Beautiful certificate from the Phillip Best Brewing Company
issued in 1873. This historic document was printed by the Milwaukee Litho and Engraving Company and has an
ornate border around it with a vignette of the Empire Brewery and the South Side Brewery. This item is handsigned by the Company’s President, Frederick Pabst and its Secretary, Chas. Best Jr. The certificate was issued to Henry Best and endorsed by Frederick Pabst as Henry Best's Attorney in Fact, on the back.
The Pabst Brewing Company was begun in 1844 as Best and Company by Jacob Best, Sr. and his four sons, Jacob, Jr. Charles, Phillip and Lorenz. Jacob Best, Jr. and his brother Charles had come to Milwaukee from Mettenheim, Germany in 1842. The two initially operated a vinegar factory, but returned to Mettenheim two years later. In late 1844, they returned to Milwaukee with the rest of the family. In the same year they purchased two lots on Chestnut Street, now West Juneau Avenue, establishing the brewery at its present site.
At the time that Milwaukee was becoming a brewing center during the Civil War era, the beer industry was still mostly concentrated in the east. From 1810 to 1860, for example, New York and Pennsylvania accounted for over one-half of the total beer produced in the United States. In 1850, of the 23.2 million gallons of beer brewed in the U.S., 18.8 million gallons of it was made in these two states alone. Almost all of this was locally consumed. Wisconsin breweries also produced exclusively for a local market since shipping wasn’t practical and output was consequently limited to whatever the local market could consume. Best and Company, in its first years, was an average producer and ranked fourth out of 12 breweries reported for Milwaukee in the 1850 census. However, Best soon carved out a market for itself by being the first Milwaukee brewer to produce lager beer in 1851. This was only nine years after the first lager beer had been produced in the United States at Philadelphia. Lager beer, a lighter, smoother product that was served chilled, became the preferred American beer over the stronger English-type ales that had previously dominated the U.S. market.
The Best Company was restructured several times during the period from 1845 to 1866. Charles Best withdrew from the company in 1845 and three years later founded the Plank Road Brewery that later became the Miller Brewing Company. Lorenz Best also left the company in 1850 to join Charles. Their venture had gone bankrupt by 1854. In 1851 a new partnership was formed between Jacob, Sr. and his two sons, Jacob, Jr. and Phillip. By 1853, Jacob, Sr. had retired from the brewery leaving only Jacob, Jr. and Phillip to operate the brewery. Jacob, Jr. sold out to Phillip in 1859 and the company was renamed the Phillip Best Brewing Company.
Captain Frederick Pabst, a lake boat captain, married Phillip’s daughter, Maria, in 1862 and joined the company in 1864. Emil Schandein married Phillip’s other daughter, Elizabeth, and joined the company in 1866, the same year that Phillip retired from the company. Anew partnership was formed with Pabst as president and Schandein as vice president.
Pabst and Schandein had assumed control from Phillip Best a well-managed business. The company had grown from one of Milwaukee’s middle-of-the-road breweries of the 1850s to the city’s largest by 1868. Captain Pabst was now in a pivotal position to not only dominate the beer industry in Milwaukee, but to become a national leader. Charles T. Melms, who had succeeded to ownership of Milwaukee’s oldest lager beer brewery, founding in 1841 by Herman Riedelschoefer, died in 1870. This brewery, located in the Menomonee Valley, was purchased by Pabst that same year and renamed the South Side Brewery while the on Juneau was called the Empire Brewery. This purchase made it possible for the Phillip Best Brewing Company to become the largest brewery in the nation by 1874, a ranking the company maintained until 1946.
Disaster struck the company in1879 when a fire destroyed almost all of the brewery buildings on Juneau Avenue. The only known extant buildings to have survived the fire are the Stock House (1870-75) at 916 West Juneau Avenue and the Brew House (1877) at 1217 North 10th Street. The fire did not cause the brewery to lose its position as the nation’s leader, since the South Side Brewery was able to meet the company’s production needs until the Empire Brewery was rebuilt. Those buildings that remain today from the early 1880s rebuilding are the ornate office building (1880) at 917 West Juneau Avenue and the Malt House (1882) at 1003 West Juneau Avenue. The Malt House was reported at the time to be the largest of its kind ever built with the capacity to process 500,000 bushels of grain. With its other malting facilities, the Best Brewery was able to process over 1 million bushels of grain, the most of any single U.S. brewery.
In the 1880s two major events occurred that were to reshape the direction of the company. In 1886 it was decided to discontinue all operations at the South Side Brewery to reduce production costs by eliminating the need for two brew masters and duplicate work crews. The Empire Brewery was significantly expanded to accommodate all of the operations. The second important event was the changing of the name from Phillip Best to the Pabst Brewing Company on March 18, 1889.
Emil Schandein had died the previous year and the Captain used the name change as a way to further increase his control over the company. Lisette Schandein (Emil’s widow) the second largest stockholder, assumed her husband’s position as first vice president until she resigned in 1894.
During the 1890s the company experienced its greatest period of physical expansion. More property was acquired in the surrounding area and the majority of the extant buildings were built. Architect Charles Hoffmann was commissioned to design and engineer most of the primary brewery buildings including the Bottling Plant (1891) at 1100 North 10th Street, the Mill House (1891) at 1207 North 10th, the Malt Elevator (1891) at 1023 West Juneau Avenue and the Brew House addition (1892) at 1217 North 10th Street. Also in the 1890s, Pabst solidified the company’s number one position nationally by acquiring the large Falk, Jung and Borchert Brewing Company of Milwaukee in 1892. This increased the capital value of the firm from $4 million to $10 million.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Captain Pabst was the undisputed brewing leader of the country, if not the world. His success was reflected not only in his role in Milwaukee's business community, but also in the extent of the nationwide restaurant and hotel chan he had established to promote Pabst beer. By developing an aggressive network of distribution outlets, Pabst had secured a national market and Pabst beer was shipped to all known parts of the world. The beer's reputation was greatly enhanced by being judged the best of the 1893 World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago. The word's "Blue Ribbon" were first added to the label in 1895 with the Blue Ribbon label first used in 1898. At home Captain Pabst was named the first president of the Wisconsin National Bank in 1892 (now part of First Wisconsin National Bank). He subsequently erected the Pabst Building (formerly at the northwest corner of North Water and East Wisconsin) in 1892 to house the bank. When it was built, the Pabst Building was Milwaukee's tallest structure. He also built the Pabst Theater in 1895 at 144 East Wells Street. The beer's international popularity during this period was represented by the world-famous Pabst Harlem Restaurant that opened in 1900 in New York City.
Captain Pabst died n 1904 at the height of his company's success. Control of the brewery was passed on to his sons, Gustav, who became president, and Fred, Jr. who was vice-president. Fred, Jr. resigned his office in 1905 and moved to Oconomowoc, Wisconsin were he operated the Pabst Farms. Gustav exhibited the same flair for the brewery business as hand his father and the company continued to dominate the industry. New restaurants and beer gardens were built, including Milwaukee's famous Gargoyle Restaurant, which opened in 1906 on Wisconsin Avenue.
Gustav Pabst was president of the brewery when prohibition began in 1919. The brewery was closed and the Pabst Corporation was organized in 1920. The company diverted production to near beers, "Pabstette" a whole milk food, Pabst "Wonder" cheese, malt syrup and extract and soft drinks. A significant part of the Juneau Avenue plant was leased to other manufacturers. Gustav resigned as president in 1921 and Fred, Jr. because it s chief executive. Fred, Jr. successfully guided the company through prohibition and when it was repealed in 1933 the brewery was ready to resume full production. Fred had the foresight to maintain the brewery machinery as well as to upgrade the facilities for increased output. In 1932 the Premier Malt Production Company of Peoria, Illinois voted to merge with Pabst as the Premier-Pabst Corporation, which became the Pabst Brewing Company in1938. The following year, new officers were elected with Fred, Jr. as a vice-president. He continued with the brewery until his death in 1958.
In the decades after World War II, the Pabst Brewing Company fell from its long held number one ranking and entered a long period of decline with dwindling profits, fewer sales and a loss of its national market. By 1958, the brewery had reached its nadir as it sank to only the eleventh largest in the nation. Within two years it dramatically rose to the number five position and by 1961 it was the nation's third largest. 1961 also marked the year that the Pabst corporate offices returned to Milwaukee from Chicago. After the merger in 1932 with Premier Malt Products, the company's general offices had moved to Chicago in 1933. Pabst was able to maintain its number three national ranking until 1979 when it began to slide again to fourth, then fifth and eventually to sixth place. From 1981 to 1983 the brewery's resources were seriously drained in attempts to ward off a corporate take-over by Minneapolis investor, Irwin Jacobs. This seriously weakened the brewery. When a favorable merger with the Heilmann Brewing Company of LaCrosse, Wisconsin was declared illegal by anti-trust laws, the brewery was purchased in 1985 by its present owner, California investor, Paul Kalmanovitz.
History from HISTORIC DESIGNATION STUDY REPORT