Today is the birthday of John Barbey (October 19, 1850-December 24, 1939). He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Peter Barbey, who founded what would become the Peter Barbey Brewery in 1857. His son John joined him at the brewery in 1880, and they called it Peter Barbey & Son after that, and he owned and ran the brewery after his father’s death in 1897 until it closed in 1920 because of Prohibition. But it did return in 1933 as Barbey’s Inc. In 1951, they completely rebranded it as the Sunshine Brewing Co. before closing for good in 1970.
This is his obituary from the Reading Eagle on December 25, 1939:
Prominent Businessman Dies on Christmas Eve
Funeral services were held today for John Barbey, prominent Reading businesss man, who died at his home 733 Centre Ave, on Christmas Eve following several months illness. He was 89.
The Rev. Dr. HeismannF. Miller, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, of which Mr. Barbey was a member, officiated at services held from the home. Entombment was made at Charles Evan Cemetery.
Mr. Barbey who was widely known in business circles, was chairman of the board of directors of the Vanity Fair Silk Mills and president and treasurer of Barbey’s Inc.
He was born in Philadelphia, a son of the late Peter and Rosina (Kuntz).
Barbey when he was 4 years old the family moved to Reading, where the father engaged in the manufacturing of malt liquors. He received his education in the local public schools and at a business college and then joined his father’s organization.
In 1800 he became a partner in the concern and the business became Barbey and Son. At the death of his father in 1897 he succeeded as head of the organization.For many years Mr. Barbey was actively identified with several local banking institutions and at the time of his death served on the directorate of a number of local industrial institutions.
Mrs. Barbey, the former Mary Ellen Garst, died many years ago. Surviving are these children: Mrs. Ida Lewis, NY. Mrs. Wiliam K Eckert, and Mrs. John H McCauley, both of Reading.
This biography of John is from “Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals,” by Morton Montgomery, published in 1909:
John Barbey, son of Peter and Rosina (Kuntz) Barbey, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., Oct. 19, 1850. When he was four years old his parents moved to Reading, where his father became engaged in the manufacture of malt liquors. He was educated in the local schools, taking an extra course in a business college, and was then placed in his father’s brewery for the purpose of learning all the details of the brewing business. In this he was very successful, and in 1880 the father admitted him into partnership, and they traded under the firm name of P. Barbey & Son. The father died in 1897, but the son has continued the business under the same name with increasing success up to the present. In 1906 the capacity of his large plant was the greatest of any at Reading, a fact which evinces the superior judgment of the son in conducting the complicated affairs of the brewery for the years it has been under his management.
Mr. Barbey has become largely interested in a number of the financial institutions of Reading, particularly the Keystone Bank, Farmers Bank, Colonial Trust Company, and several industrial institutions, in a number of which he is a director. He has been prominently identified with the Masonic fraternity at Reading since 1876, becoming a Mason in Chandler Lodge, No. 227, and a Knight Templar in the Reading Commandery, No. 42, of which be was Eminent Commander in 1886. He has reached the thirty-second degree.
Mr. Barbey married Mary Ellen Garst, daughter of George W. Garst, of Reading, a prominent building contractor for many years. They have seven children, six daughters and one son, John.
And this is from “100 Years of Brewing:”
Apparently, Peter Barbery was just a brewer, but John was more of a shrewd businessman, and apparently made a fortune in the textile industry, which was quite prominent in Reading, PA. Though most of its gone now, the Reading Factory Outlets are still a reminder of that time. This account of his other business interests is from Forbes:
The roots of this family fortune date back to 1899, when a banker named John Barbey and five partners started the Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Company in Pennsylvania. Using profits from his father’s Sunshine Beer, Barbey bought out his partners and expanded into underwear (though he banned the term). In 1939, his son John Edward “J. E.” Barbey became vice president of the company, then known as Vanity Fair Silk Mills. After he took it public in 1951, the family was no longer involved in operations. Today, fewer than a dozen members of the Barbey family still own nearly 20% of VF Corporation (as it was renamed in 1969). It’s one of the world’s largest apparel firms, with $12 billion in revenues and brands such as Lee, Wrangler and North Face.