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Historic Beer Birthday: Joseph Schmid

Today is the birthday of Joseph Schmid (July 14, 1814-December 18, 1881). He was born in Hausen, Hohenzollern, but grew up in Constantz, where he learned to brew. He started a brewery in Germany, but sold it and came to American when he was 42, in 1856.

He initially settled in Illinois where he started the Atlantic Brewery in Rock Island, but a decade later when he joined the Lion Brewery, which was also known as the Bernheimer & Schmid Brewery. There was also an August Schmid involved in that business, and it’s unclear the relationship between the two Schmids. The brewery survived prohibition but closed for good in 1941.

This short biography of Joseph Schmid is from the Western Brewer reprinting his obituary 25 years after the fact. The piece mentions the “Lim Brewery” but I’m convinced that’s a typo and should read “Lion Brewery.”

Another account appears to clear up some of the confusion regarding Joseph and August, from the Columbia University Libraries:

A locus for both business and pleasure in Morningside Heights, the Lion Brewery began operations in 1850 and continued until its demolition in 1944. During that time, especially in the late 19th-century, it rose to be a community focal point. It originated with a farm—stretching from Tenth Avenue to Central Park, and 106th Street to 110th Street—belonging to Joseph Schmid (sometimes spelled “Schmidt”) on which he built a brewery in the 1820s, operating as Schmidt & Speyer. Soon, a change of partners brought a change in name to Bernheimer & Schmidt, for Schmid’s new partner, former brewery worker Emanuel Bernheimer. The two renamed it the Lion Brewery in 1850; within thirty years it was generating profits estimated between $1,500,00 and $2,225,000. Real estate speculation doomed the partners, however, and by May 1879, the year after the newspapers’ estimate of their wealth, their combined net worth had fallen to $500,000. They dissolved their partnership and each man transferred his share of the business to his better-educated son: Joseph Schmid transferred his holdings to his son August, and Emanuel Bernheimer to his son Simon. August and Simon applied their education to the management of the business, and by 1888 the plant alone was valued at $1,5000,000.

And this account of some litigation reported by the American Brewers’ Review shed further light on the ownership question of the Schmids.

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