholders partnered his plant with two other big beer producers, the Claussen Sweeney and Bay Views breweries, to form the Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. Braun’s landmark was then designated “Albert Braun’s Branch.”

Of the three partnering breweries, this was the most remote, and it was largely for that reason, it seems, that it was soon closed. The upset Braun soon resigned; sold most of his interest in the partnership; and relocated to Rock Island, Ill. There, he started work on a new brewery and fell in love, but with tragic results: Early in 1895, Braun committed suicide, reportedly “over a love affair.”

For six years after its closing, the tidy Braun brewery beside the Duwamish River stood like a museum to brewing, but without tours. Practically all the machinery was intact, from its kettles to its ice plant, until the early morning of Sept. 30, 1899. On that day, The Seattle Times reported, “the nighthawks who were just making their way home and the milkmen, butchers and other early risers were certain that the City of Tacoma was surely being burned down.” They were mistaken. It was Braun’s brewery that was reduced to smoldering embers. The plant’s watchman had failed that night to engage the sprinkler system connected to the tank at the top of the five-story brewery.

There is at least a hint that the brewery grounds were put to good use following the fire. The Times, on Aug. 11, 1900, reported that the teachers of the South Park Methodist Episcopalian Sunday school took their classes “out for a holiday on the banks of the beautiful Duwamish River, (and for) a pleasant ride over the river to the Albert Braun picnic grounds.”


Gary Flynn filled in the gaps about what happened to Flynn after 1893, on his page on Braun at his terrific Brewery Gems:

Albert Braun took his own life, with a gun shot to the heart, on February 27, 1895, at the young age of 32. While still holding a significant number of Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. shares, he was not considered well-to-do in the matter of ready cash. Additionally, Braun had left Seattle for Illinois, after millionair brewer, Otto Huber, indicated that he was interested in partnering with Braun in the purchase of the LaSalle Brewing Co. For what ever reason Huber went back on his promise, leaving Braun with no immediate prospects and in a state of despair.

Braun’s estate was $25,000, which would be approximately $700,000 today.

The have more about the Albert Braun Brewery, too.


Historic Beer Birthday: Gabriel Sedlmayr II

Today is the birthday of Gabriel Sedlmayr II, sometimes referred to as Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger (February 26, 1811-October 1, 1891). He was, of course, the son of Gabriel Sedlmayr the Elder, who acquired the Spaten brewery in 1807, when “at the time was the smallest brewery in Munich.” When his father died in 1839, the brewery passed to Gabriel and his brother Joseph, and the two ran the brewery for three years, until Joseph bowed out to start his own brewery, and Gabriel became the sole owner of the Spaten brewery. By 1867, it became the largest brewery in Munich, a position it held until the 1890s. In 1874, Sedlmayr retired, and three of his four sons, Johann, Carl and Anton, began running the company. During his tenure at Spaten, he played a major role in the development of lager fermentation.


Here’s a short biography from the Entrepreneur Wiki:

Gabriel Sedlmayr II was born in Munich on February 26, 1811. He is often called Gabriel Sedlmayr the Younger. While in high school, he was given private lessons by Professor Johann Baptist Hermann in chemistry and physics. He graduated from high school and then began training in a brewery.

He also traveled to European to visit and learn from different breweries, as well as local scientists. In Vienna he attended lectures at the Polytechnic of Vienna and in Berlin he attended chemistry lectures at the University of Berlin. He then took over his father’s brewery with help from his brother.


In 1842, when Joseph, his brother, left the business, he became the sole owner of the brewery. In 1866 he then opened up the Bavaroise Brasserie in Paris. Then he helped at and then eventually took over the Spanenbrau Brewery. He is responsible for developing a dark lager called Dunkel at his Spaten Brewery. He was known for using science, microbiology, and cultivation to develop new beers. In 1874, he passed his business to his sons Johann, Carl, and Anton because of his poor health. In 1881 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the City if Munich and then on October 1, 1891 he died.


This is his entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Beer, written by Ian Horsey:

Sedlmayr, Gabriel the Younger

was a brewer who took over the reins of the Spaten Brewery of Munich, with his brother Josef, upon the death of his father, Gabriel Sedlmayr the Elder, in 1839. The two brothers inherited their father’s innovative zeal and, over the next few years, modernized the brewery at the same pace as their father had done before them. In 1844, Spaten became the first brewery outside England to adopt steam power. A year later, Gabriel bought out his brother and became the sole proprietor of Spaten, which would continue to be a center of brewing innovation. Already during his student days, Gabriel had been an innovator. As part of the requirement for his Master Diploma, young Gabriel embarked upon an extensive grand tour of noted European brewing centers in the early 1830s. On one of his trips, he met fellow brewer Anton Dreher, whose mother owned a small brewery in Klein-Schwechat, just outside Vienna. The meeting, in 1832, marked the beginning of a life-long friendship and business association. The two travelers visited Great Britain in 1833 to learn more about fermentation—and engaged in what can only be described as a classic case of industrial espionage. By using a specially modified hollow walking cane, they furtively gathered wort and beer samples during their brewery visits und subsequently analyzed them in their hotel. They put the data thus collected to good use after they had returned home by developing two new malts and two new beer styles: Dreher came up with Vienna malt and Vienna lager; Sedlmayr invented Munich malt and märzen beer.


In those days it was difficult to brew lagers in the summer; the hot central European climate was inhospitable to brewing in general and lager brewing in particular. Brewers used ice blocks cut from frozen lakes and ponds in the winter and stored them underground for use as coolant in the summer. This was costly and inefficient. So Sedlmayr looked around for a technological solution, which he found in the work of a young Munich engineering professor, Carl Linde. Linde had been tinkering with refrigeration machines, and in 1873, Sedlmayr persuaded Linde to install one of his experimental devices in the Spaten fermentation and lagering cellars. This was, as best as anybody knows, the first time that mechanical refrigeration had been used in a brewery, and Spaten was from then on uniquely equipped to brew bottom-fermented beer reliably year-round. With this new technology in place, Spaten had become the largest of the Munich breweries. Spaten’s superb lager-making ability allowed it to experiment with ever more delicate brews, especially one that could compete with the rising popularity of the Bohemian pilsner from just east of the Bavarian border. The result was the introduction, in 1894, of a straw blond beer, the delicate lager that was to become the signature brew for Bavarian beer garden and beer hall lagers for the next century, Helles.



Historic Beer Birthday: Georg Schneider II

Today is the birthday of Georg Schneider II (February 24, 1846-1890) who co-founded G. Schneider & Son along with his father Georg Schneider I in 1872. His dad leased the royal “Weisse Brauhuas’ Hofbräuhaus in Munich in 1855 and purchased from King Ludwig II the right to brew wheat beer in 1872. Georg II, along with his father acquired the so-called Maderbräu Im Tal 10″ in 1872.


Both he and his father passed away in 1890, and his son, Georg III, took over the brewery even though he was barely 20 at the time, and today George VI still owns and runs the brewery.


The “Weisses Bräuhaus” in Munich, Tal (or Thal) is the founding place of their brewery. It’s the place where Georg Schneider I brewed his first Schneider Weisse Original in 1872.


“In 1927 the owners, who to this day are descendants of Georg Schneider I, expanded their brewing operations into Kelheim and Straubing. After the breweries in Munich were destroyed in 1944 by aerial bombardment by the Allies of World War II, the entire production was relocated to Kelheim.”


Historic Beer Birthday: Gottlieb Brekle

Today is the birthday of Gottlieb Brekle (February 23, 1821-1888). He was born somewhere in Germany, most likely Württemberg, though possibly Ludwigsburg or Hamburg, arriving in America on July 31, 1852, along with his wife Marie and young son Frederick. In 1871, according to Anchor, “Brekle bought an old beer-and-billiards saloon on Pacific Street near Russian Hill for $3,500, transforming it into the American brewery that, twenty-five years later, would be renamed Anchor” when it it was bought by “German brewer Ernst F. Baruth and his son-in-law, Otto Schinkel, Jr.” Given how long ago Brekle was born, not to mention all of the records lost due to the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, little is known about Brekle’s life, and I don’t know of any pictures of him. Even the spelling of his name seems uncertain, with records existing where it’s spelled Breckle, Breckel, and Breckels, too, making trying to find information a lot harder.


After Gottlieb, or George, as he took calling himself later, died, his son Frederick took over the business. Since we know the brewery was sold in 1896, we can be pretty sure Gottlieb died before then, but it could have been in 1888, or some other year, nobody seems sure. Anchor wrote on their blog, in a piece entitled Under the Crown: A Brewery is Born, which I assume was written by Anchor’s historian Dave Burkhart (who I consider a friend) that Gottlieb Brekle’s naturalization papers indicate he became a citizen in 1854, and they display a small image of those papers.


But as much as it pains me, I’m not sure that’s right. Look at the paper blown up a bit, so it’s a little easier to read.


From what I can make out, he was a subject of the King of Württemberg on September 21, 1861, but became a U.S. citizen August 5, 1854, which I don’t quite understand, but then some of language is hard to read. But the name on that document appears to be “Carl Gottlieb Breckles,” so I’m wondering if it may be a different person?


I found this document on Ancestory.com, which is a voter “Register 7th Precinct, 4th Ward, San Francisco County, 1880.” Line 34, the third from the bottom, lists a Gottlieb Brekle, age 59 (which would make his birth year 1821 if he was 59 in 1880). It also lists his occupation as “Brewer” and his address as “1431 Pacific,” in San Francisco. But more telling is that last column, which lists the date he was naturalized. And for Gottlieb, what’s listed is August 4, 1879. And more confirmation is in the line below, where it lists a Frederick Brekle, also listed as a “Brewer” and living at the same address. Since we know that was his son’s name, it seems pretty clear that this document is referring to our Gottlieb Brekle.

The Anchor Brewery in the early 1900s.

Sadly, there isn’t much more known, though Anchor also has some more information they found in researching newspapers at the time.

Fortunately for researchers of San Francisco history, most of its early newspapers survived. In early 1874, San Francisco’s largest brewery—the Philadelphia Brewery—took out an ad in an SF paper to brag that it had sold more beer than any of SF’s other 33 breweries the previous year. Anchor, then called the Golden City Brewery, ranked 29th out of 34, with sales of just 585 barrels, the equivalent of about 8,000 cases of beer. If that seems like a lot of beer, our brewery’s sales in 1873 were just .33% (not 33%, not 3.3%, but .33% or 33/100 of 1%!) of total sales in barrels by all SF breweries!

In 2011, Anchor Brewing released a beer named after their first brewmaster, Brekle’s Brown.


And here’s a short video Anchor released at the time.

Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Zorn

Today is the birthday of Philip Lewis Zorn (February 21, 1837-January 4, 1912). Zorn was born in Wűrzburg, Bavaria, and learned brewing from his father, how was a brewer in Germany. In 1855, when he was eighteen, he emigrated to the U.S., and initially settled in Illinois, where he worked in breweries in Blue Island, Illinois. In 1871, he moved to Michigan City, Indiana and opened the Philip Zorn Brewery. Twenty years later, he incorporated it as the Ph. Zorn Brewing Co. After prohibition, his sons Robert and Charles, who had worked for the brewery beginning as young men, reopened the brewery as the Zorn Brewing Co. Inc., but it in 1935 it became known as the Dunes Brewery, before closing for good in 1938. He was also a city councilman and a co-founder of Citizens Bank of Michigan City.


This account is from the Indiana Bicentennial:

Philip Zorn Jr. was the son of a brewer in Wűrzburg, Bavaria who immigrated at the age of 18. He worked at a brewery in Illinois from 1855 until he started his own in Michigan City. By 1880 he was making 3,000 bbls annually. He became a prosperous man, a city councilman and the founder of the Citizens Bank of Michigan City.

The company passed to Philip’s sons Robert and Charles who built a new brewhouse in 1903 and reached almost 15,000 bbls by the time of Prohibition. During the dry years they made the Zoro brand of soda pop. After Prohibition they changed the name to Dunes Brewing, possibly because of a court action against Zorn in 1935 for selling beer to unlicensed companies. They made Grain State, Golden Grain and Pilsenzorn brands.

Zorn beers.



And this excerpt is from “Hoosier Beer: Tapping into Indiana Brewing History,” by Bob Ostrander and Derrick Morris:



Historic Beer Birthday: August Schell

Today is the birthday of August Schell (February 16, 1828-September 20, 1891). He was born in Durbach, Germany, in the Black Forest, but when he was twenty booked passage to New Orleans. He then made his way to Cincinnati, where he married, and when he was 28, in 1856, he moved his family to New Ulm, Minnesota. In 1860, Schell formed a partnership with brewer Jacob Bernhardt, and they founded the August Schell Brewing Co. Schell’s Brewery is still in business today, and is still owned by the family who started it. “It is the second oldest family-owned brewery in America (after D. G. Yuengling & Son) and became the oldest and largest brewery in Minnesota when the company bought the Grain Belt rights in 2002.”


Here’s a biography from Find-a-Grave, which they state was taken “from the Schells Brewery site,” but it must have been from a previous version of the company website:

August Schell was born in 1828 in Durbach, Germany, located in the heart of the famous German “Schwarzwald,” otherwise known as the Black Forest region. August received an early education as a machinist/engineer but after a short time, became intrigued by the opportunities overseas. In 1848, August bid farewell to his mother and father, leaving his homeland in search of success in the United States.

August arrived in New Orleans and continued up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Cincinnati where he worked as a machinist in a locomotive factory. It was here that he met the love of his life, Theresa Hermann. Theresa, also a German immigrant, and August wed in 1853.

In 1856, August, Theresa and their two baby daughters headed to Minnesota along with a group of fellow Germans known as the Cincinnati Turner Society. The Turner Society had heard from a group of German settlers in Southern Minnesota that their settlement was struggling to succeed. The two groups merged and formed the town of New Ulm.

Once in New Ulm, August found a job as a machinist in a flour mill. But as the years passed, August realized that good German beer was difficult to find in such a small, rural area. In the fall of 1860, August partnered up with Jacob Bernhardt, a former brewmaster at the Benzberg Brewery in St. Paul, MN (what today was known as the Minnesota Brewing Company). They erected a small brewery just two miles from town along the banks of the Cottonwood River. During their first year of operation they produced 200 barrels of beer, a very small amount based on today’s standards.

The location of the brewery was ideal. Aside from the beauty of its natural surroundings (August was especially fond of his hikes into the woods), the brewery was located next to an artesian spring, providing exceptionally pure water for brewing. Its proximity to the Cottonwood River gave the brewery a means of transporting beer and supplies, and the river also became essential to the refrigeration process. Each winter, large blocks of ice would be harvested and hauled up the hill where they would be stored in underground caves. The ice would keep the caves cool throughout the spring and early summer in order to allow proper aging and fermentation of the beer.

But along with the rewards also came the risks. New Ulm, as many settlers back then realized, was located in the heart of Dakota Indian country. In the early days of the brewery, many of the Dakota Sioux Tribe visited the brewery where Mrs. Schell often provided them with food. This goodwill proved to be a blessing for the brewery. In 1862, southern Minnesota was the focal point of the “Sioux Uprising,” otherwise known as the “Dakota Conflict.” While buildings were burned and ransacked in New Ulm and other towns in the region, the brewery remained untouched due to the kindness of the Schell family.

In 1866, Jacob Bernhardt became ill and decided to sell his share of the brewery. In order to command as high a price as possible August agreed to place the entire brewery up for sale to the highest bidder. August’s bid of $12,000 won out and he became the sole owner of the business.

The early years were good for the Schell family. August and Theresa raised six children: two sons; Adolph and Otto; and four daughters; Emma, Emelia, Anna and Augusta. The brewery flourished as additions were built to the existing brewery, many of which continue to grace the brewery grounds, a testament to the enduring legacy of Schell.

At the age of 50, August became stricken with severe arthritis which greatly affected his activities within the brewery. While still maintaining an executive role with the brewery, August handed over the management responsibilities to his eldest son Adolph and the brewing responsibilities to his youngest son Otto, who studied brewing in Germany. Soon after, Adolph moved his family to California leaving Otto and his brother-in-law George Marti to run the brewery.

In 1885, August and Theresa built the exquisite Schell Mansion on the brewery grounds, complete with formal gardens and deer park, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. As August’s arthritis worsened, he would enjoy spending his days in the solitude of the gardens watching the constant hum and activity at the brewery.

August died on September 20, 1891 at the age of 63, leaving the brewery to Theresa with Otto as manager. While the brewery mourned the loss of its founder, Otto became its driving force. In 1902 the brewery was incorporated and Otto was elected president, his mother Theresa was elected vice-president, and his brother-in-law George became secretary-treasurer.


This is the history of the brewery that is currently on the company website:

The 1860’s

Once in New Ulm, August found a job as a machinist in a flour mill. But as the years passed, August realized that good German beer was difficult to find in such a small, rural area. In the fall of 1860, August partnered up with Jacob Bernhardt, a former brewmaster at the Benzberg Brewery in St. Paul, MN (what today was known as the Minnesota Brewing Company). They erected a small brewery just two miles from town along the banks of the Cottonwood River. During their first year of operation they produced 200 barrels of beer, a very small amount based on today’s standards.

The location of the brewery was ideal. Aside from the beauty of its natural surroundings (August was especially fond of his hikes into the woods), the brewery was located next to an artesian spring, providing exceptionally pure water for brewing. Its proximity to the Cottonwood River gave the brewery a means of transporting beer and supplies, and the river also became essential to the refrigeration process. Each winter, large blocks of ice would be harvested and hauled up the hill where they would be stored in underground caves. The ice would keep the caves cool throughout the spring and early summer in order to allow proper aging and fermentation of the beer.

But along with the rewards also came the risks. New Ulm, as many settlers back then realized, was located in the heart of Dakota Indian country. In the early days of the brewery, many of the Dakota Sioux Tribe visited the brewery where Mrs. Schell often provided them with food. This goodwill proved to be a blessing for the brewery. In 1862, southern Minnesota was the focal point of the “Sioux Uprising,” otherwise known as the “Dakota Conflict.” While buildings were burned and ransacked in New Ulm and other towns in the region, the brewery remained untouched due to the kindness of the Schell family.

The original Schell brewery.

The 1870’s

In 1866, Jacob Bernhardt became ill and decided to sell his share of the brewery. In order to command as high a price as possible August agreed to place the entire brewery up for sale to the highest bidder. August’s bid of $12,000 won out and he became the sole owner of the business.
The early years were good for the Schell family. August and Theresa raised six children: two sons; Adolph and Otto; and four daughters; Emma, Emelia, Anna and Augusta. The brewery flourished as additions were built to the existing brewery, many of which continue to grace the brewery grounds, a testament to the enduring legacy of Schell.

At the age of 50, August became stricken with severe arthritis which greatly affected his activities within the brewery. While still maintaining an executive role with the brewery, August handed over the management responsibilities to his eldest son Adolph and the brewing responsibilities to his youngest son Otto, who studied brewing in Germany. Soon after, Adolph moved his family to California leaving Otto and his brother-in-law George Marti to run the brewery.

Employees of the brewery around 1866.

The 1880’s

In 1885, August and Theresa built the exquisite Schell Mansion on the brewery grounds, complete with formal gardens and deer park, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. As August’s arthritis worsened, he would enjoy spending his days in the solitude of the gardens watching the constant hum and activity at the brewery.

August died on September 20, 1891 at the age of 63, leaving the brewery to Theresa with Otto as manager. While the brewery mourned the loss of its founder, Otto became its driving force. In 1902 the brewery was incorporated and Otto was elected president, his mother Theresa was elected vice-president, and his brother-in-law George became secretary-treasurer.

The Schell brewery seen from a distance.

And here’s an even more thorough biography from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:


The history of August Schell (born February 15, 1828, in Durbach, Grand Duchy of Baden; died September 20, 1891, in New Ulm, Minnesota) and the brewery that he founded in 1860 highlight several key aspects of German-American business and entrepreneurship in the nineteenth century. First, it highlights the role of the Turnverein and other non-religious societies as a means of networking and organizing co-ethnic immigrants (as well as a source of potential friction within the community). Secondly, August Schell’s experiences in New Ulm, Minnesota, highlight the development of German-American entrepreneurship in small town, rural, and frontier societies. Although many German-Americans founded businesses in urban settings, others found their avenues of opportunity in the more ethnically and linguistically homogeneous communities of rural America. The rural, frontier setting of New Ulm presented Schell with different challenges than he had faced in Cincinnati, including the Dakota Uprising of 1861, drought, and tornadoes. The tight-knit community provided for a stable family network, as well as a loyal and supportive customer base. In this context and through the work of his son, Otto Schell (1862-1911), and son-in-law, George Marti (1856-1834), the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota, was able to persist through hard times (like Prohibition) to become the second-oldest family-owned brewery in the United States (second to D.G. Yuengling and Son of Potsville, Pennsylvania).

August and his wife, Theresa.

Family, Ethnic, and Turnverein Background

August Schell was born February 15, 1828, in the town of Durbach in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Situated in the rural, southwestern corner of Baden, the community was located in the foothills at the edge of the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest. Little is known about Schell’s family in the German lands outside of family stories and histories. Schell’s father, Carl Schell, who was born in 1769, was from Kippenheimweiler, Baden, a community near Durbach. According to family accounts, Schell’s family had an artistic bent having been involved in the stained-glass industry for years. But it was through a profitable marriage dowry that Carl Schell could afford to build a four-story brick house in the center of Durbach. Carl also held the position of Oberförster (head forester) in the region of the Black Forest near Durbach. As a result, Schell grew up in a world surrounded by trees and animals. The family coat-of-arms, carved into the archway of the Schell house’s caller in Durbach, depicts a jumping buck with “C Sch” inscribed above it. A love for the outdoor beauty of the Black Forest remained with August Schell and impacted how he designed his brewery, his house, and his property in order to recapture the land of his childhood. The family coat-of-arms eventually became the symbol of Schell Brewing Company.

Relatively little is known about Schell’s activities prior to immigrating to the United States. His father, Carl, died in 1839 and sometime after this he was apprenticed as a machinist prior to his decision to immigrate to the United States. Schell family remembrances indicate that he immigrated to New Orleans in 1849 but soon left for Cincinnati because the language barrier hindered his job search. With a large and growing German-speaking population in Cincinnati, Schell quickly found work as a machinist at the Cincinnati Locomotive Works. Four years after arriving in the United States, he married Theresa Hermann (born October 16, 1829; died May 21, 1911) who had emigrated from Rottweil in the Kingdom of Württemberg in 1849. After moving to New Ulm, they had five children, including the two boys who would play a role in the operation of the family brewery, Adolph (1858-1938) and Otto (1862-1911).

Although religious organizations tended to be among the strongest institutions around which German immigrants congregated, Schell did not follow this path. Schell, like many other German emigrants in the wake of the Revolutions of 1848, turned to the local Cincinnati Turnverein, founded in 1848 as the first Turner society in the United States. Although it is not known whether Schell participated in the Revolutions of 1848, he associated with the uprising’s sympathizers and refugees. More than any other network or ethnic association, Schell’s growing involvement and eventual leadership role with this German-American Turner network would have a large impact on his career and his business decisions in Cincinnati and in New Ulm, Minnesota.

The Turnverein was a liberal, gymnastic society founded amid the Napoleonic Wars. Turners believed that their countrymen needed to become stronger and more physically fit in order to unite and defend their homeland. Under Napoleon, French forces had overwhelmed the divided German states, which had been brought within the French political orbit. Despite being opposed to the French, the Turners embraced many of the liberal, Enlightenment-based notions at the root of the French Revolution. Turners were in the front ranks of the so-called Revolutions of 1848 that swept across Europe. These revolutions were fueled by the ideologies of liberalism (e.g. a constitutional monarchy or a republic with a written constitution and an elected legislature) and nationalism (combining the many Germanic kingdoms and principalities so that all Germans would live within a united nation-state). However, despite initial successes by the Turners and other revolutionaries, the conservative monarchs eventually reasserted control and turned against the liberals.

Most of these “Forty-Eighters,” as the political refugees to the United States came to be known, retained their radically liberal philosophy and put it into action when replanting the Turnverein movement in the United States. Reflecting their close connections to Freethinker societies, the Turners emphasized that moral instruction should not come from churches but from science and history. Turners were students of the Enlightenment and rationalism. Over the next several decades, the Turner societies maintained their emphasis on physical education but also began emphasizing the strengthening of the mind. They did not trust organized religion. The majority of these transplanted Turners were not latter-day Puritans who hoped to establish a “city on the hill” and eventually return to their homeland once their countrymen had seen the light. After the Forty-Eighters immigrated to the United States, the Turners became fiercely loyal to their adopted country and focused on its improvement. They strongly advocated integration into the American political and social spheres. The Turners soon thrived in the United States and, along with other exiled liberals, became leaders in many of the German communities across the United States.

Although there is no evidence that August Schell participated in the Revolutions of 1848, it is known that he closely followed the emigrant route of other political refugees and soon settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. Whether or not he was a Turner in Germany, Schell became an early member of the Cincinnati Turnverein. The majority of the founders were Forty-Eighters, many of whom were from Württemberg (the same region that Schell’s wife had emigrated from). William Pfaender was the first speaker of the Cincinnati Turnverein and would become the key figure in the founding of New Ulm, Minnesota. Schell would follow his fellow Cincinnati Turner into the territory of Minnesota to establish a safe haven to develop German culture in a more protected American context.

Relocating to safer environs became increasingly desirable for German-Americans as nativism flourished in the early 1850s. In Cincinnati, for example, the increasing numbers of German-speaking immigrants threatened to challenge the political authority of native-born Americans and their culture. As early as 1838, German citizens unsuccessfully petitioned the Cincinnati school board to adopt a German language program in its schools. German-speaking taxpayers, proclaimed German-language newspaper editorials, were paying for a public school education that offered little benefit to their own children. Couched in terms of constitutional rights, German Americans proposed that taxes from German residents should be earmarked for the instruction of German in the public schools. The German Americans successfully elected their own representatives to advocate their causes. The eventual creation of a bilingual German-English public school system illustrates the Cincinnati Germans’ growing confidence and political awareness amid the growing nativism.

In 1855, Pfaender wrote an article for the Turnverein’s national newspaper entitled “Practical Turnerism” that called for Turners across the country to pool their resources to create a joint-stock company that would buy land on the frontier and found a city to allow Turner ideas to flourish without impediment. For ten dollars a share, each stockholder would have a lot in the new city with other land being sold to establish “…mills, factories, and other nonprofit enterprises, which would accrue to the advantage of the whole….” Gaining the support of the national Turnverein organization, the Cincinnati Turners took charge of making this dream a reality.

With funding of $100,000 (roughly $2.68 million in 2011 dollars), Pfaender bought land on the banks of the Minnesota River in south-central Minnesota Territory from the Chicago Land Verein (Chicago Land Association). The Verein had originally bought the land and had given the tiny settlement its name of New Ulm. Facing financial ruin, the Chicago Land Verein agreed to be bought out by the Cincinnati Turnverein for $6,000 (roughly $161,000 in 2011 dollars). The two groups consolidated into a new joint-stock company known as the German Land Association of Minnesota. The executive committee of this association was based in Cincinnati where the bulk of the funds were located. Even before Pfaender set out by steamboat from Cincinnati to St. Paul, Minnesota, with the main group of initial Cincinnati Turners settlers in September 1856, August Schell and a few others had already made their way to the new German-American settlement on the frontier.

By the fall of 1856, several log houses, a post office, and two shops had been built around the town square. The Turners soon formed their own Turnverein chapter with August Schell elected as inaugural vice president of the society while William Pfaender became the corresponding secretary. Within the next year, this group erected their own Turner Hall that served as a community center, theater, and a space for gymnastics. Schell also served as one of the inaugural members of the New Ulm public school board. During his term of service, the school board erected a public school where subjects were taught in English and German. Schell found himself among the core leadership group of Turners on the Minnesota frontier. In this position, he had access to people and information, and played an important decision-making role that would prove crucial to his entrepreneurial success in the first decades of his business career.


Business Development

August Schell spent his first four years in New Ulm involved in the milling industry. A viable milling industry was crucial for sustaining most any community, since flour and lumber were in universal demand. Schell’s years of service as a machinist made the industry a natural fit and an avenue of opportunity. Within a year of Schell’s arrival, the German Land Association had financed the construction of the Cincinnati Globe Mill Company. The building not only had the milling stones and other equipment necessary to process grain but was also equipped with saws, lathes, and a steam engine to run them. Though the company found it hard to recoup its costs, the mill helped make New Ulm a regional center by processing hundreds of bushels of wheat, corn, and buckwheat during its first year. However, as the Cincinnati Globe Mill looked forward to its second year of operation, the firm was struggling financially. On May 27, 1858, the Globe Mill Company increased its shares by 700 in order to raise money to cover a $4,000 (roughly $113,000 in 2011 dollars) deficit for construction costs as well as to provide money to continue operations. The mill also decided to cut its prices for lumber and the cost of cutting logs in order to increase revenues. In spite of this measure, the executive committee based in Cincinnati decided it could no longer pay the millers and machinists until the mill showed a profit. Frustration against the far removed executive committee led to protests including a mock funeral for a key member of the committee.

In August 1858, the mill was reorganized in order to continue operating and satisfy the stockholders back in Cincinnati. August Schell, along with group of fifteen other prominent settlers in New Ulm, signed articles of incorporation for a new Globe Mills Company, incorporated on August 6, 1858. According to the document, “The Business and object of the Company is to manufacture Lumber and flour. The Capital Stock of the Company is thirty seven thousand five hundred dollars, the number of shares is fifteen hundred. The Capital Stock actually paid in is two hundred and sixty dollars.” This reorganization transferred the office of operation to New Ulm with a board of directors located locally instead of in distant Cincinnati. Schell invested twenty dollars for two shares in order to be one of the stockholders signing for the new company. All but two of the stockholders noted in the document were from New Ulm with the remaining two located in Cincinnati.

Despite the new arrangement, the mill, like the German Land Company, still struggled to break even. By December 1858, the German Land Company had only $7,400 remaining (out of $100,000 that it began with) and its debts continued increasing. Realizing that the Turner’s planned community in south-central Minnesota was unsustainable, the German Land Company dissolved itself in May 1859 only two years after it was created. Before disbanding, the original stockholders ceded much of their land-holdings to the city for future schools, hospitals, and other public facilities in order to ensure that the city survived.

The Land Company formed a committee to sell the Globe Mill Company, Inc. on the open market to recoup its costs. The asking price was $6,000 (roughly $167,000 in 2011 dollars) with an estimated value at between $10,000 to $20,000 dollars. Throughout the summer of 1859, the committee tried to sell the mill but finally decided to lease it until a buyer could be found. August Schell saw an opportunity. While the mill was unprofitable to own since it was burdened by outstanding debts for materials and equipment, Schell must have believed that profits could be made if he was only required to cover rent on the facility. Schell partnered with John Bellm and leased the mill at a cost of $1,540 per year for two years. Although no records exist to gauge how much money Schell made during this period, he netted enough profit to build a new house in 1859 on the corner of Minnesota and Fifth Street, just south of town. It was a one-and-a-half-story frame house with a stone foundation and plastered walls. It had six rooms and a basement and was valued at $1,200 in 1860 (approximately $33,500 in 2011 dollars).

Though he had been a machinist from his youth in Europe through his employment in the Cincinnati Locomotive Works and his later work at the Globe Mill in New Ulm, Schell saw brewing as a more profitable line of work than milling. This is not surprising considering that German-Americans were greatly overrepresented in the brewing industry during the late nineteenth century. Schell was not the first to build a brewery in the region, which was increasingly dominated by German immigrants. The first two breweries had been established in 1858. The Koke and Heyrich Brewery, established a mile-and-a-half west of New Ulm across the Minnesota River, only lasted slightly over a year. In the same year, the first brewery within New Ulm itself was established by Andrew Betz and August Frinton near German Park in the center of town. In addition, north of downtown, Henry A. Subilia, an Italian immigrant, was building the Waraju Steam Distillery, which cost approximately $10,000 to build. It opened for business on April 6, 1861. In a cash-poor economy, Subilia, like others in the region, bartered with customers and extended credit to expand business. The Waraju distillery traded whiskey for rye, barley, corn and wood. Nevertheless, Schell knew his local market and believed that the market could support another brewery.

Schell’s first order of business was to secure land for his brewery. He purchased a large lot one-and-a-half miles south of New Ulm in the Cottonwood Valley. It was located on the bluffs above the Cottonwood River in a heavily wooded area. The Cottonwood River connected to the Minnesota River, which, in turn, provided access to the Mississippi River. According to the purchase contract, “August Schell doth hereby agree to pay the said John Fried. Ring the sum of $208, the consideration for the said premises, in the manner following: $100 in lumber and sawing at the usual prices, $75 in goods (cash articles), $25 in cash; the whole at any time before the first day of September, in the year 1861, when requested by the said John Fr. Ring, and $8 on the first day of September, 1861, in plaster laths.” With little cash money in circulation on the frontier, Schell purchased the lot with a mixture of cash and the bartering of services and materials.

The New Ulm Pioneer, a local German-language newspaper, announced in its January 16, 1861, edition that August Schell had begun construction of the brewery and anticipated that it would be finished by the fall. Through October, Schell continued leasing the Globe Mill with Bellm to help finance his new brewery. Schell intended to live at the brewery and constructed a house next to it. By August 1861, Schell had moved his family out to the brewery site and was allowing relatives, including his sister-in-law, to stay at his house in town.

At the end of October 1861, the New Ulm Pioneer announced the opening of the new brewery owned by Schell and his partner, Jacob Bernhardt. Though he understood business and machinery, Schell had no expertise as a brewer. In order to compete with the other brewery in town, he partnered with Bernhardt, a master brewer who had been employed at a brewery in St. Paul, Minnesota. Construction not yet been entirely completed on the brewery structure, but it was ready enough to begin brewing beer. Schell had opted to create a sizable brewery with a cellar large enough for future needs. Over the next year, the Schell and Bernhardt Brewery expanded its customer base at least as far as Fort Ridgley, some 20 miles away.

Graced by a thriving farming economy in the surrounding countryside, as well as streams of chain migration by German-language immigrants, the city of New Ulm grew from 800 inhabitants in 1859 to 5,403 in 1890. New Ulm’s access to the most modern transportation systems available was instrumental to the city’s growth. Early in its history, New Ulm relied upon steamboats that plied up and down the Minnesota River. This river system connected New Ulm to the Twin Cities and, by way of the Mississippi River, to the rest of the nation. Prior to the coming of the railroads, the river was the key component in the rise of New Ulm and the spread of Schell’s product.

Business came to a halt in August 1861, however, as violence engulfed New Ulm. Native Americans on the nearby Dakota reservations struck back against encroaching white settlements after Union Army troops were shifted east to fight Confederate forces in the Civil War. Moving from north to south along the Minnesota River, waves of Dakota warriors advanced on white settlements with New Ulm being a primary target. Warned of the encroaching danger, New Ulm fortified the center of town. Schell was mustered into emergency service as a fifth sergeant in the Minnesota militia. After several sorties, the Dakota warriors moved on after failing to break the German-American defenses. The parts of town not fortified and held by the New Ulm defenders, however, were burned and destroyed. The Globe Mill, Betz & Frinton Brewery, Waraju Steam Distillery, and many of the other businesses in town were burned to the ground. Schell’s frame home where his sister-in-law and other relatives were living in town was also destroyed in the fighting. Fourteen days later, August Schell, Bernhardt, and nine or ten other men returned to the brewery to find, “…the door to the brewery broken open, the window knocked in, trunks and chests open and most empty and the best article of a pair of Sioux breech cloths outside the brewery.” Another witness noted that the Dakota had, “…killed and carried off a number of chickens [105 chickens] and burned and totally destroyed other articles of personal property,” belonging to Schell and Bernhardt. In addition to the barrels of beer that were taken from the brewery during the Sioux occupation, many other barrels were destroyed at Fort Ridgley, and in private homes and saloons within the city of New Ulm that had been burned down. In all, over 104 beer barrels had been burned. Despite the destruction, it could have been worse as the main structure of the brewery remained standing.

All settlers and businesses in the area soon applied to the federal government for reimbursement. Schell and Bernhardt, too, filed depredation claims for their losses. Money that normally would have been distributed to the Native-American residents of the Dakota reservations was instead diverted to the Minnesota settlers. This was the result of a clause typical to many of the treaties written with Native Americans who had agreed to go onto reservations in the event that they broke the agreement. As a result, Schell not only received cash compensation for his loses at the brewery but also for the loss of his home in town and family possessions including shoes, socks, quilts, and so forth. Interestingly, though valued at $1,200 in 1860, Schell claimed that the loss of the house in town two years later in 1862 would require reimbursement of $2,300 in cash (approximately $53,000 in 2011 dollars). In contrast to the owners of the distillery and the other brewery in the New Ulm area that had been completely destroyed, Schell restarted his business in relatively short order with an infusion of cash from the federal government that covered not only his losses at the brewery but also provided funds for expansion. With cash reserves on hand and a largely undamaged brewery building, Schell used this competitive advantage to increase the presence of Schell beer in the regional market while his competition had to rebuild from scratch.

In 1866, Jacob Bernhardt decided to leave the partnership due to failing health. As a result, the two men decided to put the brewery up for auction as a means to dissolve the partnership. On August 3, 1866, the New Ulm Pioneer announced the auction. In the advertisement, the brewery was described in detail. By 1866, the brick brewery building dominated the property and outbuildings for other aspects of beer production were also found there. The advert noted that the brewery had a pristine water source, a large cellar with stone vaults, a copper brewing vessel, and a twenty-horsepower mill for crushing grain. As Schell’s family had been living at the brewery since before the Dakota uprising, the sale also included the family house, horse stables, and garden. The brewery’s location near the Cottonwood River was also advantageous, as the proprietors could obtain ice from the river during the winter months for use in cooling beer in the brewery cellar during the summer months. August Schell won the auction with a bid of $12,000 ($175,000 in 2011 dollars). Although it is not known how much money Schell had to pay Bernhardt as a part of the settlement, legal notice was soon published that formally dissolved the partnership between Schell and Bernhardt and the newspaper was soon carrying advertisements for “August Schell’s Beer Brewery”.

Though now in control of his own company, Schell faced new and growing competition from fellow German immigrants as new breweries formed in the wake of the Civil War. Almost two years after Frinton and Betz’s brewery had burned down during the Dakota uprising, August Frinton rebuilt the facility under his sole ownership. He completed the reconstruction process and renamed it the City Brewery (1858-1917, closed at start of Prohibition). Jacob Bender founded a brewery bearing his name near the rebuilt Globe Mill (it would remain in operation until 1911). Also in 1866, the Carl Brewery opened but only lasted a short time from 1866 until 1871. Schell’s primary competition came from John Hauenstein Brewery which opened in 1864 in partnership with Andreas Betz (who had previously been a partner with Frinton). By the 1870s, Hauenstein owned the brewery outright and the company remained in operation over one hundred years until 1969.

As no business records remain for any of these breweries, the 1870 U.S. Census’ Industrial and Manufacturing Schedule offers a rough estimate to compare the breweries’ costs and sales. Schell and Hauenstein were able to sell their barrels of beer for an average of 9 dollars per barrel. Schell and Hauenstein’s larger production capabilities and greater capital investments gave them economies of scale that were crucial for competing against other breweries. Schell was able to produce a barrel of beer at a lower cost than any other brewery in New Ulm and thus achieve a wider profit margin that his competitors. Only Hauenstein came close. These numbers clarify why Hauenstein remained Schell’s major source of competition in New Ulm and why the other breweries had a harder time competing. Schell continued to invest in larger and more efficient production processes, thus making it more difficult for these smaller breweries to make money by competing on price.

Schell and his competitors faced concerns typical for businesses of the era, but life on the edge of the prairie presented its own unique problems in the late nineteenth century. Although Schell had emerged from the Dakota War of 1862 with a competitive advantage because the other breweries in the region had been destroyed, he faced frontier hardships as his company grew. Beginning in 1873 and lasting through 1878, massive swarms of grasshoppers plagued farmers throughout the Great Plains including south-central Minnesota where New Ulm is located. While this had some impact on grain supplies needed by brewers like Schell, the swarms devastated regional farms, which lowered purchasing power within the local agricultural economy. The Minnesota state legislature created its own grasshopper committee and provided various means of relief to the farmers of the state. There is little evidence, however, that beer consumption slowed enough to significantly harm Schell Brewing Company.

Severe weather, tornadoes in particular, threatened businesses on the frontier. In the middle of July 1881, a massive tornado tore apart much of New Ulm with over $250,000 in damage ($5,670,000 in 2011 dollars). Although Schell emerged with no damage, a relatively short distance away, Hauenstein Brewery, Schell’s main competition, took a direct hit from the tornado. The tornado tore apart the large brick structure leaving it, “…a shapeless mass of ruins, nothing remaining uninjured except the cellar vaults.” The brewery’s losses totaled over $40,000 ($908,000 in 2011 dollars) including nearly all equipment and over 2,000 bushels of malt. Fortunately for John Hauenstein, over four hundred barrels of beer remained untouched in the cellar allowing him to sell his product while rebuilding. Unlike the Dakota uprising where Schell and others were able to secure generous money from the government, Hauenstein had no insurance and could not recoup any of these losses. In fact, he began brewing new beer in covered shacks. Remarkably, Hauenstein was able to recover from this devastation. He built a new plant and incorporated his business in 1900 with a capitalization of $200,000 (5.53 million dollars in 2011 dollars). Nevertheless, the tornado hampered Hauenstein’s ability to compete with Schell.

Although rivers had played a key role in the early success of New Ulm and the August Schell Brewery, in the decades after the Civil War it became apparent that railroads were going to be crucial for continued growth. By 1872, the Winona and St. Peter Railroad (later part of the Chicago and Northwestern system) established a branch line to New Ulm. This railroad tied New Ulm closer to the rest of Minnesota and the United States. The line, however, was not a direct route, by any means, to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. In addition, without competition, the railroad charged very high rates for the branch lines. By 1897, New Ulm became part of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad which eliminated nearly 90 miles of extra rail travel from the trip to the Twin Cities and tied New Ulm industry to St. Louis and other southern markets as well. Although some business leaders were not persuaded that extra taxation to raise money for the railroad connection was worth the cost, Schell unequivocally favored the development. These railroads further cemented the importance of New Ulm as the regional market center for surrounding farms.

August Schell navigated the challenges of developing a rural business by strengthening family ties in the brewery’s operation. Like many small business founded by immigrants, family dynamics played a large role in the company as the children grew older. They would play a more crucial role in brewery operations as August Schell became increasingly unable to walk due to steadily worsening rheumatoid arthritis. He turned over day-to-day operations to his family in the late 1870s. The first family member to emerge within the company was Schell’s oldest son, Adolph. Adolph traveled to Chicago to learn brewing techniques and train at another brewery before coming back to New Ulm. By 1879, Adolph was directly involved in managing the company. Though August Schell initially appointed his younger son, Otto, as master brewer for the firm, by the mid-1880s he had decided that Otto was better suited than Adolph to take the reins of the company.

After attending public school in New Ulm, Otto attended business college in St. Paul and completed a business education degree at nearby Mankato Normal College. When he was nineteen years old, Otto lived for a year in his father’s German hometown while studying brewing. After returning to the U.S., he began working in the brewery’s business office. The exact reasons behind August Schell’s decision to groom his younger son as his successor are no longer known, but soon after Adolph’s brief period as brewmaster and Otto’s return to New Ulm, Adolph was shifted out of key leadership roles in the company and given a variety of other jobs. Adolph then established his own business distributing Schell beer in areas a few hours west of New Ulm, and later moved to California in 1889 to start a fruit and chicken ranch. Though newspaper reports highlighted Adolph’s desire for a better climate as the deciding factor in his move, family reports emphasized the growing enmity between the brothers. By the early 1880s, Otto Schell had taken control of the brewery’s operations. When August Schell died after becoming increasingly weakened by arthritis at the age of 63 in 1891, he had ensured that his company would continue to prosper while still remaining in family hands.

Such family politics along with the frontier challenges and his growing competition spurred August Schell and his son, Otto, to expand and innovate. By 1879, August Schell’s continuous expansion had created a massive brick brewery with several outbuildings on the bluffs of the Cottonwood River. The main brewery was 150 feet long and from 30 to 80 feet in depth. Two main copper brew kettles dominated the brewery – one with a 25-barrel capacity and the other with a 12-barrel capacity. Underneath the main floor of the brewery were seven separate stone cellars for lagering beer and malting barley. There were four ice houses capable of storing 700 tons of ice. The ice was harvested from the Cottonwood River which ran 100 feet below the brewery at the bottom of the cliff. Each block of ice would be attached to tongs and hauled by a team of horses to the cellars via a rope and pulley system.

Schell Brewing Company’s physical plant grew even more once Otto Schell took over daily operation of the company and initiated a major renovation of the brewery. In 1887, the company installed bottling equipment in order to reach broader regional markets and appeal to retailers and consumers who did not wish to purchase an entire barrel of beer at one time. The brewery kept expanding the market for its beer as railroads made transporting beer into new regions easier. For example, in 1890, the company built an ice house in St. James, Minnesota, (about 30 miles south of New Ulm) as a distribution point. In the fall of 1890, Schell erected a new two-story brick building to house beer and ice, as well as a barley storage house to take the place of an older framed building, at a cost of $7,000 for both ($179,000 in 2011 dollars). By 1891, Schell’s produced nearly 9,000 barrels of beer a year. Otto Schell proposed to more than double the brewery’s capacity so that it could produce over 20,000 barrels a year. The expansion would take the company to a production level that only a few other breweries in the state could match, even in the Twin Cities. With plenty of cash netted from doing a brisk business over the previous several years, Schell plowed the money back into the physical plant. He hired a Chicago architect to design the changes. Throughout much of the fall and winter of 1892-1893, the brewery shut down in order to complete the rebuilding effort. For approximately six weeks, new roads were built around the facility. Shell spent almost $20,000 ($510,000 in 2011 dollars) on constructing this modernized and expanded brewery. Most of the new expansion was completed just as the Panic of 1893 derailed the United States’ economic engine. Without having to rely upon loans or banks to stay solvent, however, the Schell Brewing Company weathered the Panic of 1893 remarkably well.

Otto Schell both expanded the brewery’s physical plant and invested heavily in new, expensive machinery to stay at the head of the crowded brewing industry in New Ulm. In 1895, the company again expanded by building a four-story malting house adjacent to the brewery with the intent of manufacturing malt on a commission basis. In the mid-1890s, the brewery upgraded its machinery including a new copper kettle able to produce 125 barrels of beer at a time, steel mash tubs and tanks, and other up-to-date equipment. In 1897, Otto Schell traveled to St. Louis, a city with a sizeable German-American community, to buy ice machines for better refrigeration of beer and improved ventilation. Otto Schell invented and patented a new machine and a new method for separating hops from beer in 1902. This innovation cut the costs associated with filtering the beer in half, which further increased revenue in the long term.

When Otto Schell incorporated the August Schell Brewing Company in October of 1902 at $300,000 ($8,090,000 in 2011 dollars), he established a tradition of appointing only family members to the board of directors. The original board of directors listed Otto Schell as president, Theresa Schell, his mother and the wife of founder August Schell, as vice-president, and George Marti as secretary and treasurer. When Otto Schell died at the age of 48 in 1911, George Marti, August Schell’s son-in-law, took over as president of the August Schell Brewing Company. Operation of the company has remained within the Marti family ever since.

Though August Schell Brewing Company remained a relatively small regional brewery (one among many prior to Prohibition) compared to giants such as Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz, the close ethnic ties cultivated by German immigrants and organizations in New Ulm helped the firm to maintain a distinct identity and regional appeal. Continued family connections also played a role in sustaining the August Schell Brewing Company during Prohibition when it produced root beer (1919 Root Beer) and candy to stay afloat. Considering how few breweries remained viable outside of the large corporate breweries in post-Prohibition and post-World War II America, the fact that New Ulm boasted two breweries into the 1960s is noteworthy but also reflects the regional support for local brewing operations. After over 100 years in business, Hauenstein Brewing Company, Schell’s closest and most direct competition in its marketplace, closed its doors permanently in 1969. Such persistence proved stronger in rural ethnic communities like New Ulm where linguistic ties held people closer to others like them compared to similar sized ethnic communities in larger cities.


Social Status, Networks, and Public Life

Although the Turnverein organization aided August Schell’s initial rise in Cincinnati and later New Ulm society, Schell’s growing wealth and regional prominence soon made him a respected public figure beyond his status as a Turner. By the late 1870s, August Schell could indulge in developing his interests outside of business. He spent considerable wealth to design and create a new family mansion and elaborate gardens in the 1870s. Acting the part of a respected member of society, August Schell became a patron of the arts by hiring a young, and eventually notable, artist, Anton Gag, to help in the creation of his mansion. Like his father, Schell delighted in the outdoors and everything associated with it. He continually added to his deer park, the symbol of his brewery, which eventually grew to include sixteen deer by the time of his death in 1891. Every time an animal was added to his menagerie, the newspapers reported it. For example, while there were plenty of native deer in the area, Schell imported a tame fawn from Wisconsin to inhabit his backyard. Numerous wild animals from the Upper Midwest increasingly called the Schell deer park home, including wild geese, cranes, and pheasants. Schell’s tastes in animals ran to the exotic as he got older. In 1890, the newspaper reported that Schell’s pet monkey had escaped from its cage and was only captured five days later.

As August Schell rose in public prominence, he gradually separated himself from the local Turnverein. Schell remained a member of the Turners until his mid-fifties in 1884. Neither of his sons became members of the New Ulm Turnverein (though his son-in-law, George Marti, who eventually took over the family business in the early twentieth century became a member in 1879). Even prior to 1884, though Schell may have remained a member of the Turners, he became less prominently involved in the organization. Due to rising tensions between Turners and non-Turners in the region, Schell’s actions are not surprising. Small-town, frontier societies, in particular, breed familiarity and close ties but also sharp resentments among a population where everyone was a known quantity. The stark differences in worldviews of the Catholic German-Bohemians (who formed the bulk of the working class in New Ulm) and the liberal Turners like Schell who disdained organized religion bred underlying tensions within the community. Schell and his fellow Turners dominated the public life of New Ulm for decades. Even into the 1890s, the Turners still controlled the six-member school board that set the curriculum, hired teachers, managed the land owned by the school district, and planned construction of new schools. The total removal of religion from the schools, enforced by Turner school board members, angered many citizens of New Ulm. The Turners’ outright opposition to religion was anathema to religious parents at time when elsewhere in the United States the separation of church and state was much more loosely interpreted by school boards. This strong conviction flowed naturally out of their freethinking, liberal philosophy. Education, they believed, was the best means to combat the mysticism and superstitions bred by organized religion. Controlling the public school board, the Turners stamped their liberal philosophy upon the schools’ curriculum. For example, they used German-language textbooks published by the Turners. The public schools closed for Turner holidays as well. Furthermore, the school board held their meetings at Turner Hall. Though the Turners themselves continued using German as their primary language for years to come, they insisted that English receive primary consideration in the public schools. Their children would be raised as Americans who would be comfortable in an English-speaking world. This sentiment was not embraced by all within the borders of New Ulm. The 1892 annual New Ulm school meeting during which new school board member would be elected became a referendum on Turner influence in New Ulm in all areas of public life. One of the candidates that won a seat on the board in this election was a prominent businessman, Charles Silverson, owner of the Eagle Roller Mill in New Ulm and an immigrant from Baden as well. Silverson and his allies now openly charged the Turners with manipulating the public school system and the city’s politics.

Whether intentional or not, Schell and his family were conspicuously absent among the business leaders who participated the fight over control of the public school system of New Ulm. For immigrant entrepreneurs like Schell, getting caught up in such social and political divisiveness could have had clear financial repercussions among a knowledgeable customer base with alternate choices. Although Schell held a strong market presence in south-central Minnesota, he still faced competition not just from other breweries in New Ulm but from even more distant breweries, especially with the advent of the railroad. Seeking to maintain the widest customer base, Schell likely knew he would lose market share if he, his family, or his company were perceived as part of the simmering social crisis in the region. The Schell Brewing Company, like nearly all small-town businesses, had to negotiate intensely personal tensions within the local community in order to thrive. Market share and financial success were often impacted not simply by their product alone but by public perceptions of the company and its leaders.

Although factions within New Ulm hardened their animosity towards each other, the Schell Brewing Company remained above the fray. These examples of opposition to the Turners provide a valuable window into the community during the crucial period in Schell’s company history when control was passing from August Schell to his son, Otto. Well before the conflict of the 1890s, the Schells’ had become regarded as major public figures in New Ulm and the surrounding region not because of their status as Turners but because of their beer. Without alienating their old Turner allies and connections, the Schell family withdrew from membership in the Turners just as the non-Turner population increased dramatically, which proved to be a wise business move for the firm (perhaps as forward-looking as any other decision in the company’s history). The conflict could have led to the family being branded as elitist Turners. Instead, the Schell family retained their long-developed status as widely respected businessmen.



In many ways, August Schell followed a path that was typical of numerous first-generation German-Americans. As a young man, Schell immigrated to the United States amid a rush of other Germans in the aftermath of the failed Revolutions of 1848. Like many of his fellow immigrants, he initially established himself in an urban American setting (Cincinnati) among fellow German immigrants. Schell took advantage immigrant organizations to ease his transition into American society, as did many others. But whereas German-Americans often found such aid within church-related organizations (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and others), August Schell was part of a sizeable and influential minority of German-Americans who eschewed churches and found an American home within the Turner Society. It was through his association with the Turner society and its networks that Schell became one of the respected founding fathers of the city of New Ulm, Minnesota. With such connections and advantages, Schell founded the August Schell Brewing Company just years after the city itself was founded and quickly grew it into a major business in the region. Like other brewers of his era, August Schell’s entrepreneurial activity was linked to German immigrants’ overrepresentation within the American brewing industry. He produced beer for a largely German-American consumer base, especially within the largely German-speaking New Ulm region. Through his Turner connections and his civic leadership in the region, Schell and his company overcame challenges due to war, plagues, and tornadoes that undermined many of his competitors. Whereas numerous firms founded by German-American that have survived into the twenty-first century had urban roots, August Schell’s business enterprises on the Minnesota frontier provide a valuable case study regarding the long-term impact of German-American entrepreneurship prevalent in rural, nineteenth-century America.


Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Zang

Today is the birthday of Philip Zang (February 15, 1826-February 18, 1899) who’s most remembered for his brewery in Denver, Colorado, although he also founded a brewery in Louisville, Kentucky, before moving west in 1869. He was born in Bavaria, Germany, but came to the U.S. in 1853.


Here’s a short biography from Find a Grave:

Brewing Magnate in Denver. Owner of first brewery in Denver, Rocky Mountain Brewery, which was also the largest west of the Mississippi from 1880 to the start of prohibition. Arrived in the USA in 1853; initially settled in Louisville, Kentucky where he owned Phoenix Brewery (later Zang Brewing Co.), the largest in Kentucky, for 16 years; relocated to Denver in September 1869; acquired Rocky Mountain Brewery in 1871 and changed its name to Philip Zang Brewing Co.; increased production over the years to achieve over 65,000 barrels per year while surviving a couple of destructive fires; sold Philip Zang Brewing Co. in 1888 to British investors; retired from brewing in 1889 and listed the same year as one of 33 millionaires living in Denver. Was involved in mining holding interests in a number of gold and silver mines in Silverton, Cripple Creek and Eagle County. A prominent Denver citizen, he was also elected as a democrat to a term as city alderman.


And here’s a fuller biography, from the Zang Mansion website:

PHILIP ZANG, founder of the Ph. Zang Brewing Company, of Denver, was a native of Bavaria, Germany, immigrated to United States in by ship in 1853. Married Elizabeth Hurlebaus, who died in Chicago, leaving an only child, Adolph J. Zang.

  • Founded Phoenix brewery in Louisville (1859-1869) then moved to Denver
  • Bought Rocky Mountain Brewing Co. from John Good (1871)
  • Changed name to Philip Zang & Co. (7/1880)
  • Sold to UK syndicate-chg. name to PH. Zang Brewing Co. (1889)
  • Son; Adolf J. Zang took over management (General Manager)
  • Second Marriage (10/1870) to Mrs. Anna Barbara Buck, nee Kalberer, (b.1836)(d.4/1896)
  • Previously widowed from marriage to Jacob Buck (b.1832) m(1857-xxxx)
  • The family residence, built in 1887, was at 2342 Seventh street, Denver, CO


Philip Zang, founder of the PH. Zang Brewing Company, of Denver, was a native of Bavaria, Germany, and next to the oldest among the six sons and two daughters of John and Fredericka (Kaufman) Zang. His father, who was a member of an old Bavarian family, engaged in farming and the milling business, and took part in the Napoleonic wars, accompanying the illustrious general on his march to Moscow. He (John) died in 1849, at the age of sixty-two. Two of John and Fredericka’s sons, Alexander and Philip, immigrated to America. During the Civil War Alexander served in the Thirty-ninth New York Infantry; he died in Denver in 1892.


Philip was a brewer’s apprentice for two and one-half years, after which he traveled around Germany, working at his trade. In 1853 he came to America, going from Rotterdam to Hull, then to Liverpool, and from there on the “City of Glasgow,” which landed him in Philadelphia after a voyage of eighteen days.


Ignorant of the English language, his first endeavor was to gain sufficient knowledge to converse with the people here, and during the first six months in this country, while working as a railroad hand, he was storing in his mind a knowledge of our customs and language. In Philadelphia Mr. P. Zang married Miss Elizabeth Hurlebaus, who died in Chicago, leaving an only child, Adolph J. Zang. In January 1854, he went to Louisville, Ky., where he worked at his trade for one year. Later, desiring to learn engineering, he secured employment in a woolen mill, and remained there until January 1859, meantime becoming familiar with the engineer’s occupation.


Mr. P. Zang built a brewery in Louisville and this he conducted alone until 1865, when he erected a large brewery, which was carried on under the firm name of Zang & Co. Selling this in February 1869; he decided to locate in the growing town of Denver.

Here he was engaged as superintendent of the brewery owned by John Good until July 1871, when he bought out his employer and continued the business alone. Mr. Good had started the business in 1859 on the same spot, under the title of the Rocky Mountain Brewery, which continued to be its name for some years. In July 1871, Mr. Zang enlarged the brewery, which then had a capacity of one hundred and fifty thousand barrels per annum, and is the largest between St. Louis and San Francisco. There was also a malt house, with modern equipments; an ice plant, lager beer vaults, boiler house, brewery stables, and a switch from the railroad connecting with the main lines, in order to facilitate the work of shipment. In 1880 the name was changed to Philip Zang & Co., and in July 1889, the business was sold to an English syndicate, who changed the name to the Ph. Zang Brewing Company.


In Denver, October 18, 1870, he was united in marriage with Mrs. Anna B. Buck, nee Kalberer, an estimable lady and one who has many friends in this city. The family residence, built in 1887, stood at 2342 Seventh street. For one term Mr. Zang served as an alderman of the sixth ward, to which position he was elected on the Democratic ticket, but he himself is independent in politics. While in Louisville he was made a Mason and an Odd Fellow, and he belonged to Schiller Lodge No. 41, A. F. & A. M., and Germania Lodge No. 14, I. O.O. F., of Denver, of both of which he was a charter member. He was also connected with the Turn Verein, Krieger Verein and Bavarian Verein, and took a prominent part in all local affairs.


And in this short account, it is suggested it was gold fever that enticed Zang west, and when that didn’t pan out, he returned to what he knew: brewing beer.

“Zang came to Denver in 1870 – a few years after the Civil War – having run the Phoenix Brewery in Louisville Kentucky for 16 years. Even though his brewery had thrived through the turmoil of the war, he caught gold fever, sold that brewery and headed west. His gold mining career in Leadville lasted about a month. Soon he found himself back in the more palatable environment of Denver, running the Rocky Mountain Brewery for a “Capitalist” (his official title) called John Good. Within a couple years, Zang bought the brewery from Good and soon increased its capacity ten-fold. From then until the complication of Prohibition in 1920, Zang Brewing Company was the largest beer producer west of the Missouri.”


The wonderful book 100 Years of Brewing, published in 1901, also has a short account of Zang’s brewery:



Historic Beer Birthday: John Weidenfeller

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Today is the birthday of John Weidenfeller (February 11, 1867-1929). He was born in Germany, but came to America with his family, who settled in Michigan and owned a farm. Weidenfeller though, defying his father’s wishes, became a brewer, working first with “Frey Bros. and Kusterer Brewing Companies. In 1892, these two breweries joined three others to form the Grand Rapids Brewing Co.” He later worked in Montana for the Centennial Brewery, before accepting a position as brewmaster of Olympia Brewing in Washington.


There’s less about brewmasters, as opposed to brewers who were also brewery founders or owners, when you go back this far, but there’s a pretty thorough biography of Weidenfeller by Gary Flynn at his wonderful Brewery Gems.

Weidenfeller around 1901, with his workers in Montana.

Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Bosch

Today is the birthday of Joseph Bosch (February 11, 1850-January 9, 1937). He was born in Achim, Lower Saxony, Germany, the son of a brewer, but came to America in 1854. They started in New York, but moved to Lake Linden, Michigan in 1862, and a few years later began training as a brewer. In 1874, he came back to Michigan, and started his own brewery, the Torch Lake Brewery, which eventually became known as the Bosch Brewing Co. It survived prohibition, but Bosch died in 1937. His two grandsons took over management of the company, and it stayed in business until 1973, when their labels were soon to the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company.


Here’s some biographical information from Wikipedia:

Joseph Bosch was born in Baden, Germany in 1850. He emigrated to New York with his family when he was four, then moved to Wisconsin at the age of twelve, where his father was a brewer. In 1867, the family moved to Lake Linden; there, Bosch worked as a miner of the Calumet & Hecla company. However, he harbored the desire to become a brewmaster, and travelled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to work at the Schlitz Brewery, then on to Cleveland, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky before returning to Lake Linden in 1874 to found the Torch Lake Brewery. Two years later he admitted business partners and changed the name to Joseph Bosch & Company. In 1894 he again changed the name, this time to Bosch Brewing Company, and in 1899 the brewery was the largest in the Upper Peninsula, with a capacity of 60,000 barrels annually.

Bosch was also the president of Lake Linden’s First National Bank, organized in 1888, and participated in various mercantile enterprises, including those carried on in the Joseph Bosch Building.


And there was this at the Van Pelt and Opie Library at Michigan Tech:

Joseph Bosch, founder of the Bosch Brewing Company, had always yearned to enter the brewing industry. He had learned much from his father, a brewer in his native country of Germany, who had brought the family to Lake Linden, Michigan in 1867. A desire for more knowledge and experience led the young Bosch to Cleveland, Fort Wayne and finally Milwaukee, where he worked for the Schlitz brewery. He returned to Lake Linden in 1874, erected a small wooden building and began brewing operations as the Torch Lake Brewery, Joseph Bosch & Company. Bosch operated the brewery on his own for the first two years, but in 1876 admitted several men on a partnership basis. The company continued as a partnership until around 1894, when the reorganized firm issued stock under its new name, the Bosch Brewing Company. The company continued in operation for nearly a century, closing the last of its facilities in 1973.

In the early years of brewing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, little if any beer was sold in bottles. Bosch saw the potential of this packaging, however, and the company began bottling on a small scale before 1880. By 1883, the original wooden building in Lake Linden had been enlarged and the company was producing 4,000 barrels of beer annually, one quarter of which was bottled. The brewery was completely destroyed in a great fire that swept through Lake Linden in 1887, but the demand for its product fired quick construction of new facilities. By the turn of the century the Bosch Brewing Company had brewing facilities in Lake Linden and Houghton, as well as branches and storehouses in Calumet/Laurium, Hancock, Eagle Harbor and Ishpeming. Having survived the difficult years of prohibition, the company finally closed the Lake Linden facility in favor of the better-situated facilities in Houghton.

Stressing the relationship of its product and the community, the Bosch Brewing Company featured many local themes in its advertising. Promotional phrases such as the “Refreshing as the Sportman’s Paradise” kept the small brewery close to the hearts of Copper Country natives and visitors from farther afield. The company found itself increasingly unable to compete locally with the larger breweries of Milwaukee and St. Louis, however, and the last keg of beer was ceremoniously loaded onto a wagon for delivery to a local tavern on Friday, September 28, 1973.


This is from the “History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” published in 1883:

JOSEPH BOSCH & CO., proprietors of Torch Lake Brewery. This business was organized in 1874, and is owned one-half by Joseph Bosch, the other by Joseph Wertin & Sons, of Hancock; 4,000 barrels of beer. are manufactured annually, 1,000 of which is bottled. Joseph Bosch was born in Baden, Germany, February 13, 1850, and came to America with his parents in 1854; he spent nine years in New York City, and then removed to Port Washington, Wis., where he learned the brewing business with his father. In 1867, in company with his father, he came to Torch Lake, and erected the first house in what is Lake Linden; he worked four years at the Hecla Stamp Mill. In 1874, he built the brewery; he was married at Hancock in January, 1875, to Miss Mary, daughter of Joseph Wertin. Mrs. Bosch was born in Austria. They have a daughter — Mary.


And finally, here’s a longer biography of Bosch from “Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Houghton, Baraga and Marquette Counties, Michigan,” published in 1903:




Historic Beer Birthday: Lüder Rutenberg

Today is the birthday of Lüder Rutenberg (February 8, 1816-June 14, 1890) who was born in Bremen, Germany. He was an architect, a builder and one of the co-founders of Beck’s Brewery, formally known as Brauerei Beck & Co. “The brewery was formed under the name Kaiserbrauerei Beck & May o.H.G. in 1873 by Lüder Rutenberg, Heinrich Beck and Thomas May. In 1875, Thomas May left the brewery which then became known as Kaiserbrauerei Beck & Co.”


Here’s a short biography of Lüder Rutenberg, translated from his German Wikipedia page:

Rutenberg — son of the builder Diedrich Christian Rutenberg — learned after visiting the Remberti and the grammar school with his father. He studied from 1836 to 1840 in Berlin physics, chemistry and technology. From 1841 he was an employee at his father.

In 1847 he became an independent architect. Its operation was one of the largest construction companies in Bremen. Lüder Rutenberg was especially during the expansion of the Bremen suburbs as a builder for the typical residential streets with one- or two-story terraced houses successfully. Men of his profession erected at that time for its own account and sold whole streets of houses or flats profitably. 1849 by the Bremen Senate a request Rod Berg refused to be allowed to build in Bremen similarly large tenement houses such as in Hamburg or Berlin. Had been such application is approved, this greatly affect the appearance of many neighborhoods Bremen would have had.

1853 rose Rutenberg in the brewery business and acquired with his sister and his brother-in as a partner, the Runge brewery, which he in St. Pauli Brewery renamed and goal for until 1870 the largest brewery in Bremen. Later he bought along with the master brewer Heinrich Beck several smaller breweries and participated in 1873 in the construction of a brewery in the New Town, the then Kaiser brewery was later large brewery Beck & Co.