Frederick Pabst, 1877

Frederick Pabst, 1877

Frederick Pabst


In 1844, Phillip Best, together with his father and three brothers, opened the Jacob Best & Sons Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twenty years later, Phillip’s son-in-law Frederick Pabst joined the company and helped to transform it into the nation’s leading beer producer – first in 1874 and then again in 1879, a position that was maintained until the turn of the twentieth century. As the company’s president, he led the firm through a remarkable period of growth and the Pabst Brewing Company became the epitome of a successful national shipping brewery.

In 1844, Phillip Best (born September 26, 1814, in Mettenheim, Grand Duchy of Hesse; died July 17, 1869, in Altenglan, Kingdom of Bavaria), together with his father and three brothers, opened the Jacob Best & Sons Brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Twenty years later, Phillip’s son-in-law Frederick Pabst (born March 28, 1836, in Nikolausrieth, Kingdom of Prussia; died January 1, 1904, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) joined the company and helped to transform it into the nation’s leading beer producer – first in 1874 and then again in 1879, a position that was maintained until the turn of the twentieth century. As the company’s president, the former ship captain led the firm through a remarkable period of growth and the Pabst Brewing Company (as it came to be called from 1889 onwards) became the epitome of a successful national shipping brewery. Pabst not only contributed to the firm’s (and Milwaukee’s) economic growth, he also left a permanent cultural and social mark both on the German-American community and on the public at large. A decade after the height of his success, Pabst died on New Year’s Eve of 1904, passing on his commercial and cultural legacy to his sons.


In 1996, a brewing era came to end: the Pabst Brewing Company abruptly closed its Milwaukee brewery, contracted with the Stroh Brewing Company to produce its brands in the former G. Heileman Brewing Co. facility in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and moved its offices to San Antonio, Texas. After 152 years, Pabst no longer brewed beer in Milwaukee. Three years later, Pabst acquired Stroh’s various beer brands and in 2001 the company moved entirely out of the beer production business as it contracted with the Miller Brewing Company to produce all of its beer and malt liquor lines, including labels from defunct firms such as the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, G. Heileman, and Stroh’s. In 2011, the Pabst Brewing Company, now a contract brewer, again moved its headquarters, this time to Los Angeles, California – covering a distance of over 2.000 miles from where the firm had originally been founded in 1844.[1] However, in the summer of 2015, the company announced that it planned to “return” to its roots by building a new, small brewery on the site of the original Pabst brewing complex with a focus on producing innovative craft beers.

A biographical case study of Phillip Best and Frederick Pabst highlights the similarities between these two men’s success and that of other so-called “beer barons” of the second half of the nineteenth-century.[2]Together with fellow Milwaukeean brewers of German descent, Phillip Best and Frederick Pabst benefited from and contributed to the “lager beer revolution” in the U.S., which took hold in the 1850s and established the brewing industry in the city. A decade after Pabst had taken charge of the company, it emerged as the nation’s leading beer producer.[3]

But the success of German-American immigrant brewers who brought with them knowledge of Continental beer brewing was not only related to the new type of beer they produced but also to several other factors. Especially in the case of Best and Pabst, their success was due to their relatively early implementation of both new production technologies and a thorough marketing strategy.[4] Moreover, together with brewing dynasties such as the Uihlein family, Best and Pabst built on strong local and national cooperation with fellow immigrant brewers and used marriages to link their enterprise and family with other brewing dynasties.[5] Finally, Pabst not only became a respectable entrepreneur during the second-half of the nineteenth century but also a leading figure in, and supporter of, the local German-American community and the public at large during this era.

Family and Ethnic Background

Phillip Best was born on September 26, 1814, in Mettenheim, a small village situated on the west bank of the Rhine in the Grand Duchy of Hesse. He was the fourth child of Jacob Best Sr. (1786-1861) and Eva Maria (née Schmidt) Best (1790-1867). Phillip had three older brothers, Lorenz (1809-1853), Jacob Jr. (1811-1870), (Frederick) Charles (1812-1877), and two sisters, Maria (1823-1898), and Margaretha (1825-?).[6] Like their father, all the Best brothers became trained brewers. Phillip operated a brewing house and winery in his home town. After touring French wine districts in the late 1830s, he visited New York in the early 1840s and began to export wine to the United States. However, Phillip did not initiate his family and businesses’ relocation from Rhenish Hesse (Rhinehessen) to Wisconsin. His brothers, Jacob Jr. and Charles, moved to Milwaukee in 1842 and successfully established a vinegar factory in the community. Two years later, Charles returned to his hometown and persuaded his whole family to move their business activities to the U.S.

As historian Todd Barnett has noted in his study of brewer Eberhard Anheuser, who migrated from the same region around the same time as the Best family, several converging economic factors lead to the migration of Rhenish Hessian vintners: the southwestern German lands’ inheritance law (the so-called “Realerbteilungsrecht”, i.e. the partitioning of the property to all heirs rather than passing it on to one single heir) and population growth lead to land shortages. Moreover, recurring crop failures throughout the 1830s, as well as declining profits due to rising taxes, growing competition, falling wine and rising wood prices hindered the economic development of regional vineyards and hence, the Best family’s primary business activity. In contrast, cheap farmland and low taxes persuaded the head of the family, Jacob Sr., to migrate and in 1843 the whole Best family, as well as Jacob Sr.’s father-in-law, joined Charles and Jacob Jr. in Milwaukee.[7]

In the following years, the Best family urged their extended relatives in the German lands to follow them, not only highlighting their entrepreneurial success but also the host of freedoms found in the New World. In an 1847 letter to his wife’s family, Phillip explained: “The freedom to which every human being is born no one in Germany knows how to value, only here in America can he experience it.”[8] Two years prior to his 1843 migration, Phillip Best had married Anna Maria (née Muth) Best (1823-1871). They raised one son, Heinrich (Henry) (1853-1923), and two daughters, Maria (1841-1906) and Elizabeth (Lisette) (1848-1905). Maria later married the future president of the brewing company, Frederick Pabst, and Elizabeth married the future vice-president, Emil Schandein (1840-1888). After a successful career in the U.S., Phillip eventually returned to the German lands in 1866 to seek relief for his medical ailments from the region’s mineral springs and baths. He died there three years later.[9]

Frederick (originally Johann Gottlieb Friedrich) Pabst was born on March 28, 1836, in the small village of Nikolausrieth, Kingdom of Prussia (today Mönchpfiffel-Nikolausrieth, Province of Saxony) and was the second child of the farmers Gottlieb Pabst (1800-1880) and Johanna Friederika (née Nauland) Pabst (1806-1849).[10] His older sister, Christine (1828-1905), remained in Prussia when the rest of the family migrated to the United States in 1848. The family’s migration was initiated by several promotional letters from relatives who had settled in Wisconsin. Shortly after his father arrived in New York from Hamburg, he booked a passage for the rest of the family. Reunited, they first joined their relatives in Milwaukee, and the following year they resettled in Chicago, where Frederick’s mother died in a cholera epidemic.[11]

In some respects, Pabst’s family story reads like the archetypal “rags to riches” narrative of the era. Initially, Gottlieb and Frederick worked in hotels (Mansion House and New York House) as a waiter and a busboy earning $5 (approximately $156 in 2014$) per month.[12] Around the age of twelve, Frederick found employment as a cabin boy abroad a Great Lakes steamer, the Sam Ward, of the Ward Line – a job in which he established a reputation for fairness, honesty, and determination as his 1904 obituary in the Milwaukee Sentinel attested. Stationed at the cabin door on day, his superiors instructed him not to allow passengers to leave the side-wheel steamer without showing a valid ticket. When the vessel’s owner attempted to pass without showing his ticket:

Young Pabst confronted and stopped him. Capt. Ward attempted to force his way out but was thrust back with considerable energy by the sturdy young German. The owner of the steamer stormed about and at last tried to bribe young Pabst to let him pass by offering him a dollar. This was indignantly refused, and Capt. Ward returned to the cabin in the worst temper possible. Then he began to think over the incident and as the integrity of the young man appealed to his better judgment, he not only relented, but from that time forward to the end of his life was one of Frederick Pabst’s best friends.[13]

In 1857, Frederick Pabst received his maritime pilot’s license and “the Captain” was born – not only by occupation but also by personality. During the next six years, he navigated the ships of the Goodrich Transportation Line: theTraveler between Milwaukee and Chicago; the Huron between Milwaukee and Two Rivers; the Sea Bird between Milwaukee and Manitowoc; and the Comet between Milwaukee and Sheboygan, an important barley market that provided the key ingredient in beer. This last route brought him into contact with Phillip Best, who was a frequent passenger on his ships and sometimes took his eldest daughter Maria along with him. After two years of courtship, Frederick and Maria wed on March 25, 1862, and out of eleven children born to them, five survived to adulthood: Elizabeth Frederica (1865-1891), Gustav Phillip Gottlieb (1866-1943), Marie (1868-1947), Frederick Jr. (1869-1958), and Emma (1871-1943).[14]

After marrying Maria, Frederick decided to remain a ship captain, but he changed his mind after the Sea Bird ran aground off the shore of Whitefish Bay on its way to Milwaukee during a winter storm in December 1863. Unable to pay for repairs to the vessel himself, he decided to join the brewing business of his father-in-law. Under the guidance of Phillip Best, “the Captain” learned the brewing business and served as an equal partner in the operation until his father-in-law retired in 1866 and sold his remaining stake in the business to his other son-in-law, Emil Schandein, a former travelling salesman who had migrated from the German lands to the U.S. in 1856 and had married Lisette Best.[15]

Due to emphysema and pulmonary edema caused by years of smoking cigars, diabetes, and two strokes while on vacation in Southern California in 1903, Pabst’s health declined rapidly. When he died on January 1, 1904, newspapers around the world lamented his passing. At the height of his success, he passed on to his children and his eldest granddaughter, Emma (child of Elizabeth and Otto von Ernst), one million dollars’ (approximately $27.4 million in 2014$) worth of company stock (at a time when the average working class salary was about $600 per year or approximately $16,500 in 2014$) and his sons Gustav and Fred Jr. – both educated at military academies and trained as brewers at Arnold Schwarz’s United States Brewers’ Academy in New York – took over the business as president and vice president, respectively.[16]

Business Development

The Best family’s business was known as the Jacob Best & Sons Brewery until 1859 when Phillip Best took over the firm and renamed it the Phillip Best Brewing Company. Upon Phillip’s retirement Frederick Pabst and Emil Schandein became the company’s president and vice-president in the mid-1860s and the brewery’s name was amended to Phillip Best & Company. After Schandein died, the company was renamed the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889. Today the Pabst Brewing Company Historic District in Milwaukee consists of four blocks containing twenty-five main buildings, each three-to-eight stories high, built between 1870 and 1969 in a German Renaissance Revival architectural style. With the exception of two, the Jefferson Public School (1858) and the First German Methodist Church (1872), all were built exclusively for producing beer.[17]

Choosing Milwaukee as the new American location for their family business was a calculated move on the part of the Best family. Though Milwaukee did not emerge as a major brewing center prior to the Civil War, it was ideally located on Lake Michigan with access to the ice necessary for beer production, in particular German-style lager beer.[18] Moreover, its hinterland provided abundant farmland for grain production and Best could capitalize on the sound transportation system in place both within Wisconsin and between the state and neighboring Illinois by the late 1850s. Additionally, the rapid influx of Germans into the region by mid-century provided an assured supply of both workers and consumers for Best’s beer. Germans ranked as the largest ethnic group in Milwaukee (40 percent) by 1850, and the city became known as “German Athens,” in particular the area on the west bank of the Milwaukee River. Overall, the city’s population quickly rose from 6,500 in 1844, when the Best family arrived, to over 40,000 in 1857 – though in comparison to other brewing centers such as New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, Milwaukee remained a small city. In turn, this meant that Milwaukee breweries had to put more effort into shipping beer outside the local region than their competitors in larger cities with substantial local markets.[19]

The business development of the company can be roughly divided into three eras: (1) the early beginnings under Jacob Best Sr. in the 1840s and the subsequent restructurings of the firm in the 1850s; (2) Pabst’s takeover in 1864, which initiated a period of rapid commercial growth until 1893; and (3) the period of stability beginning in 1894 and ending eleven years after Pabst’s death when national Prohibition became the law of the land in 1920.

Beginnings and Restructurings

The Best family’s relocation from Mettenheim to Milwaukee went relatively smoothly. After spending a few weeks in the summer of 1844 looking for a suitable location, Jacob Sr. purchased two lots on Chestnut Street (today West Juneau Avenue) on September 10 and founded the Empire Brewery. Jacob Sr.’s sons, Charles and Lorenz, soon went on to establish independent brewing ventures, so Jacob Sr. formed a new partnership with his other two sons, Phillip and Jacob Jr., in 1851, which stayed in place until Jacob Sr. retired two years later. After several arguments about the expansion of the firm, Jacob Jr. sold out to Phillip on October 1, 1859, who continued the business as its sole proprietor under the name of the Phillip Best Brewing Company.[20]

In its inaugural year, the Best brewery produced 300 barrels (one barrel equaling 31 US gallons). The firm initially produced ale and porter, but added German-style lager on February 22, 1845. In 1847, Phillip reported in a letter to his wife’s family that the business was developing well and selling 28-30 barrels of beer weekly for $4.50 per barrel ($5 if delivered). The brewery owned three horses for the malt grinding mill, as well as for deliveries in the city and county, and planned to buy another.[21] By 1850, the company’s 2,500-barrel annual production classified it as a medium-sized producer, ranking fourth out of the twelve largest reported breweries in Wisconsin.[22]

As production increased, the company acquired and built new facilities. In 1850, the family purchased a lot on Market Street between Biddle and Martin Streets (today East Kilbourn Avenue and East State Street). Five years later, the company built a new brick house on Market Street with a beer hall on the ground floor, and in 1857 it erected a new main brewery on the north side of Chestnut Street between Ninth and Tenth Streets with large storage cellars. The Milwaukee Sentinel reported on October 9, 1857, that the brewery had the “deepest cellars in the city” and it

may be seen from almost any part of the city. The building is a fine looking one, and were it not for a life-sized figure of a sturdy Teuton which is perched on top, in the act of sipping a glass of lager, one would never suspect its being a brewery. It has much more the appearance of a public building of some sort.

The article went on to explain that demand for Best beer was not only “constantly increasing” locally but also across the whole nation: “Everybody has tasted Best’s beer, and it’s very generally acknowledged to be the best in the country.”[23] Although the article certainly exaggerated the national impact of Best’s beer at mid-century, the company had begun to sell their brands outside Wisconsin in the early 1850s when it established a sales office in Chicago, Illinois. While Milwaukee and the surrounding region provided the main market for Best products throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, this early effort to serve the national and – beginning in the 1860s – international market was a distinctive feature of the company’s development.

Best’s production and profits increased during the nationwide economic boom of the 1850s, but the panic of 1857 and the economic disruption of the Civil War slowed the firm’s growth rate. At the height of its early prosperity in 1857, the brewery employed steam power to produce nearly 40,000 barrels a year and was valued at $50,000 (approximately $1.4 million in 2014$). It employed eight men and used ten horses for delivery.[24] Not until after the Civil War would these production levels be reached again. But as the expansion of the family business began to stall, Phillip made his two sons-in-law, Frederick Pabst and Emil Schandein, equal partners in 1864 and 1866 – a decision which turned out to have a lasting impact on the future development of the company.

From Middle-of-the-Road Brewery to the Nation’s Largest Brewery

Phillip Best and Frederick Pabst formed an equal partnership in 1864, which was dissolved by Best on October 15, 1866, when he paid Pabst $21,057.95 (approximately $324,000 in 2014$), an enormous sum at that time, for his share of the business.[25] A new partnership agreement was established between Pabst and Emil Schandein. Best received $21,057.95 from each man plus interest; an initial payment of $6,057.95 was due immediately and the remaining $15,000 was due in quarterly installments over the next six years. Since the sale included only the business itself and movable equipment, but not the brewery buildings, Pabst and Schandein paid an additional $4,800 per year in rent to Best. Taken together, the value of the entire business at that time amounted to around $100,000 (approximately $1.54 million dollars in 2014$).[26]

Schandein accepted Pabst’s lead in business matters, while he supervised the company’s brewing activities due to his knowledge of technology and biology. Under the guidance of Pabst, the former ship captain, and Schandein, the former salesman, production levels rose steadily in the post-Civil War era. While Milwaukee shipping breweries such as Schlitz and Miller in general applied “good managerial ability to a naturally favorable situation,” as Cochran points out, the Best Brewery by 1868 surpassed all other local breweries in the quantity of beer produced and sold – a position it held until the end of the century.[27]

Table 1. Production Figures (1864-1879)[28]
Year Barrels
1864 4,895
1865 10,908
1866 13,964
1867 18,015
1868 21,695
1869 28,392
1870 37,108
1871 60,668
1872 90,926
1873 100,028
1874 114,162
1875 115,649
1876 120,951
1877 120,732
1878 156,040
1879 213,285

Total beer production increased from 3.7 million barrels in 1865 to 6.6 million barrels in 1870, establishing Pabst as the third largest brewery in the nation behind Seipp & Lehmann in Chicago and Bergner & Engel in Philadelphia. The Empire Brewery’s physical plant proved to be too small to meet the rising demand for Best beer and on November 11, 1870, the company purchased the Charles T. Melms Brewery for $95,000 (approximately $1.78 million in 2014$). The Melms Brewery was the city’s oldest lager beer brewery and had been founded by Herman Riedelshoefer on Virginia and Hanover Streets in the Menomonee Valley in 1841. The facility was renamed as the South Side Brewery and Schandein took charge of its operations. Between 1870 and 1871, annual production levels for the Empire Brewery-South Side Brewery combination rose from 37,108 to 60,688 barrels.[29]

On March 13, 1873, Pabst incorporated the firm with an initial capitalization of $300,000 (approximately $6.1 million in 2014$). By 1884, this had increased to two million dollars and by 1889 to four million, which offered the company great freedom in terms of financing its operations.[30] As president, Pabst owned 142 shares and Schandein as vice-president owned 132 shares of the company. Charles Best, as secretary, held one share and Henry Best, Phillip’s only son, received the remaining 25 shares on his twenty-first birthday in 1874. However, shortly afterwards, Henry sold twelve shares each to Pabst and Schandein, leaving Pabst with 154 shares and thus, complete control of the company – a position “the Captain” held until his death. After Schandein passed away on a trip to Germany, stockholders voted unanimously to change the firm’s name to the Pabst Brewing Company on March 18, 1889, which was not only “a tribute of honor” to Pabst “in recognition of [his] able leadership, prudent management and indomitable energy” but also acknowledged that the firm was a business primarily run by family members.[31]

Table 2. List of Directors, 1873-1904[32]
Director Years
Frederick Pabst 1873-1904
Emil Schandein 1873-1888
Charles Best 1873-1890
Lisette Schandein 1889-1905
Gustav G. Pabst 1890-1921
Charles W. Henning 1893-1917
Fred Pabst 1893-1932
Ernest Borchert 1893-1899
Frank R. Falk 1893-1902
Rudolph Nunnemacher 1899-1900
Jacob Heyl 1900-1903
W. O. Goodrich 1904-1922

The number of officers (president, vice-president, and secretary) and directors who constituted the firm’s board remained small: three between 1873 and 1893, seven between 1893 and 1903, and five between 1903 and 1920. And the small number of owners and later stockholders made management of the firm essentially a family affair, which allowed for quick decision-making and complete reinvestment of profits, since no stockholder demanded the dividends.[33]

After Schandein’s death, his wife, Lisette, assumed her husband’s position as company vice-president and the second-largest stockholder. When Charles resigned due to ill health, “the Captain” strengthened his position by installing his oldest son, Gustav, as secretary. Gustav and brewmaster J. F. Theurer (1884-1902) were each given a few shares of company stock in 1889. Three years later his youngest son, Fred Jr., also received some shares. Similarly, shares were given to new family members: After Pabst’s daughter, Marie, married William O. Goodrich (1863-1956), whose family was involved in the manufacture of linseed oil, in 1892, and Emma married Rudolph Nunnemacher, who came from a family of bankers, in 1897, both men became members of the board of directors. Moreover, familial connections were cemented with other “beer baron” families when Fred Jr. married Ida Charlotte Uihlein (1874-1968) of Milwaukee’s Schlitz Brewing Company in 1896 and Gustav married Hilda Lemp (1870-75-1951) of St. Louis’ Lemp Brewery a year later.[34]

In sum, as Cochran points out, “Pabst had gained all the advantages of corporateness without sacrificing any of the appreciable advantages of small, family-type organizations.”[35] The incorporation of the brewery and its physical expansion paid off. By 1874, the company became the largest brewery in the nation with an annual production of 114,162 barrels – a position the firm lost the following year to George Ehret’s Hell Gate Brewery in New York City but regained five years later when Pabst’s increased production to 213,285 barrels. Moreover, the firm’s acquisition of the South Side Brewery in 1870 turned out to be fortuitous, because a fire destroyed all the buildings of the original Empire Brewery except the stock house and the brew house in December 1879. As the firm rebuilt the facility, the South Side Brewery was able to keep up with production demands.[36]

The 1880s and 1890s were characterized by further physical expansions, innovations, and continued growth. Within four years, the number of employees more than doubled from 187 in 1878 to 434 in 1882, with a pre-prohibition high of 767 employees in 1896.[37] In 1882, a new malt house was constructed that was reported to be the largest of its kind ever built. Together with its other malting facilities, the company was now able to process over one millions bushels of grain, the most of any single U.S. brewery.[38] However, in 1886, Pabst decided to discontinue operations at the South Side Brewery in order to reduce costs and standardize production. The Empire Brewery, which already covered six city blocks and contained its own firefighting, advertising, and architectural departments, was further expanded. The brewery offices were renovated and a new malt house, mill, boiler, and bottling house – “the finest devoted to this business in the world” with a capacity of 700 to 800 barrels a day – were built in the early 1890s.[39] Likewise, the capacity of the brewery’s ice machines exceeded 650 tons per day and a new refrigeration unit was installed in 1890 that could store 100,000 barrels’ worth of beer, with some of the individual vats capable of holding 1,500 barrels alone. The Milwaukee Sentinel explained in 1892: “If a man drank four gallons a day from one of these, it would take him over 33 years to empty it.” The article went on to urge its readers to visit the premises in order to get an idea

of this stupendous brewery with its immense piles of brick, stone and iron, which could clearly defy the elements for a hundred years. The immense chimney, connected with this brewery, and seen from most parts of the city, is a subject of astonishment, to the many visitors, from all parts of the world, who visit the plant, influenced either by curiosity, or to acquaint themselves with the most modern inventions, which this brewery enjoys, the reputation of having in its departments.[40]

All these improvements cost about two million dollars (approximately $53.7 million in 2014$) and increased the brewery’s production capacity to one-and-a-half million barrels a year.[41]

Pabst’s production volume kept pace with the overall increase in beer brewing nationwide during the 1880s, from 13.3 million barrels in 1880 to 27.6 million barrels in 1890. By 1892, Pabst’s annual production level exceeded 800,000 barrels.

Table 3. Production Figures (1880-1892)[42]
Year Barrels
1880 272,477
1881 324,267
1882 371,302
1883 376,530
1884 378,519
1885 385,234
1886 440,423
1887 460,200
1888 500,216
1889 585,300
1890 700,533
July 1, 1890-July 1, 1891 747,975 7/8
July 1, 1891-July 1, 1892 821,629 1/3

As the United States underwent a wave of business consolidations at the end of the nineteenth century and aggressive British brewing syndicates acquired numerous independent American breweries, the number of operating breweries in the U.S. declined significantly from over 4,131 in 1873 to 1,866 in 1896. Beginning in the late 1880s, several syndicates approached Pabst with offers to purchase his business, all of which he declined. In 1889, Pabst responded to one such acquisition attempt by stating that the $16-million-dollar offer was “enough to make a man’s hair stand on end – but I have been walking around this plant and I’m kind of proud of it. No, you can’t have it. I am going to stick to it and give Milwaukee the largest brewery in the world.”[43] Not surprisingly, Pabst was hailed by his employees and the city’s population for refusing to sell the brewery. “The Captain” refused to leave his “ship,” which was certainly not in any danger of sinking, but, rather, seemed to be expanding continuously.

By acquiring the Falk, Jung and Borchert Brewing Company on October 25, 1892, the company solidified its number one position and increased its capital value from four to ten million dollars, as well as its production volume by 180,000 barrels the following year.[44]Simultaneously, Pabst helped to establish the Wisconsin National Bank, which financed his company and most of the other breweries in Milwaukee. He assumed the presidency of the bank with Charles Best as his vice-president. Moreover, Pabst founded the Pabst Heat, Light, and Electric Company to provide heat and electricity for his company’s buildings. The firm was later sold to the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company in 1896.[45]

While the local market in Milwaukee remained important to Pabst, the firm sought to increase its national and international presence. Owning a shipping depot and a dock on the Milwaukee River, the company began a general policy of branch expansion in the late 1870s. It opened its first branches in Kansas City, Missouri, Peoria, Illinois, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ashland, Michigan, between 1879 and 1887. The East Coast followed between 1888 and 1893, and new branches opened in New York City, Washington, D.C., and cities in Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and Virginia. By 1893 Pabst operated twelve offices in Wisconsin covering every part of the state and over forty offices and branches across the country. Chicago alone represented one third of the overall sales volume of all branches (15 to 20 percent of the company’s total).[46]

Moreover, exports to the international market began in earnest from 1886 onwards with Pabst beer being shipped “in successful competition with European beers” to the Caribbean, Australia, Canada, South America, and the West Indies.[47] Although the annual export volume of roughly 1,000 barrels remained considerably lower than the volume of beer sold by the U.S. branches, Pabst was one of the few brewers to build an export business. As bottled beer became firmly established by the late 1880s, Pabst accounted for nearly 30 percent of the national beer exports, constantly seeking “new channels for its sale… even in the remotest parts of the world,” as a 1891 souvenir booklet explained, while recounting the story of a supposed “eminent Arctic explorer” who was reported to have “found an empty Pabst beer bottle almost as near the North Pole as any human being had ever penetrated towards it”.[48]

The company had grown into an immense business, a development that surpassed even Frederick Pabst’s “most sanguine expectations.”[49] Observers viewed Pabst himself as the key factor behind the firm’s expansion, as the Milwaukee Sentinel affirmed in the summer of 1892:

If the question was put anywhere in the world to-day, “Which is the largest lager beer brewery?” a school boy would answer, so well is the name known, “The Pabst Brewing Company”. If curiosity should occasion a second question, “By whose ability has this brewery reached such phenomenal sales?” the reply would be “Frederick Pabst”.[50]

Similarly, a leading New Yorker brewer hailed Pabst’s entrepreneurial spirit in 1892 by commenting: “He is one of the greatest minds in organizing and systematizing details, so as to secure the best results in economy of time and labor, and of his increasing profits” – all of his plans would prove “uniformly successful”.[51] But despite the accolades to Pabst’s remarkable managerial abilities, the following year marked the peak of the company’s expansion.

Period of Stability

In 1893 Pabst produced nearly one million barrels of beer annually, about 200,000 barrels ahead of Anheuser-Busch and 300,000 ahead of Schlitz. However, during the next two decades the company grew more slowly than the industry as a whole.

Table 4. Percentage Change in Output, 1877-1914[52]
Period Pabst Industry
1877-1895 685% 248%
1895-1914 -23% 78%

Between 1894 and 1914, Pabst entered a period of profitable stability instead of rapid growth with sales fluctuating between 735,098 and 1,086,000 barrels a year. The net worth of the company remained stable and Frederick Pabst began to withdraw from active management of the firm, though he continued to visit the office and periodically settle disputes between his two sons.

Table 5. Production Figures and Total U.S. Withdrawal (1893-1919)[53]
Year Pabst Sales
Total U.S. Withdrawal
(millions of barrels)
1893 1,084,051 31.9
1894 1,003,487 30.8
1895 955,149 31
1896 867,435 33.1
1897 806,548 31.8
1898 794,606 36.7
1899 856,600 33.8
1900 863,973 36.4
1901 898,252 37.5
1902 889,347 47.4
1903 946,404 46.7
1904 904,134 48.2
1905 875,681 49.5
1906 1,014,699 54.7
1907 1,086,140 58.5
1908 933,269 58.7
1909 904,459 56.3
1910 1,021,711 59.5
1911 1,033,514 63.2
1912 942,165 62.1
1913 935,699 65.2
1914 876,190 66.1
1915 735,098 59.7
1916 827,597 58.6
1917 849,846 60.7
1918 694,013 50.2
1919 494,614 30.5

At the turn of the century the company mainly sold five different brands: its standard Bohemian (either sold in barrels or bottled), Doppel Bräu, early spring Bock, a malt extract called Best Tonic, and Blue Ribbon (formerly known as Select).[54] Beginning in 1882, Pabst’s workers had begun tying a piece of silk blue ribbon around the neck of each bottle of Pabst’s Select and a decade later the company was purchasing 300,000 yards of silk ribbon a year. Subsequently, the beer came to be famously known as Blue Ribbon, a label first officially used in 1898.[55]

One important factor accounting for the firm’s relative stability – and that of shipping breweries in general at the turn of the century – was an increase of manufacturing and shipping costs while retail beer prices remained stagnant due to intense competition.[56] This was partly due to shipping breweries’ increased investment in tied houses across the country that exclusively carried their products. The growth of tied houses generated competition between shipping breweries and local breweries and thus forced shipping breweries to compete on price. Draught beer remained popular and many local breweries had their own tied houses. Moreover, local brewers also began bottling beer, and hence, cut into a field that prior to 1893 had been mainly occupied by the big shippers.[57]

Furthermore, according to historians Jerold W. Apps and Thomas Cochran, during this period, thePabst Brewery placed a greater emphasis on developing a “quality” beer through a “careful selection of the finest materials” in order to maintain the company’s prestige and, in turn, paid less attention to sales volume.[58] However, this is only half of the story. As will be addressed in the next two sections, although Pabst aggressively promoted its bottled beer as a “quality” product, the actual beer produced did not necessarily live up to the marketing.

Business Strategies

The Best/Pabst Brewery’s expansion from its founding in 1844 until the mid-1890s, as well as its subsequent stability were accomplished through three main business strategies, two of which have already been dealt with, and all of which were pursued by forward-looking managers including Frederick Pabst: The firm developed a huge distribution network both within and outside of the U.S. employing over 500 agents; it also utilized local advertising to promote its products.[59]

Second, the firm adopted scientific and technological innovations in a timely manner, as well as standardized production by closing the South Side Brewery and expanding the Empire Brewery. Pabst employed new machinery and implemented new production processes as soon as they had proven their value. By the mid-1880s, the company also began to employ its own research chemist (1886) and an educated and experienced brewmaster whose inventions proved highly useful in producing a relatively uniform beer throughout the year. Trained at the Berlin Brewing College, J. F. Theurer joined Pabst in 1884 and among other things invented filters, barley washers, beer coolers, air purifiers, a special hopping process, and a system of direct carbonation for both kegged and bottled beer. In 1892, Pabst characterized Theurer “as one of the most expert brewers in the world, second to none.”[60] Additionally, the company not only employed the latest brewing machinery but also utilized modern communication technology to manage its distribution and sales operations across the country. In the late eighties, for example, it added a Western Union telegraph office to its headquarters.[61]

Third, the company employed a well-developed marketing strategy that will be addressed in the next section. Best and Pabst were pioneers in developing a corporate identity based on advertising campaigns that fostered consumer awareness of the (supposedly) higher quality of bottled beer versus draft beer. Through a coherent marketing strategy, Pabst made “quality” (a very elusive term however defined) its main signifier.[62]

Marketing Strategies: Quality First

An advertising booklet released nationally by the Pabst Brewing Company at the turn of the twentieth century urged readers to visit Milwaukee in order to “taste in its pristine glory, free and without price, rich flowing tankards of the foam-capped nectar of Gambrinus, known to the world as Pabst-Milwaukee Beer.[63] Though such souvenir booklets had become popular by the late 1870s, most of Best/Pabst’s advertising prior to that period focused on local markets. Phillip Best advertised his beer within Milwaukee and set up retail outlets near the brewery to serve consumers. Between 1844 and 1848, the company operated a German-style beer hall at the brewery. The facility reopened after a three-year hiatus on July 13, 1851. One month later, Best opened a second beer hall between Biddle and Martin Streets. Both events were noted in the local German language newspaper, the Wisconsin-Banner (after 1855, Wisconsin-Banner und Volksfreund), which in the beginning was the firm’s only medium for reaching consumers directly. The newspaper’s editor, Moritz Schoeffler (1813-1875), had married Jacob Best Sr.’s daughter, Margaret, in 1845, and thus, the publication represented an extension of Best’s family business network. For Fourth of July celebrations in 1852, the brewery produced its first display advertisement depicting the brewery and announced that the company would now begin “the tapping of our Bock beer which has been brewed according to the Munich fashion.”[64] This reference to the German lands was one of the core marketing strategies of German-American brewers, and tours around the brewery and its adjacent beer halls allowed Phillip Best to provide a “taste of the old country” in the New World to thousands of visitors each year.

Besides carrying brewery advertisements, newspapers in the late 1860s began publishing articles on events connected with the consumption of (Best/Pabst) beer, such as special celebrations at taverns, beer gardens, fairs, and festivals. These events enabled the brewery to promote itself in a variety of ways.[65] For example, its sponsorship of the local Saengerfest led to favorable newspaper coverage in 1868 when the Milwaukee Sentinel reported not only how much beer was poured at this event but also informed its readers about Pabst’s former career as a ship captain and the brewery’s history, since it had “gained national reputation for the excellent qualities of [its] manufacture.”[66] Similarly, special anniversaries and occasions, such as the company’s fortieth anniversary in 1884, its name change in 1889, and the introduction of new brands – either seasonal beers such as Bock (1899) or a patriotic brand such as Red, White, and Blue (1902) – provided advertising opportunities through newspaper stories, souvenir booklets, window displays, cigar cases, matchboxes, postcards, and calendars.[67]

Moreover, participating in fairs and commercial expositions proved to be an effective strategy for marketing the quality of the firm’s beer, since these events were reported on frequently in the press. Like the other shipping breweries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Pabst was represented regularly at major fairs and its products routinely won first prizes and medals at state fairs, as well as at national expositions such as the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition (1876), the Paris Exposition Universelle (1878), the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893), the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis (1904), and the International Stock Exposition in Chicago (1904).[68] In retrospect, the 1893 Columbian Exposition proved to be the most important of all of these expositions: Pabst displayed a thirteen-square-foot, gold-plated model of the Empire Brewery in the agriculture building, which was said to have garnered more public attention than any other brewery display. Pabst received five gold medals plus an honorable mention for its flagship beer, Select, compared to Anheuser-Busch’s six gold medals and Schlitz four gold medals.[69]

Best/Pabst’s efforts to emphasize the quality of the firm’s beer are evident in its first marketing jingle. The family name is punned to great effect: “When the glasses loudly ring/All the waiters quickly spring/Serving promptly all the guests/With the ‘bestest’ of the Best.” The firm also employed the slogan: “He drinks best who drinks Best.” The name Best promised quality and even though Pabst changed the motto to “He drinks best who drinks Pabst” in 1889, he retained the red-circled “B” on a hop leaf as a trademark signifying quality.[70] Furthermore, from 1891 onwards, Pabst (like Schlitz and Blatz) used the famous slogan “Milwaukee Beer Is Famous” in order to draw national attention to the quality of the city’s beer.[71] Together with “Pabst Has Made It So” and “The Art of Brewing Was Developed by the Germans,” these slogans simultaneously emphasized the beer’s German origins, it location of production, and the brewery’s commercial success.

Overall, “quality” came to be defined in terms of (a) “Germanness” by linking the product explicitly to the German lands’ beer heritage and the region’s reputation as a top quality producer of beer; (b) “progress” by referring to the firm’s huge, urban brewing plant as a monument to its success, as well as to the cleanliness it achieved through modern technology and science; and (c) “purity” by emphasizing beer as a natural and healthy product through rural scenes. Bottled beer especially allowed Pabst to capitalize on advances in science and technology and, hence, to present it as a clean, pure, and high-quality product – a notion that was further enhanced by associating the Pabst name with upscale retail venues.

Inventing a Market for Bottled Beer

By 1875, Best/Pabst began bottling beer, and, in the following decades, hundreds of refrigerated railroad cars delivered both kegged and bottled beer throughout the nation.[72] Ultimately, bottled beer rather than draught beer would secure the company a leading position after Prohibition. However, prior to 1920, bottled beer only accounted for a small (though steadily increasing) fraction of the firm’s total beer sales. It represented five percent of Pabst’s total output in the early 1880s and grew to 10 percent by the early 1890s. Between 1901 and 1905, bottled beer sales rose by 50 percent while total production fell slightly from 898,000 to 875,000 barrels.[73] As Martin H. Stack has pointed out in his study of the general development of the brewing industry from 1840 to 1920, this steady increase in bottled beer sales was not primarily driven by greater consumer demand for beer in general, but rather by a successful marketing strategy that linked bottled beer with higher, consistent quality.[74] Through branding, advertising, and trademarking, Pabst successfully constructed the demand for bottled beer and thus, transformed consumer’s tastes and preferences, in effect inventing a new market.

The reasons behind this strategy are manifold: Bottled beer could not only be more readily shipped to “dry” counties and states, it also offered higher profits. Prior to 1890, Pabst earned approximately the same amount from kegged and bottled beer, but afterwards bottled beer consistently brought in higher profits. Between 1890 and 1893, its return was about two-and-a-half-times higher than kegged beer and a decade later it had a return rate of over 300 percent which grew to 1,000 percent by 1918, accounting for at least half of the firm’s overall profits. In addition, bottled beer allowed the company to decrease its reliance on saloons and sell its products directly to the home consumer. Thereby, Pabst not only circumvented competition between its tied houses and the taverns of local breweries, but also targeted both working-class consumers and more affluent middle-class consumers who were less likely to frequent taverns and other public drinking establishments.[75]

Thus, beginning in the 1880s, Pabst doggedly pursued the bottled beer market through aggressive sales promotions and political lobbying. As a member of the national United States Brewers Association (USBA), founded in November 1862 by 37 New Yorker German-American brewers, and the local Milwaukee Brewers Association (MBA), founded in August 1883, Pabst promoted his cause. In 1890, the MBA successfully lobbied for a change in excise tax policy on bottled beer. In 1862, the Internal Revenue Service had begun taxing beer on a per-keg basis during the Civil War, which meant that beer had to first be kegged with a tax stamp affixed before being transferred to bottles. After Pabst’s head brewer J. F. Theurer, and mechanical engineer, Richard Birkholz, invented a pipeline for transferring beer from conditioning tanks in the brewery to the bottling house in 1889, Pabst petitioned Congress to allow brewers to bottle beer directly. On June 8, 1890, Congress passed the Pipe Line Act allowing Pabst to use the pipeline. As a souvenir booklet from that year noted, the pipeline prevented carbonic acid (i.e. carbonation) from escaping by minimizing the beer’s handling and enabled the company “to furnish the public a bottle beer that contains as much life and effervescence as a glass of beer freshly tapped from the keg”.[76]

Moreover, since improvements in the brewing process in the 1890s, such as direct pressure carbonation, made it unnecessary to use artificial preservatives in bottled beer, Pabst as a representative of the USBA lobbied for a pure food law that would prohibit brewers from adulterating their beer and, hence, help to convince the public that beer was a pure and safe beverage. In 1899, “the Captain” testified at a congressional hearing on the adulteration of food products that such a law would protect the consumer. Seven years later, such provisions were included in the Pure Food and Drug Act.[77]

Aside from lobbying, Pabst also vigorously advertised the quality of his bottled products – though in the beginning it was not beer but malt extract that benefitted from the company’s increased advertising expenditures. This, in turn, was supposed to strengthen beer sales. When Best Tonic was introduced in 1888, a special manufacturing and advertising department was set up, and over the next five years the department spent more on signs and window displays for the tonic than the brewery spent on general magazine and newspaper advertising.[78]In the following two decades (1897-1914), the majority of the firm’s advertising budget was used to promote bottled beer. With annual expenditures of approximately $209,111 (approximately $5.8 million in 2014$), Pabst was one of the top thirty advertisers in the nation. By comparison, in 1902 Coca Cola spent $102,000 (approximately $2.9 million in 2014$) advertising its product.[79]

Besides using media advertisements, pamphlets, window displays, postal cards, and souvenir booklets, Pabst developed new forms of advertising in the late 1880s that aimed to amuse readers. In 1889, Pabst’s advertising manager, George Yennowine, created a series of small booklets about the size of a postcard, twenty-to-fifty pages long, and filled with riddles and jokes. For a decade, these “Secret Books” were issued at a rate of over five million a year with titles such as “Still More Secrets,” “Wedding Secrets,” and “Home Secrets.” Each booklet contained short stories and an advertisement promoting the value of Pabst’s Tonic and beers appeared on the last pages. For example, one of the booklet explained that “by common consent” and as a “result of the highest knowledge in the art of brewing, the advantage of expert selection of the finest malt and hops” the name Pabst was regarded as the “synonym for ‘Perfect Beer.’”[80]

Another national, three-year campaign was launched by Yennowine’s successor, advertising manager A. Cressy Mountain, in the mid-1890s in magazines such as Harper’s based on the idea that brewing began in Egypt, was developed in the German lands, and had reached perfection in the U.S.[81] Accordingly, Pabst claimed that the quality of his products surpassed not only those of his local and national competitors but also those of Germany’s brewers. Prior to this new campaign, the company had frequently pointed out that its beers were superior to the German originals. For instance, in a souvenir booklet from 1891, the company explained that the aim of manufacturing its brand Hofbräu “has been to bring upon the market a domestic article fully equal and in some respects even superior to the famous Hofbräu of the Royal Bavarian Court Brewery at Munich.” Brewed with “the finest imported Bavarian hops and selected barley,” Pabst not only made clear that its brand was “manufactured as the original,” corresponding “exactly” in taste, color, flavor, and quality, but also that it was actually better than the original:

[A]s it is well known that beer in wood always suffers to some extent by transportation across the ocean…. The Pabst Hofbraeu will be found brighter and fresher, besides being much cheaper than the imported article as sold in this country. It is simply a triumph of home industry, and unquestionably the finest beer ever placed upon the American market.[82]

In order to objectively assess a beer’s quality, its raw ingredients, their ratio, and the length of storage after brewing must be taken into account. While Pabst proclaimed the superiority of its ingredients, the firm mainly used inferior six-row barley instead of the more expensive two-row barley. It employed European hops, but also low-grade U.S. hops, as well as adjuncts such as corn and rice instead of pure barley malt. In 1912, Pabst’s brewmaster, Fredrick Bock, openly stated that he preferred two-row barley since “it will be absolutely in the interest of the American brewing industry to encourage the raising of pedigreed two-rowed barley in preference to the six-rowed barley in this country,” but the company did not follow his recommendation and continued brewing with six-row.[83] Until 1877, Pabst hadbrewed all-malt beers but after that date began brewing at a ratio of 16/17 malt and 1/17 rice, switching to corn in 1878 at the same ratio. In 1879, Pabst raised the ratio of corn to malt from 1/17 to 1/11, and, by 1893, its beer was two-third malted barley and one-third corn.[84] While Cochran explains that Pabst achieved “a standard basis for fine ‘American type’ lager”, Stack points out that like most shipping breweries, Pabst used a ratio that far exceeded what most beer experts consider to be the maximum quantity of adjunct that could be employed in a recipe without impairing the beer’s flavor, color, and body.[85] Consequently, the result was not a high quality beer as advertised but a pale, stable, bland, and easy drinking beverage.

The company knew that adjuncts and pasteurization altered and lowered the quality of beer – in fact, Pabst actually reintroduced an all-malt beer in 1896, a premium brand named Doppel Bräu, which accounted for about a tenth of total production, but the company did not promote it aggressively since it had a low profit margin. Hence, what Cochran views as a positive outcome and a success story in providing what consumers wanted was actually the “invention” of a new consumer preference by Pabst and the other shippers.[86]

The company’s advertisements never detailed the proportions of barley and corn used in the firm’s recipes but rather proclaimed the value of one adjunct over another in order to move the debate away from malt versus adjunct to adjunct versus adjunct. Additionally, the firm avoided addressing quality differences between local draught beers and Pabst bottled beer but instead focused on the narrower question of variations among bottled beer brands. Frequently, Pabst stated in advertisements that the brewery was aware of differing consumer tastes and therefore offered choices that fit a broad range of consumer desires.[87]

Moreover, simple language and imagery was used to promote bottled beer and Blue Ribbon was advertised by emphasizing purity, cleanliness, and the beer’s expensive malt base and delicate flavor. For example, in a souvenir accordion postcard called “A Trip through the Home of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Beer of Quality,” Pabst proclaimed that the company’s principle was “an honest product” and Blue Ribbon was a “pure, wholesome, refreshing beverage” with every bottle being “carefully inspected” before leaving the brewery.[88] In a similar vein, probably the most famous advertisement of Blue Ribbon highlighted an illustration of two bottles on a table with a glass of beer that looked like champagne and a plate of oysters with no text except “Pabst Blue Ribbon, the Beer of Quality.” The advert symbolically implied that the firm used only the finest selection of raw materials in its products.[89]

In sum, by promoting bottled beer as a high-quality product, Pabst constructed a new product, and, hence, helped to create a demand for it. Thereby, the company challenged the influence of its main competitors, local brewers who sold draught beer in taverns. In addition, besides targeting working-class beer drinkers, bottled beer was also directed at the middle class, a new profitable spectrum of consumers willing to pay more for a product that could be consumed outside the tavern. This was further enhanced by a second major marketing strategy that promoted quality above all and created “upscale” venues in which to sell Pabst’s products in contrast to raucous corner taverns.[90]

“Famous and Finest Place” Policy

Beginning in the 1850s, breweries focused on selling their beer to retailers rather than consumers due to the emergence of the tied-house system. Overall, convincing a retailer to stock a certain brand of beer was more costly than advertising or exhibiting the beer to the public. For the national shippers, this created challenges since they targeted non-local markets in which they might be perceived as interlopers. The problem could be dealt with by various inducements, such as treating a bar’s customers to free beer when a sales agent arrived, by offering discounts to retailers on the per-barrel price of beer, by extending generous credit to retailers, or by buying and renting out a retail venue operated by the brewery itself.[91]

Beginning in 1880, Best/Pabst spent large sums on property across the U.S., and in 1884 alone, Pabst, Schlitz and Blatz purchased some 200 corner lots in Milwaukee. However, when compared to his main competitors, Pabst owned far fewer retail outlets, as “the Captain” decided not to compete by buying numerous smaller outlets, but rather by focusing on obtaining prestige properties. This may help to explain why the firm lost ground in its volume of sales compared to its competitors between 1894 and 1914. Unlike small saloons, these upscale venues did not serve as large outlets for beer. Instead, they enhanced the reputation and image of Pabst’s products and made the brewery’s name synonymous with quality. Moreover, it was hoped that small saloon owners would choose to carry Pabst beer as a badge of respectability.[92]

By the turn of the century, Pabst had created a real estate empire across the U.S. with hundreds of taverns, several restaurants, beer halls and gardens, as well as hotels, a skyscraper, a theater, and a resort. In 1893, the “general property” inventory of the company excluding brewery property stood at $2,237,855.11 (approximately $60.8 million in 2014$) or about twenty percent of the total book value of the firm, and, by 1910, the company owned 428 beer retailing properties in 187 cities.[93] In New York, Pabst owned several venues: the Pabst Hotel, a nine-story hotel on Seventh Avenue and Forty-Second Street (today Times Square), which opened on November 11, 1899; the Grand Circle, a restaurant between Fifty-Eighth and Fifty-Ninth Streets, which opened in January 1903; the Pabst’s Loop, a pavilion on Coney Island; and the Pabst Harlem, a restaurant at 125th Street near Eighth Avenue that was his largest investment to date. When it opened on September 22, 1900, the $300,000 (approximately $8.7 million in 2014$) venue was the largest facility of its kind, capable of serving 1,400 people at once.[94]

The company made similar investments in other large cities on the West Coast and in the Middle West. In San Francisco, the Pabst Cafe was opened in June 1900 at Powell and Ellis Street. It was decorated with frescoes of the medieval German lands. In Chicago, the company owned the Union Hotel at 117 Randolph Street, located in the center of the city’s business section. In Minneapolis, Pabst erected the Pabst Kaiserhof, a Gothic-Renaissance-style building with a colored glass roof and one of “the most genteel, the largest and most elegantly finished and furnished restaurant[s] in the Northwest,” as the Milwaukee Sentinel reported in 1906.[95]

But most importantly, Pabst invested heavily in his home market of Milwaukee in order to keep his name before the local people. Between 1888 and 1889, Pabst built the Whitefish Bay Resort with a hotel, pavilion, and landscaped park north of downtown Milwaukee. The facility featured a beer garden, a stage for concerts, and a Ferris wheel. During the summer, the resort attracted more than 15,000 visitors on Sundays who came via foot, bicycle, steam train, or aboard the Bloomer Girl, an excursion boat carrying passengers from a downtown dock to the resort. Furthermore, for $750,000 (approximately $20 million in $2014) Pabst erected the city’s first skyscraper in 1892, the thirteen-story-highPabst Building at Wisconsin Avenue and East Water Street. He also opened two hotels, the St. Charles and the Kirby House, and financed Pabst Park, a facility at the highest point in the city that covered eight acres and offered dancing, concerts, and picnics. Further, beginning in the summer of 1901, Pabst set up a coach line with old-style stagecoaches that traveled along a historic route between Milwaukee and Waukesha Beach by way of Pewaukee. The company also opened the Gargoyle in March 1906. Similar to the Kaiserhof in Minneapolis, the building was constructed in a Gothic-Renaissance style with gnomes and gargoyles. Its main dining room was two stories high, surrounded by a balcony, and topped by massive silver candelabra.[96]

To serve the German-American community, Pabst built the Pabst Theater, which opened on November 8, 1895, at 144 East Wells Street after a fire had destroyed Das Neue Deutsche Stadt-Theater in 1890. Designed by German-born architect Otto Strack (who also designed the Pabst Brewery and the Pabst Union Hotel), the building looked like a European opera house with a baroque interior that included an Austrian crystal chandelier, a staircase made of white Italian Carrara marble, and a proscenium arch highlighted in gold leaf framing the stage. The Pabst Theater provided the German-American community with German operas, ballets, and shows and is the fourth-oldest continuously operating theater in the U.S.[97]

Since beer like other branded products benefitted from name recognition, all of these venues served both an economic and a social purpose by making the company’s products synonymous with prestige and quality, as well as by enhancing the social standing of the company’s directors.

Social Status, Networks, Family and Public Life

I like to treat people pretty well, because it is pleasant to think that after I am gone there may be someone who will say that old Fred wasn’t such a bad fellow, after all.

Frederick Pabst to Superintendent John Ellis of the Pabst Building[98]

As Cochran convincingly argues “the sales of beer depended to a considerable extent on the popularity and prestige of its producer”[99] and all of the brewing company’s leading figures (Jacob Sr. and his son, Phillip, Emil Schandein, and especially Frederick Pabst) were not only successful entrepreneurs who provided jobs for the local community, they also became well known and respectable figures in both the local and national community. Early on, Jacob Sr. became a recognized figure in the local German and non-German community due to his active political involvement. For instance, in 1846, the company advertised its products as “Constitution Beer” in order to promote the Jacksonian Democratic State Constitution (which eventually failed). Four years later, Jacob Sr. was elected Second Ward assessor, and, in 1859, the local school commissioner. Moreover, in 1853, he cofounded the Wisconsin Free Trade Society, and became its vice-president. When Democratic Wisconsin Governor William A. Barstow vetoed a prohibition law in 1855, the society celebrated by lighting bonfires and marching under torchlight from beerhall to beerhall drinking, of course, Best beer.[100]

Best’s sons, especially Phillip – a “gentlemen, who in his lifetime gained a well-earned reputation as a man of excellent business abilities, great energy and sterling integrity” [101] – were active politically like their father. In 1848, Phillip, Charles, their brother-in-law, Schoeffler, and a business partner, Fine, formed a mutual aid society known as the Hermanns-Soehne for sickness and death benefits. Like his father, Phillip became a second (1850) and later first lieutenant (1853) in the Milwaukee Dragoons due to his support of the Democratic Party ticket of Governor Nelson Dewey. In 1858, he was again honored for his political support, was made brigadier general of the First Division of the state militia and became one of the military leaders of Milwaukee. In his position as the ranking officer of the city, Phillip organized festivities and homecoming parades for soldiers, such as May festivities during the early 1850s, a celebration of George Washington’s birthday in 1859, and a reception for the Ninth Regiment when it returned from Civil War service in November 1864.[102]

Additionally, Phillip Best became the Second Ward alderman in 1861, served as one of the eleven directors of the local manufacturers’ association when it was formed in 1863, and acted as the first Carnival Prince when the local German Carnival Verein was founded in 1857. Meanwhile, he maintained close ties to his relatives, visiting the German lands in 1859 and 1869.[103]Thus, besides laying the foundation for the brewery, Jacob Sr. and Phillip took an active part in the state’s military and trade organizations, as well as in local and ethnic festivities as respected entrepreneurs and leading citizens in the community.

Like the Bests, Frederick Pabst was also elected Second Ward alderman in 1863. However, his political aspirations ended there. In the winter of 1890, he turned down a possible nomination for mayor because he did not want to rely on ethnic associations for political success. Moreover, Pabst limited his civic engagement to serving as Milwaukee’s water commissioner and its commissioner of public debt.[104] Yet, Frederick Pabst, in particular, achieved immense social influence and became a prominent figure both within and outside the German-American community.

The 1893 edition of the National Cyclopedia of American Biography characterized Pabst “as a man of very liberal impulses, and of beneficent life, aiding religious and educational institutions with a free and ample hand.” The entry provided an example of his liberality and public spirit as “evidence that the acquisition of wealth has not narrowed the nature of this self-made man.” Pabst purchased free seating for Civil War veterans and their families during a reenactment of a Civil War naval battle organized by the Grand Army of the Republic in 1889. In all, he paid $15,000 (approximately $398,000 in 2014$) to support the event. The GAR thanked him by redirecting the parade route past the Pabst Brewery, thus turning the event into “one of the greatest advertising coups of the period”.[105]

Charity in the Progressive Era was a general trend among industrialists, and the “beer barons” including Pabst donated frequently and generously. Pabst viewed these donations as part of his business strategy, since they benefitted society as a whole while also strengthening his sales. He donated large sums to various social causes and local charities such as orphanages, hospitals, veterans’ organizations, and funds for widows. For example, during a period of four months in 1892, Pabst funded a new hospital, donated $1,500 (approximately $40,300 in 2014$) to the Milwaukee Law Library Association, and $1,000 (approximately $26,800 in 2014$) for relief efforts after a fire had devastated the Third Ward. Accordingly, an obituary in the Milwaukee Sentinel shortly after his death pointed out that no one would miss Pabst more than the poor and underprivileged of Milwaukee.[106]

Frederick Pabst’s generous spirit not only made him popular with the general public but also with his workers and business affiliates. For instance, when he returned from a trip to Europe in the fall of 1890, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that about 500 employees “formed a torch-light procession” at the brewery and marched to his residence where “the Captain hailed the procession at the entrance of his house. All drank to his health, and from the Pabst residence they proceeded to the new malt house where a barrel, 200 feet high, supplied everybody with free beer.”[107]

Between 1875 and 1892, the family lived in the middle of the brewing complex, which permitted Pabst to work long hours, as his son, Frederick Jr., remembered:

My father on many occasions left for the brewery before breakfast early in the morning. He went through the malthouse, brewhouse and cellars and then came home for a hurried breakfast, after which he went back to the brewery again and spent his time in the office or brewery until twelve o’clock. Often he brought business friends home to luncheon and without any relaxation returned to the brewery, where he worked until six o’clock at night.[108]

In general, his family and ethnic background were important to Pabst: “Never forget that your parents are always your best friends in time of need,” he noted.[109] The idea of building a mansion for his family came in 1889. Designed by Milwaukee architects George Bowman Ferry (1851-1918) and Alfred Charles Clas (1860-1942), the construction of the Flemish Renaissance Revival style Pabst Mansion on West Wisconsin Avenue in the most prestigious Milwaukee neighborhood at that time began in June 1890. Estimated at $75,000 (approximately $2 million in 2014$), final construction costs totaled $254,000 (approximately $6.8 million in 2014$) – an enormous sum at a time when the average annual income was $400 (approximately $10,700 in 2014$). The family moved into the new home in July 1892.[110] Additionally, Pabst owned farms in Oconomowoc and in the suburb of Wauwatosa five miles west of the brewery that were used as summer resorts and for raising Percheron horses for hauling the firm’s beer wagons.[111]

Pabst was a patron of both German and American art, culture, and history. His children were educated in both German and English. He served as the director of Luening’s Conservatory of Music and the Musical Society of Milwaukee, and was an elected member of the Wisconsin Academy of Science, Arts and Letters and the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The Pabst Theater and his frequent sponsorships of German festivities such as the Saengerfest are further examples of his strong support of the German-American community in Milwaukee. Similarly, Pabst invested in a travelling library that supplied German literature throughout the state and he was elected the chairman of the Milwaukee committee that welcomed Prince Heinrich of Prussia, the younger brother of Kaiser Wilhelm II, in 1902. Like Phillip Best, Pabst maintained ethnic ties to his homeland and made several trips to German spas in locations such as Wiesbaden and Carlsbad.[112]

In sum, Pabst’s self-representation as “the Captain,” his successful management of the brewery, his support of the German-American community, and his philanthropic spirit earned him respectability and prestige. Today, his name continues to be well known in Milwaukee with a life-size bronze statue of him standing in the courtyard near Blue Ribbon Hall on the former brewery grounds.

Conclusion: From “Captain” to “Beer Baron”

Jacob Best Sr.’s decision to move his family from Mettenheim to Milwaukee and Phillip Best’s decision to sell the company founded by his father to his two sons-in-law, Frederick Pabst and Emil Schandein, proved fortuitous. Building on the foundation laid by the Best family, Pabst (in close collaboration with Schandein) played a key role in the company’s expansion within a decade into the nation’s leading beer producer. By the turn of the century, German-born Pabst was one of the most successful brewers in the United States, one of the largest property owners in Milwaukee, and a leading community figure: “the Captain” had turned into a “beer baron.” As entrepreneur, real-estate mogul, and philanthropist, Pabst made Milwaukee internationally famous as his brewery and other venues attracted thousands of visitors each year. His funeral at the Forest Home Cemetery and burial next to Joseph Schlitz and Valentin Blatz at the so-called “Beer Baron’s Corner” provided yet another example of his financial and social status. Several international newspapers published obituaries, including a local newspaper near his German hometown that mourned the brewer’s death since “one of the old pioneers of Germanness has passed” [einer der alten Pioniere des Deutschtums in Amerika [ist] dahingegangen]. The newspaper further proclaimed:

Everybody whose foot touched Milwaukee’s ground had to tour the Pabst Brewery. As the saying goes: it was easier to excuse a person who did not get to see the Pope in Rome than a person who failed to visit the Pabst in Milwaukee [Jeder, dessen Fuß Milwaukees Boden betrat, mußte auch einen Gang durch die Pabstbrauerei gemacht haben. Denn eher war es verzeihlich, so kann man fast sagen, den Papst in Rom nicht gesehen, als den Pabst in Milwaukee nicht besucht zu haben].[113]

Through far-sighted business and marketing strategies, Pabst laid the groundwork for his firm’s success. By inventing a new market for bottled beer and investing in upscale venues, he fostered consumer awareness of the “quality” of his products, a strategy that paid off, especially in the years after his death. During Prohibition, the company stayed in business while maintaining and upgrading the brewery’s physical plant. When Prohibition ended in 1933, Pabst resumed full production. After periods of growth and decline between 1933 and 1960, the company ranked as the third largest brewery in the nation in 1961, a position it held until 1979.[114] Although Pabst never regained its lofty position in the pantheon of American brewing, its flagship beer, Blue Ribbon, is still being brewed and has recently experienced a revival due to a consumer reaction against mass-marketed brands.[115]


[1] Jerold W. Apps, Breweries of Wisconsin (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 175-176; Pabst Brewing Company Beer Portfolio (accessed November 2, 2015); Shan Li, “Pabst Headquarters Moving to Los Angeles,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2011 (accessed November 2, 2015); Christine Rushton, “Pabst Returns to Milwaukee Roots, With a Craft Beer Spin,” USA Today, July 15, 2015 (accessed November 2, 2015). In 2014, U. S. beer entrepreneur Eugene Kaspher acquired Pabst for $700 million. James Covert, “Pabst Not Moving to Russia,” New York Post, September 20, 2014 (accessed November 2, 2015).

[2] For a more detailed analysis of the Best and Pabst families and their company see the works of family historian Thomas Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company. The History of an American Business (New York: New York University Press, 1948) and of John. C. Eastberg, Executive Director of the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, The Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion. An Illustrated History (Milwaukee: Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc., 2009). In the 1940s Cochran was granted access to the family records of Pabst which were mostly destroyed after his book was published. For the period up to 1873, only a few company records were available and sales data and branch records in general were incomplete (Cochran,The Pabst Brewing Company, vii, 407). Hence, most of the following account has to rely on Cochran’s study as well as on local newspaper reports and the remaining company records at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Milwaukee County Historical Society, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

[3] The other important brewers of German descent in Milwaukee were Joseph Schlitz, the Uihlein brothers (August, Alfred, Henry, Edward), Frederick Miller, Jacob Obermann, Adam Gettelmann, Valentin Blatz, Franz Falk, Philipp Jung, and Ernst Borchert. Apps, Breweries of Wisconsin; Martin Hintz, A Spirited History of Milwaukee Brews and Booze (Charleston: History Press, 2011); Simone Munson, “Wisconsin Breweries. Roll Out the Barrel,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 96.1 (2012), 28-37; Uwe Spiekermann, “MarketingMilwaukee: Schlitz and the Making of a National Beer Brand, 1880-1940,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute53 (2013): 55-67.

[4] Besides Best, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company was a pioneer in marketing. See Martin H. Stack, “Liquid Bread:AnExamination of the American BrewingIndustry, 1865-1940,” Ph.D. diss. (University of Notre Dame, 1998): 51, 65, 176-178.

[5] On the Uihleins, see Uwe Spiekermann, “Family Ties in Beer Business: August Krug, Joseph Schlitz and the Uihleins,” Yearbook of German-American Studies 48 (2013): 59-112.

[6] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 3; The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. 3 (New York: James T. White & Co., 1893), 307; Best family records, (accessed April 1, 2015).

[7] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 4-7. Despite the depression, Jacob Sr. was able to sell his estate and production facility for a relatively good price in the upswing year of 1843. On the push and pull factors regarding the migration from Germany (in particular Rheinhessen) to Wisconsin, see Kathleen N. Conzen, Immigrant Milwaukee, 1836-1860: Accommodation and Community in a Frontier City (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976); Helmut Schmahl, Verpflanzt, aber nicht entwurzelt: Die Auswanderung aus Hessen-Darmstadt (Provinz Rheinhessen) nach Wisconsin im 19. Jahrhundert (Peter Lang: Frankfurt am Main, 2000), esp. 39-84, 109-150, 245-153.

[8] Letter to William Muth, May 10, 1847, cited in Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 6. See also Conzen, 25-27.

[9] Cyclopedia, 307; Best and Pabst family records, (accessed April 1, 2015).

[10] John Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst: From Sea Captain to Beer Baron,” Max Kade Institute Friends Newsletter 16.2 (2007): 1-9, here 1.

[11] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 47; Hintz, A Spirited History, 24-25. On promotional letters, see Conzen, Immigrant Milwaukee, 38. Gottlieb remarried and had another son, Herman Pabst, who was employed in Pabst’s Chicago branch.

[12] All inflation calculations based on Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to Present,” MeasuringWorth, (accessed October 2015).

[13] “Capt. Fred Pabst Dies at His Home”, Milwaukee Sentinel, January 2, 1904.

[14] Cyclopedia, 342; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 47-48; Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst,” 3, 5.

[15] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 48-49; Cyclopedia, 293-294; Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst,” 3-4.

[16] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 302-54, 400, 426; “Historic Designation Study Report: Pabst Brewing Company,” (May 14, 2002): 1-9, here: 4-5; Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst,” 5. In 1888, Elizabeth married Otto, a German-born painter and the director of the Wisconsin School of Design (later renamed the Wisconsin Art Institute). When Elizabeth died unexpectedly in 1891, Otto returned to Germany while their daughter, Emma, stayed with the family in Milwaukee. Fred Jr. resigned in 1905 and moved to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where he operated the Pabst farms. Gustav together with W.O. Goodrich, Charles W. Henning, Henry J. Stark, Rudolph Nunnemacher, and Henry Danischefsky operated the business until Prohibition. In December 1920, the Pabst Brewing Company dissolved and the Pabst Corporation and the Pabst Realty Company were organized.

[17] “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 2. The old Pabst property, the so-called PabstCity, is currently being renovated and will feature a mix of retail housing, office space, and a beer museum.

[18] Whereas the normal fermentation temperatures for ale and porter range roughly from 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit and 62-68 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, lager production requires temperatures between 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit.

[19] Prior to 1860, New York and Pennsylvania were the nation’s beer brewing centers. Besides the influx of Germans (see Conzen, Immigrant Milwaukee, 233), the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 was one of the main reasons for Milwaukee’s rise as a brewing center, despite its comparatively small size, since numerous Chicago breweries were destroyed in the conflagration. By 1880, Milwaukee overtook Chicago in beer production (577,992 barrels versus 458,894 barrels) while its population remained far below that of Chicago (115,587 v. 593,185) (see Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 55, 255-256). On the state’s history and its transportation system, see Richard N. Current, The History of Wisconsin. Volume II, The Civil War era, 1848-1873 (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2013), esp. 29-35, 381-384, 437-440.

[20] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 32, 422; Apps, Breweries of Wisconsin, 122-123. In July 1845, Charles withdrew from the family business, and, in 1848, he founded the Plank Road Brewery (which later became the Miller Brewing Company). His brother, Lorenz, and G. Fine joined the company in 1850 but shortly after Lorenz died in 1853 the company went bankrupt. Charles sold his property and moved to Illinois. He returned to Milwaukee in 1865 and operated a vinegar factory on Tamarack Street (today West State Street) until 1866 when it was destroyed by a fire. Afterwards he operated the Caspar Meyer Saloon where he sold Best beer.

[21] Letter to William Muth (May 10, 1847), printed in Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 24-26. Approximately $133 and $148, respectively, in 2014$.

[22] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 422; Apps, Breweries of Wisconsin, 123; “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 3.

[23] Cited in Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 28. See also Ibid., 27.

[24] Ibid., 29, 31, 177-78. Overall, Milwaukee’s annual beer production steadily increased from about 20,000 barrels in 1850 to about 100,000 barrels by 1857. By then the annual value of the city’s brewery production surpassed that of flour produced in local mills and was exceeded only by the total output of all forms of iron manufacturing. This also resulted in an increase in the price of beer per barrel from $4.50 in 1850 (approximately $141 in 2014$) to $7.50 in 1857 (approximately $210 in 2014$). The price declined from this high point but later increased to $12 (approximately $198 in 2014$) a decade later due to federal taxation imposed during the Civil War (1862) and inflation (1867). On the price development of beer, see ibid., 30, 43-60, 65-69, 146-49.

[25] The cost of repairing Pabst’s vessel, the Seabird, after its December 1863 grounding were approximately $20,000. Cochran states that Pabst had to pay over most of his share in the vessel to the Goodrich Line in compensation. Cochran notes: “Whether he [Pabst] had anything left to invest in the brewing business is impossible to tell, but, in any case, the business needed managerial help as much as additional capital and Phillip [Best] seems to have been glad to take him in as an equal partner at the beginning of 1864.” Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 48-49.

[26] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 48-49.

[27] Ibid., 71. See also Ibid., 55, 70, 72, 81, 160; Cyclopedia, 293-94; Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst,” 3-4. Besides good management, the increase in production also accounted for the rise of industrialization, an increase of the overall population (especially Germans), and an increase in beer and ale consumption in general. Schandein also became the director of the North Western Life Insurance Company, as well as the president and secretary of the Milwaukee Brewing Association.

[28] Printed in “Milwaukee Beer Barons,” Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1892.

[29] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 60-61; United States Brewers Association, Brewers Almanac (Washington, DC, 1979), 12-13; “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 3-4.

[30] Approximately $50 million and $106 million, respectively, in 2014$. “Milwaukee Beer Baron,” Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1892; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 424. By that time, incorporation had become a common practice (see Alan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982)).

[31] Pabst Brewing Company, Souvenir Booklet (1891), in: Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: 5. See also “Milwaukee Beer Baron,” Milwaukee Sentinel (July 31, 1892); Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 424.

[32] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 400.

[33] Ibid., 67, 80-94, 401. After Schandein died, Pabst removed two clauses from the company charter. The president was now permitted to make decisions on his own (backed by his majority control of the company stock) without fear of veto.

[34] “What Club Men Say,” The Milwaukee Journal, November 19, 1892; Eastberg, The Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion. An Illustrated History (Milwaukee, WI: Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc., 2009), 45; Hintz, A Spirited History, 27. Although Lisette was not directly involved in running the company, she – along with Johanna Heileman of the G. Heileman Brewing Company – was one of the few female executives of her era. Nunnemacher died on January 20, 1900. Shortly afterwards Emma married (Frederick) Wilhelm Söhnlein, a sparkling wine manufacturer, and moved to Germany. Gustav married Hilda after a divorce from his first wife, actress Margret Mather.

[35] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 83.

[36] Ibid., 83-90; “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 4.

[37] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 402.

[38] “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 4.

[39] “Milwaukee Beer Barons,” Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1892. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 88-90; Hintz, A Spirited History, 27; “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 4.

[40] “Milwaukee Beer Barons,” Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1892.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Printed in Ibid. See also United States Brewers Association, Brewers Almanac, 12-13.

[43] Cited in “Capt. Fred Pabst Dies at His Home”, Milwaukee Sentinel, January 2, 1904. On the British syndicates, see also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 151-59. The British brewing industry experienced a similar consolidation during this period, with the number of breweries declining from 4,131 in 1873 to 1,866 in 1896.

[44] Ibid., 82-83, 425; “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 4. After fires at the Falk, Jung and Borchert Brewery in 1889 and 1891, Pabst bought the firm’s equipment in the fall of 1892 for $500,000 (approximately $13.4 million in 2014$). Ernst Borchert and Frank R. Falk joined the Pabst management team early in 1893 as vice president and treasurer, respectively. Borchert resigned in 1899 and Fred Pabst became the second vice-president. Falk resigned in 1902.

[45] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 257-261. Pabst also became the director of the Milwaukee Mechanics Mutual Insurance Company and the Second Ward Savings Bank. He held these offices until his death.

[46] Apps, Breweries of Wisconsin, 125; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 171-175. Prior to 1888, the branch in Pittsburgh, which was set up in 1884, was an exception. Between 1894 and 1914, the company discontinued relations with branches in some of the smaller cities and opened branches in larger ones (Ibid., 238).

[47] Pabst Brewing Company, Souvenir Booklet (1891), in: Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: 3.

[48] Ibid., 3-4. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 177-79.

[49] Pabst, cited in “Milwaukee Beer Barons,” Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1892.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Cited in Ibid.

[52] Martin Stack, “A Concise History of America’s Brewing Industry”, EH.Net Encyclopedia (accessed April 1, 2015).

[53] Withdrawal refers to beer on which excise taxes had been paid. Printed in Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 180. See also Ibid., 73-74, 79, 180-184. In the same period, per capita consumption of beer rose from 14.8 gallons to 21 gallons. Total withdrawal began to fall in 1915 with the advance of state and local prohibition. In general, the big shippers including Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz failed to hold their ground, though both firms overtook Pabst in 1900 and in 1902, respectively.

[54] For a detailed list of the brands sold by Pabst between 1897 and 1901, see Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 215-217.

[55] Ibid., 137, 177, 217, 425. In May 1895, the words Blue Ribbon were added to the label of Select, in April 1897, the seal was replaced, and on March 27, 1900, the trade mark for Blue Ribbon was registered.

[56] Ibid., 185-195, 226-228. For example, freight rates increased after 1893 and the Elkins Antirebate Act of 1903 ended rebating.

[57] On the tied-house system, see Christine Sismondo, America Walks Into a Bar. A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies, and Grog Shops (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

[58] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 129; see also Ibid., 181-82; Apps, Breweries of Wisconsin, 129.

[59] Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst,” 4. On problems of setting up a branch or a wholesale agency, see Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 165-169, 237-240. Note that selecting one of the options depended more on the availability of proper agents with storage facilities in local markets than on the size of the community.

[60] Pabst, cited in “Milwaukee Beer Barons,” Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1892. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 102-103, 112-114, 122, 199-204, 423-424. Note that no development efforts either to reduce costs or to improve quality occurred in the brewing process between 1893 and 1920.

[61] Hintz, A Spirited History, 27.

[62] Schlitz pursued a similar strategy (see Spiekermann, “Marketing Milwaukee”).

[63] “An Invitation to Milwaukee” (ca. 1900), in: Pabst Brewing Company Collection, Milwaukee County Historical Society: Folder 6, highlights by author.

[64] Wisconsin Banner, July 1, 1852, cited in Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 35. See also several issues of March/July 1845 and April/June/July/August 1851. The newspaper was started by Schoeffler in 1844. At first, it was published weekly and since 1850 daily. On early advertising, see Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 31-35. Note that not only national and German holidays but also other ethnic holidays such as St. Patrick’s Day were later used for advertising (Ibid., 215-216).

[65] Ibid., 63, 130.

[66] “The Monster Beer Cask,” Milwaukee Sentinel, June 29, 1868. See also “Souvenir zum Saengerfest (8.-12. Juli, 1891),” in: Pabst Brewing Company Collection, Milwaukee County Historical Society: Folder 10.

[67] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 131, 135, 215-216. Note the poem of pro-temperance poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “PH. Best & Co.’s Lager-Beer” (1872). While portraying Phillip as the man who by selling beer “sent a million of souls to the depths of hell”, Wilcox also accounted for the fact that the company’s advertising signs and beers were very prominent in the town: “But whether on window, door, or stair, Wherever I went, it was always there; Painted in yellow, and red, and blue, It stared from alley and avenue: It was north, and south, and east, and west, The lager-beer of this Phillip Best.”

[68] Ibid., 136-139. However, as Cochran points out, the effect of fairs and exposition on sales remains difficult to estimate. It was probably cumulative and not immediate. Besides being represented at these fairs, Pabst became the director of the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1881, which was held each year until 1902 when the state fair took its place (Ibid., 255-256).

[69] Ibid., 136-137. When the jury revised its preliminary finding (which was in favor of Anheuser-Busch) after a chemical analysis and swung in favor of Pabst, this led to a fierce debate about the jury’s expertise and Anheuser-Busch threatened legal action.

[70] Souvenir Booklet (1891), in: Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: 2. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 129; Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer (Orlando: Harcourt, 2006), 20.

[71] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 129, 225, 425. Milwaukee’s brewers fought together to protect the label “Milwaukee Beer” and by a decree of the U.S. Circuit Court (1900) the use of the phrase was restricted to the city’s brewers only.

[72] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 123, 423. The bottling of beer was temporarily outsourced to the Milwaukee firm Stamm and Meyer, which Pabst acquired in 1881.

[73] Ibid. 109, 123-128, 219.

[74] Stack, “Liquid Bread,” esp. 50-52, 60-112.

[75] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 98-101, 123-28, 177, 186, 210-212, 219; Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 138-142.

[76] Souvenir Booklet (1891), in Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: 6. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 102-103, 127. Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 80, 92-95, 138. The MBA’s aims were to cooperatively protect the local brewers against federal taxes, the growing temperance movement, and national competition by, for example, fixing local prices. The association also funded various social gatherings and contributed to social causes such as hospitals, churches, kindergartens, the Home of the Aged, the German-American festival, the Polish Fest, the Fourth of July celebration, baseball clubs, and housing projects (see Milwaukee Brewers’ Association (1883-1894), General Ledger, in: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 50, 228-235, 263). On the USBA, see Amy Mittelman, Brewing Battles: The History of American Beer (New York: Algora, 2008), esp. 28-45, 61-67, 79, 87, 99.

[77] Senate Committee on Manufacture, “Senate Report, No. 516”, 56th Congress, 1st Session (February 28, 1900): 311-12; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 204-205. The Act of 1906 was a milestone for the pure food movement which originated in the 1870s when observers became alarmed by the fast pace of technological advancement in food production. Chemical additives were used without regulation leading to consumer fraud and health problems (see Lorine S. Goodwin, The Pure Food, Drink, and Drug Crusaders, 1879-1914 (Jefferson: McFarland, 1999); Courtney P. Thomas, In Food We Trust: The Politics of Purity in American Food Regulation (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014)).

[78] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 131-136, 215. Prior to 1878, no general ledger account for advertising was maintained. Note that outlays for newspaper and periodical advertising nearly doubled between 1881 and 1882 and again went up considerably between 1897 and 1902.

[79] Ibid., 184, 219; Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 145; Richard S. Tedlow, New and Improved: The Story of Mass Marketing in America (New York: Basic Books, 1990), 50. Note that after 1907, Pabst started to cut its advertising budget.

[80] “Still More Secrets,” in: Milwaukee Breweriana Collection, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Box 1: 17-18. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 132-133. In 1891, the phrase “Milwaukee Beer Is Famous” first appeared in these booklets.

[81] Ibid., 213-214.

[82] Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: 9-10. See also “Souvenir zum Saengerfest (8.-12. Juli, 1891)”, in: Pabst Brewing Company Collection, Milwaukee County Historical Society: Folder 10; “Still More Secrets,” in: Milwaukee Breweriana Collection, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Box 1: 18-19.

[83] Letters on Brewing (1911/12): 8, cited in Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 164. See also Ibid., 162-163. Both types of barley were introduced and grown in the U.S. However, six-row produces greater yields per acre and is thus less expensive per pound than two-row barley. Moreover, it has a higher protein level, higher enzyme content, and less starch than two-row barley, characteristics that help to speed the conversion of fermentable sugars into alcohol during the brewing process. It also cuts costs because it allows brewers to use large quantities of inexpensive adjuncts in their recipes without slowing fermentation. For an in-depth discussion see the article by Paul Schwarz, Associate Professor of Cereal Science at North Dakota State University, and Richard Horsley, Associate Professor of Plant Science at North Dakota State University, “A Comparison of North American Two-Row and Six-Row Malting Barley” (, accessed November 5, 2015).

[84] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 119-22, 204; Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 165-166. The exact proportion of ingredients employed during each year of production is difficult to identify, but a souvenir booklet of 1891 listed the ratio of malt, hops, and rice used for all products in 1890 (in: Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society, 7).

[85] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 204; Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 166. See also Spiekermann, “MarketingMilwaukee.”

[86] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 122, 204, 215-217. Due to the larger percentages of malt and the use of imported hops, the production of Doppel Bräu cost about eighty- to one-hundred-percent more than the standard product.

[87] “Still More Secrets,” in Milwaukee Breweriana Collection, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Box 1: 17; Stack, “Liquid Bread,” 166.

[88] “A Trip through the Home of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Beer of Quality,” ca. 1905, in Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society. See also “An Invitation to Milwaukee,” ca. 1900, in Pabst Brewing Company Collection, Milwaukee County Historical Society: folder 6.

[89] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 217-219.

[90] A similar strategy was pursued by Schlitz who also operated upscale venues such as the Schlitz Palm Garden (see Spiekermann, “MarketingMilwaukee”).

[91] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 35, 62, 139-146, 226. Controlling saloons seemed a better way to increase sales than raising advertising expenditures, but no shipping brewery could afford to own more than a small fraction of the property occupied by retailers selling its beer.

[92] Hintz, A Spirited History, 85; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 144-145.

[93] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 197-198.

[94] Ibid., 211-212. Pabst’s Loop was destroyed by fire in 1908. The Pabst Hotel was torn down in 1902 in order to make room for the subway.

[95] Milwaukee Sentinel, April 15, 1906, cited in Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 213. See also Ibid., 212.

[96] Ibid., 213, 223, 257; Hintz, A Spirited History, 81; Thomas H. Fehring, Whitefish Bay (Charleston: Aracadia, 2010).

[97] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 41, 267-268; Hintz, A Spirited History, 27; “Historic Designation Study Report: Pabst Theater,” (Spring 1982): 1-4.

[98] Cited in “Capt. Pabst Was Always Liberal,” Milwaukee Sentinel, January 2, 1904.

[99] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 68. According to Cochran, the brewery’s success and “the small but significant margin of superiority that the Pabst Brewing Company held over its nearest competitors” might have depended on Pabst’s personality (Ibid.,179).

[100] Ibid., 35-39; “A Barleycorn Edict,” Milwaukee Sentinel (March 30, 1855). On early prohibition in Wisconsin, see Joseph Schafer, “Prohibition in Early Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 8.3 (1925): 281-99; Wisconsin Historical Society, “Brewing and Prohibition” (accessed April 1, 2015).

[101] Pabst Brewing Company, Souvenir Booklet (1891), in Manuscript Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: 2.

[102] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 35-37. Like the majority of his fellow German-Americans, Phillip Best supported the Republican Party after it was formed in 1854.

[103] “The Carnival in Milwaukee”, Milwaukee Sentinel, February 25, 1857; Cyclopedia, 307; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 36, 42.

[104] “Capt. Pabst Was Always Liberal,” Milwaukee Sentinel, January 2, 1904; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 263-264.

[105] Cyclopedia, 342; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 133.

[106] “Capt. Pabst Was Always Liberal,” Milwaukee Sentinel, January 2, 1904. See also Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 268-270. Pabst also donated to churches and funded numerous parades and soldier’s monuments. On philanthropy, see Lawrence J. Friedman/Mark D. McGarvie (eds.), Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

[107] Milwaukee Sentinel, September 16, 1890. See also “Employes [sic!] Pay Their Tributes,” Milwaukee Sentinel, January 2, 1904; Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 91-93; 250-255.

[108] Cited in Ibid., 92. Until 1867, the family lived together with Phillip Best at 828 Chestnut Street and until 1875 in their own house on Winnebago Street.

[109] Pabst, cited in (last accessed April 1, 2015).

[110] “Capt. Pabst to Build a New Residence,” Milwaukee Sentinel, November 2, 1889; Eastberg, “Frederick Pabst,” 5. The mansion was sold after Maria’s death in 1906. On the history of the mansion after 1906, see the documentary tour of the Pabst Mansion (accessed April 1, 2015); Eastberg, The Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion. Since May 1978, the mansion has been open for tours.

[111] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 261; Eastberg, Pabst Farms: The History of a Model Farm (Milwaukee: Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, Inc., 2014).

[112] Cochran, The Pabst Brewing Company, 264-266. Emil Schandein was also very active in the local German community in Milwaukee. In 1880, he founded and became the first president of the Milwaukee German Society.

[113] “Der Bierkönig von Milwaukee”, Allstedter Zeitung, January 9, 1904. Thanks to Antje Petty of the Max Kade Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for providing me with the source and permitting me to use it. Moreover, I would like to thank John Eastberg for providing me with the birth and death dates of some of the extended Best and Pabst family members.

[114] On the development of the Pabst Brewing Company during and after prohibition, see Cochran,The Pabst Brewing Company, 302-99; “Historic Designation Study Report” (2002), 4-5.

[115] Gretchen Ehlke, “Shuttered Pabst Brewery Brims With History,” Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2004 (accessed November 3, 2014).


Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Frederick Pabst
  • Coverage 1836-1904
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date May 26, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018