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

As some brewers became successful, besides being devoted to their families, they also developed allegiances to their workers and their community.  William Riedlin and his brewery was one of these.  Besides establishing the Bavarian Brewing Co. into a successful enterprise, William Riedlin was also involved in other businesses, politics and civic activities, mostly within his community of Covington, KY.  His affiliations with these other entities was often as an officer or director.  Frequently the meetings of the civic and social associations needed a place to meet 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, and it also helped make the brewery become more intertwined within its immediate area, and the 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 other business interests.  Besides being the principal owner and operator of the Bavarian Brewing Co., he was was mostly involved in several other local businesses.  However, it's known that he was involved in at least one company outside of the state - a Nevada Gold mine. His business interests and 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 President of the Kentucky Brewer's Association, which had about a dozen members. A silver cup that honored William during his first Presidency is 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 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.  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 had a been a group of at least a couple hundred men that shared the same political convictions in the early 1890s. Seeking to become a more organized group, the decided to become a club.  In naming their club, they had approached Wm. Riedlin, who didn't want the organization to be named after him. However, they decided to do so despite his wishes otherwise, and formed the  Riedlin Republican Club on October 21, 1895.

The Riedlin Republican Club has as many as possibly 300 or more members. They had an office located at 234 W. Pike Street, just a block or two from the Bavarian Brewery and the Covington Turners. It appears this office was on the second floor of a building that had a barber shop on the ground floor, 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 to 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 an political interests, William was involved with several civic organizations that extended to people beyond those that worked at the brewery and that served the entire community. William was very dedicated to his family and was often interested in having other families become involved with organizations in which has family was involved.  After all, women weren't allowed to vote before 1920 and many associations were exclusively for men before then. So, some associations, including a few that were German oriented, would have some functions that were family oriented, including women and children.  For 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 organization 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.

 

 

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 is of a photo of a summer outing at the Riedlin Farm for the Bavarian Benevolent Society. Information on only a couple 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).

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 Bavarian & Baden
Benevolent Associations

As mentioned previously, many Germans had emigrated to America and the Cincinnati area. These immigrants were often proud of the German heritage and established numerous German-American Groups. There were also local newspapers published in German, German was often spoken in the churches and schools they attended as well as when German-Americans worked together, such as in the brewing industry. Of course, there were also German restaurants. 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. Having communities that were essentially of the same ethnicity helped provide some 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 1800's and their children became more assimilated into the American Culture, the popularity of such associations began to wane.

The Turners

One particularly prominent German American organization that originated in Germany in the early 1800s was originally called Turnerverein or Turngemeinde. The translation of Turnerverein is "a club to practice gymnastics."  Besides being focused on athletics, it was also  political 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 The Beginnings), belonged to Turngerverin and emigrated established it in America.  The first one was organized in Cincinnati on November 21, 1848 and they became known as The Turners.  They were involved with physical education, social, political and cultural issues. They were promoters of 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 experienced suspicion during WWI and their membership declined.  

 

The Covington Turners became organized in Covington, KY in 1855, shortly after 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.  It still remains, but it's address was changed to 447 W. Pike Street. William Riedlin was once President of the Covington Turners and there were others at the brewery who were also members. This building continues to be operated as the Covington Turners, and other Turner chapters remain 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. 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 had various recreational activities, such as bowling, shooting competitions and/or hunting. A couple photos thought to be of the Covington Turners around 1890 that reflect these activities, and that include William Riedlin, are 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. Bowling was a sport that 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 bcmuseum.org.)  

Wm. Riedlin attempts to balance a beer mug on a bowling ball, c. 1895.
BACKLASH AGAINST GERMAN AMERICANS DUE TO WWI

The public attitude towards German Americans dramatically changed due to WWI.  A great amount of suspicion and even a paranoia developed against those German immigrants living in the U.S.  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 sinking of a British passenger ship by the Germans, the Lusitania in May, 1915,  began to galvanize American sentiment against Germany. After America entered WWI against Germany in 1917 it 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.  It caused German to be outlawed in schools, German newspapers went out of business and most German American organizations to became much smaller, or dissolved.  To avoid persecution, some German Americans anglicized their names.  Some streets and public buildings with German names were also 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, 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 such exceptions for brewers. However, WWI would change the perception of Germans and brewers in America during 1917 and 1918.  To some extent the brewers and other associated companies that supported them, e.g. cooperage businesses and saloons that were mostly operated by those with German ancestry, became victims because of their success.  Many Americans resented the success of these brewers, and all Germans.  So, by including beer in Prohibition and closing breweries, it allowed many Americans to take a certain vengeance against German Americans, according to a thesis entitled Trouble Brewing...  prepared by Daniel Aherne.

 

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

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