4A. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT -Before Prohibition
Business, Political, Civic & Social Activities
Of William Riedlin & the Bavarian Brewing Co.

As some brewers became successful, they developed strong ties to their workers and communities in addition to their families. William Riedlin and his brewery was one of these. While turning the Bavarian Brewing Co. into a thriving enterprise, William Riedlin was also involved in other businesses, politics, and civic activities, mostly within his community of Covington, KY. He assumed leadership roles across multiple groups as an officer or director. Civic and social associations frequently needed a place to holding meetings, and various events were held at the Bavarian Rathskeller in the Bavarian Brewery. By becoming involved in these associations and providing a place for these organizations and neighborhood residents to meet, William helped improve his community, while also making the brewery more intertwined within its immediate neighborhood and the larger City of Covington, KY. The varied interests of William Riedlin are examined below.

Please note, to commemorate the community spirit exhibited by William Riedlin and the brewery in helping improve the City of Covington and Kenton County, an ancestor of Wm. Riedlin provided assistance in creating the Riedlin - Schott Community Room and the Bavarian Brewery Exhibit. This room and exhibit are both located in the former Brew House, which is now the South Wing of the Kenton County Government Center. (See History.)   

BUSINESS INTERESTS

Like other successful brewers, William Riedlin developed additional business interests. While acting as the principal owner and operator of the Bavarian Brewing Co., he was also involved in several other local businesses and at least one company outside of the state - a Nevada gold mine. His business interests and formal positions were as follows:

  • Kentucky Brewers Association, Pres. (Twice)

  • Covington Coal Co., President.

  • German National Bank, Director.
    (It became Liberty National Bank)

  • Covington Sawmill Co., Stockholder

  • Ludlow Lagoon Amusement Park; Director.

  • Riedlin Realty, President.

  • Covington Blue Sox, Director.

  • Prosper Gold Mining & Milling Co. (NV), V.P.
     

In 1903 and 1908 William was named President of the Kentucky Brewer's Association, which had about a dozen members. A silver cup that honored William during his first Presidency is shown on the side. This brewer's group was comprised mostly of German-born or first generation brewery owners. One of their concerns was to collectively monitor the state sentiments and efforts that threatened the sale of alcohol. This organization, as well as similar associations, at times tried to align itself with other producers of alcoholic beverages and believed that the federal taxes they paid - amounting to amounting to nearly one-half of the nations revenues - would be a deterrent to Prohibition.

c. 1900. Wm. Riedlin is standing, third from the left. It is unknown who else is in this photo, or its purpose. Please let us know if you have any additional information about it.

Source: Schott Family Collection @ bcmuseum.org.

1903 Silver Loving Cup. This was provided to William Riedlin in recognition of his work as President of this association. The following year the Association met at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, MO. William was elected as President of this association again in 1908. Source: Wm. Riedlin descendant.

POLITICS & GOVERNMENT
A Covington Alderman

About a decade after William Riedlin moved to Covington from Cincinnati, he became interested in local politics. He served four terms as a City of Covington Alderman between 1891 and 1988. In The Cincinnati Enquirer on March 16, 1895, pg. 6, he was recognized as one of only ten "Men Who Keep Enterprising Covington on the Move" and it was said that he could be a mayoral candidate.

 

The William Riedlin Republican Club

Evidently, there was a group of at least a couple hundred men who shared the same political convictions as William Riedlin in the early 1890s. Seeking to form a more organized group, the decided to organize as a club. In naming it, they approached Wm. Riedlin, who declined to have the organization named after him. However, they decided to do so despite his wishes, and officially formed the Riedlin Republican Club on October 21, 1895.

The Riedlin Republican Club had as many as 300 members or more. They kept an office at 234 W. Pike Street, just a block or two from the Bavarian Brewery and the Covington Turners. The office was on the second floor above a barber shop, providing a convenient place for members to discuss politics. A photo of their office and their Banner, taken from a 10th Anniversary Souvenir pamphlet, are below. Beside it is a ribbon from one of their meetings. In addition, a membership card to the club and a card for one of their annual picnics is also shown below. The cover of the aforementioned souvenir pamphlet is on the far left below, but to view it in its entirety please click here.

CIVIC & SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

Besides various business and political interests, William was involved with several civic organizations that extended to people beyond those who worked at the brewery and served the entire community. Highly dedicated to his family, William was often interested in bringing other families into the organizations his were involved in. Because women weren't allowed to vote before 1920 and many associations were exclusively created for men before then. Consequently, some associations, including a few that were German-oriented, were mostly family-oriented and included women and children. For one example, please view photo below and the background of this page. In most of the associations in which William was involved, he was either President or an officer, not just a member. These organizations and his positions were as follows:

  • German Pioneer Association, President.

  • German-American Alliance (Covington Branch), President.

  • Bavarian &/or Baden Benevolent Society, Treasurer.

  • Covington Turners, President.

  • Knights of St. Henry, Finance Committee.

  • Covington Elks, Member.

 

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Often a community organization would need a place to meet. There were two places the Bavarian Brewing Co. and William Riedlin provided for such meetings. One was the Bavarian Rathskeller and the other - more frequently used during the summer months - was at the Riedlin Farm. The photo on the right is at the Rathskeller. It is likely of a gathering of men from one of the entities listed above. The Rathskeller was also used for such social events as birthdays and wedding receptions. For example, William Riedlin's daughter Lucia had her reception in this room in 1914 when she married William C. Schott. Another photo of this room can be viewed in the previous section. It is unknown in what building the Rathskeller was located, but it appears to have been in a basement. If anyone has information on the group in this photo, or the specific location of the former Rathskeller, please let us know. The other photo below shows a photo of a summer outing at the Riedlin Farm for the Bavarian Benevolent Society. Information about several of the above-mentioned organizations was obtained and presented below.

Left: Bavarian Rathskeller Photo in 1899. See Pre-Prohibition Signs for an enlargement of the sign under the flag and Smoking Accessories for a Rathskeller ashtray souvenir.

Right: A Float prepared for a parade in Covington, KY c. 1905. Located in front of the Bavarian Brewery.

(Sources: Schott Family Collection at bcmuseum.org (left) and Kenton County Library (right).

The Bavarian & Baden
Benevolent Associations

As mentioned previously, many Germans had emigrated to America, and the Cincinnati area was a popular destination. These immigrants were often proud of their German heritage and established numerous German-American Groups. There were also local newspapers published in German, and German was often spoken in the churches and schools they attended as well as businesses where German-Americans worked together, such as in the brewing industry. German restaurants were also common. From the beginning of German immigration to the U.S., there had been some bigotry against the Germans, as there had been with other ethnic groups. Forming communities that were mostly of the same ethnicity helped provide a degree of protection against these adverse views, and allowed the immigrants to more easily practice the customs and culture with which they were most familiar. However, as the immigration of Germans slowed in the late 1800s and their children became more assimilated into American culture, the popularity of such associations began to wane.

Bavarian Benevolent Association, 1910.  This summer outing was held at the Riedlin Farm. It was one of the German American organizations the Riedlin's supported. It also provides the background of this page. (Source: Schott Family Collection).

The Turners

One particularly prominent German-American organization, which originated in Germany in the early 1800s, was Turnerverein or Turngemeinde. The translation of Turnerverein is "a club to practice gymnastics." In addition to a focus on athletics, Turnerverein was also politically oriented and relatively liberal for its time. Many Germans who belonged to this organization, believing in democracy and human rights, participated in the revolution of 1848. After this revolution, this organization was essentially closed in Germany. Some "Forty-Eighters" as they were called (see 1. The Beginnings), belonged to Turnerverin and re-established it in America after emigrating. The first was organized in Cincinnati on November 21, 1848; they became known as The Turners. They were involved with physical education as well as social, political and cultural issues, and promoted gymnastics as a sport and as a school subject. They also supported the teaching of German in American schools. Membership in The Turners peaked in the early 1900s. Along with other German-American groups, they faced local suspicion during WWI and their membership declined 

 

The Covington Turners became organized in Covington, KY in 1855, shortly after the Cincinnati Turners were organized in the Over The Rhine (OTR) area. The Covington chapter had different locations, but ultimately Turner Hall was established in 1877 at 319 W. Pike Street. It was located less than a block from the Bavarian Brewery and still remains, but its address was changed to 447 W. Pike Street. William Riedlin was once President of the Covington Turners, while others at the brewery were members of the organization. Today, this building continues to be operated as the Covington Turners, and other Turner chapters remain in place throughout the country.

Covington Turner Hall c. 1900.  This building remains and continues to be operated by The Turners. (Photo courtesy of Kenton Co. Library)

Even though The Covington Turners was originally a men's-only organization, they gradually allowed both women and children to join. An auxiliary group allowing women in the Covington Turners occurred in 1900. William Riedlin's wife, Emma, was one of the founding members of this group. The Turners also hosted various recreational activities, such as bowling, shooting competitions and hunting. Photographs thought to depict the Covington Turners around 1890 that reflect these activities, and that include William Riedlin, are printed below.

Sharpshooting and Bowling Groups c. 1895.

In the photo on the left, William Riedlin is in the center slightly to the left of a keg of Bavarian Beer. Sharpshooting or target practice was a requirement in The Turners at the time the photo was taken. In the group of bowlers, most of the men have turned their mugs upside down, signaling they are out of beer and need more. However, William - on the far right - is trying to balance a mug on a bowling ball, as also shown in the enlarged photo on the side. The sport of bowling was rooted in very early Germany and popular at the Bavarian Brewing Co. for many years. See Sponsorships and and a bowling stein in the Tap Room section. (Photos from the Schott Collection at the Behringer-Crawford Museum.)  

BASEBALL
In Northern Kentucky

The Cincinnati area, including the city across from it on the other side of the Ohio River, Covington, KY, has been a bedrock of baseball. People from Covington could use the Roebling Suspension Bridge (see The Beginnings) via a street car to easily cross the river to watch the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team in the late 1860's. After the Red Stockings disbanded in 1870, the Covington Stars were formed along with another team in Ludlow. In 1875 Cincinnati formed the Reds and played teams in Covington and Ludlow, attracting large crowds. However, the following year in 1876, the Reds were admitted to the National League and were subject to the "five mile rule." This prohibited pro teams from playing in Covington and Ludlow, even if they were in different states. It caused the KY teams to disband. However, another pro-baseball team was formed for a short time called in the 1880's called the Kentons.

Covington Blue Sox

The video above is a documentary briefly mentions the Covington Stars mentioned above, but is primarily about the Covington Blue Sox.  They were formed in 1913 by joining the new pro-baseball Federal League. William Riedlin, the owner of Bavarian Brewing Co., was a Director and major stockholder in team. The brewery was a sponsor of the Blue Sox with a stadium billboard for Bavarian Beer. (See the picture below left.) The season started with a sellout crowd home game on May 6th and much enthusiasm. There was even a song made in their honor. Please select the audio on the side and the images below.

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A Covington Blue Sox Video

By Cam Miller 

The Blue Sox played at Federal Field, a/k/a Riverbreeze Park, located off south of Second Street between Scott and Madison streets. The ballpark had a capacity of 6,000, but the outfield depths were quite short, from 194 feet in right to 267 feet in center. 

As the season entered the summer, attendance especially during the weekdays, declined. With a population of 55,000 at that time, Covington simply wasn't large enough to support a professional baseball team. The  Blue Sox moved to Kansas City during its first year at the end of June, and were renamed the Packers. The Federal League was short lived dissolving in 1915.

BACKLASH AGAINST GERMAN AMERICANS DUE TO WWI

The public attitude towards German-Americans changed dramatically due to WWI. A great amount of suspicion and even paranoia developed against German immigrants living in the U.S during this time.  Even shortly after Great War broke out in Europe in 1914, some German-Americans, including William Riedlin, believed the U.S. should side with Germany and not England. Evidently, they believed they could be loyal to America while still having positive feelings toward Germany. However, the May 1915 sinking of a British passenger ship by the Germans, the Lusitania, began to galvanize American sentiment against Germany. America’s entry into WWI against Germany in 1917 greatly accelerated sentiment against German-Americans. Some pro-American groups would secretly listen to conversations among Germans and have them translated. Those Germans that expressed support for Germany in the war could be tried, condemned as traitors, and sentenced to jail. Anti-German sentiment also caused the German language to be outlawed in schools, German newspapers to go out of business, and most German-American organizations to became much smaller or dissolve. To avoid persecution, some German-Americans anglicized their names.  Streets and public buildings with German names were also commonly changed. During WWI and shortly afterwards, it was a difficult time for many people with German heritage to live in America.

 

Before WWI began in Europe, nearly one-half of all taxes received by the Federal Government were paid by taxes on alcoholic beverages. Consequently, those companies that produced alcoholic beverages believed the Federal Government was too dependent upon taxes on their beverages for Prohibition to occur. However, in 1913, American individuals became subject to personal income tax. As a result, the government's need to obtain taxes from alcohol began to diminish and a major reason to prevent Prohibition began to dissolve.

 

Still, the brewing interests believed beer would be exempt, because it was far less intoxicating than liquors, and taxes on beer supplied a significant amount of revenue to the government. In addition, several states that had already prohibited alcoholic beverage production and consumption had previously made exceptions for beer brewers. WWI changed these trends by affecting the perception of Germans and German-American breweries during 1917 and 1918. To some extent the brewers and other associated companies that supported them - cooperage businesses and saloons that were mostly operated by those with German ancestry - became victims of their success. Many Americans resented the influence of these brewers, along with Germans more generally. According to Daniel Aherne in his thesis Trouble Brewing... preventing the making and selling of beer in Prohibition, thus closing German-American breweries, allowed Americans to formally pursue anti-German sentiment.

 

SOURCES:

Holian, Timothy J., Over the Barrel, Volume I (1800-1919), Sudhaus Press, 2000.

Wikipedia.

Riedlin and Schott family items and information, including notations on photos by Lucia Riedlin.

Trousdale, C.B. History of Bavarian Brewery, 1954. pgs 27.   

The background photo shows the Bavarian Benevolent Society at the Riedlin Farm in 1910.

An explanation of the photo is contained in the text above.    

 

 

 

The Historic  Bavarian Brewery

 

In Covington, Kentucky 

A Century of Brewing (1866-1966) & Over 150 Years of History