Certain industries and trades seem to have had a predilection for issuing glass paperweights to advertise their wares. In the past this blog has featured weights from ambulance services, steamships, cigar makers, the liquor trade and soft drinks. Now comes beer. In reality breweries usually chose other forms of advertising than glass weights, but a few pre-Prohibition beer manufacturers did issue them. Over the years I have been able to assemble a number of examples to post; some are from well-known breweries, others from more obscure enterprises.
The next weight, identified as the yard of the Empire Brewery, shows the fire company, the cooper’s shop and the pitch department. It may also been issued by the Best/Pabst brewing dynasty. The company’s downtown Milwaukee facility was at one time known as the Empire Brewery. The illustration, however, looks nothing like that facility. Moreover, there were Empire Breweries not just in Wisconsin, but also in New York and Pennsylvania. Like the preceding item, this weight can be dated back to the mid- to later 1800s. Note that all the wagons are horse-drawn.
The third depiction of a brewery is a domed glass weight from another famous beer-maker, Schlitz. Joseph Schlitz began his brewing career a a bookkeeper in a tavern brewery owned by August Krug. After Krug died, Schlitz married his widow and changed the name of the brewery to the Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company. By 1902 he and his successors had built it into the largest producer of beer in the the United States When Schlitz died in a ship disaster in 1875, Krug’s nephews took control but kept the name. The Schlitz complex shown on the weight was located on Milwaukee’s East Side, near the Milwaukee River.
The second set of weights notes a prevalence of horses. The James Hanley Brewing Co. of Providence, Rhode Island, memorialized Prince Alert, a horse that had set a harness racing record for a mile run. Hanley had begun his life in commerce as a liquor dealer but about 1877 with a partner he took over an existing Providence brewery. When the partner died two years later, Hanley carried on. Circa 1886, he changed the name to the one on the weight. After time out for Prohibition the company was still in business as late as 1957.
George W. Wiedenmayer featured a horse and rider on a weight, this to advertise his Chevalier Beer. Wiedenmayer founded his brewery in Newark, New Jersey, in 1878 and it operated for eighteen years, closing in 1896. That makes it possible to date the item with some precision. Unlike most of the other glass weights shown here, this one can be identified by maker. It was the product of the Abrams Paper Weight Co. of Pittsburgh. That firm had developed a process of two-color printing on glass that made their ads more resistant to the effects of time than those printed on paper.
The Metz Brothers were among the first brewers in the state of Nebraska, having been established in Omaha in 1861, subsequently moving to another, larger site. Their brewery became one of the biggest in town and claimed to have “no equal in the country.” The Metz brothers also ran a beer hall in Omaha to which the suds were hauled fresh from the brewery by horse cart. Just why the Metz Bros. chose to show a woman being bucked off a mule for their paperweight is not clear, unless it was to show just those little bits of thigh and bosom.
A third paperweight theme was birds. The Geo. Walter Brewing Co. of Appleton Wisconsin, featured a duck, a variety that may only have been an artist’s fancy. Like the family that was responsible for Best/Pabst, the four Walters brothers emigrated from Germany but rejected Milwaukee for upstate Wisconsin which, it is said, reminded them of their home in the Black Forest. Each of the Walters brothers became involved making beer. George Walter purchased two adjacent breweries in Appleton and combined them to create his own brewing complex. The business appears to have ceased with Walter’s death in 1899.
In 1859 the Eagle Brewery was established by John Ebner on Indianapolis Avenue in Vincennes, Illinois. It operated under his management until 1875 when it was sold to Eugene Hack and Anton Simon. They kept the name and added an eagle logo identifying their flagship brand. Hack and Simon successfully operated the brewery for decades. They were producing 18,000 barrels of beer a year and maintained five wagons and twelve head of horses for their local trade. In time they established five refrigerated beer depots in towns in Indiana and Illinois. The brewery was shut down by Indiana prohibitionary laws in 1918 and apparently not reopened in 1934 after Repeal.
The next weight displays wing creatures that are not really birds but mythical beasts called griffins. They are displayed rampant on a backdrop of barley stalks and hops to advertise the F. Bartels Brewing Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. This item can easily be dated since F. Bartels opened in 1898 and closed only two years later. The suspected cause of this early demise may have been bad beer or just plain bad luck. Bartels had the misfortune of being one of 84 breweries in the city so that competition was ruthless. Many of the city’s saloons were tied to one of its breweries and outside brews were not allowed inside those swinging doors.
John A. McAvoy began his entrepreneurial career running a tannery in South Haven, Michigan. Having tired of processing hides about 1864, he sold out, moved to Chicago, and looked for a place to put his cash. There he met H.V. Bemis who talked him into partnering in a brewery he was establishing at 24th Street and the Lakefront. They called their enterprise McAvoy & Bemis Brewing. Their flagship beer was McAvoy’s Malt Marrow. I find this beer weight particularly interesting because despite its age, it has retained its bright multi-colors. Note too the boy with a dog holding a bottle: In those days kids sold beer.
The final object in this showcase is a solid blown glass weight from the C. L. Centlivre Brewing Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana. An enterprising Frenchman from Alsace, Centlivre built his brewery on the banks of the St. Joseph River. a mile north of the city. Improving and enlarging those works from year to year by 1880 he was employing twenty workers and could turn out 15,000 barrels a year. An 1889 fire destroyed his bottling plant and adjacent boat house but Centlivre quickly rebuilt “on a magnificent scale,” according to a contemporary account. His facility was known to residents of Fort Wayne as “the French brewery.”
There they are, eleven paperweights in a wide variety of motifs. Some remind us of those pre-Prohibition days when even small cities and towns, like Appleton, Fort Wayne, and Vincennes could boast a local brewery, turning out fresh lagers and ales for the locals. And sometimes rewarding customers with beer under a glass — not in it.