Historic Birthday: David G. Yuengling

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Today is the birthday of David G. Yuengling (March 2, 1808-September 27, 1877) who founded the Eagle Brewing Co. in 1829, and today it’s “America’s oldest brewery.” The name was changed in 1873 to D. G. Yuengling and Son when David’s son Frederick joined the company. He was born in Aldingen in what today is Germany — but then was the Kingdom of Württemberg. He was born David Gottlob Jüngling, but anglicized his name after emigrating the United States in 1828.

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100 Years of Brewing has a short summary of D.G. and the brewery’s early years.

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Immigrant Entrepreneurship, under German-American Business Biographies, has a lengthy one of David Gottlob Yuengling.

David Gottlob Jüngling was born in the village of Aldingen (today part of the town of Remseck in the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg) into a family that is listed as operating Aldingen’s first brewery by 1816. A passport application from 1862 describes the 56-year old David Gottlob as having blue eyes and black hair and standing five feet six inches (168 cm) tall. His father, Friedrich Jüngling, operated Aldingen’s brewery in the Neues Schloss (“New Palace”), a baroque manor of which he owned one quarter, including the brewery and livestock pens. Prior to starting the brewery in Aldingen, Friedrich Jüngling’s profession is listed as butcher, and he served on the town council. Both positions reflected a degree of wealth and social status within the community. Although Friedrich Jüngling was born in nearby Erdmannhausen, his wife Anna Maria Jüngling (née Wildermuth) was born in Aldingen. D.G. Yuengling had three brothers and four sisters, one of whom, Christiane, also immigrated to Pennsylvania. D.G. Yuengling may have apprenticed in his father’s brewery during his youth, or he may have acquired skills as a brewer through an apprenticeship at another brewery in the region. However, his older brother, Jakob, inherited their father’s brewery and reportedly continued operating it until his death in 1878. With Jakob in charge of the Jüngling family brewery, and economic opportunities in the 1820s somewhat limited, particularly in Württemberg, D. G. Yuengling chose to immigrate to Pennsylvania in 1829 via Rotterdam. Yuengling landed in Baltimore and quickly moved on to the towns of Lancaster and Reading in Pennsylvania, both of which were at the time heavily populated by German immigrants and Pennsylvania Germans whose demand for beer was already served by local entrepreneurs. Yuengling likely sought a location with fewer brewers and a steady demand for fresh, locally produced beer.

The boomtown of Pottsville, deep in the anthracite coal belt of Eastern Pennsylvania, offered one such location. The town had been named for John Potts, who founded it after purchasing the first anthracite furnace along the Schuylkill River in 1806. The furnace had been in use since 1795. The demand for hard coal in Philadelphia and the surrounding region led to skyrocketing prices for anthracite coal land, with one parcel selling for $33,000 more than it had been purchased for five years earlier, and another increasing by $15,000 within months. Yuengling arrived in this rapidly-changing community in 1829 and set up a brewery shortly thereafter.

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D.G. Yuengling (front and center) with the brewery employees in 1873.

Upon his arrival in the United States, David Gottlieb Yuengling carried with him his skills as a brewer, as well as possibly some startup money (Startkapital). In 1829, when Yuengling established the Eagle Brewery in Pottsville, the town was experiencing a building boom related to land speculation and increasing anthracite coal production. The daytime population, including mine workers, had jumped to over 3,700. In 1832, some twenty-five taverns prospered in Pottsville and, along with numerous inns and hotel, served the drinking needs of the growing population. By comparison, in 1825, “Pottsville [had] contained only fifteen houses, three taverns, three stores, a printer’s shop, a post office, and the shops of a few craftsmen.”

In addition to its increasing population, Pottsville formed an important node in an expanding regional transportation network. Trails, roads, and turnpikes linked it with other nearby communities including Schuylkill Haven, which lay along the Schuylkill River. The Schuylkill flowed in a southwesterly direction and met the Delaware River at Philadelphia. It offered an early means of waterborne transportation between interior Pennsylvania and the port of Philadelphia. The discovery of coal in Schuylkill County in 1790 spurred the construction of the Schuylkill Canal and subsequently the founding of the influential Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. Both of these enterprises transported anthracite coal from Pottsville and the surrounding coal fields to Philadelphia and later New York City and improved access to materials produced outside the region. While these new transportation facilities played little to no role in beer distribution at the time due to the highly localized nature of unpasteurized beer consumption, they brought about an increase in demand for labor in the region and supported local business activities, which provided fertile ground for Yuengling’s new brewery venture.

Yuengling’s 1829 Eagle Brewery was located on Centre Street near the Schuylkill County Courthouse, which during the economic depression of the 1870s became known for the trial of striking coal miners who were decried as Molly Maguires and executed for murder. During the brewery’s early years of operation, Yuengling likely produced beer almost exclusively for the local market. Yuengling started brewing on a small scale, perhaps due to limited financial resources and access to credit, or possibly because he did not want to risk overextending himself. The brewery’s production totals reflect the precarious nature of his small business. Furthermore, he likely performed most, if not all, of the brewing and distribution process himself. His beer would have been made in open kettles and vats and the production process would have been physically arduous. Brewing involved boiling a mash of grain and water to convert complex starches into simple sugars. Boiled grains would then be sparged (i.e. rinsed) with hot water in order to extract all the sugars from the grain. The resulting sweet and sticky wort would be boiled with hops and then cooled so that yeast could be added to ferment the sugars and produce alcohol. Depending on the type of beer produced, primary fermentation could take one or more weeks. In all, the demanding process required heating water, lifting heavy supplies, pumping hot liquids between vats, and transporting barrels of finished beer via hand truck or horse cart to nearby taverns and inns.

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After a fire destroyed the original brewery in 1832, Yuengling quickly rebuilt his enterprise at its present location on Mahantongo Street. His new Eagle Brewery was situated in a location that took advantage of both natural geography and manmade features. The site at the intersection of Fifth and Mahantongo Streets lay near a freshwater spring that provided water for the community of Pottsville. The new brewery made use of this water for all brewing operations. Yuengling contracted with local laborers, possibly coal miners, to build tunnels into a mountain behind the new facility. The tunnels extended underneath the brewery and kept finished beer cool, though not cold enough to prevent spoilage without the addition of ice. When Yuengling began brewing lager, the tunnels provided an ideal area for lagering the beer during cooler months. The site’s location near the local road and canal system facilitated shipment of brewing supplies to the brewery. Malt deliveries arrived from Philadelphia by horse and cart, as well as via canal boats, and Yuengling obtained ice shipments in a similar manner. By 1842, the company was receiving malt shipments by railroad, and it began distributing its beer the same way as the rail network improved during the 1850s and 1860s. These transportation facilities also enabled beer to be transported to nearby communities, many of which contained large numbers of German immigrants among their beer-drinking populations.

In 1841, thirty-three-year-old David Yuengling married seventeen-year-old Elizabeth, daughter of John George and Rosine Elizabeth Betz from nearby Schuylkill Haven. Census records hint that John G. Betz, like his son-in-law, may have been a brewer by trade and the family may also have operated an inn in Schuylkill Haven. Also like Yuengling, the Betz family had emigrated from the Kingdom of Württemberg. Elizabeth had been born in Stuttgart, fewer than ten miles from David Yuengling’s family home in Aldingen, on September 26, 1823. Perhaps the two families had known each other in the Old World. By 1850, federal census records show that David and his then twenty-seven-year-old wife Elizabeth had five children: Elizabeth (age 6), David (age 8), Mary (age 5), Teresia (age 4), and Frederick (age 2). Eventually, the couple had a total of three sons and seven daughters.

David Yuengling dealt with numerous challenges during the early decades that his business was in operation. He faced competition from fellow brewers in Pottsville. At least three other breweries operated in the city in 1830. The Orchard Brewery opened around 1831 and brewed beer in Pottsville and later nearby Port Carbon until the late 1870s. Likewise, the Rettig Brewery opened at the end of the Civil War and survived until the Prohibition era. Numerous other breweries opened, brewed beer briefly, and then folded due to fires and financial difficulties. Yuengling also faced a threat from prohibitionist forces in Pennsylvania. Following the passage of prohibition legislation in Maine in 1851, “dry” advocates secured the passage of a law in Pennsylvania banning Sunday sales of alcohol in 1852. Two years later, a full ban went before state voters and was narrowly defeated, in large part due to heavy turnout by beer-drinking voters, including substantial numbers of German immigrants.

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As David Yuengling’s three sons came of age in the 1850s and 1860s, he introduced them to the craft of brewing and put them to work in the brewery. His oldest son David Jr. apprenticed under his father and later served as a foreman for his uncle, John Frederick Betz, at Betz’s brewery in New York City. He also visited the German lands and studied the brewing craft in Munich, Stuttgart, and Klein-Schwechat, a town near Vienna in the Austrian Empire. Middle son Frederick obtained a college education and studied business at the Eastman Business School in Poughkeepsie. He later studied brewing in the German lands and Austria, as well as at the Berger and Engel Brewing Company in Philadelphia, and eventually went to work in his father’s brewery. Less is known about the education of William Yuengling, who died at the age of thirty-six in 1898.

After the Civil War, David Jr. decided to strike out on his own and established a new brewing enterprise in Richmond, Virginia, in 1866. Startup capital for the new Betz, Yuengling & Beyer Brewery (later James River Brewery, D.G. Yuengling and Company) came from the Yuengling family and John Betz, David Jr.’s uncle, as well as another brewer, Louis Beyer. This small expansion project was presumably planned with input from the elder Yuengling and is typical of a careful venture into secondary markets. The Richmond brewery remained under David Jr.’s oversight until it was sold in 1878.

As the senior David Yuengling neared his mid-60s, he chose to make middle-son Frederick a minority partner in the business. The legal foundation for the future of the family firm was solidified when the brewery became D.G. Yuengling and Son in 1873. That year also marked a high point in the number of breweries in the United States with over 4,000 in operation. Following the 1873 financial panic, however, the industry began to consolidate as the resulting business depression put numerous local and regional breweries out of business and ambitious and well-capitalized breweries such as Anheuser-Busch began to make inroads in regional markets outside the Midwest by taking advantage of railroad transportation and new technologies for keeping beer fresh such as pasteurization and refrigeration, both of which required significant capital investments. Consequently, the number of breweries fell by over a thousand by the mid-1870s and continued a precipitous decline through the beginning of the twentieth century, when about 1,500 remained in operation.

Unlike a few of the wealthy, American “beer barons” of the late nineteenth century, Yuengling did not retire to his native Germany, not even part time. His was a privately-held, midsize business (Mittelstand), and conditions may not have allowed him to retire abroad. He may simply have decided against withdrawing too much capital from his life’s work, or perhaps he also felt a strong sense of allegiance to his community. David Gottlieb Yuengling passed away after falling on the stairs of his home after a day of working in his brewery’s office on 29 September 1877, at the age of 70. Hundreds of Pottsville residents and brewery workers gathered to pay their final respects. The responsibility for continuing the Yuengling brewery legacy rested with D.G. Yuengling’s sons, because women typically did not own and lead businesses enterprises. Nevertheless, the founder’s widow, Elizabeth, who lived until 1894, inherited his shares in the firm and Frederick acted as minority owner.

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The brewery in 1855.

Throughout his life in the United States, David G. Yuengling was an active member of the Pottsville community. He was the first president of the Pottsville Gas Company and later a director of the Pottsville Water Company. Yuengling also supported the German Lutheran Church in Pottsville and contributed $10,000 for the construction of the church building, and served as a vestryman (council member). His posts with the gas and water companies illustrate Yuengling’s concern with encouraging progress in Pottsville, as well as securing the supply of resources necessary for his brewing business. Unlike the Forty-Eighters, German immigrants who had escaped reactionary monarchies in Europe and who tended to vote Republican, Yuengling was a Democrat. Whereas the Democratic Party had embraced the nativist and anti-immigrant cause by 1848, the Republican Party and its rising star Abraham Lincoln had been founded by anti-slavery Whigs and Free Soilers. Yuengling, however, had immigrated to America twenty years prior, during the era of Jacksonian democracy with President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, at the helm in the White House. Jackson’s message had been one of economic opportunity and democracy for the common, white man, as well as the preservation of the Union. At the same time, though he was a Democrat, David Yuengling also belonged to two secret societies, the Masons and the German Order of the Harugari (Der Deutsche Orden der Harugari), a mutual aid society founded in response to nativist actions against German immigrants. Like his father, Frederick Yuengling also served the community of Pottsville as president of the Pottsville Gas Company, as well as a “director of the Safe Deposit Bank and of the Pottsville Water Company.”

In addition to his engagement in the Pottsville community, which served the development of the town as well as his own business interests, David Yuengling committed time, skills, and experience to establish and further the brewing careers of a number of fellow German immigrants. His brother-in-law, John F. Betz, himself the son of a brewer, served an apprenticeship in the Yuengling brewery before participating in a grand brewing tour in Europe and establishing a brewery in New York City and later Philadelphia. Betz went on to build a brewing empire in the City of Brotherly Love and later, as previously noted, helped bail out David Yuengling Jr.’s failing brewery in New York City in the late 1890s. Henry C. Clausen Sr. was a second prominent brewer who started as a Yuengling apprentice. Clausen and John Betz co-owned a brewery in New York City and the former founded the H. Clausen and Son Brewery in the 1870s, which was for a time one of the largest breweries by production total in the nation. His son, Henry C. Clausen Jr., later founded and served as president of the U.S. Brewers’ Association.

As an immigrant entrepreneur, David Yuengling Sr. drew on his background in the Old Country while embracing new opportunities available in the U.S. His participation in the local Lutheran community and his membership in the German Order of the Harugari attest to his desire to sustain elements of his German ethnic heritage even after living in the United States for many years. His craft training in the German lands provided him with the technical skills necessary to produce quality beer in a new environment. He began brewing English-style beers, both because they were popular with the local drinking public in Pennsylvania and also because his training in the 1820s would have involved brewing ales. He proved open to new innovations in brewing, however, and began working with lager beer as the style became popular both in Central Europe and in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. Today, D.G. Yuengling & Son’s flagship beer harkens back to the lager beers brewed by David Yuengling during the Civil War era.

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There are also a couple of books on the Yuengling family and brewery. There’s Yuengling: A History of America’s Oldest Brewery and D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc., part of the Images of America series. And there’s also a Yuengling Fan website with quite a lot of information.

Historic Beer Birthday: John Emmerling

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Today is the birthday of John Emmerling (February 21, 1851-May 24, 1912). He was born in Philadelphia, but moved to Johnston in Western Pennsylvania, where he founded the Empire Brewery in 1878. It was concurrently also known as the Emmerling Brewing Co. the entire time it was in business, until it was closed by Prohibition in 1920.

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Here’s a biography of Emmerling, written in 1896 from the Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County:

JOHN EMMERLING, proprietor of the Empire Brewery, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was born in Philadelphia, this State, February 22, 1851. His education was acquired in the public schools of his native city, upon the completion of which he learned the business of brewing. Subsequently, he traveled extensively, visiting many of the more important cities of the West, and finally, located in Pittsburg, where he married. In 1878 he came to Johnstown, and immediately embarked in the brewing business on his own account. Starting in the humble building now known as the Eintracht Hall, the brewery of John Emmerling prospered so well that in one year it was moved to the larger building now occupied by the bottling house of William Thomas. Six years more saw the business grow until it became necessary to build and remove to the large and commodious brick structure which occupies nearly half a square, fronting on Horner street. The plant is two hundred by one hundred and eighty feet, three stories high, and has an annual output of eight thousand barrels, and contains all the latest improved machinery known to the brewer’s art, including engines, two ten-ton refrigerators, seven pumps for various purposes, and bottling apparatus. A visit to the vault in which the beer is stored, gives to the uninitiated a genuine surprise. Following the guide, one wanders in and out among the huge hogsheads, some of which contain forty, and others as high as eighty barrels of the amber fluid, surrounded on all sides by pipes covered to the depth of several times their own thickness with white frost, produced by the intense cold of the ammonia and brine which they contain, one can but express astonishment at the wonderful advance made since the time when nature alone supplied the cooling substance. So large is the local demand for the beer brewed at this establishment, that very little is shipped out of the city. Two wagons are kept going constantly, and two others are used when the demand requires. The present force consists of fourteen men, to which several others are added when increased business makes demand. On September 26, 1872, Mr. Emmerling married Miss Phil. Houch, a daughter of Earnest Houch, a prominent citizen of Pittsburg, and to them have been born ten children. Mr. Emmerling was one of the organizers of the board of trade, in which he takes an active interest.

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And this is his obituary from the Western Brewer, June 1912

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John Emmerling at the wheel of a 1908 Maxwell that he drove round-trip between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in a race with a $20,000 prize at stake (around $532,258 today’s money). Emmerling (who owned Emmerling Brewery) came out on top.

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

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Today is my friend and fellow beer writer Lew Bryson’s 58th birthday. You used to be able read his writings at his website, lewbryson.com, Seen Through a Glass, and his Session Beer Project, and for awhile there was less there because he became the managing editor of Whiskey Advocate and wasn’t writing about beer, although he’s still kept up with his political Why the PLCB Should Be Abolished. His latest book is also about Tasting Whiskey. But he’s back, baby, and is once again also writing about beer at his websites and other places. Lew is my favorite big galoot and the brother I never had. Join me is raising a glass of beer or whiskey and wishing Lew a very happy birthday.

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Award-winning beer writer Lew with Pete Slosberg at GABF several years ago.

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Lew and Rick Lyke at the World Beer Festival in Durham in 2008.

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Birthday boy Lew (middle) flanked by fellow Pennsylvanians Don Russell (a.k.a. Joe Sixpack) and Jack Curtin. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, too. What is it about the Commonwealth and beer writers?

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Me and Lew at Triple Rock a few years ago.

Brewhog Determines 6 More Weeks Of Winter Beers For 2017

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Over in Gobbler’s Knob, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil the Groundhog — a.k.a. the Brewhog — raised up his head this morning and looked around, and this year and saw his shadow. You know what that means? It’s six more weeks of drinking winter beers this year. Or something about a late spring, I can’t keep it straight. You can see a video of Punxsutawney Phil here. And there’s more information about Groundhog Day at the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

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But this year, I suppose given how the year is going isn’t too surprising, not every groundhog agrees on what the future hold. For example, both Staten Island Chuck along with General Beau Lee in Georgia have predicted an early spring. And so did Shubenacadie Sam in Canada.

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Although another Canadian groundhog, Balzac Billy, from Alberta, Canada, did see his shadow and so is predicting six more weeks of winter, as did Buckeye Chuck of Ohio and Essex Ed of Orange, New Jersey. And so did Big Al, a 14-foot, 1,000-pound alligator, from Texas, who is given KFC chicken each February 2. If he eats the chicken, it’s an early spring, if he passes, then it’s more winter. This year, he didn’t eat.

So it’s up in the air whether, I mean weather, we’ll have an early spring or more winter. I tend to go with the original, Punxsutawney Phil, but for no better reason then I’m from Pennsylvania. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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In Alaska, they celebrate Marmot Day.

Fingers crossed. And if you don’t have time to watch all of the deliciously wonderful Groundhog Day film today, here it is in a slightly shorter version just over three minutes.

Historic Beer Birthday: John Thomas

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Today is the birthday of John Thomas (February 1, 1847-January 4, 1899). In 1884, his later business parter founded a brewery in Philadelphia, the following year Thomas joined the business, and they called in Welde & Thomas, later adding “Brewing Company” to the name. In 1904, it was consolidated with several other breweries into the Consumers Brewers Co., which remained in business until closed by prohibition in 1920. The brewery reopened after repeal in 1933 as the Trainer Brewing Co., but only lasted one year.

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Here’s Thomas’ obituary from the American Brewers Review in 1899:

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

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In a biography of his partner John Welde, Thomas naturally gets more than a mention:

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

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

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

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

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

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Historic Beer Birthday: Christian Hess

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Today is the birthday of Christian Hess (January 30, 1848-July 27, 1912). Hess was born in Germany, and that’s about all I could find out about the man who co-founded, along with George Weisbrod, the George Weisbrod & Christian Hess Brewery, usually shortened to just the Weisbrd & Hess Brewery, and also known as the Oriental Brewery.

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Both Weisbrod and Hess were German immigrants, and originally their intention was simply to make enough beer to supply their Philadelphia saloon on Germantown Avenue. Some sources say they began as early as 1880, but most put the founding at 1882. The brewery was going strong until closed by prohibition. They managed to reopen in 1933, but closed for good in 1938.

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A brewery poster from 1905.

In 1994, Yards Brewing renovated the old Weisbrod & Hess Brewery, but after the partners split, it became the Philadelphia Brewing Co., while Yards under the direction of Tom Kehoe moved to another location.

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In the Philadelphia Brewing Co. tasting room upstairs, an old photo of the employees of the original brewery on the premises, Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company.

Both Philadelphia Weekly and Hidden City Philadelphia have stories about the brewery and efforts to re-open it.

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The brewery two years closing, in 1940.

The brewery was designed by famed local architect Adam C. Wagner, and this is an illustration of his design for the brewery from 1892.

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An ad from 1899.

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And a calendar from 1912.

Historic Beer Birthday: Frederick Yuengling

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Today is the birthday of Frederick G. Yuengling (January 26, 1848-January 2, 1899). He was the son of David G. Yuengling, who founded the Eagle Brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, which became known as the D. G. Yuengling & Son brewery.

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Frederick Yuengling was born to David Yuengling and wife Elizabeth (née Betz) on January 26, 1848. He attended Pennsylvania State College and then the Manhattan Business School in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1871, his father sent him to Europe to learn more about brewing, where he studied in Munich, Stuttgart and Vienna.

Yuengling married his wife, Minna Dohrman of Brooklynn, on April 3, 1873. Minna was from the “uppermost social class” in New York and enjoyed the mannered social scene in Pennsylvania. The newlyweds purchased a townhouse on Mahantongo Street, a street known for its “opulence” at the time. The house had six bedrooms, formal living rooms, formal dining rooms, a music room, tiled entryways, a Spanish crystal chandelier and German stained-glass windows.

On one occasion, Yuengling took a group of friends to Europe on a grand tour and then back to New York City without allowing them “to spend a cent”. On the top floor of the Yuengling brewery there was a famous room where Yuengling entertained his friends on a lavish scale.

Yuengling and his wife had two children. Frank D. Yuengling was born September 27, 1876. Daughter Edith Louise Yuengling followed on March 18, 1878. Louise died on October 6, 1883, at 5 years old. This left son Frank as the sole heir of his parents.

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In 1873, Yuengling joined his father at the brewery, where the business name was changed from D.G. Yuengling to D.G. Yuengling & Son. Yuengling was also vice president of the Schuylkill Electric Railway Company, which started 1889. “Yuengling also served as the president of the Pottsville Gas Company, a position that his father had held as well. He was also director of the Pottsville Water Company and of the safety deposit box, both positions that had previously belonged to his father.”

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Immigrant Entrepreneurship, under German-American Business Biographies, has a lengthy one of David Gottlob Yuengling, Frederick’s father, but also touches on his son’s time running the brewery:

Under Frederick Yuengling’s guidance, D.G. Yuengling and Son entered a new commercial environment for brewing in the United States. From the time of the brewery’s beginnings until the founder’s sons entered the family business, the United States underwent dramatic economic and demographic changes. Prior to 1845, immigration had been consistently fewer than 100,000 persons per year, except for one year. Subsequently, this number climbed to 350,000 and reached almost 430,000 immigrants per year by 1854, of which a significant portion was German. American cities and towns expanded. Nevertheless, the overall population continued to be predominantly rural with only sixteen percent of Americans living in cities by 1860. Industrialization in the North and Midwest during and after the Civil War combined with continued immigration led to rapid urbanization in the postwar era and cities like New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Chicago grew dramatically. It must have dawned on Yuengling’s sons that the future of the brewing business did not just lie in the remote anthracite coal towns of Eastern Pennsylvania but also in the metropolitan centers that attracted the new waves of immigrants.

Regardless of David Jr.’s trials and tribulations, the original D.G. Yuengling & Son enterprise in Pottsville under the leadership of Frederick Yuengling and later grandson Frank Yuengling continued to thrive. Yuengling largely maintained its regional focus and benefited from the continuing economic vitality of the anthracite region of Northeast Pennsylvania. The firm distributed beer via the railroad to communities throughout Schuylkill County. However, other breweries with national ambitions such as Anheuser-Busch and Pabst began making inroads in Pennsylvania, though at first primarily in larger cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. While it only lay 90 miles from the later city, the anthracite region’s relative remoteness shielded its brewers from direct competition with these increasingly powerful firms. Brewery output reached 100,000 barrels per year in 1918, and the family diversified the firm by acquiring part-ownership in the Roseland Ballroom venues in Philadelphia and New York City, as well as numerous taverns and hotels in or near Pottsville, for all of which Yuengling & Son had the exclusive right to sell their beer.

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D.G. Yuengling (front and center) with his son Frederick to his left (our right, I think) and the brewery employees in 1873.

And here’s a biography of Frederick G. from the History of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, published in 1907.

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The oldest known photo of the brewery, from 1855.

Historic Beer Birthday: Philip Bissinger

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Today is the birthday of Philip Bissinger (January 24, 1842-November 11, 1926), though confusingly many sources list the spelling of his name as “Bessinger,” which has made researching him unusually difficult. He was born in Duerkheim, Bavaria, and came the U.S. at age thirteen with his parents, who settled in Baltimore, Maryland. When the Civil War began, he enlisted in the Army, and was a captain when the war ended. “Captain” became his nickname, and that’s what people apparently called him for the rest of his life. He settled in Reading, Pennsylvania (which is where I grew up) and ran a cafe. He also founded the Reading Brewing Co. in 1886.

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Here’s a biography of Bissinger from Find-a-Grave:

Undoubtedly one of the most influential, respected and powerful men in Reading during that period. He arrived from Germany with his parents at the age of 13. His father was George Bissinger who settled in Baltimore. Phillip arrived in Berks county in 1845. When the Civil War began he became a sergeant major in the 79th Pa. Vol. Infantry. He was later promoted to 1st Lieutenant and finally became captain of company F of the same infantry. He resigned his commission Sep 12 1864. After the war he returned to Reading and later opened the Café Bissinger which became a very prominent and prestigious establishment not only locally but throughout the region as a member of the Shriners he was instrumental in the organization and construction of the Rajah Temple in 1892. He was a talented musician, a composer and director of music. He organized the Philharmonic Society where he directed concerts.

There was horrible tragedy in his life however, apparently upset, suspecting her husband of infidelity,
Louisa Bissinger, nee Eban, age 39, pregnant with child, walked calmly down the Union Canal towpath one day, filling a basket with rocks as her three dutiful children followed along. They strolled casually for about two miles. As she passed the canal office she commented to the office manager “It is warm.” He replied “yes indeed.” She then said “We have to carry a basket and take the children with us.” The mother and children were very nicely dressed. It was thought she had the children help in filling the basket with rocks. As she neared the canal lock she tied the basket to her waist with a rope she brought along, intended to keep her and the children submerged. She then gathered the children in her arms and threw herself and the children into the canal. It was premeditated and calculated. A witness saw the event and viewed Phillip Jr. come to the surface struggling but was unable to save him as he could not swim. He ran for help. The bodies were recovered later that day. The children were Lillie age 9, Mollie age 6, and Phillip Jr. age 3, and the mother’s unborn fetus. They were often seen at their father’s dining establishment and were adored by all. The mother too was well liked and respected and no one suspected she had any emotional problems nor is there any documented reason for her actions. On her person when she was recovered was a note simply giving Capt. Bissingers name and address. There were no other messages from her.

Capt. Bissinger remarried Ida Sebald Rosenthal but had no other children. He was still tending bar in 1880.

The Brewers’ Journal and Barley, Malt and Hop Trades’ Reporter mentioned in their July 1917 issue that Bissinger retired, due to “owing to illness and advanced age,” and Ferdinand Winter replaced him as president of the brewery.

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Here’s a fuller biography from the Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County Pennsylvania, by Morton Montgomery, published in 1909:

Philip Bissinger, president and manager of the Reading Brewing Company and founder of the Bissinger Caf, was born Jan. 24, 1842, in Duerkheim, Germany, and received his preliminary education at that place, where he lived until he was thirteen years of age. He then accompanied his parents in their emigration to America, landing at the port of New York. He attended private schools at Lancaster, Pa., for several years, and then secured a position as clerk which he filled until he enlisted for service in the Civil war, on Sept. 19, 1861, for the term of three years. He became sergeant-major of the 79th Regiment, P. V. I.; was promoted to first lieutenant of Company F in January, 1863, and to captain in December, 1863, having command of the company until Sept. 12, 1864, when he resigned.

Shortly after returning home Captain Bissinger removed to Reading, and on Jan. 1, 1866, established a saloon and restaurant at No. 611 Penn street, which he soon developed into the most popular resort at Reading. His success was extraordinary from the start, and in 1882 he purchased the property, making extensive improvements to accommodate the increasing demands of his patronage; and in 1890 he erected a large four-story brick building for offices and halls and storage purposes on the rear of the lot at Court street. By this time the “Bissinger Caf” had a reputation for superiority and first-class catering which extended throughout the State and nation. Numerous banquets came to be held there in celebration of events in the history of societies of all kinds, more particularly of a fraternal, political and musical nature, and in honor of popular and prominent individuals; and visiting strangers and travelers from all parts of the world found satisfactory entertainment. After having operated the caf for thirty years, until 1895, he sold the business to a faithful employe and manger for many years, Wellington B. Krick, and then retired to enable him and his wife to take a long-anticipated trip to Europe, and for nearly a year they visited the prominent centers there.

In 1886 Captain Bissinger encouraged the establishment of another brewery at Reading, and with the aid of local capitalists succeeded in organizing the Reading Brewing Company. He became the first manger of the plant and filled the position for three years, having in this time secured a large patronage from the community and made the new enterprise a success. In 1897, upon his return from Europe, he resumed his active interest in this company as a director, and in 1898 became its president and general manager; and he has served the company in these responsible positions until the present time, having in the past ten years developed its annual production from 17,000 barrels to 75,000, remodeled the plant entirely, and made it one of the finest brewing establishments in the country in point of equipment and sanitation.

For over forty years Captain Bissinger was prominently identified with the Masonic fraternity. He was chiefly instrumental in establishing Rajah Temple at Reading in 1892, and the plans for its unique and attractive hall, erected in 1904, were designed by him. He has also been prominently connected with the Grand Army of the Republic (Keim Post, No. 76), Loyal Legion, Veteran Legion, and Army of the Cumberland. In 1891 the city councils selected him as the park commissioner for the northeast division of the city and he officiated in this position until 1897, when he removed his residence to the southeast division, where he had erected a fine home on Mineral Spring road.

But it was in the musical culture of Reading that Captain Bissinger was especially influential and successful for a period of twenty years, from 1864-1883. Immediately after locating at Reading, he became a member of the Reading Maennerchor, and the society, appreciating his great talent and enthusiasm, selected him to be its assistant musical director. He filled this position with remarkable success for some years,and then the society united with the Harmonic Gesangverein, another and older musical organization at Reading. In the reorganization of the two societies, the name Harmononie Maennerchor was adopted and Captain Bissinger was selected as the musical director of the new society. His recognized ability as a leader, together with his popularity and sociability, soon won increasing support and encouragement, and the society’s concerts at Reading and other cities were highly appreciated and largely patronized. He continued to serve as the director until 1879, when he declined a re-election. During this time he was also interested in the Germania Orchestra and aided materially in its successful reorganization. In 1876, by special invitation, the Harmonie Maennerchor and the Germania Orchestra attended the United States Centennial at Philadelphia and rendered a program of classical selections in a superb manner, for which they were given high praise by leading musicians of this country and also foreign countries. In October, 1878, the society held a bazaar for a week in its commodious hall and evidenced the superior ability of its members and the efficiency and popularity of its members and the efficiency and popularity of its director. The numerous musical numbers were specially prepared by Captain Bissinger for the occasion, which involved extraordinary labors, patience and perseverance. In 1879, he organized the Philharmonic Society and directed its admirable concerts until 1883, when he was obliged to devote his entire attention to his own business affairs.

In 1880, Captain Bissinger married Ida Sebald Rosenthal (daughter of William Rosenthal, proprietor an publisher of German newspapers at Reading for forty years), who was graduated from the Reading Girls High School in 1865, and in 1871 taught the French and German languages there.

George Bissinger, his father, was a native of Germany, and after his emigration located at Baltimore, Md., about 1855, and there followed the teaching of music until his decease, in 1866.

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Apparently the brewery name, at least, had been incorporated a few decades earlier, in 1868, by a group of businessmen, including Frederick Lauer, but it never came to fruition, and Bissinger seems to have snapped up the name twenty years later. Here’s the brewery entry from Wikipedia:

Reading produced a Pennsylvania Dutch Lager at a volume of 1,200 barrels a year. The brewery raised its production to approximately 50,000 barrels a year by 1891. Reading suffered from difficulties after Prohibition began in 1920. From 1928 to 1933, the brewery was closed down. The facility itself was almost dismantled, but U.S. Marshals had trouble breaking the padlock on the front door and eventually left the plant intact. After considerable litigation, Reading brewery reopened in 1934. From 1934 to 1951 Reading ran a ‘retro’ advertising campaign which played on the nostalgia for simpler times.

In 1958, due to flagging sales, Reading re-branded as “The Friendly Beer for Modern People.” The change proved successful in reversing the slump and Reading made strong sales that lasted into the 1970s.

In 1976, Reading ceased operations due to increasing pressure from larger macro brewers. The label was purchased shortly afterwards by C. Schmidt & Sons.

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In 2006, the Label was revived by Legacy Brewing, which produced original Reading recipes. In 2009, the Reading label and its recipes were purchased by Ruckus Brewing, and they set up a new website for Reading Premium, though it’s hard to tell if it’s still being sold, since the website hasn’t been updated in a few years. But they did produce a short video of the history of Reading Brewing Co.

One final detail about his life that’s fairly odd. Well, it’s more about his wife and children, and how they died, a tale which you can find frequently on websites about ghost stories. Here’s one such re-telling of the stories, which they call “The Haunting of Lock 49 East.”

Late in the afternoon of Tuesday, August 17, 1875, following a trolley ride to near the Harrisburg (Penn Street) Bridge, Louisa Bissinger of Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, walked with her three children, Lillie (age 9), Mollie (age 6), and Philip (age 3), across the bridge and then two miles down the Union Canal towpath to lock number 49 East (having told them they were going on a picnic). At the lock, she loaded the basket with rocks, some of which she had got the children to gather along the way. Then she tied the basket to her waist, held her unsuspecting children tightly to her, and plunged with them into the murky waters of the canal. Though Louisa, weighed down by the basket of stones, sank immediately, the children struggled to stay afloat.

A witness to the event, who could not swim, ran for a boat at nearby Gring’s Mill, across, on the west side of, Tulpehocken Creek, but ultimately he reached them too late. Louisa and her children were drowned.

Louisa’s commission of this her final desperate act came about as the culmination to her husband’s longtime “undo respect” toward her and his open courtship of another woman whom he eventually brought into their home. A newspaper story, date-lined “Reading, Pa., August 21,” explained that an argument had led to Louisa being ordered from the house and told to take the two girls, but to leave their brother, who was the youngest. Expecting her fourth child, a fact not known to most others until after the tragedy, and determined that she would not let another woman raise her children, Louisa decided to kill herself as well as her offspring.

Captain Philip Bissinger, the husband, long a respected, prominent, and prosperous member of the community nonetheless had to be placed under police protection soon after the drownings and was nearly killed by members of the procession of about a thousand persons who had attended the funeral. “When the bodies were lowered into the graves,” the newspaper reported, “the people hooted Bissinger, and made a rush for him.” Only the quick action by policemen assigned for the occasion saved his life. He was hurriedly placed into a carriage and taken away. A shot had been fired before then and yet another was fired as the vehicle reached the cemetery gate. Later, in an attempt to defend himself from public calumny, Bissinger wrote the newspaper that it was his wife who was to blame for listening to what he said were baseless rumors concerning extramarital affairs. Fred Eben, Captain Bissinger’s former brother-in-law, answered Bissinger’s remarks to the press, calling him “the murderer of my sister and your four children.”

Louisa and the three children she drowned that sad summer day are buried in Reading in the Charles Evans Cemetery, next to the graves of two of her three other children who died before the tragic murder-suicide. Philip Bissinger remarried, and he and his second wife are buried in the row of graves adjacent to the graves of his first wife and children.

It is said that the ghosts of Louisa and her children haunt the towpath near the lock. The legend states that since the time of the tragedy, people walking the towpath have sometimes seen Louisa and her children gathering stones. The spirits vanish as the viewer watches them. Others have reported hearing children’s voices in the vicinity of the lock, as well as cries for help which cease when they approach near the site of the drownings. Charles J. Adams III, an Exeter Township author who has written much about ghosts in Berks County and environs, writing in Ghost Stories of Berks County (1982), related his attempt to try to investigate the presence of ghosts at the lock. Disappointed by the lack of spectral evidence, he and several reporters who had accompanied him were leaving the area when suddenly one reporter clutched his chest and was unable to breathe or speak. Adams conjectured that the event could have been the result of a spirit attempting to enter the reporter’s body.

Today the Union Canal is dry; however, the Berks County Parks Department maintains the towpath as part of its facilities for jogging and cycling. The park would be an interesting and enjoyable place to visit. Who knows, it may also be a place where you can see a ghost!

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And also the “Steuebenville Daily Herald And News” on August 21, 1875, covered the story in “The Bissinger Tragedy – Funeral of the Victims – Attempt to Mob The Husband.”

Reading, Pa., August 21 – There was great excitement here at the funeral of Mrs. Bissinger and her children, drowned Tuesday last. It seems from stories of the people that the woman had lived unhappily with her husband, owing to the introduction by him of another woman in to the house, and that unhappiness resulted in a quarrel Monday, when the husband ordered his wife to leave the house and take the the two girls with her, while he would retain the boy. The next day she went to the canal with the children and after filling a basket with stones, in which operation the children assisted, she bound the basket securely to her body, and taking the children in her arms, leaped in to the canal, and all were drowned. As soon as the bodies were recovered and taken to their former home, the police had to guard the house to save the husband from assault, and at the funeral procession to-day, which included about one thousand persons on foot, surrounded his carriage. When the bodies were lowered into the graves, the people hooted Bissinger, and made a rush for him. In the confusion one shot was fired, when the police hurriedly placed him in a carriage and drove off, on passing the cemetery gates, another, which , it is thought, wounded him, as he was carried into the house. The police are still on guard, and the people, including many women, continue their threats.”

One last bit of trivia. I once visited the Reading Brewery when I was a kid. One of the employees there apparently owed by stepfather some money (probably for car repairs, he owned a garage near downtown Reading) and we went to visit this man, with me in tow. I wish I’d paid more attention, but I was only around fourteen at the time, which would have made it 1973, just three years before they closed. Probably because they’re local to me, I love their breweriana, and especially the new brewery slogan they started using in the late 1950s, to try to boost sales and not make themselves seem so old-fashioned. It’s hands down my favorite brewery slogan by any brewery. “The Friendly Beer For Modern People.”

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Beer Birthday: Marc Worona

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Today is also the 49th birthday of fellow Pennsylvania transplant Marc Worona. Marc used to be the brewer at Stoudt’s Brewing in Adamstown, Pennsylvania but a number of years ago moved to California and currently works with Brewers Supply Group, and is their VP of Sales and Marketing. Join me in wishing Marc a very happy birthday.

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Marc goofing around at the CBC beer and chocolate event at TCHO chocolate that he co-sponsored.

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Marc with Marin brewer Arne Johnson at the Anchor Christmas Party in 2007.

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Marc (center) with Brendan Moylan and Denise Jones getting the top prize in the Chocolate Beer competition sponsored by Brewers Supply Group and TCHO chocolate company during CBC in San Francisco a few years ago.

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Out in front of the Bistro at the Double IPA Festival in 2008. Rodger Davis’ wife Claudia (who nworks at 21st Amendment), brewster Melissa Myers (working on opening her own brewpub), Shane Aldridge (brewer at Marin & Moylan’s) and Marc.

Historic Beer Birthday: George Frey

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Today is the birthday of George Frey (December 17, 1826-1872). He was born in Ober-Saulheim, Germany, but moved to Buffalo, New York when he was fourteen, in 1840, and worked for a brewery there, before moving to Erie, Pennsylvania, to build his own there. Most brewery history, especially breweriana-focused sources, claim the George Frey Brewery was only called by that name in 1855, and the following year became known as the Eagle Brewery. But “One Hundred Years of Brewing” states that Frey built the brewery in 1842 but sold it to Henry J. Kavelage in 1854, who sold it to Jackson Koehler in 1883, and in 1899 it was bought by the Erie Brewing Co. And the breweriana brewery lists say it was known as the Eagle Brewery through all of its changes in ownership, at least through prohibition. Although it appears to have also been known by “Jackson Koehler’s Eagle Brewery” after Koehler bought it.

More evidence that he was brewing in Pennsylvania long before 1855 can be found in “The Brewing Industry and the Brewery Workers’ Movement in America,” by Hermann Schlüter, which was published in 1910. In a chapter on “Lager Beer,” it casually mentions Frey’s contribution. “George Frey, who brewed the first lager beer in Erie, Pa., in 1847, had helped in the first brewing of “lager” in Buffalo in 1843.

But I also found another listing in Erie for another George Frey Brewery that opened in 1861, but was renamed the Erie City Lager Brewery two years later, in 1863, then in 1870 dropped “Lager” to become known as the Erie City Brewery. It 1872, it was renamed the Joseph F. Seelinger Brewery, which would suggest it was sold to that person, which especially makes sense since that’s the apparent year Frey died.

It seems a shame after those accomplishments, that what happened to Frey after he sold his brewery is unknown, and I even had a hard time finding out when he passed away. This is also the first instance where I could find not one piece of breweriana or photograph online of George Frey or his brewery.