Today is fellow beer writer Don Russell’s 61st birthday. Don wrote a beer column for the Philadelphia Daily News under the nom de plume Joe Sixpack. He also writes a blog online, Beer Radar. His most recent book, What the Hell Am I Drinking?, was published last year and can still be ordered directly from the author. Don also became the first executive director of the Garden State Craft Brewers Guild, the trade group for New Jersey breweries. More recently, he accepted a position as the editor-in-chief of Broad Street Media, which looks like a terrific opportunity. Don is also a fellow Pennsylvanian, a crack card player, and one of my very favorite people to share a beer and discuss the issues of the day with. Join me in wishing Don a very happy birthday.
Today is fellow Pennsylvania beer writer Jack Curtin’s birthday. You can read his writings and rantings on a variety of subjects at his Liquid Diet Online, Curtin’s Corner, I Have Heard the Mermaids Singing and The Great Disconnect. If you think I don’t know when to stop, check out Jack’s voluminous output. Plus Jack is one of my favorite people to kvetch about politics with, over a pint, of course. Join me wishing Jack a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of George Weisbrod (October 31, 1851-January 1, 1912). Weisbrod was born in Germany, and that’s about all I could find out about the man who co-founded, along with Christian Hess, the George Weisbrod & Christian Hess Brewery, usually shortened to just the Weisbrd & Hess Brewery, and also known as the Oriental Brewery.
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.
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.
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.
The brewery was designed by famed local architect Adam C. Wagner, and this is an illustration of his design for the brewery from 1892.
My good friend Tom Peters, one of the owners of Monk’s Cafe and Belgian Beer Emporium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, turns 62 today. His enthusiasm for and promotion of Belgian beer has few equals. A couple of years ago, I was privileged to travel through France and Belgium with Tom, which was amazing. And he throws perhaps the best late night parties of anyone I’ve ever known. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Tom Peters, with Rob Tod from Allagash in Portland, Maine, at GABF.
Today is the 53rd birthday of Fergus Carey, better known simply as Fergie. Fergie owns Fergie’s Pub in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is co-owner of Monk’s Cafe with Tom Peters and is also a partner in Nodding Head Brewery. Fergie’s always a fun person to have around and he’s as kind as soul as ever I’ve met in the beer world. Join me in wishing Fergie a very happy birthday.
Today is the birthday of John Gardiner (July 11, 1825-July 5, 1903). Gardiner was born in upstate New York, in Albany, where he learned brewing from his father. He moved to Philadelphia when he was 24, in 1849, and worked for Massey’s Brewery before buying the James Smyth Brewery in 1874, renaming it John Gardiner & Co. Brewery. In 1883, Gardiner renamed it again, this time the Continental Brewing Co., which remained its name until it closed at the start of prohibition in 1920.
In 1866, he married one of brewery owner Christian Schmidt’s daughters, Caroline, and according to a history of Schmidt’s Brewery, he began working for his father-in-law’s brewery at that time. But it’s unclear if he left when he bought what would become the Continental Brewery.
Here’s how Gardiner and his family are mentioned in the history of Schmidt’s Brewery:
For generations the name of Gardiner had been well known in brewing circles. The family owned the Continental Brewing Co. in Philadelphia. John Gardiner married a daughter of Christian Schmidt. John Gardiner Jr., and Edward A. Gardiner, sons of John Gardiner, joined Schmidt’s to add new luster, in, respectively, sales and finance., to the family management team.
During the entire period of relegalization- including the peak year of 1955- and through to 1958, John Gardiner Jr., a grandson of the founder, was sales and advertising manager for the brewery. Mr. Gardiner, now a vice president, saw sales rise under his management from 106,000 in 1934 to almost 2 million in 1955.
Edward A. Gardiner, his brother, now chairman of the board, was responsible for the financial arrangements which made possible the various expansions of the brewery in the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s. It was Mr. Gardiner’s raising of the funds to accommodate the expansion of the company in 1947 and 1948 which kept the brewery abreast of modern changes and in a position to meet the difficult competitive challenge of the postwar years.
Today is the 52nd birthday of Tom Keohe, founder of Yards Brewing, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tom’s been a fixture of the Philly beer scene as long as I can remember, at at least since 1996. He’s one of those people that you feel like you’ve known for years, even when you first meet him. And he’s a terrifically talented brewer, too. Join me in wishing Tom a very happy birthday.
Tom explaining the beers he created for the colonial themed City Tavern.
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.
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.
In Rich Wagner’s Philadelphia Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Cradle of Liberty, he has this to say about Christian Schmidt:
And in One Hundred Years of Brewing, published in 1903, this was the entry for C. Schmidt & Sons.
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.
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.
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.
Today is the birthday of Joseph Theurer (May 24, 1852-May 14, 1912). Born in Philadelphia of German descent, who became a well-known brewer in both his native Pennsylvania and Illinois. After he married Emma Schoehofen, he became VP of his father-in-law’s Chicago brewery, the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Company in 1880. After Peter passed away in 1893, Theurer became president and remained at the helm until his own death in 1912.
Here’s a biography from Find a Grave:
Joseph Theurer, who was of German descent, was born in Philadelphia in 1852. He became one of the most knowledgeable brewers of his day. He served as Treasurer of the Illinois State Brewers Association from 1898 to 1911 and he held title of President of the United States Brewing Association from 1903 to 1905.
Joseph arrived in Chicago in the Fall of 1869 and worked as an apprentice to brewers Adam Baierle and K.G. Schmidt. In 1871, he had been working at the Huck Brewery for less than a week when the brewery was destroyed in The Great Chicago Fire.
So he returned to Philadelphia for a year to work at the brewery of Bergdoll & Psotta. And then headed back to Chicago in 1872 to work at Bartholomae & Leicht brewery until 1874. He was also employed for one season at the Clybourn Avenue Malthouse of F. Wacker & Co. before returning to Philadelphia until his marriage to Peter Schoenhofen’s daughter, Emma Schoehofen, in 1880.
Upon his marriage to Emma, he became Vice President of Schoenhofen Brewing Company in Chicago until his father in law Peter’s death in 1893. Joseph took over as President of Schoenhofen Brewing from 1893 until 1911.
In 1896, Joseph commissioned what is now known as the Theurer-Wrigley Mansion. The Mansion, built in the late Italian Renaissance style, was designed by Richard Schmidt and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The 20,000+ square foot mansion features 11 bedrooms and 6 baths. Furnished with nearly all Tiffany light fixtures, many have been removed by previous owners or sold. An original Tiffany stained glass window from the Mansion is currently on display at the Chicago History Museum. Recent reports show the Mansion being listed for 9.5 million dollars as a foreclosure in 2011, but it has since been purchased and is currently occupied by a single owner.
On May 14, 1912 Joseph died from pneumonia and was laid to rest along with Peter Schoenhofen in the magnificent Egyptian revival style tomb in Graceland Cemetery. Services were conducted on May 17th in front of the tomb and conducted in both English and German. Attendees included members of the Illinois and Cook County Brewers Associations as well as a large number of charitable organizations, family and close friends.
Joseph was survived by his widow Emma, two sons, Peter S. and Joseph Jr., and two daughters Miss Margareta Theurer and Mrs. Marie (Richard) Ostenrieder.
The Encyclopedia of Chicago has a concise history of the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co.:
Peter Schoenhofen, a Prussian immigrant, was in Chicago working in the brewing trade by the 1850s. In 1861, he started a partnership with Matheus Gottfried; they were soon operating a brewery at Canalport Avenue and 18th Street where, during the early 1860s, they made about 600 barrels of lager beer a year. In 1867, Schoenhofen bought out his partner, and the company became the Peter Schoenhofen Brewing Co. By 1868, annual output had increased to about 10,000 barrels. During the 1890s, when the business was owned by the City Contract Co. of London, England, annual output reached 180,000 barrels. Around 1900, the Schoenhofen family regained control of the company, which employed about 500 people at its brewery on West 12th Street by 1910. During this time, the company was also known as the National Brewing Co. The company’s “Edelweiss” brand of beer was a big seller. Operations shut down during Prohibition, but by 1933, after the national ban on alcohol production was lifted, the company was back in business as the Schoenhofen-Edelweiss Co. After being purchased by the Atlas Brewing Co. in the late 1940s, Schoenhofen became part of Dewery’s Ltd. of South Bend, Indiana, in 1951, and thereafter assumed the Dewery’s name. By the beginning of the 1970s, there was nothing left of its Chicago operations, although Dewery’s reintroduced the famous Edelweiss brand in 1972 after nearly a decade-long hiatus.
Today, the land where the brewery was located is known as the Schoenhofen Brewery Historic District and to see earlier photos of that area, Forgotten Chicago has a short history, with lots of pictures.