Sunday’s ad is for “Hamm’s,” from the 1950s. This ad was made for Hamm’s Brewing, which was founded in 1865 by Theodore Hamm in St. Paul, Minnesota. At its peak, it was the 5th largest brewery in America, and operated facilities in five cities, including San Francisco, L.A., Baltimore and Houston, in addition to the original brewery in Minnesota. This one features a can of beer in the snow with someone holding up a glass of beer to it, with the tagline: “Reach, sir! It’s something special! … from the land of sky blue waters!”
Archives for October 3, 2021
Today is the birthday of Fred Horix (October 3, 1843-1929+?). Horix was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, but came to America in 1868, eventually settling in Akron, Ohio. In 870, he and John Kirn formed the Fred Horix & John Kirn Brewery, and three years later he bought out Kirn, renaming it the Fred Horix Brewery. Unfortunately, the brewery closed in 1879. Horix then bought another brewery which he named the Frederick Horix Brewery, but a decade later he sold it to George J. Renner. He later became part-owner of the Akron Brewing Co., along with over 50 local saloonkeepers, and spent the remainder of his career as its Vice-President. Unfortunately, there’s not much biographical information I could find on Horix, not even his date of death or a photo.
After his first brewery closed, he bought another, as detailed in “Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State, Volume I” by Dr. Robert A. Musson:
At this point, [brewery owner Frederick] Oberholtz found himself $30,000 in debt to several parties, and he subsequently lost ownership of the plant. The brewery changed hands twice more while sitting idle, until September 1876, when it was purchased by John A. Kolp. He operated it briefly before defaulting on several loans himself. It was then sold at a sheriff’s auction in January 1879 to Fred Horix, for $8,334, or two-thirds of its appraised value. Oberholtz later moved to Kansas City for a time before returning to Akron, where he died of consumption in 1888.
Horix had successfully operated a small brewery on East Exchange St. for several years. When he took ownership of this plant, it consisted only of an icehouse, a small storage building, and the main brewhouse with a potential annual capacity of 20,000 barrels. Horix was immediately able to invest a significant amount of money into the plant, and brewing operations began again by mid-1879.
Just one year later, in August 1880, a second fire struck the plant. Beginning late at night in the boiler room, it quickly spread through the plant. Horix, who lived in a house next door to the plant, saw the fire and ran up the Forge Street hill in his nightclothes to the nearest firebox a half mile away. Despite a rapid response by the fire department, the top two floors of the plant were gutted, with a loss of nearly $12,000. This time, however, the plant was fully insured, and was quickly rebuilt.
Within several years, the plant had increased in size to seven buildings, and annual production had increased to nearly 7,000 barrels; the brewery was finally operating at a profit. In 1888, however, Horix chose to sell the plant for $45,000 to George J. Renner. The deed of transfer mentioned that while Renner would take ownership of the entire plant and house, Horix would retain his personal records, family furniture, and “a spotted horse called Dick”. Horix then spent a year in Germany before returning to Akron, where he was involved in several different business ventures before opening a delicatessen on South High St. After the turn of the century, he would return to the brewing business, becoming involved with the newly formed Akron Brewing Company.
And his final job was with the Akron Brewing Co., again told in “Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State, Volume I” by Dr. Robert A. Musson:
At the outset of the twentieth century, the predominant trend in the brewing industry was toward the formation of stock companies, many of which were operated by local saloon owners. The Akron Brewing Company began as one of these, when in October 1902, approximately fifty saloonkeepers from the Akron area banded together to create a new brewery in the city. Many of them had argued for years that the prices they had to pay for beer from the existing breweries were too high, which made it more difficult to realize a profit. Therefore, with the creation of their own company, they would have a guaranteed supply of beer at a reasonable cost. It was also assumed that many of the 250 saloons in Summit County would also patronize this new establishment.
The new company was incorporated in April 1903, with a capital stock of $200,000. The initial president was John Koerber, the owner of the Bank CafÈ in downtown Akron, and who had previously been involved with the formation of other brewery stock companies elsewhere before coming to Akron. Vice-president was Fred Horix, who had previously operated a small brewery on East Exchange Street, as well as what was now known as the Renner brewery on North Forge Street. A native Prussian, he had more experience with the brewing of beer than anyone else in the group, and was currently the operator of a small delicatessen and saloon on South High Street.
The company’s treasurer was John Lamparter, a local real estate dealer and owner of the Palace Drug Store. Secretary and general manager was F. Wm. Fuchs, the proprietor of the Buckeye Supply House, who had previously been an Akron agent for the L. Schlather Brewery of Cleveland. Other initial directors included John Backe, Ed Kearn, Christian Koch, Jacob Gayer, Adolph Kull, George Good, William Evans, Frank Selzer, William Carter, Sam Woodring, Ed Curran, and brothers Jacob, John, and Louis Dettling, all of whom were local businessmen or saloon owners.
Construction of a new modern brewery building, costing $150,000, began in September. The site was at 841-869 South High St., at the corner of Voris St., although High St. was renamed South Broadway in later years. This new plant, made primarily of steel, was considered to be fireproof and it contained storage cellars that were made of enameled steel. Eliminating wood from the storage vats meant no need for frequent varnishing, and the beer would never taste like wood. The plant’s five-story brewhouse initially had an annual capacity of 30,000 barrels, but it could be enlarged to 100,000 barrels if necessary.
The plant’s brewmaster was John Hau, and his first brew took place on February 24, 1904. Three months later, White Rock Export Beer made its debut in the Akron market. In addition to sales in many local saloons, the beer was also bottled and marketed heavily for home consumption, the latter being an emerging trend in the industry at the time. A decade later, Wurzburger Beer would make its appearance as an alternative to White Rock.
In 1906, Koerber sold his share in the company and was subsequently replaced by John Backe, another saloon owner. Koerber then moved to Ionia, Michigan, where he purchased and rebuilt a small local brewery that had recently burned. The rebuilding was successful, but when the county voted itself “dry” by local option in 1909, the business collapsed, and Koerber was ruined. He died of kidney disease just two years later. His family remained in the business, however, later operating the Koerber Brewing Co. in Toledo and two breweries in Michigan after Prohibition ended.
By 1911, Louis Dettling had become president of the brewery. With his brothers Jacob and John, Dettling was the proprietor of The Rathskeller, a prominent restaurant and tavern in downtown Akron. When Louis died in 1917, he was replaced as president by his brother Jacob. Also joining the company during this period was new master brewer Ernst Hafenbrack. He was replaced shortly thereafter by Walter Gruner, who would eventually become the company’s president in 1921 upon the death of Jacob Dettling.
In 1913 came the appearance of the Diamond Land and Improvement Co., a real estate development company owned by the brewery’s stockholders. It began as a management office for the 82 saloons in Akron that were owned by the brewery, although other non-saloon properties were later acquired by the company.
Despite indications that Prohibition was inevitable, the company undertook a major ex-pansion in late 1916, building a large new four-story brewhouse and expanding the cellars into the original brewhouse. This radically changed the appearance of the plant, as it lost a great deal of the original ornate architecture. Soon after this, the company’s capital stock was increased to $400,000.
When statewide Prohibition took effect in May 1919, the company reincorporated as the Akron Beverage and Cold Storage Co., with capital stock of $500,000. This would continue to produce White Rock Cereal Beverage, with less than 0.5% alcohol, as well as a new cereal beverage known as Tiro, which apparently met with disappointing sales, as it did not last for long. In addition, the original bottling house was converted into the new White Rock Dairy, producing a wide range of dairy products. Walter Gruner remained president of the company until 1923, when he was replaced by Fred W. Fuchs, son of F. Wm. Fuchs, one of the company’s original officers. Fred had begun working for the brewery in 1914 upon graduating from nearby Buchtel College, later known as the University of Akron.
Today is the birthday of Frederick D. Radeke (October 3, 1843-September 24, 1901). He was born in Oyle, Hanover, Germany, but came to America when he was 24, in 1867, settling in Kankakee, Illinois. He initially became a grocer, but when it burned down, he joined his brother-in-law in the brewery business he’d bought, and by 1873 it had been reorganized as the F. D. Radeke Brewing Co. It was closed by prohibition, reopened under a series of names after repeal, but closed for good in 1937.
This obituary is from “The Kankakee Daily-Journal,” dated November 29, 2016.
Frederick Radeke moved to Kankakee in 1867. The previous year his sister, Margaret Radeke Beckman and her husband, Fredrick, bought the Riverside Brewery. Radeke quickly became involved in the local business community.
Within a year, he had purchased a grocery store on Court Street, opened a billiards parlor and set up a bottling works to produce ginger ale and carbonated water. Shortly after fire destroyed both his store and billiards parlor in 1870, Radeke joined Beckman in the brewery operation. In 1873, the Riverside Brewery was reorganized and renamed as the F.D. Radeke Brewing Company.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, the brewery was highly successful. In the year 1913, for example, a workforce of 125 people produced 40,000 barrels of beer, and the bottling department filled and capped 30,000 bottles per day. Radeke brewed bottles of beer with names such as Wiener Export and Royal Pale. F.D. Radeke Brewing Company advertised itself as “Brewers and Bottlers of High Grades of Beer.”
On Jan. 1, 1920, brewing of Radeke beer came to a halt because of the Volstead Act. After Prohibition the brewery reverted from root beer back to regular beer, but never recovered from the years of Prohibition and eventually closed in 1936.
And here’s another obituary, this one from the American Brewers’ Review:
This history of the brewery is from “100 Years of Brewing.”
Today is the birthday of John Gorrie (October 3, 1803-June 29, 1855). He “was a physician, scientist, inventor, and humanitarian,” and most importantly, is credited with creating one of the very first refrigerators, an important development for the brewing industry.
Here’s one brief account, from a history of refrigeration on The Sun:
The man credited with developing the first actual “fridge” was an American doctor, John Gorrie, who built an ice-maker in 1844 based on Evans’ work of decades earlier. He also pioneered air conditioning at the same time, since his idea was to blow air across the ice-making machine to cool hospital patients suffering from malaria in Florida.
Gorrie did not make the fortune he deserved. His business partner died and his leaky machines were mocked by the Press and the ice-producing firms to whom he could have been a threat. He died sick and broke aged 51.
Here’s his story from his Wikipedia page:
Since it was necessary to transport ice by boat from the northern lakes, Gorrie experimented with making artificial ice.
After 1845, he gave up his medical practice to pursue refrigeration products. On May 6, 1851, Gorrie was granted Patent No. 8080 for a machine to make ice. The original model of this machine and the scientific articles he wrote are at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1835, patents for “Apparatus and means for producing ice and in cooling fluids” had been granted in England and Scotland to American-born inventor Jacob Perkins, who became known as “the father of the refrigerator.” Impoverished, Gorrie sought to raise money to manufacture his machine, but the venture failed when his partner died. Humiliated by criticism, financially ruined, and his health broken, Gorrie died in seclusion on June 29, 1855. He is buried in Magnolia Cemetery.
Another version of Gorrie’s “cooling system” was used when President James A. Garfield was dying in 1881. Naval engineers built a box filled with cloths that had been soaked in melted ice water. Then by allowing hot air to blow on the cloths it decreased the room temperature by 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem with this method was essentially the same problem Gorrie had. It required an enormous amount of ice to keep the room cooled continuously. Yet it was an important event in the history of air conditioning. It proved that Dr. Gorrie had the right idea, but was unable to capitalize on it. The first practical refrigeration system in 1854, patented in 1855, was built by James Harrison in Geelong, Australia.
Schematic of Gorrie’s ice machine.
And this account, entitled “Dr. John Gorrie, Refrigeration Pioneer,” is by George L. Chapel of the Apalachicola Area Historical Society in Apalachicola, Florida, which is the location of the John Gorrie State Museum:
Dr. John Gorrie (1803 – 1855), an early pioneer in the invention of the artificial manufacture of ice, refrigeration, and air conditioning, was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. Dr. Gorrie’s basic principle is the one most often used in refrigeration today; namely, cooling caused by the rapid expansion of gases. Using two double acting force pumps he first condensed and then rarified air. His apparatus, initially designed to treat yellow fever patients, reduced the temperature of compressed air by interjecting a small amount of water into it. The compressed air was submerged in coils surrounded by a circulating bath of cooling water. He then allowed the interjected water to condense out in a holding tank, and released or rarified, the compressed air into a tank of lower pressure containing brine; This lowered the temperature of the brine to 26 degrees F. or below, and immersing drip-fed, brick-sized, oil coated metal containers of non-saline water, or rain water, into the brine, manufactured ice bricks. The cold air was released in an open system into the atmosphere.
The first known artificial refrigeration was scientifically demonstrated by William Cullen in a laboratory performance at the University of Glasgow in 1748, when he let ethyl ether boil into a vacuum. In 1805, Oliver Evans in the United States designed but never attempted to build, a refrigeration machine that used vapor instead of liquid. Using Evans’ refrigeration concept, Jacob Perkins of the U.S. and England, developed an experimental volatile liquid, closed-cycle compressor in 1834.
Commercial refrigeration is believed to have been initiated by an American businessman, Alexander C. Twinning using sulphuric ether in 1856. Shortly afterward, an Australian, James Harrison, examined the refrigerators used by Gorrie and Twinning, and introduced vapor (ether) compression refrigeration to the brewing and meat packing industries.
The granting of a U.S. Patent in 1860 to Ferdinand P.E. Carre of France, for his development of a closed, ammonia-absorption system, laid the foundation for widespread modern refrigeration. Unlike vapor-compression machines which used air, Carre used rapidly expanding ammonia which liquifies at a much lower temperature than water, and is thus able to absorb more heat. Carre’s refrigeration became, and still is, the most widely used method of cooling. The development of a number of synthetic refrigerants in the 1920’s, removed the need to be concerned about the toxic danger and odor of ammonia leaks.
The remaining problem for the development of modern air conditioning would not be that of lowering temperature by mechanical means, but that of controlling humidity. Although David Reid brought air into contact with a cold water spray in his modification of the heating and ventilating system of the British Parliament in 1836, and Charles Smyth experimented with air cycle cooling (1846 – 56), the problem was resolved by Willis Haviland Carrier’s U.S. Patent in 1906, in which he passed hot soggy air through a fine spray of water, condensing moisture on the droplets, leaving drier air behind. These inventions have had global implications.
Dr. Gorrie was honored by Florida, when his statue was placed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. In 1899, a monument to Dr. Gorrie was erected by the Southern Ice Exchange in the small coastal town of Apalachicola, where he had served as mayor in 1837, and had developed his machine.
Reportedly born October 3, 1803 in Charleston, South Carolina, of Scots – Irish descent, he was raised in Columbia, S.C. He attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District of New York, in Fairfield, New York, from 1825 to 1827. Although the school lasted only a few decades, it had a profound influence, second only to the Philadelphia Medical School, upon the scientific and medical community of the United States in the 19th century. Young Asa Gray, from Oneida County, New York, who by 1848 would be ranked as the leading botanist in the United States, and who in time would become a close friend of Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman of Apalachicola, the leading botanist in the South, served as an assistant in the school’s chemical department. In later years, Dr. Gray had distinct recollections of Gorrie as a “promising student.”
Dr. Gorrie initially practiced in Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1828, coming to the burgeoning cotton port of Apalachicola in 1833. He supplemented his income by becoming Assistant (1834), then Postmaster in Apalachicola. He became a Notary Public in 1835. The Apalachicola Land Company obtained clear title to the area by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1835, and in 1836 laid out the city’s grid-iron plat along the lines of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Gorrie, who served as Vice-Intendant in 1836, and Intendant (Mayor), in 1837, would be an effective advocate for the rest of his life for draining the swamps, clearing the weeds and maintaining clean food markets in the city. He first served as Secretary of the Masonic Lodge in 1835, was a partner in the Mansion House Hotel (1836), President of the Apalachicola Branch Bank of Pensacola (1836), a charter member of the Marine Insurance Bank of Apalachicola (1837), a physician for the Marine Hospital Service of the U.S. Treasury Department (1837 – 1844), and a charter incorporator and founding vestryman of Trinity Episcopal Church, Apalachicola (1837).
Dr. Gorrie married Caroline Frances Myrick Beman, of a Columbia, South Carolina family, the widowed proprietress of the Florida Hotel in Apalachicola, on May 8, 1838. Shortly thereafter, he resigned his various positions in Apalachicola, and the family left the city not to return until 1840. He was named Justice of the Peace in 1841, the same year that yellow fever struck the area.
Mal-aria, Italian, “bad air”, and yellow fever, prevailed in the hot, low-lying, tropical and sub-tropical areas where there was high humidity and rapid decomposition of vegetation. Noxious effluvium, or poisonous marsh gas was thought to be the cause. The “putrid” winds from marshy lowlands were regarded as deadly, especially at night. The specific causes were unknown, and although one had quinine for malaria, the gin and tonic of India, there was no cure nor preventive vaccine, for yellow fever. The legendary Flying Dutchman was founded on the story of a ship with yellow fever onboard.
Malaria would start with shaking and violent chills, followed by high fever, and a drenching sweat. Insidious, it could recur in the victim as well as kill. Yellow fever did not recur; one either died or survived. It came in mysterious, vicious waves, killing anywhere from 12 to 70 percent of its victims. It started with shivering, high fever, insatiable thirst, savage headaches, and severe back and leg pains. In a day or so, the restless patient would become jaundiced and turn yellow. In the terminal stages, the patient would spit up mouthfuls of dark blood, the terrifying “black vomit” (vomito negro), the body temperature would drop, the pulse fade, and the comatose patient, cold to the touch, would die in about 8 to 10 hours. So great was the terror, that the victims would be buried as quickly as possible. Areas would be quarantined, and yellow flags flown. Gauze would be hung over beds to filter air; handkerchiefs would be soaked in vinegar; garlic would be worn in shoes. Bed linens and compresses would be soaked in camphor; sulfur would be burned in outdoor smudge pots. Gunpowder would be burned, and cannons would be fired. And, later, when it was over, the cleaning and fumigating would occur.
It would not be until 1901 in Havana, Cuba, that Drs. Walter Reed, Carlos Finlay and William Crawford Gorgas, with others, would demonstrate conclusively that the Aedes Aegypti, or Stegomyia Fasciata mosquito was the carrier of the yellow fever virus. It would be about the same time that the English physician, Sir Ronald Ross in India, would correctly identify the Anopheles mosquito as the carrier of the malaria protozoa. As early as 1848, in Mobile, Alabama, however, Dr. Josiah Nott first suggested that mosquitos might be involved. The yellow fever epidemic of 1841, and the hurricane and tidal wave, known locally as the “Great Tide” of 1842, destroyed Apalachicola’s rival cotton port of St. Joseph some thirty miles to the west on the deep water sound of St. Joseph’s Bay. Using Florida’s first railway (1837) to transport cotton from the Apalachicola River, St. Joseph had hosted Florida’s Constitutional Convention in 1838.
Dr. Gorrie became convinced that cold was the healer. He noted that “Nature would terminate the fevers by changing the seasons.” Ice, cut in the winter in northern lakes, stored in underground ice houses, and shipped, packed in sawdust, around the Florida Keys by sailing vessel, in mid-summer could be purchased dockside on the Gulf Coast. In 1844, he began to write a series of articles in Apalachicola’s “Commercial Advertiser” newspaper, entitled, “On the prevention of Malarial Diseases”.
He used the Nom De Plume, “Jenner”, a tribute to Edward Jenner, (1749 – 1823), the discoverer of smallpox vaccine. According to these articles, he had constructed an imperfect refrigeration machine by May, 1844, carrying out a proposal he had advanced in 1842. All of Gorrie’s personal records were accidentally destroyed sometime around 1860.
“If the air were highly compressed, it would heat up by the energy of compression. If this compressed air were run through metal pipes cooled with water, and if this air cooled to the water temperature was expanded down to atmospheric pressure again, very low temperatures could be obtained, even low enough to freeze water in pans in a refrigerator box.” The compressor could be powered by horse, water, wind driven sails, or steampower.
Dr. Gorrie submitted his patent petition on February 27, 1848, three years after Florida became a state. In April of 1848, he was having one of his ice machines built in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Cincinnati Iron Works, and in Octobcr, he demonstrated its operation. It was described in the Scientific American in September of 1849. On August 22, 1850, he received London Patent #13,124, and on May 6, 1851, U. S. Patent #8080. Although the mechanism produced ice in quantities, leakage and irregular performance sometimes impaired its operation. Gorrie went to New Orleans in search of venture capital to market the device, but either problems in product demand and operation, or the opposition of the ice lobby, discouraged backers. He never realized any return from his invention. Upon his death on June 29, 1855, he was survived by his wife Caroline (1805 – 1864), his son John Myrick (1838 – 1866), and his daughter, Sarah (1844 – 1908). Dr. Gorrie is buried in Gorrie Square in Apalachicola, his wife and son are buried-St. Luke’s-Episcopal Cemetery, Marianna, Florida, and his daughter, in Milton, Florida.
Today is the birthday of Alois Alexander Assman (October 3, 1856-August 4, 1900). He was born in Moravia, Austria-Hungary, in what today is the Czech Republic. At 18, he began working in breweries and attended the American Brewing Academy. When he died suddenly after being struck by a train, he was the brewmaster of the Crescent Brewing Co., of Washington, Pennsylvania, which had been founded in 1896, but closed due to Prohibition in 1920, and never reopened after repeal.
This is Assman’s obituary from the American Brewers’ Review:
Today is the birthday of John Gund (October 3, 1830-May 7, 1910). Gund co-founded what would become the The G. Heileman Brewing Company with Gottlieb Heileman. They formed a partnership in November 1858 to operate the City Brewery in La Crosse, but “after nearly fifteen years in business together, Heileman and Gund dissolved their partnership in 1872.” After leaving City Brewing, Gund immediately “established a new brewery on the southern edge of La Crosse that he named the Empire Brewery, and which was incorporated in 1880 as the John Gund Brewing Company.” Gund employed all three of his sons in his new venture, and eventually his son Henry became president of the brewery after his father’s death in 1910.
Here’s a short biography from Find-a-Grave:
Came to America in 1848 and settled in LaCrosse in 1854. He began his own brewery until in 1858 he and Gottlieb Heileman formed the City Brewery. John later left and founded the Empire Brewery in 1872 but — due to the fact there were 14 breweries in LaCrosse at the time — his business failed.
And here’s a lengthy history of the brewery from The Peerless Beer Legacy:
The John Gund Brewery (1854-1920)
The story of the John Gund Brewery is a story of the American Dream. Many immigrants came to the US in search of a new and better life. John Gund accomplished this goal and became one of the forefathers of the modern beer industry.
John Gund was born in Schwetzingen, Germany in 1830. He was the second of eight children. After finishing this education at the common schools he began an apprenticeship working at a brewery in the winter.
John Gund arrived in New York on May 16, 1848. Shortly after arriving in New York the family moved to Freeport, Illinois. After his fathers and mothers death in 1850 of cholera, Gund married Louise Hottman and in1852 moved to Dubuque, Iowa. Gund added to his earlier knowledge by working at the brewery of Anton Heeb.
In 1854 Gund pack up and left the brewery and Iowa to move to LaCrosse, WI. John Gund’s first Brewery was a far cry from what was to come of this legend. His first brewery was in a log cabin he built at the corner of Front and Division Street. In just 4 years Gund sold the cabin and entered into a partnership with Gottlieb Heileman. These two men built and opened the City Brewery in 1854.
In 1872, Gund sold his share of City Brewery to Heileman and began building the Empire Brewery on South Ave. When opened the brewery had 9 buildings: Main Building, Storage Cellars, Brew house, Icehouse, office, Malt House, Dry Kiln, Engine House, and across the street the Bottle House. Later, a second Bottle house was built. The total cost of the brewery was $250,000. Empire Brewery had a staff of 25 people and was able to produce 30 thousand barrels per year. Much of the beer was exported, but much was used to supply the city’s bars.
The John Gund Brewing Company opened May 1, 1880 with only $100,000 capital. John appointed his family member to officer positions. These included: John Gund- President, Henry – Traveling Agent, George Gund – Manager, and John Gund Jr.- Bookkeeper. (Wife Died 1880 of severe cold.)
The John Gund Brewing Company was booming. The brewery covered 5 acres and produced 60 thousand barrels of beer in 1897. Many of the neighboring states benefited from this fine brew. Gund Beer was shipped all over Wisconsin, Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Everything John Gund has built almost came crashing down the night of September 25, 1897. This night the city of LaCrosse witnessed a “one of the most destructive fires in the history of LaCrosse”(Baier, 1976). The fire was reported at 1:00am and was finally put out by noon the next day. The fire destroyed much of the Gund Brewery. The estimated damage of the fire totaled $200,000. Only the Engine house and cold storage could be saved. Insurance only covered $125,000. Fortunately enough beer was saved to allow for the brewery to fill orders and continue operation until the brewery was rebuilt. Clean up and rebuilding began the next day.
The new brewery was finished on April 16, 1898. The new brewery was larger, consisting of 8 buildings: Brew house, bottling house (now next to Brew house), mill house, dry house, hop storage, and malt house. It was also improved. New modern machinery and equipment was added. The new brewery even contained an elevator. Gund even prepared for another catastrophe by making the new brewery fireproof.
Business was again booming for the Gund Brewery. Capital stock for the company climbed to two million dollars. Unfortunately tragedy again strikes the Gund Brewery. This time the tragedy goes to the top. After fighting apoplexy for many months John Gund dies of the disease on May 7, 1901. In honor of a great man the brewery shut down for the day. Leadership of the John Gund Brewery now rests in the hands of Henry Gund and rumors spread like wildfire that the brewery would be moved to Omaha, Nebraska.
The John Gund Brewery survived and thrived after, yet another devastating disaster. By 1900 Gund Brewery became the “largest brewery in the old Northwest, outside of Milwaukee” (Baier, 1976). The World was beginning to take notice of Gund’s Peerless Beer. This became evident when in 1900 it won a metal at the Paris Exposition and in 1904 won the Gold metal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (World Fair in 1904). The explosion in popularity caused for an increase in production. This need caused the increase of works to 450 in 1910. This year the brewery produced over 600,000 barrels of beer.
Soon the final blow would come to the brewery. In 1919 the 18th amendment was enacted. So began the years of Prohibition. The Brewery closed its doors. Luckily, on May 27th a law was passed making it legal to produce “war time” beer. Wartime beer was beer that was limited to 2.3%-4% alcohol content. The doors to the John Gund Brewery opened again to produce this beer. Still struggling, the brewery was it with another problem. The Brewery Workers Union in Lacrosse went on strike. The brewery was hit hard, offering jobs to men, woman, and children to help fill the void created by the strike.
The straw that finally breaks the John Gund Brewery’s back was the complete Prohibition. The Gund Brewery closed its doors for good later that year just as many other breweries throughout the US were doing.
John Gund (born October 3, 1830, in Schwetzingen, Grand Duchy of Baden; died May 7, 1910, in La Crosse, Wisconsin), the firm’s co-founder, eventually decided that Heileman’s business practices were too restrictive and ended the partnership in 1872 in order to build a new brewery in La Crosse that could compete with cross-state rivals such as Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller. The G. Heileman Brewing Company and the John Gund Brewing Company continued to pursue separate business strategies until national Prohibition was implemented fully in 1920. Gund’s large brewery collapsed, whereas Heileman’s smaller firm subsisted by producing non-alcoholic beer and malt products until the Twenty-First Amendment was passed in 1933.
John Gund, on the other hand, was born approximately seventy-five miles northwest of Kirchheim in the community of Schwetzingen in the Grand Duchy of Baden on October 3, 1830. Schwetzingen lay in the rich, alluvial farmland between the Rhine and Neckar Rivers approximately six miles southwest of Heidelberg. Gund was the second of eight children born to Georg Michael and Sophia Elizabeth Gund (née Eder or Edes).
John Gund found employment sixty miles to the west in Dubuque, Iowa, a commercial center situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River. He worked in a brewery operated by a German named Anton Heeb for two years. In June 1850, he relocated to nearby Galena, Illinois, to operate a brewery with a German named Witzel, possibly twenty-year-old Sebastian Witzel, who may have been an old friend. John Gund’s parents died of cholera the following month. After less than a year, he sold his share in the Galena brewery operation and rented another brewery in the community, known as the Cedar Brewery. About this time, he married fellow German immigrant Louise Hottman, a resident of Galena, with whom he eventually had five children. Two years after renting the Cedar Brewery, Gund decided to relocate to a larger and more prosperous community that would provide a better market for his beer. He and his wife moved approximately 180 miles northwest to the Mississippi River settlement of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
La Crosse had a population of approximately 2,000 residents in the mid-1850s. Situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, the community had experienced rapid growth during the 1850s as settlers arrived to take advantage of the surrounding farmland and forests. The lumber industry flourished, facilitated by the community’s access to steamboats that plied the Mississippi River from St. Paul down to St. Louis and New Orleans. The city was incorporated in 1856 and benefitted further when a cross-state railroad connection was completed between La Crosse and Milwaukee in 1858.
John Gund founded a brewery in La Crosse in August 1854. The small operation was located in a log cabin near the community’s waterfront. A number of other German immigrants founded breweries in the city in the months and years that followed. Gustavus Nicolai and Jacob Franz founded the Nicolai Brewery shortly after Gund founded his brewery. Due to production problems with Gund’s initial batch of beer, Nicolai and Franz were first to bring their beer to market. Charles and John Michel founded the La Crosse Brewery in 1857 after a failed attempt to strike it rich in the California gold fields in the early 1850s. After returning from the West Coast, they attempted to settle in Chicago but soon grew to dislike the community and made their way north to St. Paul. Ice on the Mississippi delayed their river journey and they eventually settled in La Crosse instead. After noting that existing breweries in the community could not meet local demand, they founded their own brewery.
After nearly fifteen years in business together, Heileman and Gund dissolved their partnership in 1872. Heileman seems to have been content brewing beer primarily for the local market and this was reflected in the brewery’s modest output of approximately 3,000 barrels per year by the 1870s. By comparison, Eberhardt Anheuser and Adolphus Busch’s Bavarian Brewery in St. Louis produced approximately 100,000 barrels of beer per year during the same decade and the Pabst Brewery in Milwaukee produced 121,000 barrels annually. John Gund was far more ambitious than his partner and wished to establish La Crosse as a major center of brewing that would rival Milwaukee and St. Louis. Supposedly, the partners flipped a coin to determine which partner would receive the brewery and which would receive the International Hotel. Heileman won the City Brewery and Gund gained control of the hotel.
Gund immediately established a new brewery on the southern edge of La Crosse that he named the Empire Brewery, and which was incorporated in 1880 as the John Gund Brewing Company. A bottling house was included in the new brewery, which indicated that Gund intended to distribute the beer regionally. At the time, federal law required that excise taxes be paid on kegged beer. Only after the tax stamp had been applied to the keg could brewers then bottle the beer for sale. Bottling beer was also labor intensive since employees had to fill and cork individual bottles by hand during this era and then pasteurize each lot. Consequently, bottling beer was more time consuming and expensive than distributing it in kegs. Bottled beer’s key advantage lay in the fact that it could be shipped more easily and thus could reach more distant markets than kegged beer.
Gund’s decision to end his partnership with Heileman in 1872 may had been attributable, at least in small part, to the 1871 conflagration in Chicago. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed the city’s nascent brewing industry and opened the door to brewers in nearby cities with railroad connections to Chicago. Gund along with brewers from Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati began shipping beer to Chicago and established a presence in the taverns and other drinking establishments of the city.
Gund and his three sons, George, Henry, and John Jr., continued to expand their brewery’s operations during the 1870s and 1880s. After John Gund incorporated the brewery in May 1880, he assumed the title of brewery president and his sons took other positions in the firm. The firm was capitalized at $100,000 (approximately $2.3 million dollars in 2011$) with the stock remaining in family hands. By 1887, the facility covered five acres and produced 45,000 barrels of beer annually. While this output still lagged behind the volume produced by major shipping breweries of the era such as Pabst, Schlitz, and Anheuser-Busch, when combined with the other breweries of La Crosse, the city’s beer production briefly surpassed the quantity produced by any other city in Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, in 1884. Given that La Crosse’s population was ten percent of Milwaukee’s population during this decade, such an output is impressive to say the least. Gund took advantage of La Crosse’s rail and river connection to the Upper Midwest and the Chicagoland area to distribute beer to the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois. Henry Gund served as a traveling agent for the firm and established a distribution center in Minneapolis in 1882.
A major fire at the Gund brewery in 1897 destroyed the original 1872 structure but also enabled Gund to reconstruct the brewery with expanded capacity the following year. The new facility was designed by prominent Chicago architect Louis William Lehle, a German immigrant University of Stuttgart graduate who was responsible for designing breweries throughout the United States for a number of major firms including Blatz, Grain Belt, and Dixie. Gund’s focus on bottled beer was reflected in the new design of the brewery. The bottling plant was relocated from a building across the street from the brewing complex to a new building next to the brew house. This arrangement allowed beer to be pumped directly from holding tanks to the bottling line. Improvements in bottling technology, such as the development of crown caps in 1892, made the production process less labor intensive. Gund’s bottling line was capable of producing twenty-five million bottles per year.[ By 1900, production at the new brewery grew to 200,000 barrels per year and tripled to 600,000 a decade later. Nevertheless, the Gund Brewing Company was still a middle-tier producer in comparison to other major regional breweries such as Pabst or Schlitz, whose output exceeded one million and one-and-a-half million barrels, respectively, during the same period.
In conjunction with its focus on bottled beer production, the firm began to develop a specific branded beer, which it called Peerless. The brewery invested great effort into promoting the brand and entered Peerless into a variety of international competitions including the 1900 Paris Exposition and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. Peerless won a medal at both expositions and the Gund Brewery used the publicity generated by the beer’s performance in its advertising.
Generational transition in brewery management took place gradually from the 1880s through the first decade of the twentieth century. Gund’s three sons served in various roles at the brewery. George Gund worked as brewery manager. Henry served as a traveling agent for the firm and later as bookkeeper after his younger brother, John Jr., left the firm in 1887 to pursue other interests. His elder brother also left the firm in the 1890s and established a brewery in Seattle and later purchased an existing brewery in Cleveland. With the departure of his brothers, Henry gradually assumed greater responsibilities at the brewery despite health problems. By the early 1900s, he was in his forties and was well respected within the local and regional brewing communities. He was elected vice president of Wisconsin’s Brewer’s Association in 1901 and by 1904 had assumed the position of vice president and treasurer of the John Gund Brewing Company. In May 1910, John Gund passed away a few months shy of his eightieth birthday.
Politically, John Gund’s party affiliation reflected broader shifts in German immigrant political participation during the second half of the nineteenth century. He supported the Whig ticket shortly after his arrival in the United States and voted Republican in the 1860s and 1870s, but his allegiance shifted to the Democratic Party in his later years. This may have been linked to the Democrats’ opposition to the growing prohibitionist movement in the United States and the support they enjoyed from populist, agrarian elements in Midwestern states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.