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M. Frank & Son/Union Brewery, Mansfield, Ohio

From the new book, "Brewing Beer In The Buckeye State, Volume I" by Dr. Robert A. Musson.

Established in 1866, the Union Brewery began as a collaboration between Henry Weber, who had been involved with both the Eagle Brewery and the City Brewery across the street, and Martin Frank. Both men were natives of the village of Schillingstadt, Baden, Germany. Frank was born there in 1830, then emigrated to America in 1855. He came to Ohio four years later, first to Galion, where he met his wife-to-be, who was the daughter of John Kraft, the brewer who had previously operated the Eagle Brewery in Mansfield. By 1860, Frank had moved to Mansfield himself, first working in the Eagle Brewery before establishing this new plant. Located along Temple Court, between N. Franklin and N. Diamond Streets, it used the address of 110 N. Diamond before Prohibition and 121 N. Franklin after Prohibition.

Production of lager beer grew slowly over the next twenty years, increasing from just over 1,000 barrels annually in the 1870s to nearly 5,000 barrels by 1898 (still leaving it as one of the region's smallest operating breweries). In 1883, Weber sold his share in the brewery to Frank, who operated it alone until 1899, when he was joined by his son, Louis, who was born in Mansfield in 1865. Martin Frank died just two years later. Production then continued under the name Martin Frank & Son until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. Louis died in May 1915, after which the brewery's operations were guided by his two young sons Albert and Martin. The only other addition to the company was in 1906, when a new brewmaster by the name of Conrad Berg was hired.

At the onset of Prohibition, production of Frank's Beverage, a non-alcoholic cereal product, was attempted, but it did not last for long. However, production of soft drinks and ice continued throughout the following fourteen years. The company had remained relatively small, and was able to survive the transition fairly well.

In 1933, $20,000 was spent refitting the plant again for brewing beer, which was available to the public on December 16 of that year. Until its own beer was ready, the company distributed Gambrinus Beer from the August Wagner Brewery of Columbus. When brewing resumed, there were three main brands, Frank's Old Fashioned and Tru-Bru Beers, and Shanty Ale. Louis Frank's son Martin was now the president and brewmaster, while his brother Albert G. Frank was the company's vice-president.

By 1940, however, the small plant was no longer able to make a profit from its brewing operation, and this came to a halt. The company continued to produce soft drinks and ice for an additional two years before closing for good at the outset of World War II. The plant was briefly occupied by the Mansfield Bottling Co., and later was used intermittently as a warehouse. Martin Frank left the area after this, while Albert remained in Mansfield, where he died in 1975 at the age of 81. Most of the plant was eventually razed, although portions of the rear storage building and other portions of the foundation remain to this day. The remaining building has been remodeled with a modern exterior, and bears little resemblance to its days as a brewery.

Copyright 2005 by Zepp Publications

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