Today is the birthday of Conrad Seipp (September 27, 1825-January 28, 1890). Conrad Seipp immigrated to the United States from Hessen, Germany, in the 1840s. After moving to Chicago, he drove a beer wagon for Miller Brothers brewery. Eventually he started his own brewery. By the turn of the century, the Seipp Brewery expanded to become one of the largest in the United States.
Chicagology includes a short history of Conrad Seipp at the page about Chicago Breweries:
Conrad Seipp, the founder of the brewing company of that name, was born in 1825, near Frankfort on-the-Main, Germany, his early trade being that of a carpenter and joiner. In 1849 he came to this country, locating at Rochester, N. Y., but after a brief stay there, during which he followed his trade, removed to Chicago. For the succeeding five years he was proprietor of a hotel, but in 1854 rented a small plant, known as the M. Best Brewery, at the foot of Fourteenth street. In the following year his brewery was destroyed by fire, but in the fall he rebuilt on the site of the present plant of the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company.
The main building, of brick, had a frontage of about fifty feet, the beer cellars being underground, the malt floors on the ground, the living rooms for Mr. Seipp and his three children on the second floor, and the storage rooms for the barley and malt above. In 1858 Mr. Seipp formed a partnership with Frederick Lehmann, the firm of Seipp & Lehmann continuing until the death of the latter in July, 1872.
The surviving partner purchased the interest of the Lehmann heirs and in 1876 incorporated the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company, of which he remained president up to the time of his death, in January, 1890. During this period also Wm. C. Seipp, his son, served as vice-president, and T. J. Lefens as secretary and treasurer. From the founding of the business, in 1854, until its incorporation in 1876, the output increased from 1,000 barrels of lager beer to more than 100,000 barrels. The founder of the company was a man, not only of remarkable strength of character, but of rare domestic and philanthropic virtues. After his death different local charities received bequests from his estate which amounted to more than $100,000.
In April, 1890, a few months after the death of the founder of the business, the Conrad Seipp, the West Side, and the F. J. Dewes’ breweries, with the L. C. Huck and the George Bullen malt houses were amalgamated to form the City of Chicago Brewing and Malting Company. By this time the Conrad Seipp plant had expanded into one of the most extensive establishments in the country, with an annual output of 240,000 barrels of lager beer. It was one of the pioneers in the adoption of artificial refrigeration, the first of its machines being installed in 1881.
After the success of his brewery, Seipp built a large mansion on the south shore of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, which today is a tourist destination known as the Black Point Estate and Gardens. Their Facebook page includes …
Conrad Seipp’s Story
Conrad Seipp, the youngest of five brothers and sisters arrived alone in America at the age of 24 after fighting in the 1848 German Revolution as a protector of royalty. He was forced to fight against family & friends. Upon conclusion of the Revolution in he arrived in Rochester NY and moved to Lyons Illinois with his new wife Maria. His first job was driving a beer wagon. He soon set his sights on Chicago where he successfully managed a hotel on the corner of Washington & Fifth (Now Wells). In 1851 he staked claim on 80 acres of farmland (now 79th and Jeffery, SE side). In 1854 with the profits from the sale of his hotel he purchased a small brewery from Matthias Best on 14th street. It burned down within the year so he immediately built a new brick brewery at the foot of 27th and Lake Michigan with 50′ frontage, underground cellars, malt floor on ground level and 2nd floor living quarters for his growing family. By the end of the first year he had 6 employees and was producing over 1,000 barrels. In 1858 he formed a partnership with Frederick Lehmann and the name was changed to Seipp & Lehmann. The brewery expanded to 50 employees and began producing over 50,000 barrels annually. His wife Maria died of pneumonia at age 39 in 1866. Understanding the need to have a matriarch he met and married 26 year old Catharina Orb within the year. Disaster again struck in 1872 when Lehmann was killed in a buggy accident but the brewery continued to grow. Producing 103,697 barrels of beer during the period of May 1872-1873, it was now the leading brewery in the United States and Conrad was only 47 years old. He lost the US lead to a Milwaukee brewer but the Chicago Tribune article January 1, 1880 described the Seipp Brewery as the largest in Chicago with a barrelage in 1879 of 108,347. Since 1877 he had to purchase malt and barely from outside sources to keep up with production. (See 1877 Chicago News article attached) Seipp was one of the first to ship beer outside Chicago, his Salvator bottled beer was greatly appreciated in the developing Western states and Territories. According to another Tribune article, “Seipp’s bottled beer was often considered a temperance drink that has done more to reform the mining districts of the West then all the moral agencies that have ever been sent there. It has supplemented the use of stronger drinks.” Conrad’s extraordinary use of advertising helped make him one of the most successful brewers, using match boxes, coasters, trading cards, serving trays, and beer mugs. During the 1880’s a number of horse racing tracks were opening up in the Chicago area. He purchased property near Washington Park Race Track and other real estate surrounding the area tracks allowing him to build company saloons to accommodate thirsty customers attending the races. This period of growth in Chicago’s ran unchecked with sporting houses and brothels cropping up weekly and often protected by ward politicians and police alike. There were numerous Seipp Beer advertisements in “The Sporting House Directory of 1889, a Guide to Chicago Brothels” which just proved that Seipp knew and understood niche markets. In the early part of the 20th century, it was estimated that the annual consumption of beer in the Chicago bordellos was more than seven million bottles of beer and we can only assume many of those bottles were from the Conrad Seipp Brewery!
Conrad Seipp is a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1849 at the age of 25. He married Maria Teutsch and had three children. Before he became a Beer Baron in Chicago, he was a beer wagon driver for Miller Brothers brewery. Then he became an owner of a small hotel before he bought a small beer factory in 1854. A year after, his brewery was burned down. Conrad didn’t give up and rebuilt his company out of brick with underground cellars, a malt floor and family living quarters. After Maria died in 1866, he married Catherine Orb, and together they have five children.
Business seemed to be progressing which was producing 1000 barrels of beer in its first year. In 1858 he partnered with M. Frederick Lehmann to expand their business. In just ten years they produced 50,000 barrels of beers yearly. Seipp and Lehmann’s brewery grew to become one of the largest in the United States. But Lehmann died in an accident, so Seipp bought his partner’s shares and renamed his business to Conrad Seipp Brewing Company.
Seipp died in 1890, soon after Black Point was completed. His company was sold to British investors who merged with other brewing businesses in Chicago. Seipp family member continued to work at the brewery, but later their production exceeded by its competitors. The company was closed in 1933.
The Encyclopedia of Chicago has this entry for the Seipp (Conrad) Brewing Co.:
Conrad Seipp, an immigrant from Germany, started making beer in Chicago in 1854, after buying a small brewery from Mathias Best. By 1856, Seipp had six employees, who helped him produce about 1,100 barrels of beer each year. In 1858, Frederick Lehman joined the company, which became Seipp & Lehman. By the end of the 1860s, when Seipp & Lehman was one of Chicago’s leading brewers, about 50 employees made more than 50,000 barrels of beer (worth close to $500,000) per year. After Lehman died in 1872, Seipp organized the Conrad Seipp Brewing Co. Dominating the Chicago beer market by the late 1870s, Seipp was among the largest breweries in the United States, producing over 100,000 barrels a year. After Conrad Seipp died in 1890, the company merged with several smaller Chicago breweries to form the City of Chicago Consolidated Brewing & Malting Co., which was controlled by British investors, although Seipp was allowed to operate with considerable autonomy and under the Seipp name. At the turn of the century, the Seipp brewery was still active; annual output had reached about 250,000 barrels. The widespread establishment of neighborhood liquor stores around 1910 siphoned off sales from Seipp and other city breweries, but Seipp managed to stay afloat by introducing home beer deliveries. Grain and coal shortages during World War I stifled Seipp’s production before the enactment of Prohibition in 1919 dealt a devastating blow to the beer industry as a whole. The company limped along through the Prohibition years by producing low-alcohol “near bear” and distributing soda pop. Many speculated that Seipp also produced bootleg beer for the Torrio-Capone crime organization. Ironically, Seipp operations ceased in 1933, just before Prohibition was lifted. The brewery was destroyed that year to make room for a new hospital.
And here’s a curious artifact, a press release from the Conrad Seipp Brewery from May 4, 1879.
Only Lager Beer! Conrad Seipp’s Brewery Ships Genuine Lager Beer Only
Lager beer is the demand of the day! There was a time when the public preferred fresh beer, and brewers conformed to the fashion. There were also other factors involved: The tremendous increase in beer consumption and inadequate storage facilities which prevented an accumulation of what brewers considered an “adequately seasoned supply”. The public eventually became aware that fresh beer was not a particularly healthful beverage and thus public opinion clamored again for genuine Lager Beer.
Among those brewers who always have a large stock of well-seasoned beer on hand and need not substitute a hurried, artificially aged produce, is the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company. There has hardly been a period in the Company’s 2history when such a large supply for summer consumption has been available. According to official figures of the revenue collector, Seipp’s Brewery sold 108,000 barrels of beer between May 1, 1878 and April 30, 1879. Aside from this colossal amount the government report shows that a tremendous quantity was stored in the Brewery’s recently enlarged cellars–41,671 large barrels.
These figures are not mere estimates or exaggerations. They are accurate and are taken from official statements–showing the amount registered by the Revenue Department, and, quite aside from the fact that the Seipp Brewing Company has no intention of cheating the government, a falsification of these reports is not an easy matter, and if the Company claims to have a larger stock in storage than is actually available, then the Brewery would be faced with the problem of paying large additional sums for taxes.
The public can therefore rest assured that the Seipp Brewery had the above-mentioned quantity of beer in stock on May 1, this year, that is: 41,671 full 3barrels, and it is therefore quite evident that this large quantity was not brewed in a day or two; it required almost five months. Obviously, anyone seeing the sign “Seipp’s Beer” displayed by a saloon will be convinced that genuine, healthful Lager Beer is on tap.
That such a large concern as the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company makes special efforts to provide its customers with genuine Lager Beer augurs well and proves that even in this endeavor time-tried products will reassert themselves and make short shrift of “quick production processes”.
Ere long other breweries must emulate the good example–if they have not already done so–and the public can then drink confidently the usual morning, noon, or evening quota without harmful after effects resulting from a hurriedly mixed, artificially fermented concoction; a wholesome, slowly and properly seasoned brew is now available.