New Philadelphia's only brewery had a relatively long lifespan compared to other breweries in Eastern Ohio, with its origins having been in 1864. In that year, Michael Berger, a German immigrant, founded the small brewery along the banks of the Ohio Canal, at 430 South Broadway. At various times, the area where the brewery was located was known as Blake's Mills, Blakesfield, Blackfield, and Lockport (a reference to the canal), although it officially became part of the town of New Philadelphia around the turn of the century. This area was somewhat south of the town, but at that time, the Ohio Canal was the primary route of transportation in the region, and the brewery's products could easily be transported along the canal in either direction. Local residents often referred to the plant as the "South Side Brewery". The brewery's original water source was a pair of on-site artesian wells.
The plant had an annual capacity of 100 barrels when it was first built, and it grew very slightly over the next ten years. Berger died in 1871, and the plant was then sold at a public auction the following May to Rudolph Kapizky for $3,510. He enlarged the plant slightly, such that its production was around 500 barrels of lager annually by 1875. On May 1, 1876, however, the brewery was purchased by Michael Seibold and Adolph Hafenbrak, for $5,000. The deed of property transfer included mentions of the property, buildings, and equipment, as well as two thirteen-year old bay horses named Jim and Sam, six chickens, one rooster, and two ducks.
Seibold was a German immigrant, born in Wurtemberg, Germany, in May 1849. He had come to the U.S. at the age of eighteen and initially worked in a brewery in Cincinnati. Nine years and five different cities later, he found himself in Cleveland, where he saw an advertisement for this small brewery in the Beobachter newspaper. At that time, he moved south to New Philadelphia with his wife Anna and their five children. Hafenbrak was born in Ludwigsburg, Germany in 1846, and came to the U. S. in 1871.
Over the next eight years, he and Hafenbrak rebuilt and enlarged the brewery significantly, and extended their sales in town and along the canal. Their first expansion was the construction of a malt house in 1876, followed by a bottling works in 1880. By then, annual production was between 1,500 and 2,000 barrels. Hafenbrak retired from the partnership in 1884, at which time Seibold renamed the company as The New Philadelphia Brewing Co., a name which it would retain for the next twenty years. Hafenbrak remained in the area until his death in 1901, due to "stomach trouble". Seibold's brother, Anton, came from Germany in 1882 and assisted at the brewery as well, until his death in 1903.
Michael would continue to travel throughout his life, returning to Germany, as well as going into the western U.S. He was financially involved with a rubber plantation in Mexico, a mining company in Montana, and was the president of The Great Republic Gold and Copper Co. in Arizona. At home, he was the president of both the Peoples Bank & Savings Co. and the Valley Transit, Light, & Power Co., was one of the founders of the Tuscarawas County Telephone Co., and was a director of the Tuscarawas Valley Finance Co. He also was on the school board and was a city councilman.
In 1884, a new two-story brewhouse was built. It would remain a prominent portion of the plant throughout its remaining 65 years of business. Production continued to increase as the plant was further enlarged over the next decade, and by 1894, over 8,000 barrels were being produced annually. Three types of beer were produced: Lager, Export, and Bohemian. In 1903, a new four-story addition was built behind the original brewhouse. This was for fermentation and cooling tanks, and enabled the plant's capacity to increase to 11,000 barrels per year. At the same time, the company was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000. The incorporators were Seibold, John C. Kelly, F. G. Kuenzil, John Russer, John Benson, and A. W. Reiser.
By 1905, the business of selling beer had begun to change, and many breweries in the country were beginning to consolidate to expand their markets and limit the remaining competition. On March 21 of that year, the New Philadelphia Brewing Co. became part of that trend when it joined into a partnership with the Schuster Brewing Co. in Massillon, the Canton Brewing Co. and Stark Brewing Co. of Canton, and the Christian Bernhardt Brewery in nearby Canal Dover. The new company was known as the Stark-Tuscarawas Breweries Co., with a capital stock of $3,000,000. The company paid $180,000 for the New Philadelphia plant, which would operate within the combine for the next twenty-two years.
During this time, Seibold's son Henry became the plant's manager. Henry had been born in 1876, and after graduating from the Wahl & Henius College in Chicago in 1896, he became the brewmaster. Another son, John (also spelled Jno) began to work in the brewery office. He had been born in 1879, and was primarily involved with the business side of the brewery, as well as managing the bottling department. Michael had largely retired from the actual business of brewing, although he remained an officer of the Stark-Tuscarawas Co. throughout its existence.
New refrigeration equipment costing $25,000 was installed in 1908, and business at the plant continued at roughly the same level during the era. The temperance forces were gaining strength during this time, however, and the first blow was the passage of the Aiken Bill in 1907, which raised the saloon license fee to $1000 per year, an amount that many small tavern owners could not produce. The next year, the Rose "local option" law was passed. Following this, Tuscarawas County voted itself dry beginning on January 1, 1909, which led to the closing of the approximately 100 saloons in the county. The Stark-Tuscarawas Co., which had recently suspended brewing operations at the nearby Dover plant, subsequently opted to suspend operations at the New Philadelphia plant until 1912, when the county voted itself wet again.
With several renovations, the brewery restarted production that summer. Pro-duction was temporarily halted again in March, 1913 after torrential rains caused a tremendous flood which hit much of Ohio. The land around the brewery was flooded, as it lay between the canal and the Tuscarawas River, but the brewery escaped without any damage, and it continued to operate after the floodwaters receded. However, damage done to the canal during this flood effectively ended the canal era in Ohio.
In May, 1919, as statewide Prohibition caused the cessation of all beer sales, the parent company was renamed The Stark-Tuscarawas Products Co. Their primary products at that time were Tuscora Near Beer, Whistle, Cherry Blossom, and other soft drinks. By 1927, however, the Stark-Tuscarawas Company had dissolved. Three of the other four plants in the group were vacant, but the New Philadelphia branch continued production as the Seibold Products Co., still being run by Michael, Henry and John Seibold. With the renumbering of street addresses in the city around this time, the plant's address was now 640ó646 South Broadway.
The company continued to function as before, as producers of soft drinks, as well as distributors of soft drinks and both Tuscora and Blatz near beers (the latter being produced in Milwaukee). Soon after this came the introduction of their own brand of liquid malt syrup, known as "Seipro", which retained a small but loyal following on the south side. The company sponsored a local basketball team, and also held a series of boxing matches in 1931, one of which featured a young athlete named Woody Hayes, from nearby Newcomerstown. He would later go on to much greater things with The Ohio State University football team. Production of Seipro continued through the end of Prohibition in 1933.
With the repeal of Prohibition, beer production would start up within the next few months. However, the Seibold family would not be involved this time around. Michael was now eighty-four years old and retired from active business. He died at home in January 1934, of old age. Henry later became president of both the local Peoples Bank & Savings Co., as well as the Buckeye Machine & Supply Co., and was a director of several other local firms. He was also a well-known beagle dog owner, breeder, and trainer for many years. He died at the family home in July 1955. John became an officer with the Tuscarawas Valley Finance Co., and died in January 1951.
In May 1933, the brewery was purchased by Jack H. Harris, a businessman from Cleveland who already had an interest in the Forest City Brewery there. He had also previously run a printing business and had been Cuyahoga County commissioner for several years. He and his partner, Carl F. Lang, formed a new company known as The New Philadelphia Brewery, Inc., with James W. Bevyl as the initial manager and superintendent. Other officers during the next seven years included Odon Guttman, who later became the general manager, and James F. Carl, who later became superintendent.
When the old plant was purchased from the Seibolds, approximately $25,000 was invested in upgrading the brewing equipment, and nearly $150,000 was spent on the plant as a whole (modernizing the bottling house, purchasing new delivery vans, etc.). In the process, the capacity was increased to 60,000 barrels per year. This number would increase to 75,000 barrels after World War II. Distribution of products continued to be primarily in Tuscarawas and Stark Counties, as well as rural areas to the south.
Limiting the plant's success, however, was its relatively small number of distribution agents in the region, making it more difficult to compete with the larger regional breweries. Prior to Prohibition, this was not a major issue, since a brewery could survive just on local sales. However, the competition intensified rapidly in the 1930s, as advances in refrigeration techniques and mechanization of the brewing process had allowed other regional brewers to have a strong national presence.
One large difference for the brewery in the post-Prohibition era was a large number of new beer brands. The most widely advertised new brew was Old Lockport Lager Beer. Other brands to begin production during this time included Scotch Highland Ale, Old Bohemia Lager and Pilsner, "World's Best" Beer, Royal Canadian Style Beer, Schoenbrunn Pale and Muenchner Style Beers, Red Label Beer, Old German or "O G" Beer, John Bull Beer, Olde Vat Beer, Black Jack Lager, W-C Beer, Cafe Society Beer, and Lord Derby Beer and Ale. A completely modernized bottling department allowed the brewery to fill up to 58,000 packages of beer each day.
Interestingly, it was only in the post-Prohibition era that mention was made of the nearby Schoenbrunn spring water, which supposedly provided the brewery's water source. "Schoenbrunn" was a term used by the earliest settlers in the area (in the mid-1700s), most of whom were Moravian, and it meant "beautiful spring". Due to the impurity of many wells in the region, the success of any settlement depended on finding a source of pure water, and in this particular region, the water was relatively consumable.
Most of the brands were produced only in bottles, but in 1938, the brewery began to use cap-sealed cans from the Continental Can Co. to package beer, mainly for export. Many of the cans were shipped to the Buffalo, New York area, where the brewery had a distribution agent. Also, based on the finding of a fairly large number of cans in the Kansas City area in recent years, it appears that some were exported as far west as Missouri. Old Bohemia and John Bull cans were produced from 1938 to 1941, after which all canning stopped due to metal usage in World War II. Canning of beer would briefly return in 1947-48 for the Old Bohemia, Olde Vat, and Scotch Highland Ale brands.
Other officers of the company during this era included J. J. Klein, J. H. Harry, and VP/general manager Philip M. Kunzi. Kunzi had previously been general manager of Harris's Forest City Brewery in Cleveland. Frank C. Lohmann was the plant's Master Brewer, although by 1945 he had been succeeded by Carl F. Moeller, with Hugh C. Barrett as assistant Master Brewer.
After a reorganization in 1940 to improve the company's financial status, the brewery's success peaked in 1941. Looking at records from April of that year, the brewery had $51,000 of sales, with 4,900 barrels of ale and beer produced by 65 employees. This translated into nearly 260,000 bottles and 135,000 cans for sale. This success would be short-lived, however, as grain rations during World War II reduced production for several years, during which time many of the country's larger brewers were able to enlarge their plants even further. This would ultimately make the smaller local plants obsolete by comparison.
Harris retired in May, 1947, and sold his interest in the brewery to Max Swartz, a Columbus businessman, and Albert Lange, who had previously been with the Wooden Shoe Brewery in Minster, Ohio. By the late 1940s, however, the small plant was unable to compete any longer with other breweries in the state. The local sales were no longer enough to make a profit, and in fact the brewery operated at a loss after late 1947.
One final effort to survive resulted in a short-lived beer shampoo. This began in early 1949, and became popular to the point where the remaining beer brands were discontinued by early summer. The shampoo consisted of beer which was de-alcoholized (to less than 1%) and de-carbonated, then mixed with detergent. It was produced in 7-ounce bottles which sold for 89 cents. There was a great initial demand for the product, with over 1,000 cases per day being produced. However, it was only a passing fad, and on November 11, 1949, the plant closed its doors forever, and 85 years of brewing history came to an end. Production of the shampoo continued in Columbus for a few years, by the Beer Products Co., Inc., with which Swartz was involved.
In April 1950, the former employees of the plant made an attempt to purchase the brewery from Swartz, in order to continue brewing operations themselves. Swartz offered to sell the plant and equipment for $50,000, with the funds to be raised by selling stock in the proposed new company to residents of the area. In the end, the funds never materialized, and the proposal fell through.
The brewery remained vacant until it was razed in approximately 1963. Today, the U. S. 250 bypass runs directly through the site, and there are no remnants of the plant.
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