Today is the birthday of William Hamm (September 26, 1858-June 10, 1931). William Sr. was the son of Theodore Hamm, who founded Hamm’s Brewery in St. Paul, Minnesota. William Sr. took over for his father when Theodore retired and ran it until he died shortly before prohibition was repealed, and his son William Jr. took over.
Here’s a brief history from the brewery’s Wikipedia page:
The Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was established in 1865 when, a German immigrant Theodore Hamm (1825-1903) inherited the Excelsior Brewery from his friend and business associate A. F. Keller, who had perished in California seeking his fortune in the gold fields. Unable to finance the venture himself, Keller had entered into a partnership with Hamm to secure funding. Upon Keller’s death, Hamm inherited the small brewery and flour mill in the east side wilderness of St. Paul, Minnesota. Keller had constructed his brewery in 1860 over artesian wells in a section of the Phalen Creek valley in St. Paul known as Swede Hollow. Hamm, a butcher by trade and local salon owner, first hired Jacob Schmidt as a brew master. Jacob Schmidt remained with the company until the early 1880s, becoming a close family friend of the Hamms. Jacob Schmidt left the company after an argument ensued over Louise Hamm’s disciplinary actions to Schmidt’s daughter, Marie. By 1884, Schmidt was a partner at the North Star Brewery not far from Hamm’s brewery. By 1899 he had established his own brewery on the site of the former Stalhmann Brewery site. In need of a new brewmaster, Hamm hired Christopher Figge who would start a tradition of three generations of Hamm’s Brewmasters, with his son William and grandson William II taking the position. By the 1880s, the Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was reportedly the second largest in Minnesota.
Hamm’s Brewery c. 1900.
And here’s more about William, from Beer Capital of the State — St. Paul’s Historic Family Breweries, by Gary J. Brueggeman:
Theodore and Louisa were the parents of six children – five girls and one boy. The lone son, curly-haired William (1858-1931) was the heir to his father’s business. William Hamm worked at the brewery in an executive capacity for forty years, serving as general manager from 1880 to 1891, vice president-secretary from 1891 to 1903, and president from 1903 until his death in 1931. In addition to his brewing activities, William was heavily involved with his steamboat business, his and his father’s milling and realty companies, and Democratic Party politics.
Although Theodore was the brewery’s official president until his death from a heart attack on July 31, 1903, he unofficially retired from active management in 1891. Thus, it would be essentially under William’s direction that the Hamm Company would emerge as not only the state’s leading brewery, but as a bona fide national entity.
William Hamm’s wedding photo.
This was part of “The Hamm’s Brewery Past, Present and Future,” written by Mark Thompson in 2000 for a Friends of Swede Hollow presentation:
William Hamm was taken out of school at the age of 13 years and taught the brewery business. He would later succeed his father.
The size of the work force grew, as did the total number of barrels brewed. In 1865 there were 5 employees that brewed 500 barrels a year that grew to 75 employees brewing 40,000 barrels a year in1885. In 1894 the brewery expanded to include a bottling works and that was followed by artificial refrigeration in1895. In1894 an open house was held and free samples of beer were handed out and the long tradition of brewery tours began, along with the creation of a booklet a “Modern Brewery” in 1903. It explained the brewing process and illustrated all the rooms in the brewery. (Harris 2-3) In 1886 Theodore and Louise made a trip back to their homeland in Herbolzheim, Germany. While his father was away William built a mansion for his father at 671 Greenbrier, Street, St. Paul. The Hamm’s mansion joins 3 other houses that were occupied by 3 Hamm sisters. Theodore lived there until his death and it was then occupied by William until his death and it remained unoccupied by a Hamm’s family member until it was burned down by an arsonist in 4/21/1954. On Theodore’s return home from his homeland, he saw the need for a shift in leadership to his son William. The brewery was incorporated in 1896, leaving Theodore with the title of president and William having the title of vice-president and secretary. The line to succession of the brewery was thus established as the brewery remained in domain of the Hamm’s family for 100 years.
The brewery continued to expand from 8,000 barrels in 1879 to 26,00 barrels in1882 to 600,000 barrels in1915. This growth was stymied from 1919-1933 during prohibition. Theodore died in 7/31/1903 leaving an estate valued at $1,114,388.20. The five sisters were given 500 shares to the brewery with the rest of the brewery being left to William.
William Hamm, having been indoctrinated to the brewery at a young age, was well prepared to take on the role as president of the brewery. William was the first Borealis Rex in the first St. Paul winter carnival in1886. He also was very much involved in the civic duties of the city. From 1889-1890 he was a city council member and council president in1890. From 1890-1902 he worked with the park board to develop the park system. And he privately donated a plot of land near his home later to be named Cannon Park. William expanded his business interest to form Hamm’s Reality in1896. Hamm funded many developmental projects in downtown St Paul. In 1899 Hamm’s became president in the Northwest Theater Circuit, which had 150 showhouses in the Upper Midwest. Two motion picture theaters were built. The State Theater in Minneapolis and the Capital Theater in St. Paul.About the same time the Hamm’s Building was built and still stands today.
The Hamms on vacation.