Historic Beer Birthday: Samuel Whitbread II

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Today is the birthday of Samuel Whitbread II (January 18, 1764-July 6, 1815). Despite being the son of Whitbread Brewery founder Samuel Whitbread, he is most remember for being a politician. According to Wikipedia:

Whitbread was born in Cardington, Bedfordshire, the son of the brewer Samuel Whitbread. He was educated at Eton College, Christ Church, Oxford and St John’s College, Cambridge, after which he embarked on a European ‘Grand Tour’, visiting Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Prussia, France and Italy. He returned to England in May 1786 and joined his father’s successful brewing business.

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“Samuel Whitbread Esqr. M.P.” by Samuel William Reynolds after John Opie, 1804. This is the painting’s description. “A fine full length, seated portrait of the brewer, philanthropist and Whig politician Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815). He sits at his desk, wearing a dark suit and hessian boots, before an open window, his hand resting on a piece of paper. In the background is a draped curtain and on the floor is a pile of books.”

For over two decades he was a Member of Parliament:

Whitbread was elected Member of Parliament for Bedford in 1790, a post he held for twenty-three years. Whitbread was a reformer — a champion of religious and civil rights, for the abolition of slavery, and a proponent of a national education system. He was a close friend and colleague of Charles James Fox. After Fox’s death, Whitbread took over the leadership of the Whigs, and in 1805 led the campaign to have Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville, removed from office.

Whitbread admired Napoleon and his reforms in France and Europe. He hoped that many of Napoleon’s reforms would be implemented in Britain. Throughout the Peninsular War he played down French defeats convinced that sooner or later Napoleon would triumph, and he did all he could to bring about a withdrawal of Britain from the continent. When Napoleon abdicated in 1814 he was devastated. Whitbread began to suffer from depression, and on the morning of 6 July 1815, he committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.

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This portrait of Whitbread was done in 1806.

Bedfordshire Genealogy and History has a fuller biography of Samuel Whitbread 2nd:

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Samuel Whitbread, the son of the brewer Samuel Whitbread, and Harriet Hayton, was born in Cardington, Bedfordshire in 1758. His mother died when he was a child and his father took great care over his only son. When Samuel was sent to Eton he was accompanied by his own private tutor. Samuel continued his education at Christ Church, Oxford and St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he met his lifelong friend, Charles Grey.

After university Samuel Whitbread sent his son on a tour of Europe, under the guidance of the historian, William Coxe. This included visits to Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Prussia, France and Italy. When Samuel returned in May 1786, he joined his father running the extremely successful family brewing business.

In 1789 Samuel Whitbread married Elizabeth Grey, the sister of Charles Grey. The two men were deeply interested in politics. Grey was already MP for Northumberland and in 1790 Whitbread was elected MP for Bedford. In the House of Commons, Whitbread and Grey became followers of Charles Fox, the leader of the Radical Whigs.

Whitbread soon emerged in Parliament as a powerful critic of the Tory Prime Minister, William Pitt. A passionate supporter of reform, Whitbread argued for an extension of religious and civil rights, an end to the slave-trade, and the establishment of a national education system.

In April 1792, Whitbread joined with a group of pro-reform Whigs to form the Friends of the People. Three peers (Lord Porchester, Lord Lauderdale and Lord Buchan) and twenty-eight Whig MPs joined the group. Other leading members included Charles Grey, Richard Sheridan, Major John Cartwright, Lord John Russell,George Tierney, and Thomas Erskine. The main objective of the the society was to obtain “a more equal representation of the people in Parliament” and “to secure to the people a more frequent exercise of their right of electing their representatives”. Charles Fox was opposed to the formation of this group as he feared it would lead to a split the Whig Party.

On 30th April 1792, Charles Grey introduced a petition in favour of constitutional reform. He argued that the reform of the parliamentary system would remove public complaints and “restore the tranquillity of the nation”. He also stressed that the Friends of the People would not become involved in any activities that would “promote public disturbances”. Although Charles Fox had refused to join the Friends of the People, in the debate that followed, he supported Grey’s proposals. When the vote was taken, Grey’s proposals were defeated by 256 to 91 votes.

In 1793 Samuel Whitbread toured the country making speeches on the need for parliamentary reform. He encouraged people to sign petitions at his meetings and when he returned to London they were presented to Parliament. Whitbread also campaigned on behalf of agricultural labourers. In the economic depression of 1795, Whitbread advocated the payment of higher wages. When Whitbread introduced his minimum wage bill to the House of Commons in December 1795 it was opposed by William Pitt and his Tory government and was easily defeated.

Whitbread was a strong supporter of a negotiated peace with France and supported Fox’s calls to send a government minister to Paris. Whitbread argued for Catholic Emancipation and opposed the act for the suppression of rebellion in Ireland. His friend, Samuel Romilly, said that Whitbread was “the promoter of every liberal scheme for improving the condition of mankind, the zealous advocate of the oppressed, and the undaunted opposer of every species of corruption and ill-administration.”

In 1807 Samuel Whitbread proposed a new Poor Law. His scheme not only involved an increase in the financial help given to the poor, but the establishment of a free educational system. Whitbread proposed that every child between the ages of seven and fourteen who was unable to pay, should receive two years’ free education. The measure was seen as too radical and was easily defeated in the House of Commons.

Whitbread refused to be disillusioned by his constant defeats and during the next few years he made more speeches in the House of Commons than any other member. Sometimes his attacks on George III and his ministers were considered to be too harsh, even by his closest political friends.

Unable to persuade Parliament to accept his ideas, Whitbread used his considerable fortune (his father, Samuel Whitbread had died in 1796) to support good causes. Whitbread gave generous financial help to establish schools for the poor. An advocate of the monitorial system developed by Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster, he helped fund the Royal Lancasterian Society that had the objective of establishing schools that were not controlled by the Church of England.

When the Whigs gained power in 1806, Whitbread expected the Prime Minister, Lord Grenville, to offer him a place in his government. He was deeply disappointed when this did not happen. Some claimed it was because Whitbread was too radical. Others suggested it was due to snobbery and the aristocrats in the party disapproved of a tradesman entering the cabinet.

After this rejection, Whitbread consoled himself with his involvement in the Drury Lane Theatre. In 1809 the theatre was destroyed by fire. Already over £500,000 in debt, the theatre was in danger of going out of business. Whitbread became chairman of the committee set up to rebuild the theatre. With the help of his political friends, Whitbread managed to raise the necessary funds and the Drury Lane Theatre was reopened on 10th October, 1812.

In 1815 Whitbread began to suffer from depression. Over the years he had been upset by the way he was portrayed by the political cartoonists such as, James Gillray and George Cruikshank. He also began to worry about the brewery business and the way he was treated in the House of Commons. After one debate in June he told his wife: “They are hissing me. I am become an object of universal abhorrence.” On the morning of 6th June 1815, Samuel Whitbread committed suicide by cutting his throat with a razor.

And if that’s not enough, the “Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61″ also includes a biography and Encyclopedia.com has an overview of the company, as does AIM25.

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This is a political cartoon featuring Samuel Whitbread entitled “The Brewer and the Thistle.” It was drawn by James Sayers, and published by Hannah Humphrey, June 26, 1805. The people in the cartoon include Charles James Fox (1749-1806), James Maitland Lauderdale (1759-1839), William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Sir Home Riggs Popham (1762-1820), Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815) and Henry Dundas Melville (1742-1811). While I’m sure you need to be a historian specializing in this period of British history, the Royal Collection Trust gives this description. “Whitbeard in costume of beer casks, attacks thistle with Melville’s head. (r) alehouse; Fox and Launderdale (in tartan) laugh. Wilberforce leans out of window dressed as Puritan. (l) blunderbuss fired at sign of St.Vicent.”

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Finally, here’s the Whitbread Brewery on Chiswell Street in London as it appeared around 1900.

Beer In Ads #2088: When Gentlemen Agree …


Tuesday’s election ad is for Budweiser, from 1965. In this ad, with the headline “When Gentlemen Agree …,” the elephant and the donkey appear happy and sharing a beer. This is when Johnson was president and shortly before we elected Nixon. I sure hope both sides of this year’s election can share a beer and appear so happy, and soon.

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Beer In Ads #2087: Let’s Get Together


Monday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1952. In this ad, with the headline “Let’s Get Together,” and showing an angry elephant with his hands folded, and an equally angry donkey, both sitting on what seems to be a giant block of ice. I assume they’re waiting for hell to freeze over? The ad seems to be somewhat echoing our election tomorrow, 64 years after it first appeared. With only one more day to go until “E-Day” tomorrow, please make sure you to do exercise your right and make your vote count. Seriously, let’s get together on this.

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Beer In Ads #2086: People’s Choice … Then And Now


Sunday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1952. In this ad, with the headline “People’s Choice … Then And Now,” and showing an illustration of an election in 1852 (100 years before the ad originally ran). The gist of the ad is nostalgia for a simpler time when politics was something that was hard fought, but then you moved on and had a beer. The text, “When all the shouting is over, folks will go right on voting for Budweiser,” is something I wish we can still do (apart for the brand choice, of course). With only two days to go until “E-Day,” please make sure you to do exercise your right and make your vote count. Then go fight on voting for beer with flavor.

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Beer In Ads #2084: Go All The Way


Friday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1971. In this ad, Ed McMahon is asking you to Pick-A-Pair, or threatening you that if you don’t he’ll start tap-dancing … with his twin brother. Please don’t let that happen. So which pair will you pick? With only four days to go until “E-Day,” please make sure you to do exercise your right and make your vote count. Don’t dance around it.

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Beer In Ads #2083: It’s Pick-A-Pair Time!


Thursday’s ad is for Budweiser, from 1964. In this ad, it’s election time once again and time to Pick-A-Pair, whether it be six-packs or a new leader. The ad even suggests we should “be sure to vote twice.” Which pair will you pick? With only five days to go until “E-Day,” and one of the most important ones in my lifetime, please make sure you to do exercise your right and make your vote count. But only once.

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Beer In Ads #2076: America Votes For No Bitterness


Thursday’s ad is for Schlitz, from the 1943. In this ad, showing four very diverse citizens at the ballot box, claims “America Votes For No Bitterness.” Maybe in 1943, but not in 2016, where bitterness reigns supreme, both in our IPAs and also in our elections. I actually had to unfriend someone on Facebook today for the first time ever for going full wacko on me over politics. There’s only a dozen days until the election, and I for one can’t wait until it’s all over.

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Beer Birthday: Jimmy Carter

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Today is the birthday of our 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter (October 1, 1924- ). He “is an American politician and author who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Carter Center.

Carter, a Democrat raised in rural Georgia, was a peanut farmer who served two terms as a Georgia State Senator, from 1963 to 1967, and one as the Governor of Georgia, from 1971 to 1975. He was elected President in 1976, defeating incumbent President Gerald Ford in a relatively close election; the Electoral College margin of 57 votes was the closest at that time since 1916.”

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The White House website also has a series of presidential biographies, from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey:

Jimmy Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.

Jimmy Carter aspired to make Government “competent and compassionate,” responsive to the American people and their expectations. His achievements were notable, but in an era of rising energy costs, mounting inflation, and continuing tensions, it was impossible for his administration to meet these high expectations.

Carter, who has rarely used his full name–James Earl Carter, Jr.–was born October 1, 1924, in Plains, Georgia. Peanut farming, talk of politics, and devotion to the Baptist faith were mainstays of his upbringing. Upon graduation in 1946 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Carter married Rosalynn Smith. The Carters have three sons, John William (Jack), James Earl III (Chip), Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff), and a daughter, Amy Lynn.

After seven years’ service as a naval officer, Carter returned to Plains. In 1962 he entered state politics, and eight years later he was elected Governor of Georgia. Among the new young southern governors, he attracted attention by emphasizing ecology, efficiency in government, and the removal of racial barriers.

Carter announced his candidacy for President in December 1974 and began a two-year campaign that gradually gained momentum. At the Democratic Convention, he was nominated on the first ballot. He chose Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. Carter campaigned hard against President Gerald R. Ford, debating with him three times. Carter won by 297 electoral votes to 241 for Ford.

Carter worked hard to combat the continuing economic woes of inflation and unemployment. By the end of his administration, he could claim an increase of nearly eight million jobs and a decrease in the budget deficit, measured in percentage of the gross national product. Unfortunately, inflation and interest rates were at near record highs, and efforts to reduce them caused a short recession.

Carter could point to a number of achievements in domestic affairs. He dealt with the energy shortage by establishing a national energy policy and by decontrolling domestic petroleum prices to stimulate production. He prompted Government efficiency through civil service reform and proceeded with deregulation of the trucking and airline industries. He sought to improve the environment. His expansion of the national park system included protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands. To increase human and social services, he created the Department of Education, bolstered the Social Security system, and appointed record numbers of women, blacks, and Hispanics to Government jobs.

In foreign affairs, Carter set his own style. His championing of human rights was coldly received by the Soviet Union and some other nations. In the Middle East, through the Camp David agreement of 1978, he helped bring amity between Egypt and Israel. He succeeded in obtaining ratification of the Panama Canal treaties. Building upon the work of predecessors, he established full diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China and completed negotiation of the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty with the Soviet Union.

There were serious setbacks, however. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan caused the suspension of plans for ratification of the SALT II pact. The seizure as hostages of the U. S. embassy staff in Iran dominated the news during the last 14 months of the administration. The consequences of Iran’s holding Americans captive, together with continuing inflation at home, contributed to Carter’s defeat in 1980. Even then, he continued the difficult negotiations over the hostages. Iran finally released the 52 Americans the same day Carter left office.

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But, of course, none of that is why people who love beer will celebrate Jimmy Carter. Carter, of course signed H.R. 1337 on October 14, 1978. That was the bill that finally legalized homebrewing. And while you can argue that it was really senator Alan Cranston who deserves the lion’s share of the credit, after all he added the specific language to the bill that made homebrewing okay again, it’s generally Carter who’s best remembered for having signed the bill into law. At least outside of California, anyway, where many people know that it was Amendment 3534, drafted by Cranston, that homebrewing was decriminalized.

Still, I think it’s fair to give Carter some of the credit, and thanks him for signing the bill allowing homebrewing again into law. I’m not sure Reagan would have signed it. See also, Tom Cizauskas’ What will President Jimmy Carter be remembered for? and KegWorks’ How Jimmy Carter Sparked the Craft Beer Revolution.

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And finally, here’s Michael Jackson, in an 2004 interview, talking about the importance of Carter signing the homebrewing bill into law.

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Jimmy Carter, by Sean Marlin McKinney.

Historic Beer Birthday: Samuel Adams

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Today is the birthday of Samuel Adams (September 27, 1722-October 2, 1803). He “was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American republicanism that shaped the political culture of the United States. He was a second cousin to President John Adams.” He was also at least a maltster, and possibly a brewer.

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A portrait of Samuel Adams by John Singleton Copley.

Copely was one of the most famous early American painters, especially of portraits. He also did paintings of John Hancock, John Adams and Paul Revere, as well. The painting hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, and I had a change to see the original in 2009, when the CBC was in Boston. It was smaller than I expected at 49 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. and is believed to have been painted around 1772. Its first owner, after the artist, was none other than John Hancock. His wife later gave it to Adams’ grandson and in 1876 it was given to the City of Boston. In the painting, he’s pointing at the Massachusetts Charter, which Adams believed was a constitution that protected peoples’ rights.

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An engraving of Samuel Adams, by Alonzo Chappel, from 1858.

Whether or not Adams was in fact a brewer is open to some debate. Stanley Baron’s Brewing in America suggests that he may have been involved in his father’s malting business, making him a Malster. In the footnote in the Wikipedia entry on Samuel Adams, it tells the following story.

Baron, Brewed in America, 74–75; Alexander, Revolutionary Politician, 231. However, Stoll (Samuel Adams, 275n16) notes that James Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, reports having seen a receipt for hops signed by Adams, which indicates that Adams may have done some brewing.

It seems to me we might rarely hear of Sam Adams’ connection to the world of beer were it not for the Boston Beer Co. Historically, it doesn’t seem like that was a driving force in his life. What does seem clear, is that his father, Samuel Adams Sr., was most certainly a maltster, and also probably a brewer.

Here’s Michael Burgan, author of Samuel Adams: Patriot and Statesman, discussing Samuel Adams Sr., Samuel Adams’ father.

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On the New England Historical Society’s website, on a page about Samuel Adams, entitled Sam Adams Walked Into a Tavern and Started a Revolution. Part of that has the heading “Sam the Maltster.”

Sam the Maltster

Sam’s Adams’ father, Deacon Samuel Adams, was a man of wealth and respect. He made his living selling malt to beer makers from a malt house in his backyard. Deacon Adams was a leader of the populist political party known as the Boston Caucus, whose members met in taverns.

Young Sam Adams entered Harvard in 1736 at 14, graduated in 1740 and received a master’s degree in 1743. He didn’t want to be a lawyer or a minister, so he tried working in Thomas Cushing’s counting house. He hated it. He ended up living at home on the income from his father’s malt house.

sam-adams-green-dragon He haunted the taverns of Boston, honing his political skills and making his political connections. His cousin John Adams noted taverns were where ‘bastards, and legislators, are frequently begotten.’

Sam didn’t become a legislator. First he was elected clerk of the market, then town scavenger, then tax collector, a position he held for nearly a decade. Later he became clerk of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, delegate to the Continental Congress, president of the Massachusetts Senate, lieutenant governor and governor.

When Sam was 24, his father died. The next year, British naval officers kidnapped 50 men on the Boston waterfront to impress them into service. A riot ensued, the prisoners were released and Sam Adams became a journalist. He started a newspaper, The Independent Advertiser, in which he portrayed the rioters as an assembly of people defending their natural right to life and liberty.

He also organized the Sons of Liberty, which flourished in Boston’s tavern-based political culture.

In 1769, Sam Adams, James Otis, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Benjamin Edes and 350 Sons of Liberty celebrated the fourth anniversary of resistance to the Stamp Act at the Liberty Tree Tavern in Dorchester. They dined in a tent set up for the occasion and drank 45 toasts. John Adams, who was there, noted that no one got drunk (beer could be pretty weak) and grudgingly approved of the affair. “Otis and Adams are politick, in promoting these Festivals, for they tinge the Minds of the People, they impregnate them with the sentiments of Liberty.”

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Samuel Adams in 1795 when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

Most accounts of Samuel Adams focus on his political activities and rarely mention his association with brewing at all. Here, for example, is a short biography from U.S. History.org, one of the 56 on the website done for each of the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Samuel and John Adams’ names are almost synonymous in all accounts of the Revolution that grew, largely, out of Boston. Though they were cousins and not brothers, they were often referred to as the Adams’ brothers, or simply as the Adams’. Samuel Adams was born in Boston, son of a merchant and brewer. He was an excellent politician, an unsuccessful brewer, and a poor businessman. His early public office as a tax collector might have made him suspect as an agent of British authority, however he made good use of his understanding of the tax codes and wide acquaintance with the merchants of Boston. Samuel was a very visible popular leader who, along with John, spent a great deal of time in the public eye agitating for resistance. In 1765 he was elected to the Massachusetts Assembly where he served as clerk for many years. It was there that he was the first to propose a continental congress. He was a leading advocate of republicanism and a good friend of Tom Paine. In 1774, he was chosen to be a member of the provincial council during the crisis in Boston. He was then appointed as a representative to the Continental Congress, where he was most noted for his oratory skills, and as a passionate advocate of independence from Britain. In 1776, as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence. Adams retired from the Congress in 1781 and returned to Massachusetts to become a leading member of that state’s convention to form a constitution. In 1789 he was appointed lieutenant governor of the state. In 1794 he was elected Governor, and was re-elected annually until 1797 when he retired for health reasons. He died in the morning of October 2, 1803, in his home town of Boston.

Finally, an article on the History Channel’s website, The Sudsy History of Samuel Adams, comes to pretty much the same conclusion, that Samuel Adams did inherit his father’s malting business, but if he was involved at all, his heart wasn’t in it. While it’s possible he also did brew, most likely for his household as was common in his day, there’s little, if any, compelling evidence for it. But thanks to Jim Koch, for the foreseeable future at least, his name will be inextricably linked to beer.

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Venezuela’s President Gives Brewery Ultimatum: Brew Or Go To Jail

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There’s an interesting development going on in Venezuela. Empresas Polar, the country’s largest brewer — with an 80% market share — completely shut down their operations in April, apparently because of “supply problems of its main raw materials.” The president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, according to the drinks business, “has now threatened to take over the closed breweries, saying that the business owners risk being ‘put in handcuffs.'”

The country has been hit by a dire economic downturn over the last several years, and the president has not exactly been helping. John Oliver has covered the situation there hilariously at least twice, first in early May 2015 and then again last Sunday. In that report he mentioned that Marcos was threatening to jail owners of closed factories and have the government seize the buildings and take them over. And apparently one of those businesses he’s targeting is Polar. Here’s the rest of the story from the drinks beverage:

He said he was also ordering action “to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie”.

Meanwhile, Polar said it could no longer access the US currency needed to import the malted barley for beer production, and had to close the last of its breweries. Access to foreign exchange is currently under the control of the country’s government.

The beer shortage has had a big impact, as Venezuelans really like their beer. The tropical country has the highest per capita consumption rates of any nation in South America, and ongoing economic woes have to some extent been softened so far by the affordable luxury of a cold beer.

It’s the latest chapter in a long-running set of shortages and supply problems for beer and other food in Venezuela.

Polar’s billionaire owner, Lorenzo Mendoza, has been a vocal opponent of the President, with Maduro accusing him of waging an “economic war” on his government. Over the past year, Polar has been embroiled in a strike by brewery workers, conflict with the trade unions, and has seen its distribution centre occupied by the military.

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Apropos of the nothing, it was almost impossible to find an image of Polar Pilsen that didn’t include a model in a bikini. Go ahead, Google it and see how hard it really is.