Historic Beer Birthday: Christian Schmidt

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Today is the birthday of Christian Schmidt (June 24, 1833-September 6, 1894). Schmidt was born in Magstadt, Wurtemberg, Germany but moved to Philadelphia as a young man. In 1859, he became a partner with the Robert Coutrennay Brewery but bought him out the following year, renaming the brewery the Christian Schmidt Brewing Company until his sons joined the brewery in 1892, when it became known as C. Schmidt & Sons.

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Here’s a biography of both Schmidt and his brewery from Workshop of the World — Philadelphia:

Christian Schmidt, an immigrant from Wurtemberg, Germany, purchased the Robert Courtenay brewery which primarily produced ale at this site in 1860. The acquisition of other breweries, such as Peter Schemm, in addition to the production of lager beer, boosted output to 100,000 barrels by 1892. A marked expansion of the physical plant kept pace with the brewery’s growth.

The last quarter of the nineteenth century was Philadelphia’s shining era for large and small breweries. Bergner and Engel (120,000 barrels), and William Massey and Company (75,000 barrels), were the third largest and eleventh largest breweries respectively in the U. S. in 1877. By 1895, Bergner and Engel with 250,000-300,000 barrels had fallen to 15th place; the largest local brewery. Other major companies were Engels and Wolf, Betz and Bergdoll. Christian Schmidt was succeeded by his son Edward who headed the company from 1895 until 1944. There were 421 employees at Schmidt’s in 1943. It had survived and thrived through new technologies—refrigeration, and political impediments, even Prohibition, which decimated other breweries both locally and nationally. Only 26 breweries operated in Pennsylvania in 1960. Philadelphia lost brands such as Esslinger, Poth, Gretz and Class and Nachod.

Schmidt family ownership ceased in 1976 with the sale of the brewery to William H. Pflaumer. By the late 1970s Schmidt’s was the tenth-largest American brewery. It operated a plant in Cleveland, Ohio which facilitated mid-west regional sales. Valley Forge Brewing Company was acquired in the 1960s, Duquesne Brewing Company (Pittsburgh) in 1972, and label and brewing rights to Reading and Bergheim were purchased in 1976, Rheingold in 1977, Erie Brewing Company, with its Koehler brands in 1978. In 1981, Ortlieb, the only other Philadelphia brewery, was purchased by Pflaumer. Schmidt’s, unable to cope with the marketing muscle of the giant national brewers even though it employed 1,400 and produced three million barrels of beer as recently as 1984, sold its brands to G. Heileman Brewing Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin, in April 1987. Production of the Schmidt’s labels slumped to about $1.6 million barrels in 1986, less than one percent of the total U. S. Market. The demise of Schmidt’s marked the end of the large brewery in Philadelphia.

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In Rich Wagner’s Philadelphia Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Cradle of Liberty, he has this to say about Christian Schmidt:

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The Schmidt’s brewery in the 1930s.

And in One Hundred Years of Brewing, published in 1903, this was the entry for C. Schmidt & Sons.

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Beer Birthday: Ed Stoudt

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Today is the 76th birthday of Ed Stoudt, co-founder along with his wife Carol of Stoudt’s Brewing in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. Growing up near there, in Shillington, Ed operated the Black Angus Steakhouse for as long as I can remember (1962 in reality, but I was three then), and we ate there from time to time growing up, in part because Ed’s aunt was married to my grandfather Harry, who after he retired worked part time doing maintenance at the brewery. The brewery opened in 1987, one of the earliest new microbreweries in the state. Because of Pennsylvania’s famously arcane alcohol laws, the brewery was owned by Ed’s wife Carol (who was also its first brewmaster) who then sold it to the Black Angus Restaurant, delivering it next door. After high school I’d lost touch with the Stoudt’s until the early Nineties, shortly after I published by first beer book, when during a trip to GABF I discovered that we were both in the beer world. Since then, of course, I see the Stoudts more frequently at beer events throughout the calendar. Join me in wishing Ed a very happy birthday.

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Ed and me at GABF around 1992, after not having seen one another in quite a few years.

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Carol and Ed bookending Mark Edelson from Iron Hill at the opening of the first Philly Beer Week.

Carol & Ed Stoudt with Greg Koch (GK) @ Wynkoop
Carol and Ed with Greg Koch from Stone Brewing at the opening brewer’s reception at Wynkoop for GABF in 2009.

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Ed, Carol and Brian Dunn from Great Divide Brewing.

Beer Birthday: John Hansell

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Today is the 55th birthday of John Hansell, publisher of Malt Advocate, the whisky magazine in America, which also puts on WhiskyFest in several cities, including San Francisco. John’s a terrific person I don’t see nearly often enough. Join me in wishing John a very happy birthday.

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John with All About Beer’s Julie Johnson at the beer bistro in Toronto.

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John and Lew Bryson.

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Toasting Stephen & Maggie Beaumont’s wedding, with Tom Peters, from Monk’s Cafe, and Stephen Beaumont.

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John in a publicity shot with his wife Amy.

Historic Beer Birthday: Otto Flood Emmerling

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Today is the birthday of Otto Flood Emmerling (June 1, 1889-December 2, 1992). He was the son of John Emmerling, who founded the Empire Brewery of Johnston, Pennsylvania in 1878. It was technically known as the Emmerling Brewing Co. the entire time it was in business, until it was closed by Prohibition in 1920. His son Otto, was born during the Johnstown Flood that began on May 31, 1889, when his mother Philomena went into labor, and he was born the next morning, on June 1 (though some record indicate June 2, but his grave’s headstone shows June 1), so that when he passed away in 1992, he was last survivor of the great flood. It was for that reason he was given the middle name “Flood.” He and his brother took over the family brewery in 1911, shortly before their father died, and continued to run it until it closed for good when Prohibition took effect in 1920.

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The Johnstown Flood, known locally as “The Great Flood of 1889,” which occurred on May 31 of that year.

There’s not much biographical information I could find about Otto, nor any photos of him. He only ran the family brewery for nine years, and must have lost it entirely due to prohibition, and I couldn’t find out what he turned to afterwards or how he made his living between 1920 and 1992, or most of his life.

This is the Emmerling brewery, also known as the Empire Brewery in Johnston, Pennsylvania, which also served as the family’s residence.
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Historic Beer Birthday: Peter Schemm

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Today is the birthday of Peter Schemm (May 30, 1824-September 13, 1898). Born in Bavaria, Germany, he came first to Baltimore in 1842, and five years later moved to Philadelphia, where he worked at Dithmar & Bretz, brewers. Thereafter, he worked with Louis Bergdoll, and in 1855 partnered with L. Houser to form the brewery Houser & Schemm. After Houser’s death in 1863, it became the Peter Schemm Brewery, and eventually his son came to work with him, and it was renamed the Peter Schemm & Son Brewery, or the Peter Schemm & Son Lager Brewery.

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Here’s Schemm’s obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer, published on September 14, 1898, the day after he sparked worldwide interest by committing suicide by jumping into Niagara Falls.

PETER SCHEMM JUMPS OVER NIAGARA FALLS

Peter Schemm, the popular millionaire brewer, a favorite in many societies, father of eight children, band director and art patron, yesterday leaped over a bridge into the rapids above Niagara Falls just below Goat Island in the sight of hundreds of people. His body whirled to destruction, passed over the falls on the American side and may never be recovered.

The Associated Press dispatch from Niagara Falls was the first news to the family at 931 N. 8th Street. They hadn’t heard from him since Monday when he had left to visit the brewery at 25th and Poplar Streets. This worry and search for him began Monday night after he had failed to appear at the Board of Directors meeting of the National Security Bank which he never failed to attend. The family knew from the breaking off of his daily habits that something was wrong. All they could learn from his faithful carriage driver, Clarke, was that he took Mr. Schemm to the Reading Terminal Depot Monday at about 12:00.

“That’s all, you can go home. I’ll trouble you no more,” were the last words said to the driver. He spoke in his accustomed manner as the driver then thought, and disappeared in the depot. Upon his failure to appear among his coterie of friends (each evening he met his friends at Massholders Saloon near the brewery – Plumber School, building Harback, roofer Walh and undertaker Christian Kunaig and others) and his failure to return home at the accustomed hour in the evening where was usually punctual as the clock, an investigation was started and every effort was made to trace him. Telegrams were sent to his son, Peter Schemm, Jr. at Holly Beach and inquiries were made of all his intimate friends in this city. None knew anything. He sometimes had business at Bethlehem, and had interest in the Warwick Iron Co., but all that could be learned was that the driver had left him in the Reading Terminal at noon.

A distressing night and morning for his family and friends ended in the news that he had become the first sensational suicide of the summer at Niagara Falls.

AT THE FALLS

He arrived at Niagara Falls at 11:00 pm the night before and registered at the Central House as Peter Schemm with putting down his address. He inquired for the Steel Arch Bridge and paid 25 cents to be conducted there at night. The following morning he said he was from Philadelphia and hired hackman Hickey to take him for a drive. He was taken all along the rapids and stopped many times to make examinations out of curiosity, the driver thought, but evidently contemplating a place to jump. When they got to the bridge on the route to Goat Island, he got out and sent the driver on across the bridge saying he would walk across to get a better view. In the middle of the bridge a figure was seen climbing up and over, there was a shout from people which caused all faces to turn. The 200 pound form of the gray-bearded 74 year old man was that of Peter Schemm.

A SELF MADE MAN

Peter Schemm was born at Dottenheim near Newstadt-on-the-Aisch, Bavaria, May 30, 1824. Landing at Baltimore in his 18th year, without friends or relatives in this country, he found employment as a farm hand on what was a large farm on Pelair Road on the identical spot now occupied by the Van Der Horst Brewery. After five years of service at Baltimore, he left for Philadelphia, engaging with Dithmar & Bretz, the celebrated Ale and Porter brewers. In 1849, he entered a business relationship with Louis Bergdoll, then being one of the founders of the I. Bergdoll Brewing Co. Retiring the next year to give a place for Mr. Bergdoll’s brother-in-law, the late Charles Booth, Mr. Schemm formed a partnership with George Nanger as Nanger and Schemm at the 2nd and New Streets, a firm well known in its day, and held happy remembrances for many old citizens in Philadelphia. “Der dic-h George” was one of the characters of German society in the days of over 30 years ago. (The Industries of Philadelphia records that Philadelphia was the first place in this country where Lager Beer was made and the original brewer was George Manger who had a brewery about 1846047 on New Street).

After five years of hard work, Mr. Schemm started a saloon on 238 Race St. Still in existence and known for many years as the principal place of resort of the German element of the city. In 1855 he formed partnership with L. Houser as L. Houser & Co. which was renewed after five years as Houser & Schemm continuing until the death of Mr. Houser in 1863 when Mr. Schemm purchased the widow’s interest and was continued ever since under the name of Peter Schemm.

He was a member of the Odd Fellows, Red Men, Seven Wise Men, Masonic and other Orders, and served in some as Grand Master, State Representative and other important positions. He was also a member of the Germany Society Turners Schutzenverein, Saengerbund, etc. He was one of the founders and president of the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers Association. He was also one of the founders of the National Security Bank of Franklin & Ferard and was Director of it since 1870. Also founder of the Northern Savings and Trust Co. and the Warwick Iron Company and was a member of the Commerical Exchange of Philadelphia.

You can also find additional obituaries and follow up stories at the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group.

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The Peter Schemm & Son Brewery located at North 25th Street near Poplar in Philadelphia.

There’s some biographical information about Peter Schemm at the Peter Schemm and Fredericka Rosina Schill Family Group.

Peter was born at Dottenheim near Newstadt-on-the-Aisch, Bavaria, May 30, 1821, where for generations past, his family had been brewers. Peter grew up in the brewing trade, learning both brewing and coopering, two trades which were generally carried on together. His family was well to do, but he believed that America offered larger opportunity for him. He arrived at the port of Baltimore at the age of 18 in 1839 and found employment as a farm hand on what was a large farm on Pelair Road on the identical spot which was occupied later by the Van Der Horst Brewery. Seven years later in 1846, he left for Philadelphia, engaging as a brewer and cooper with Dithmar & Bretz, the celebrated Ale and Porter brewers. In 1849, he entered a business relationship with Louis Bergdoll, then being one of the founders of the I. Bergdoll Brewing Co. Retiring the next year to give a place for Mr. Bergdoll’s brother-in-law, Charles Booth, Peter formed a partnership with George Nanger as Nanger and Schemm at the 2nd and New Streets, a firm well known in its day, and held happy remembrances for many old citizens in Philadelphia. (The Industries of Philadelphia records that Philadelphia was the first place in this country where Lager Beer was made, and the original brewer was George Manager who had a brewery about 1846-47 on New Street).

After five years of hard work, Peter started a saloon on 238 Race Street, a principal place of resort of the German element of the city. In 1855 he invested his capital in partnership with L. Hauser as L. Hauser & Co. which was renewed after five years as Houser & Schemm continuing until the death of Mr. Houser in 1863 when Mr. Schemm purchased the widow’s interest and continued after that time under the name of Peter Schemm. Hauser had a three-story dwelling on the ground floor and a small two-story building next door in which the beer was made. The total daily capacity at the start was 10 barrels. The dwelling and original brewery were used as different offices and a cooper shop, and other buildings were erected on the corner below. A large brewery was erected in 1885, and in 1886 the capacity of the establishment was doubled again when another building, which took the place of the two small houses in which the business had started, was erected. Peter was satisfied with the proportion of his trade, but the popularity of his beer and the expansion in the number of saloons created a larger retailer demand.

Peter gained a reputation in his time for great integrity regarding his product. He was not at all interested in fancy innovations in brewing or for the extensions that were often proposed by promoters and big brewing combinations. He had strong ideas on the way his beer should be served as well. The temperature could be neither too high nor too low and it had to be served carefully. Retailers guilty of neglects in these regards were denied his products.

Peter was a generous giver to charities and to friends of his youth who needed assistance. He contributed to charities and to the many German societies of which he was a member.

In 1885, Peter A. Schemm, Peter’s only son, joined the business, and the elder Peter gradually relinquished active management. His eyesight was beginning to fail, but even so, he maintained his daily practice of visiting the brewery two or three times every day, stroll up to Massholder’s saloon, a few doors above the brewery and sit with three or four old friends, and every day took his own carriage and driver (rather than using the carriage of his family) to meet with an old friend and stop by the brewery to be sure the beer was not too cold and had been properly drawn. In 1895, the contracting firm of Philip Halbach was engaged to add a large stock house to the Peter Schemm & Son brewery at a cost of $30,000.

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Peter Schemm (with the white beard in the front right).

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Beer Birthday: Bill Covaleski

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Today is the 53rd birthday of Bill Covaleski, a co-founder of Victory Brewing Co., along with his childhood friend Ron Barchet. I first met Bill at the brewery doing an article on Pennsylvania breweries for the Celebrator over a decade ago. It’s been great seeing his brewery rack up victory after victory as they’ve grown and become one of Pennsylvania’s best, biggest and brightest. Join me in wishing Bill a very happy birthday.

Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk with Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski & Greg Koch
During an event at Philly Beer Week 2009: Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk with Sam Calagione, Bill & Greg Koch.

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Bill with a big bottle of beer.

Later night at Jim's Steaks Bill Covaleski showcases our cheesesteaks as James Watt looks on & Greg Koch tries to hide his face
A late night cheesesteak at Jim’s with Bill showcasing our sandwiches while James Watt and Greg Koch look on bemused.

Toasting the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione
Toasting the Brewer’s Class of ’96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione.

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Bill wearing the Belmont Crown at an event at Belmont Station during last year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Portland.

Scranton Media Family Buys Flying Fish

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I somehow missed this news, which seems to have come out without too much fanfare a few days ago. Maybe we’re becoming desensitized to brewery M&A? Certainly Twitter wasn’t abuzz with the news. Flying Fish Brewing, one of New Jersey’s earliest small brewers, was bought by the Lynett and Haggerty families, who own Times-Shamrock Communications. They own a dozen newspapers and eleven radio stations. On April 8, they announced that they’d bought a controlling interest in the Somerdale, New Jersey brewery, though the deal was quietly done a month earlier, on March 11.

Flying Fish was founded in 1995 by Gene Muller. They started in Cherry Hill, but moved to larger quarters in Sommerville four years ago.

According to the Scranton Times-Tribune (one of the papers owned by the family), this is how it went down.

The family’s expertise in marketing, events and promotions will help the brewery continue to grow and expand its footprint, said Bobby Lynett, manager of L&H Brewing Partners, the entity that now holds a majority interest in Flying Fish. They declined to disclose the cost of their acquisition.

“Flying Fish is a nice brewery with good people and a great product,” said Mr. Lynett, a publisher of The Times-Tribune. “We want to help it grow.”

Flying Fish currently employs 33 people who produce about 24,000 barrels of beer each year.

Gene Muller, founder of Flying Fish, said he began looking for new partners when some initial investors began to cash out on their investment in the company. He joked that the Scranton family emerged as a good fit “because they are Irish.”

Mr. Muller, 61, believes Flying Fish will benefit from events and other business interests of the Lynett-Haggerty families, whom he refers to as “The Scranton Guys.”

“There are obvious synergies,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to inject some enthusiasm into the company and take care of our initial investors. The Scranton Guys are part of a 100-year-old company. They understand the long-term horizon.”

The capital for L&H Brewing Partners came from some individual family members and Elk Lake Capital, set up by the family to invest in non-media companies to add diversity to the family’s holdings beyond Times-Shamrock’s media holdings of newspapers, radio stations and outdoor advertising. Elk Lake already owns a land-surveying company and water-testing company.

Toasting the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam CalagioneAt a Philly Beer Week event celebrating the Class of '96: Greg Koch, Mark Edelson, Bill Covaleski, Tom Kehoe, Gene Muller & Sam Calagione.

Inside A Brewery Circa 1892

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If you’re a regular reader, you’ve probably noticed that this year’s project is posting “Historic Beer Birthdays” with as much information as I can find about each person. It’s been a lot of fun, especially getting to know more about a lot of the early brewers and breweries that make up the history of our brewing industry. One especially fun find was this piece of breweriana which I found when looking into Frederick J. Poth (whose birthday was March 20, 1840). His father, Frederick A. Poth (born March 15, 1840) founded the F. A. Poth & Sons’ Brewery, and his other son Harry A. Poth (July 11, 1881) also worked for the family business. It was one of the largest breweries in Philadelphia in its heyday.

Around 1892, they had a local printer, Avil Printing Co., create a lavish Souvenir Album of 20 pages, with 26 illustrations done by A. M. J. Mueller. The prints are Chromolithographs, a popular process at the time. The booklet presumably would have been given to bars, wholesalers and maybe even consumers as a promotional item, but as these things go, this one is pretty awesome, and gives a great glimpse into the inner workings of a turn of the century American brewery.

Here’s its description from “The Library Company of Philadelphia,” founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.

Album containing 26 lithographic illustrations documenting the Philadelphia brewing complex at the northwest corner of Thirty-first and Jefferson Streets, including exterior and interior views of individual buildings within the complex and detailed scenes of laborers operating equipment and transporting the finished product to and from railroad stations. Shows exterior and interior views of the office building, boiler house, stable, and malt house; exterior views only of pitching house, pitching yard, and shipping department; interior views of private offices, beer stube, refrigerating machines and engine room, brew house, fermenting room, beer storage, racking room, wash house, and kiln house; and modes of transport including a delivery wagon loaded with barrels of beer approaching the F.A. Poth depot at Trenton, New Jersey. Includes a “bottled by” list on the last page with names and addresses next to two F.A. Poth bottles of beer. Under the list: “100,836 barrels were sold between January 1, 1890 and January 1, 1891.”

Established in 1865 by Frederick August Poth at the northeast corner of Third and Green Streets, and moved to Thirty-first and Jefferson Streets in 1871. Incorporated in 1877, and later renamed F.A. Poth & Sons, Incorporated.

This is the hardbound cover.
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Opening the book, you’re greeted by the title page.
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General View of [the] Plant.
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Office Building & Beer Strube.
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Main Office.
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Private Offices.
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Boiler House & Interior.
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Refrigerating Machines & Engine Room.
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Interior Brew House.

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Fermenting Room.
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Beer Storage.
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Beer Storage.
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Racking Room & Wash House.
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Pitching House & Pitching Yard.

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Shipping House & Refrigerator Car.

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Stable & Interior.

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Malt House.
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Interior Malt House.
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Kiln House.

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Depot at Trenton, N.J.
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Beer In Ads #1867: Facts Versus Fallacies #67


Thursday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 67 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “67,” and is about how in every state that already had a prohibition in alcohol, it was failing miserably, and was impossible to enforce. In Alabama, in one city alone — Birmingham — it was estimated that 500 packages of alcohol were delivered every single day to residents who’d ordered them from out of state. So yeah, that worked.

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Beer In Ads #1866: Facts Versus Fallacies #61


Wednesday’s ad is another one for the Pennsylvania State Brewers Association, from 1915, No. 61 in series they did from 1915-17 called “Facts Versus Fallacies.” I have no idea how many were done but some of the them are numbered into low triple digits, suggesting there were a lot of them, all in an effort to stop Prohibition from happening and win over support for beer. This ad, marked “61,” and is about a canard that’s still used as propaganda by prohibitionists today, which is that people who drink alcohol are criminals and that one leads to the other. But even statistics at that time (as today) did not support that claim, and in fact a majority of incarcerated people were not alcoholics. They go on citing several experts of the day, all with he same opinion, that drinking alcohol does not cause someone to become a criminal, despite the ludicrous cries of the anti-alcohol wingnuts.

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