Today is the birthday of Charles William Bergner (December 20, 1854-May 4, 1903). He was the son of Gustavus Bergner, who bought into the brewery Engel & Wolf, and renamed it Bergner & Engel, and it later became the Bergner & Engel Company.” William Bergner, as was best known, was born in Philadelphia, but learned to be a brewer in Germany. “He was president of the United States Brewers’ association from 1897 to 1899, and for many years was president of the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers’ association.”
This is his obituary from Ambler Gazette, of May 7, 1903:
Businessman. He co-founded the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company, which was located in the Brewerytown Section of Philadelphia, and was at one point the 3rd largest brewer in the United States.
C.W. Bergner Is Dead. Well-Known Brewer Dies in Philadelphia. Death Results from Paralysis of the Heart–Sketch of His Active and Successful Life–Mastered the Brewing Business–His Many Interests.
Charles William Bergner, president of the Bergner & Engel brewing company, died Tuesday at 10 o’clock a.m. in Philadelphia. His death came suddenly, although he had been in ill health for nearly two years. He had a malady of the stomach, liver and kidneys which brought on an acute affection of the heart that proved fatal.
Last year Mr. Bergner went to the mountains of Scotland by order of his physician and his health was much improved in consequence. He came back feeling quite well and continued so for some months. He left his office a week ago with a sharp attack of indigestion, which developed into paralysis of the heart.
Mr. Bergner was born in Philadelphia, Dec. 20, 1854, and was the only son of Gustavus Bergner, who until his death in May 1883, was president of the Bergner & Engel Brewing company, which he had founded. The son received his early education at a private academy in Philadelphia and at the high school at Lawrenceville, N.J. He afterwards studied at Augsburg and Munich, in Germany, and spent three years in travel in Europe.
Returning to this country he mastered the brewing business in every detail, serving in every part of the great establishment of which his father was the head. This was in 1873. His progress in this practical education was rapid and he assumed duties of greater and greater importance after his father’s death, until in 1891 he was elected president of the company.
Mr. Bergner became interested in several financial and industrial institutions, but at his death he was connected with only two, the Standard Ice company and the bank of the Northern Liberties. Of the former he was president and of the latter a director. He had been a director of the Commercial National bank, the Delaware Insurance company, and the Teutonic Insurance company, and vice president of the Guarantors’ Indemnity Company of Pennsylvania.
He was president of the United States Brewers’ association from 1897 to 1899, and for many years was president of the Philadelphia Lager Beer Brewers’ association. He was consul for the kingdom of Belgium, and in 1888 was vice president of the United States commission to the Brussels exposition. The king of the Belgians conferred upon him the following year the order of Leopold.
He was president of the board of trustees of the Medico-Chirurgical hospital, but resigned that position in January, 1898. He was a life member of the Union League club, a member of the Art club, the Historical society, the Franklin institute and all the German societies of Philadelphia. He sold his house at 1627 Walnut street about a year ago and since then has resided altogether at his country place in Ambler, which was erected over a dozen years ago at great cost and is one of the most beautiful and complete in this region.
A widow, a son, Gustav, and a daughter, Catharine, who is the wife of Charles Bispham, survive him. Mrs. George A. Fletcher, his sister, resides at 216 North Thirty-fourth street, Philadelphia, in winter and at Radnor in summer. Mr. Bergner was very charitable in a quiet and unostentatious way. He did not speculate either in real estate or in stocks.
The funeral will be at noon this Thursday at the family residence, Ambler, and the interment will probably be in West Laurel Hill cemetery.
And this is his entry from The Cyclopædia of American Biography, published in 1918, James E. Homans, editor:
BERGNER, Charles William, president of the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company of Philadelphia, and Belgian consul, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 20 Dec., 1854; d. at his country home, Ambler, Pa., 4 May, 1903, son of Gustavus William (1832-83) and Catharine Christine (Wehn) Bergner. The Bergners came into prominence in mediæval Europe as early as the First Crusade, and the subsequent history of the family can be traced through a line of distinguished ancestors, dating from that time. The first member of the family to come to America was Charles William Bergner, grandfather of the subject of this review. He was a woolen goods manufacturer, the owner of extensive dye factories, and the Burgomeister (mayor) of Crimmitzschau, Saxony, Germany, where he lived. In 1849 he visited America. While in Philadelphia he loaned a sum of money to a brewing establishment, and the firm becoming insolvent soon afterward, he found himself, as chief creditor, obliged to assume control of the business. Thrust by accident into a vocation about which he knew nothing and being in a strange country, this man, who possessed the loftiest ideals and who, by inheritance and training, was of the highest type, — could not adapt himself to the vastly changed conditions of his life, and soon succumbed under the strain and died. He had succeeded, however, in laying the foundation of the house of Bergner and Engel. Gustavus William Bergner, son of Charles William and Johanne Fredericka (Richter) Bergner, was ambitious for a mercantile career, and at the age of sixteen entered a chinaware firm in Philadelphia, and on account of his exceptional ability was soon afterward offered a partnership in the business. The death of his father, however, prevented his acceptance of this opportunity and made him the head of the brewing enterprise. Under his successful management it became one of the large establishments of its kind. His son, Charles William Bergner, and the second of the name to assume the management of the business, received his early education in the private schools of Philadelphia, and was prepared at Lawrenceville, N. J., to enter Princeton College, but completed his studies in Germany, after which he entered the celebrated brewing schools of Munich and Augsburg, in order to perfect his knowledge of the practical part of the industry. He returned to America in 1873. He, however, had little predilection for an industrial career and wished to adopt a profession, preferring that of the law. Soon after his father’s health failed and the son, prompted by motives of filial duty and affection, took his place in the firm of Bergner and Engel in a modest capacity. Naturally an able business man, he did not long remain in this subordinate position, but was soon promoted to a clerkship and later made head bookkeeper. On the death of his father, 6 May, 1883, and later that of Charles Engel and his son, Theodore, Charles William Bergner (2d) assumed the entire management of the business. In 1890, upon the formation of a stock company, he was elected president of the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company, an office which he filled with unvarying success until his death. Because of his unusual knowledge of every branch of the business, his untiring energy and active interest in all matters pertaining to the brewing industry, and the high-minded persistence with which he carried out the splendid moral standards and business traditions of his ancestors, Mr. Bergner came to be regarded as one of the foremost figures in his line of industry in the United States. For five successive years he was elected president of the Philadelphia Brewers’ Association, and in 1896 was made president of the United States Brewers’ Association, of which organization he had served as president of the board of trustees for many years. He was actively associated with various other industrial and commercial enterprises, and was a director of the National Bank of Northern Liberties and the Delaware Insurance Company. He was also interested in a number of charitable and educational institutions. In 1895 he was appointed Belgian consul in Philadelphia; and as a mark of appreciation for his services at the International Exposition, held in Brussels in 1896, King Leopold of Belgium bestowed upon him “The Order of Leopold.” He was a man of great culture and was passionately fond of music and all the fine arts. He was a bibliophile, and possessed a very fine library and also had a large and valuable collection of rare engravings and etchings. He was a member of the Grolier Society, the Fine Arts Club, the Historical Society, and the Union League Club of Philadelphia. Charles William Bergner was married to Ella Annear, daughter of John and Anne (Wotton) Annear, in Philadelphia, 9 March, 1874. Of this marriage there were four children: Gustavus William Bergner, who is now president of the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company; Catharine Christine, deceased, who married Charles K. Bispham; Anita Ella, and Otto William, both deceased.