John Smith was a native of Staffordshire, England, born in 1813, who came to the U. S. with his family in 1842. Working initially as the manager of a steel rolling mill in Pittsburgh, Smith moved to Youngstown in 1846. Purchasing an old tannery on the city's west side, he converted the building into the city's first brewery, at 507-523 Federal Street. The site was along three main lines of railroad tracks through the city, and was adjacent to the Mahoning River. When brewing operations officially began in July 1846, Smith was producing only two barrels of ale per week, but he gradually increased the size of his operation until the daily capacity reached 125 barrels. In the traditional English style, Smith brewed XX and XXX Cream and Kennett Ale, Porter, and Brown Stout.
In order to increase output further, work began in the summer of 1867 on a completely new brewing facility to replace the old frame one. In November of that year, a news article described the new plant:
"...the main building fronts on the street and is 40 x 136 feet, three stories high. It presents as a building for manufacturing purposes one of the neatest fronts we have ever seen. Everything is tasty and nothing is out of place. The windows and the doors are all arched which together with the extreme length of the building gives quite an imposing appearance. Inside, everything is well planned. The arrangement of the malt rooms, malt kilns, and large storerooms for barley and malt, the large brewing room, the barreling and other rooms, could not have been better made. Beneath the entire building extend the vaults, two of which are arched and so built as to secure an even temperature, winter and summer. These vaults are intended for stocking ale. Adjoining and to the rear of the brewery is the engine and boiler house, likewise of brick."
Smith died in 1870, after which the brewery, now referred to at times as the "Youngstown Brewery", was operated by his sons John, Jr. (born in 1842) and Alfred (born in 1845). Annual production during this time ranged from 3,000 to over 7,000 barrels. A new addition to the plant was erected in 1878, at which time the production of lager beer began. With additional improvements, the plant's capacity had reached 12,000 barrels by the early 1890s.
John Smith, Jr. died in 1894, after which all of the company's holdings were appraised. In addition to five saloons in the city owned by the Smith brothers, the following list gives one an idea of the extensive amount of equipment and supplies used by a typical medium sized brewery of the era (courtesy of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society):
Lager Beer Department: Beer on hand, 4230 barrels (@ $3.50), ~1000 half barrels, ~2000 quarter barrels, ~2500 eighth barrels; total value of beer on hand: $21,130.
Ale Cellar: 204 barrels of ale (present use and stock), 64 barrels of porter, 336 half barrels, 376 quarter barrels, 1 hand pump; total value of ale on hand: $2,080.
Malt House: 8500 bushels of malt, 3 lots of tools, 100 elevators cups, stock, 1 10 ft. conveyor, 321 bags of grit, 5 bags of corn meal, 11 bags of porter malt, 63 bales of hops, 2 tons of hard coal, 1 lot of charcoal.
Brewer's Office: 1 jug of alcohol, 1 dozen thermometers, 1 letter press, 2 desks, 3 chairs, 1 table, 1 wash stand, 18 lbs. of salicylic acid, 3 lbs. of benzulic acid
Bottling Department: 1 3 horsepower boiler, 1 bottle corker, 1 automatic bottler, 1 clock, 2 bottle washing tubs, 4 bottle racks, 1 lot of beer boxes and cases, 1 stove, 1 bottle washer, 1 lot of miscellaneous tools, 1 cooler, 1 lot of rubber corks, 2 gasoline stoves, 1 bag of bottle covers.
Attic, 3rd floor of brewery: 1 scale, 1 lot of pipe covering and lot miscellaneous supplies and scrap, 1 lot of brewer's instruments and measures, 1 section of 1 inch hose -- 50 feet, 1 lot of ammonia fittings.
Ice House: 4 ice saws, 1 ice plow, 1 branding machine, 4 bob sleds, 1 farm wagon, 2 trucks, 1 lot of bottles, 5 old puncheons, 4 old vats.
Contents of barn: 28 tons of baled and loose hay, 3 tons of straw, 800 bushels of oats, 1 feed cutter, 1 dump cart, 18 horses (@ $70 each), 9 sets double and 2 sets single harnesses, 1 set cart harness, 1 mirror, 1 clock, 6 chairs, 1 table, 8 blankets, 1 lot of barn tools, 1 grain wagon, 1 carriage, 4 beer trucks (@ $75 each), 6 spring wagons, 1 suction hose.
Tool House: 60 lbs. Isinglass, 31 advertising clocks (@$1.00 each), 1 counter scale, 20 boxes preserving powder, 12 lbs. cream tartar, 100 patent washers, 8 gross small corks, 4 beer pumps, complete, 1 carbonater, complete, 1 lot of brass/iron cocks and fillings, 2 gallons Linseed oil, 8 gallons stamp paste, 180 advertising signs, 1 lot of ammonia fittings, 1 lot of brass and iron scrap, 2 hand pipe cutters, 3 thread cutters, 1 bench pipe vice, 8 pipe tongs, 1 extra lot of tools, 8 shovels, 4 picks, 1 bale of wood plugs, 1 brace and extension bit, 1 bung auger, 2 hand saws, 1 set of taps, 4 patent bung pulleys, 1 differential pulley, 1 ratchet drill, 50 gross of corks, 14 barrels of bungs, 1000 high bungs, 3 barrels of chip, 21 scrub brooms, 2 dozen corn brooms, 4 dozen corn scrubs, 10 dozen root scrubs, 18 brushes for taps and glasses, 1000 paving bricks.
Miscellaneous Items: 1 lot of cooper's tools and stock, 1 2-way cock and lot of strainers, 2 stoves, 2 sections of 1 inch hoseč50 feet, 1 desk, 1 old malt mill, 1 set of belt stretchers, 4 drums of ammonia, 12 empty drums, 1 step ladder, 1 wheel barrow, 3 oil tanks, 1 small steam pump, 1 portable forge, 30 beer pumps used by patrons, 4 chip boxes, 3 tons of scrap in yard, 1 box of Braddish Protectors, 8 gallons varnish, 20 gallons sulphate lime, 5 barrels pitch, 1 barrel glucose, 300 ft. of 1 inch hose, 50 feet of 1 _ inch hose, 175 feet of 1 _ inch hose, 7 brass racking cocks, 1 2-way racking cock, 6 heavy buckets, 2 heavy cans, 1 chip washer, 75 lbs. filter material.
Total Value of All Personal Goods: $13,200.
Alfred Smith retired in 1900, selling the plant to a group of investors who incorporated in January 1901 as John Smith's Sons Brewing Co., with a capital stock of $250,000. This new group was led by John J. O'Reilly (who was also vice-president of the Crockery City Brewing Co. in East Liverpool, 40 miles south), who became president, with Edward A. Nisbet as secretary, and J. J. Hamilton as treasurer. Around the same time, brewmaster Henry Kuntz was replaced by Ernst Langbehn, who would remain until the onset of Prohibition.
Financial instability kept the brewery from thriving during this time. A proposed sale to a new group, which had incorporated as both the Mahoning and Youngstown Brewing Companies in May 1903, never took place (the new corporation[s] were subsequently dissolved). The company was reorganized again in 1904 and renamed as the Smith Brewing Co., with new officers: Samuel Wainwright (who was also president of the Crockery City Brewing Co.) as president, John Hynes as vice-president, and Hamilton as secretary and treasurer. This newly reorganized company was involved in an attempt in early 1906 by Cleveland investors to form a large syndicate of breweries in the region, to include the Renner, Crockery City, Alliance, and Ashtabula breweries in Ohio, as well as plants in Sharon, Meadville and New Castle, PA. In the end, the investors were unable to raise the needed funds and the proposed syndicate never materialized.
While the company's variety of ales and its new flagship brands, known as Standard Gold, Jewel Export, and Tip Top Beers, remained popular, the company began placing greater emphasis on ice production over the next fifteen years, gradually converting much of the original plant to ice storage. A new modern brewhouse was built on the south side of the plant in 1912, four stories in height and built of fireproof brick, steel, and concrete. This would contain all new equipment, including a 300 barrel brew kettle, which increased the company's annual capacity to 80,000 barrels.
The brewery continued to operate until the onset of Prohibition in 1919, when it reorganized again as the Smith Products Co., continuing to produce ice, as well as Tip Top soft drinks and extracts. 79 years of business at the site came to an end in 1925, when the plant closed for good.
It was later utilized by The Ice & Fuel Co. and several other small businesses before being razed in January 1933. Demo-lition workers at that time came across a cornerstone from 1878, when the lager beer addition was built. Inside were newspapers, two silver dollars, testimonials from local merchants, photos, family history, a Lake Erie cruise advertisement, and a curious letter signed by brewery employee Sam Cornell, which asserted that George Booth, another brewery employee, was the biggest liar on Earth, and promised to furnish twenty barrels of lager beer free to any who should find a bigger liar in 100 years! A Pennsylvania Railroad depot was later built on the site, and as of 2000 this housed a fireworks store. There are no remnants of the Smith Brewery today.
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