Today is the birthday of Albert Braun (February 27, 1863-February 27, 1895). He was born in Dusseldorf, Germany, and emigrated to the U.S. when he was 25, in 1888. He worked at several breweries, including Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, before settling in Seattle in 1889. The following year he opened the Albert Braun Brewing Association. It was in business only un 1893, when it merged with several other local breweries to become part of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company.
The only photograph I could find of Braun is in the group shot, which in ran in a nostalgia piece in the newspaper, in 1934. Braun is apparently seated at the far left.
This biography is from “An Illustrated History of the State of Washington, by Rev. H.K. Hines, published in 1893:
ALBERT BRAUN, vice-president of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company was born at Dusseldorf, on the Rhine, Germany, in February, 1863. He was educated in the schools of Germany and then traveled quite extensively through the European countries. His business career began under the direction of his father, who was an extensive manufacturer of preserved fruits, vegetables, meats and fancy canned goods, and was continued in the same industry, in partnership with his brother at Mainz, on the Rhine.
In 1888 Mr. Braun sold his interest and came to the United States and, upon the advice of Adolphus Busch, president of the Anheuser- Busch Association, of St. Louis, Missouri, he entered the brewery of Peter Doelger, of New York, and learned the practical workings of the business, completing his instruction in the details at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis.
In 1889 Mr. Braun made a trip through the Northwest, and, after a short visit in Seattle, he was so favorably impressed with the people and location of the city that he decided upon the city as a location for future settlement. He then returned to St. Louis and continued his studies of the brewery business up to March 1, 1890, when he again visited Seattle and at once engaged in the organization of the Albert Braun Brewing Association, which was incorporated with a capital of $250,000, he being duly elected president and general manager. The brewery was erected six miles south of Seattle, very complete in all its appointments, with a capacity of 70,000 barrels per year, the Product finding a ready market in Washington, region, Idaho and British Columbia. Continuing up to 1893, the Albert Braun Brewing Association was consolidated with the Bay View Brewing Company and the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Company, and incorporated as the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company, with capital stock of $1,000,000. The affairs of the new association were conducted by the managers of the old breweries, the official corps being: Andrew Hemrich, President; Albert Braun, Vice-President; Edward F. Sweeney, Secretary; and Fred Kirschner, Treasurer.
The company expects to develop brewing and malting into one of the leading interests of the city of Seattle, and as their product has competed successfully with the best Eastern brands there is little doubt of an auspicious future.
Mr. Braun is also interested in various other enterprises of the city and he has perfect faith and confidence in the future of Seattle and the Sound districts.
According to Brewing in Seattle, by Kurt Stream, Braun was named Vice-President of Seattle Brewing and Malting. Here’s how it went down:
The Seattle Times also has a story about what happened to Braun’s brewery:
ALBERT BRAUN arrived from Iowa soon after Seattle’s Great Fire of 1889. Within a year and a half, the young German immigrant, with financial help from local and Midwestern investors, built a brewery about 2 miles south of Georgetown.
The serpentine Duwamish River is hidden behind the brewery. Directly across the river, on its west side and also hidden, was the neighboring community of South Park. Braun’s name is emblazoned on the brewery’s east facade, and so it was best read from the ridge of Beacon Hill and from the trains on the railway tracks below.
The brewing began here December 1890, and the brewery’s primary brands, Braun’s Beer, Columbia Beer and Standard Beer, reached their markets in March 1891. The 1893 Sanborn fire insurance map for Seattle includes a footprint of the plant that is faithful to this undated photograph. The map’s legend notes that the buildings were “substantial, painted in and outside” with “electric lights and lanterns” and that a “watchman lives on the premises.” It also reveals, surprisingly, that the brewery was “not in operation” since July of that year. What happened?
The economic panic of 1893 closed many businesses and inspired a few partnerships, too. Braun’s principal shareholders partnered his plant with two other big beer producers, the Claussen Sweeney and Bay Views breweries, to form the Seattle Brewing and Malting Co. Braun’s landmark was then designated “Albert Braun’s Branch.”
Of the three partnering breweries, this was the most remote, and it was largely for that reason, it seems, that it was soon closed. The upset Braun soon resigned; sold most of his interest in the partnership; and relocated to Rock Island, Ill. There, he started work on a new brewery and fell in love, but with tragic results: Early in 1895, Braun committed suicide, reportedly “over a love affair.”
For six years after its closing, the tidy Braun brewery beside the Duwamish River stood like a museum to brewing, but without tours. Practically all the machinery was intact, from its kettles to its ice plant, until the early morning of Sept. 30, 1899. On that day, The Seattle Times reported, “the nighthawks who were just making their way home and the milkmen, butchers and other early risers were certain that the City of Tacoma was surely being burned down.” They were mistaken. It was Braun’s brewery that was reduced to smoldering embers. The plant’s watchman had failed that night to engage the sprinkler system connected to the tank at the top of the five-story brewery.
There is at least a hint that the brewery grounds were put to good use following the fire. The Times, on Aug. 11, 1900, reported that the teachers of the South Park Methodist Episcopalian Sunday school took their classes “out for a holiday on the banks of the beautiful Duwamish River, (and for) a pleasant ride over the river to the Albert Braun picnic grounds.”
Albert Braun took his own life, with a gun shot to the heart, on February 27, 1895, at the young age of 32. While still holding a significant number of Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. shares, he was not considered well-to-do in the matter of ready cash. Additionally, Braun had left Seattle for Illinois, after millionair brewer, Otto Huber, indicated that he was interested in partnering with Braun in the purchase of the LaSalle Brewing Co. For what ever reason Huber went back on his promise, leaving Braun with no immediate prospects and in a state of despair.
He has more about the Albert Braun Brewery, too.