Historic Beer Birthday: Adolf Bremer

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Today is the birthday of Adolf Bremer (July 24, 1869-October 9, 1939). He was born in Minnesota and married the daughter of Jacob Schmidt, who had been a brewer with Hamm’s, and others. Gremer and Schmidt partner in buying the Christopher Stahlmann Cave Brewery, and in 1900 completely remodeled it turning into the iconic “Castle” brewery with the help of Chicago brewery architect Bernard Barthel. They also renamed it the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co., and after Prohibition, it became the nation’s seventh largest brewery, and for a time Brewer was its president. The brewery continued until 1972, when the brand was bought by G. Heileman. The Castle brewery in St. Paul was abandoned and only recently was renovated into the Schmidt Artist Lofts. Today the Schmidt Brewery brands are owned by Pabst.

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Here’s a very short biography from Find-a-Grave:

Businessman. Financier and president of Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company. The son-in-law of Jacob Schmidt and the father of Edward Bremer, who was a 1934 kidnap victim of the Barker-Karpis gang.

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Adolf with his son, Edward Bremer.

Here’s the brewery history from the current brand website:

In 1884, Jacob Schmidt moved to St. Paul, Minnesota and purchased a half interest in the North Star Brewery located at Commercial St. & Hudson Rd. Jacob retired in 1899, turning over the operation to his daughter and son-in-law. The following year the brewery burned to the ground and a new location was immediately found. In 1901, the brewery was incorporated as the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company and a new plant and malt house were erected next to the existing structures.

Jacob died in 1910, but the brewery continued to enjoy success until Prohibition struck. After a failed attempt at producing soft drinks, a non-alcoholic malt beverage was created and became extremely popular.

After considerable success following the repeal of Prohibition, the company continued to prosper under the Schmidt name until 1955. Most of the original buildings still stand today, looming proudly above the Mississippi River.

Schmidt beer is known as the “Official Beer of the American Sportsman”…a slogan that capitalizes on the exciting, rugged appeal of the Pacific Northwest. The quality and brewing tradition instilled by Jacob Schmidt, continues today.

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And here’s the portion of Schmidt’s Wikipedia page that deals with the brewery’s namesake:

Jacob Schmidt started his brewing career in Minnesota as the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Co. He left this position to become owner of the North Star Brewing Co. Under Schmidt’s new leadership the small brewery would see much success and in 1899 Schimdt transferred partial ownership of his new brewery to a new corporation headed by his son in law Adolph Bremer, and Adolph’s brother Otto. This corporation would later become Bremer Bank. With the new partnership the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company was established. In 1900 the North Star Brewery would suffer a fire that would close it for good. With the new management team in place a new brewery was needed, the new firm purchased the Stahlmann Brewery form the St. Paul Brewing Co. and immediately started construction on a new Romanesque brewery incorporating parts of Stahlmann’s original brewery along with it including the further excavation of the lagering cellars used in the fermentation process to create Schmidt’s Lager Beer.

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This account is excerpted from the Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota, by Doug Hoverson:

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The Schmidt “Castle” brewery in 1905.

Here’s a portion of a lengthier, more thorough account of the brewery’s history, from Substreet:

He came to the United States in 1865 at the age of 20 and worked in brewhouses as he moved westward. He worked in Rochester, Chicago, and Milwaukee, before coming to Minnesota, where he found a position at Schell’s brewery in New Ulm, before moving to Minneapolis’ Heinrich’s and then to Banholzer’s and Hamm’s of St. Paul.

At Theodore Hamm’s brewery, the biggest of its kind in the state, Schmidt became not just the chief brewer, but also a personal friend of the firm’s powerful owner and namesake.

Ultimately, Jacob Schmidt wanted his own brewery.

On the other end of Swede Hollow, in 1860, Edward Drewry and George Scotten founded what would become the North Star Brewery, then just called ‘Drewry & Scotten’. Though it featured a brewhouse large enough to compete with Stahlmann’s operation on the other side of St. Paul, and had adequate—though far from extensive—underground cellars to match, this brewery produced ale, not lager beer, and therefore did not compete with Stahlmann’s brand.

After changing hands several times, it was clear by the early 1880s that North Star required a talented master brewer. The owners of that humble brewery, William Constans (grocer and brewery supply dealer) and Reinhold Koch (brewer and Civil War veteran), hired Jacob Schmidt, and the former Hamm’s brewer rapidly expanded production below the bluff.

Together, Schmidt, Constans and Koch grew North Star Brewery to the point it competed directly with Hamm’s.

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In a few years, the Dayton’s Bluff brewhouse became the second greatest producer of beer west of Chicago by some estimates, sending out 16,000 barrels annually as far as Illinois. In 1884, Constans and Koch decided to leave the business, thereby leaving Schmidt as sole owner. In 1899, Schmidt took down the ‘North Star Brewery’ sign and replaced it with ‘Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company’.

The next year, it all burned.

Today, all that remains of the brewery are its aging cellars, which are a part of the new Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in Lowertown off Commercial Street.

As he considered the cost of rebuilding, Schmidt received a proposal from St. Paul Brewing: they wanted to sell him their troubled brewery. The brewmaster accepted the offer and moved his operation into the former Cave Brewery, which had been only slightly modified since Stahlmann built it almost 50 years prior. Facilities were inadequate, but he would fix that.

Interestingly, Jacob Schmidt had all the bottles salvaged from the ruined brewery shipped to his new location. The glasses still bore the mark of the North Star brand, a large five-pointed star—a feature the brewer would ultimately opt to keep.

Stars cover the Schmidt brewery to this day, in signs and ironwork, hearkening to Jacob Schmidt’s time at, and the destruction of, North Star Brewery.

Observing the lowly state that Stahlmann’s brewery was in, Schmidt hired a rising Chicago architect, Bernard Barthel, to design a totally new complex to replace what was left of the Christopher Stahlmann Brewing Company, and St. Paul Brewing Company’s brash modifications to it.

It would be medieval on the outside, but totally modern and streamlined inside.

Soon, imposing red brick towers were rising on Fort Road, with obvious influences borrowed from feudal era castles, replacing the modest remains of Cave Brewery. Construction of Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co. was completed in 1904, followed in the next decade by its more significant outbuildings, notably ending in 1915 with the Bottling Department. Schmidt beer was some of the first to be bottled on-site in the state.

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The new brewery complex was designed to compete with the biggest brewers in the country, and it did.

When Jacob died in 1911, his brewery was an icon of the West Side and the employer of more than 200 people. More importantly, the beer continued to flow, unlike the bust that followed the Stahlmanns. Though the man himself was gone, the name Schmidt was becoming ever more prominent across the country.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Otto Schell

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Today is the birthday of Otto Schell (July 15, 1862-January 14, 1911). He was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the son of August Schell, who founded 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.” When August died in 1891, he left the brewery to his wife Theresa, with his son Otto as manager of the brewery. “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. Otto was president from 1902 until his untimely death in 1911.

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This is his obituary from the New Ulm Review, for January 18, 1911:

It would be difficult to call in mind the death of any citizen in this community that came with more shocking effect and produced a more sincere mourning throughout the entire city than does that of Otto Schell. Is it possible that the man of sturdy physique and with healthy and pleasant countenance, seen on our streets but the day before, greeting his friends and acquaintances in his usual pleasant way should now lie cold in death? Yes it is true. Otto Schell died about 10 o’clock, apparently of no other cause than a choking spell which according to the first reports, was due to a severe cold he contracted some time ago. An autopsy held over his body however revealed the fact that his sudden death was cause by uraemic poison due to kidney trouble of severeal years standing. Even on the morning of the day of his death he resumed his regular duties at the office of the brewery continuing same until noon. Before going home he called on his aged mother who lies at the point of death. This was his daily custom. Being somewhat indisposed he remained at home that afternoon, but was able to partake of a hearty supper. At about 8 o’clock, however, his condition became such as to necessitate a physician who promptly responded, but whose help was of no avail, The end came at 10 o’clock.

In the death of Mr. Schell New Ulm loses one of its most prominent and public spirited citizens. Having been born and reared in this city its welfare was always uppermost in his mind. His ardent love for the beauties of nature prompted him to convert the surroundings of his home and establishment into a veritable beauty spot. This trait also made him valuable to the community at large in the capacity as park commissioner, which office he held for several years. His loss is furthermore keenly felt by various enterprises in which he was interested in a financial and social way, such as the New Ulm Stone Co.; the Brown County Agricultural Society; the Citizens State Bank; the New Ulm-Maennerchor; the 2nd Regiment Band; the Sons of Hermann Lodge; the Freemasons; the Arbelterverein, etc. The State Horticultural Society elected him a Life-member. He also belonged to the State Brewmasters Association. Although he never held a political office he was ever ready to be of servce to the community by lending his assistance with his practical knowledge, ability and experience.

The relation of the deceased as employer of his employees was such as to give evidence to his manly character and kindness of heart. This sincere sorrow manifested by them at the announcement of his death gave ample proof of the high esteem in which he was held by everyone in his employ.

The highest tribute, however that can be paid to any man is his ideal attitude toward the immediate members of his family. And in this respect too much can not be said in honor of the deceased. Although the loss of Mr. Schell is a heavy blow to the community it will be most keenly felt by his wife, children and all relatives. A loyal and true husband, a loving, kind and affectionate father, a dear brother, a devoted son, a good neighbor will be missed in the Schell home.

He had the rare faculty of strictly attending to his own business and never allowing himself to be unduly influenced by any faction sentiment. Herein lies the secret of the fact that he was probably as popular a man in all factions as as ever lived in the confines of this city.

Otto Schell was born July 15,1862 in New Ulm. He received his education in the public schools of this city. At the age of 16 years he went to St. Paul, attending a business college in that city. Completing this course he became a student at the Mankato Normal School. Having finished his business education he worked in his father’s office for about one year. When 19 years old he made a journey to Germany, visiting his father’s native town where he remained a little over a year. On his return he resumed the office work at his father’s brewery.

On the 6th of October, 1885 he was married to Miss Adelia Schwertfeger of New Ulm. After the death of his father, August Schell, the deceased managed the extensive business for his mother. When in the year 1903 the brewery was converted into a stock company he became the president and business manager of the new concern, which position he held up to the time of his death. In 1901 he made another trip to Germany being accompanied by his wife and two children.

Mr. Schell is survived by his wife and two children, Walter. 16 years and Mrs. Cleveland Frederich of Springfield; his aged mother, Mrs. August Schell; three sisters, Mrs. Geo. Schneider, Mrs. Geo. Marti of this city and Mrs. Yoerg, of Winthrop and one brother, Adolph of Portland, Oregon.

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And this is the portion of the Schell story from Immigrant Entrepreneurship that discusses Otto’s involvement in the brewery:

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.

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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.

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The Schell brewery seen from a distance.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Frank Yoerg

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Today is the birthday of Frank Yoerg (July 10, 1867-July 13, 1941). He was the third oldest son of Anthony Yoerg, who founded Minnesota’s first brewery in 1848. He “attended MIT (Massachusetts School of Technology) in Boston and worked as an architect for four years before he joined the family trade where he was a ‘collector’ from 1893-1896, the bookkeeper from 1899-1904, Vice President from 1904-1905, President from 1905-1934 and secretary from 1934 until his death in 1941.”

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The brewery was known as the Anthony Yoerg Brewery from its beginning until 1896, when its founder passed away, then it was changed to simply the Yoreg Brewing Co. The brewery opened after prohibition ended, and continued in business until 1952.

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A Yoerg’s Cave Aged Beer label from 1933, when Frank was still president.

A new Yoerg’s Beer started up again in Saint Paul in 2015, with plans to offer the first beer shortly, and according to their Facebook page, the beer is in the bottle and they’re awaiting federal label approval, with plans to introduce Yoerg’s Bock this Fall.

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Frank and Anthony Yoerg Jr. with their wives at the St. Paul Winter Carnival in 1915

Historic Beer Birthday: Alfred Marti

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Today is the birthday of Alfred W. Marti (July 5, 1886-November 22, 1977). He was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and was the son of George Marti and Emma Schell, whose father founded August Schell started the Schell’s Brewery in 1860 in New Ulm, Minnesota. 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.” A pharmacist by trade, when August’s son Otto, who had been running the brewery after his father died, also died suddenly in 1911, George stepped up and became the manager and president of the brewery. He thought it would be temporary, but he remained at the brewery for the rest of his life, and in 1934 when he passed away, his son Alfred took over for him. He remained in charge of the brewery until 1969, when his son Warren took over for him.

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This account of the Schell Brewery under Alfred Marti is from the “Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota,” by Doug Hoverson:

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This portion of a history of the August Schell Brewery, from Funding Universe, mentions Alfred Marti and his role in the company:

The next generation, represented by Alfred Marti, took over brewery management in 1934 after George Marti passed away. The younger Marti added entertainment to the brewery’s local allure by establishing the Schell’s Hobo Band, which still performs in the community today. In 1969, Alfred Marti retired, passing on leadership to his son Warren.

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Beer Birthday: Dave Hoops

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Today is the 50th birthday – the Big 5-O — of Dave Hoops, former Master Brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth, Minnesota. After leaving Fitger’s he’s formed a consulting business, Bev-Craft, to help new breweries get started and also specialized consulting services for existing breweries, but even more exciting is he’s started his own brewery, Hoops Brewing, which has recently opened in Duluth. I first met Dave when he was brewing in the Bay Area in the 1990s, but lost touch after moved to the midwest. Happily, I’ve been seeing more and more of him at beer events and judging for GABF. Join me in wishing Dave a very happy birthday.

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Dave, sporting a kilt, with his wife Laura.

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A cleaned up Dave with his daughter Daisy.

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Hoops and hops.

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In full beard.

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But here he’s again cleaned up for a Fitger’s promo shot.

[Note: All photos purloined from Facebook.]

Historic Beer Birthday: Peter Ganser

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Today is the birthday of Peter Ganser (June 24, 1836-August 5, 1915). He was born in Germany, but settled in Steele County, Minnesota, buying the Knobloch & Mannheim brewery and founding the Peter Ganser brewery in Owatonna, along with his brother Adam. It was generally known as the Peter Ganser, City Brewery, off and on from 1865, before it finally closed a few years into prohibition.

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Here’s his obituary, from the American Brewers Review:

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Local brewer Peter Ganser sits on an ornate chair, holding two of his daughters. On the left is Adeline, who later became Mrs. William Zamboni; on the right is his daughter, Catherine, who later married Harry Brown (from the Steele County Historical Society).

And here’s another account from the “History of Rice & Steele Counties, Minnesota, Illustrated, Vol. II,” and published in 1910:

Peter Ganser, proprietor of the Owatonna City Brewery, is one of those substantial citizens, who, in building the foundations for their own fortunes, find the time to take an interest in all worthy causes that tend toward the development of the community. He combines liberality with shrewd common sense and business ability and from his first settlement here he has had an unbounded faith in Owatonna’s future. Mr. Ganser was born in Prussia, Germany, June 24, 1836. He received his early education in the public schools and remained in his native country until 1854, when he came to America and located in Dane county, Wisconsin, where he lived for a time and then went to California. In 1863 he returned to Wisconsin and there remained until 1865 when he came to Owatonna and, together with his brother, Adam, purchased the city brewery, which they continued together until 1872, at which time the brother died. The subject of this sketch then became the sole owner and proprietor. In 1878 the brewery was destroyed by fire, entailing a loss of about $12,000. Undaunted by this loss, Mr. Ganser rebuilt, but in 1884 again suffered a similar disaster. The present building, to which additions and improvements have been made from time to time, was erected in 1884. In 1879, Mr. Ganser, in company with Jacob Glaeser, erected the building then known as the Germania Hall. Mr. Glaeser has carried on a large and increasing business from year to year. In 1894 he sold out his business for six years lived a retired life. In 1900 he again came into possession of the brewery, which he has since conducted. Mr. Ganser was married in 1867 to Mary Knight, who was born in Indiana. The fruit of this union was three children, viz: Margaret, now the wife of William Fleckenstein of the Fleckenstein Brewery at Faribault; Adeline, now Mrs. W. C. Zamboni; Kate, now Mrs. H. D. Brown, of Owatonna. Mr. Ganser is a Democrat in political faith. He takes an active interest in public affairs, and served as a mayor of Owatonna one term, and alderman of the fourth ward for two years. Mr. Ganser is a self-made man, enterprising in business, and has won his position by persevering efforts. He lives in a very find residence at 508 South Oak street.

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Ganser Brau Near Beer.

And this is from Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota:

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Historic Beer Birthday: George Marti

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Today is the birthday of George Marti (May 4, 1856-March 22, 1934). He was the husband of Emma Schell, whose father August Schell started the Schell’s Brewery in 1860 in New Ulm, Minnesota. 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.” A pharmacist by trade, when August’s son Otto, who had been running the brewery after his father died, also died suddenly in 1911, George stepped up and became the manager and president of the brewery. He thought it would be temporary, but he remained at the brewery for the rest of his life, and in 1934 when he passed away, his son Alfred Marti took over for him.

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This portion of a history of the August Schell Brewery, from Funding Universe, mentions George Marti and his role in the company:

In 1878 August Schell turned over daily operations to his sons Adolph and Otto, but remained as chief executive of the company. Adolph managed the business, and Otto, who had spent time studying brewing in Germany, became brewmaster. Later, after Adolph moved out of state, Otto and his brother-in-law George Marti partnered to operate the brewery. Back in those days the beer was delivered to bars by horse-drawn wagon in oak barrels. When trucks were used in later years, Schell even delivered to people’s homes.

In 1885, August and Theresa Schell built the Schell mansion and had the brewery property beautifully landscaped with gardens and a deer park. The picturesque landscaping still encompasses the brewery complex today, more than 100 years later. Their attention to detail earned the mansion and grounds a spot on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Sometime before he died, August Schell commissioned a Copper brew kettle for the brewery, which held 3,520 gallons of beer. It cost $25,000. At the time copper was the best metal to use in the brewing process. It helped brewers avoid problems due to the acidic content of wort and beer.

August Schell died in 1891, leaving the brewery to his wife. His youngest son Otto was the manager. The family incorporated August Schell Brewing Company in 1902, with Otto serving as president, Theresa as vice-president, and George Marti as secretary-treasurer. In 1911, Otto died suddenly. Theresa died just four months later, leaving George Marti to run the brewery.

The brewery continued to flourish under George Marti’s leadership until Prohibition was signed into law in 1919. Prohibition laws banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. Wisely, Marti responded by shifting the brewery’s production to “near beer,” soft drinks, and candy. When Prohibition laws were finally repealed in 1933, Schell’s brewery easily made the transition back to brewing malt beverages. The brewery was fortunate; during that time period, approximately 1,300 breweries in the country went out of business.

The next generation, represented by Alfred Marti, took over brewery management in 1934 after George Marti passed away. The younger Marti added entertainment to the brewery’s local allure by establishing the Schell’s Hobo Band, which still performs in the community today. In 1969, Alfred Marti retired, passing on leadership to his son Warren.

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I’m pretty sure on of these men is George when he was younger, though I’m not sure if it’s the one on the far left or far right.

And this short paragraph mentioning George is from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

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.

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Schells-Deer-Brand-Beer--Labels-August-Schell-Brewing-Company

Historic Beer Birthday: August Schell

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Schell brewery seen from a distance.

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

Introduction

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion

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.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Otto Bremer

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Today is the birthday of Otto Bremer (October 21, 1867-February 18, 1951). He was born in the Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) area of Germany, and along with his brother Adolf, settled in Minnesota, in the St. Paul area.

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Bremer was a German American banker and philanthropist. He founded Bremer Bank and the Otto Bremer Foundation, which grants funds for use in the communities where the banks operate. His brother Adolf married brewer Jacob Schmidt’s daughter, and by 1901, Adolf and Otto Bremer owned 25 percent of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company stock. When Schmidt passed away in 1911, the Bremer brothers took control of the brewery. When Adolf died in 1939, Otto assumed the role of president of Schmidt’s brewery until he died in 1951.

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Otto Bremer with a sandwich and a beer.

Here’s a partial history of the Jacob Schmidt brewery during the time the Bremers were involved, from Wikipedia:

Jacob Schmidt started his brewing career in Minnesota as the Brewmaster for the Theodore Hamm’s Brewing Co. He left this position to become owner of the North Star Brewing Co. Under Schmidt’s new leadership the small brewery would see much success and in 1899 Schimdt transferred partial ownership of his new brewery to a new corporation headed by his son in law Adolph Bremer, and Adolph’s brother Otto. This corporation would later become Bremer Bank. With the new partnership the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company was established. In 1900 the North Star Brewery would suffer a fire that would close it for good. With the new management team in place a new brewery was needed, the new firm purchased the Stahlmann Brewery form the St. Paul Brewing Co. and immediately started construction on a new Romanesque brewery incorporating parts of Stahlmann’s original brewery along with it including the further excavation of the lagering cellars used in the fermentation process to create Schmidt’s Lager Beer

Upon Schmidt’s death in 1911 the Bremers took full control of the company and continued to see success and growth. In 1920 National Prohibition came to Minnesota and stopped the production and sale of intoxicating beverages. Schmidt’s was one of the few breweries to see success and remain open all throughout prohibition in offering nonalcoholic beverages or near beers such as Malta and City Club as well as other beverages. It was rumored that Schmidt’s continued to produce real beer during prohibition complete with a secret underground tunnel that allowed for beer to be transported from the brewery on the bluffs to awaiting ships on the Mississippi river below. None of these rumors were ever confirmed though.

Since Schmidt’s never stopped production of beverages in the brewery it was one of few breweries in Minnesota that was ready to produce real beer when prohibition was lifted in 1933. Schmidt’s re-released City Club beer as an strong beer with the new slogan of “Tops in any Town”. After prohibition Schmidt’s saw widespread success and continued to grow. This Success brought attention to the Bremer family leading to the kidnapping of Edward Bremer by the Barker-Karpis gang on the 16th of January, 1934; he was released on the 7th of February of the same year with 200,000 bail. As Schmidt’s continued to grow becoming the 7th largest brewery in the country by 1936 it was decided offering City Club in cans would be more profitable and became one of the first brewers in Minnesota to offer beer in cans. Like Hamm’s Schmidt’s offered beer in flat top cans, but became one of the only brewer to switch back to cone top cans after. During World War II Schmidt’s was granted a contract from the government to supply beer to the troops, made possible by a long standing friendship between the Bremers and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1951 Otto Bremer died and City Club beer began to be phased out. In 1954 due to mounting pressure and competition from outside National Brewers the Bremers decided to leave the brewing industry and sold the company to Detroit based brewer Pfeiffer.

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And here’s another biography of both Adolf and Otto Bremer, from Funding Universe:

Otto Bremer and his younger brother Adolph immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1886. The Midwest, where the young men settled, had experienced a period of rapid growth: the population had exploded and business opportunities were abundant. Otto Bremer’s first job was as a stock clerk for a wholesale hardware business in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1887, he took a bookkeeping position with the National German-American Bank–he had three years of elementary banking training in Germany, according to a Ramsey County History article by Thomas J. Kelley. Bremer eventually became chief clerk.

The boom days of the 1880s were followed by a bust in the early 1890s. Banks in St. Paul’s sister city of Minneapolis went under. The National German-American Bank had to suspend operations for a time. By the end of the decade, the nation was in a deep economic depression.

Otto Bremer left the National German-American Bank at the turn of the century to make a run for the office of city treasurer. A well established and respected member of the community by this time, he won the election and served for five terms. (He had an unsuccessful but closely contested race for mayor in 1912.) Meanwhile, his brother Adolph was making his own headway in St. Paul’s business community. One connection led to a romance as well. Adolph married Marie Schmidt, the daughter of North Star Brewery owner Jacob Schmidt, in 1896.

While serving as city treasurer, Otto Bremer became a charter member of the board of directors for the American National Bank. The bank was formed in 1903 through the merging of two St. Paul banks. Bremer held 50 of the 2,000 shares of capital stock. The charter members of the board of directors, well aware of potential pitfalls, operated a conservative banking business, unlike the days of wild growth when banks and customers were extended beyond their means.

Brother Adolph’s responsibilities also continued to grow. When the brewery was reorganized as the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company in 1899, he was named president. Adolph Bremer took over operating control when Schmidt died in 1910. He brought Otto in as secretary and treasurer shortly thereafter.

As Adolph gained ownership in the brewery, Otto Bremer increased his holdings in the bank, becoming a major shareholder by 1916. Adolph joined his brother on the American National Bank board of directors that year.

In 1921, Benjamin Baer, the bank’s second president and an original board member, died. Otto Bremer was named chairman. He also bought much of Baer’s stock and by 1924 gained controlling interest in the bank.

The brewery and its sales agencies in rural Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin provided a direct link to the Bremers and American National Bank in St. Paul. The brewery or the Bremers owned the land or buildings the sales agencies occupied, creating a starting point for further business relationships in the communities.

Otto Bremer became an advisor to local bankers, who often formed corresponding partnerships with American National. Dependent on the cyclical agricultural economy, country banks needed loans from city banks with a more diverse and therefore a more stable of base of business. Otto Bremer formed a deep commitment to the rural communities, and when economic disaster struck he was there to help.

Trouble began with a ramp-up of farm production in response to the needs created by the United States’ entry into World War I. Farmers began planting more acres and buying expensive machinery. Agricultural land increased in value. Farmers took out larger loans to drive the expansion. Demand collapsed following the war. Harsh weather conditions in the Midwest further hampered farmers. Loans went unpaid. A recession hit the nation in 1920, taxing city banks supporting the stressed country banks.

“Bent on maintaining the public trust in the country banks, Otto Bremer loaned them his good name and his money. Throughout the 1920s banks came into the fold of the American National Bank or the Bremer group,” wrote Kelley. Eventually, Bremer had to begin borrowing against his assets to keep country banks afloat.

By 1933, he held large or controlling interests in 55 banks in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Montana, apart from his holdings in American National. However, he was $8 million in debt. The backing of Adolph Bremer’s shares in the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company and a loan from the Federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation helped Otto Bremer keep his stock in American National and the country banks in the family.

Despite the one-two punch delivered by the farm recession and Great Depression, the Bremer brothers had kept control of both the brewery and the bank. When Adolph Bremer died in 1939, Otto Bremer succeed him as president of the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company.

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Otto Bremer in 1943.

In 1943, he created the Otto Bremer Company. The bank holding company consolidated his holdings in the country banks and would protect them from being sold to settle his estate, according to the Kelley article.

The Otto Bremer Foundation was formed the next year to make charitable grants in the communities served by the country banks. The ownership of the Otto Bremer Company was transferred to the foundation in 1949. After Bremer’s death in 1951, the banking chain entered an extended period of consolidation. The brewery was sold in 1954, but descendants of Adolph Bremer held stock in American National until it was sold to Milwaukee-based Firstar Corp. in 1996.

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Historic Beer Birthday: Theodore Hamm

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Today is the birthday of Theodore Hamm (October 14, 1825-July 31, 1903). He was born in Emmendingen, Emmendingener Landkreis, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Hamm emigrated in 1856 with his wife Louise to the United States and settled in St. Paul. In the 1860s, Hamm assisted brewer Andrew F. Keller, so that he could expand his business. The brewery was taken as a security deposit. When the Keller brewery went bankrupt, it became the property of Hamm, and he founded the Hamm Brewing Company in 1865.

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Here’s another early history of the brewery, from Minneapolis Urban Adventures:

Theodore and Louise Hamm, a young German immigrant couple, found a home in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1856. In 1864, entrepreneur Andrew F. Keller, the owner of a small brewery called the Excelsior Brewery (then producing 500 barrels a year) needed money for expansion. Theodore lent the money with the brewery as collateral. When Keller defaulted on the loan, Theodore Hamm was the owner of a brewery. The size of the work force grew, as did the total number of barrels brewed. In 1865 there were 5 employees that brewed 500 barrels a year, which grew to 75 employees brewing 40,000 barrels a year in 1885. In 1894 the brewery expanded to include a bottling works, followed by artificial refrigeration in 1895. In 1894 an open house was held and free samples of beer were handed out, beginning the long tradition of brewery tours. The brewery was incorporated in 1896, giving Theodore the title of president and William the titles of vice-president and secretary. The line to succession of the brewery was thus established, as the brewery remained in domain of the Hamm’s family for 100 years.

The brewery continued to expand from 8,000 barrels in 1879, to 26,000 barrels in 1882, to 600,000 barrels in 1915. This growth was stymied from 1919-1933 during prohibition. During prohibition, the plant was kept open and an array of products including near beer, industrial alcohol syrups and soft drinks were produced. Soon after the death of his father, William Hamm Jr. started the greatest expansion effort in the tenure of the brewery. The capacity was doubled and the plant was modernized. EC Nippolt, vice president and general manager of the company, estimated that an increase of at least double the number of employees from 150 to 300 or 400. An estimate from newspaper accounts reveals an expenditure of $300,000 in immediate improvements to be made to the plant.

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Here’s another brief history from the brewery’s Wikipedia page:

The Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was established in 1865 when, a German immigrant Theodore Hamm (1825-1903) inherited the Excelsior Brewery from his friend and business associate A. F. Keller, who had perished in California seeking his fortune in the gold fields. Unable to finance the venture himself, Keller had entered into a partnership with Hamm to secure funding. Upon Keller’s death, Hamm inherited the small brewery and flour mill in the east side wilderness of St. Paul, Minnesota. Keller had constructed his brewery in 1860 over artesian wells in a section of the Phalen Creek valley in St. Paul known as Swede Hollow. Hamm, a butcher by trade and local salon owner, first hired Jacob Schmidt as a brew master. Jacob Schmidt remained with the company until the early 1880s, becoming a close family friend of the Hamms. Jacob Schmidt left the company after an argument ensued over Louise Hamm’s disciplinary actions to Schmidt’s daughter, Marie. By 1884, Schmidt was a partner at the North Star Brewery not far from Hamm’s brewery. By 1899 he had established his own brewery on the site of the former Stalhmann Brewery site. In need of a new brewmaster, Hamm hired Christopher Figge who would start a tradition of three generations of Hamm’s Brewmasters, with his son William and grandson William II taking the position. By the 1880s, the Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was reportedly the second largest in Minnesota.

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Theodore’s obituary was published in the American Brewer’s Review:

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Hamm’s Brewery c. 1900.

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