4B1. THE RIEDLIN CLUB
Politics were much different shortly before the Civil War and before Prohibition than today. Foremost, politics were essentially a man's dominion because women couldn't vote in most states, including Kentucky and Ohio, until 1920. A new party was formed several years before the Civil War, the Republicans, which stood for emancipation and the rights of black men. It was also referred to as the party of Abraham Lincoln. In contrast, the Democrats had supported slavery. After the Civil War, Democrats were opposed to the 15th amendment, which gave black men the right to vote. The South was fearful that blacks (freedmen) and carpetbaggers would take over control of their lands. Because of this fear, it allowed the formation of a group of men that terrorized blacks lead by some Southern Democrats, known as the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. It also lead to Jim Crow laws supported by Democrats from the South that discriminated against blacks leading to segregation under the concept of "separate but equal" - until 1954.
William Riedlin emigrated from Germany to American a few years after the Civil War. However, as noted, he was from a family where he had seven uncles who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War, with three dying in the conflict. He was also a Turner who believed in the freedom and rights of all people. Like most Germans and his family, he was predisposed to the principals of the Republican party at that time. After achieving some success in business and becoming the owner / operator of the Bavarian Brewery Co., William Riedlin decided to enter politics.
Becoming A Covington Alderman
& The William Riedlin Republican Club
In 1892 Riedlin ran for one of the four Covington Alderman seats in 1892, and won. He served four terms as a City of Covington Alderman between 1892 and 1900. His views and work as an Alderman must have impressed many relatively quickly. 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. He created such a following that it resulted in the formation of a club for Republicans. Despite his reluctance to have the club named after him, it was called the Riedlin Republican Club and established on October 22,1895. The Riedlin Club had up to 400 members by about 1900 with regular meetings, events, outings and was the only political organization of its type in the state. Riedlin served on the executive committee of this club and occasionally was a featured speaker at some meetings. But the main activities were left to the other members. The club 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 the Riedlin Club 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.
After serving as an Alderman, Riedlin continued to remain active in local politics. He served on election committees for the City of Covington and Kenton County. Such committees were particularly influential as it determined the "Ticket" of individuals that were nominated to fill various government positions, such as City Mayor, Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney, Treasurer, Auditor, Assessor, Clerk, Jailer... Riedlin's name continued to come up for Mayor, and even as State Senator. However, he held the position that he would only serve if the Republicans were unable to come up with a formidable candidate. In 1903, it was announced that Riedlin had ambitious plans to enlarge the Bavarian Brewing Co. It seems that Riedlin didn't want to over extend himself and detract from growing his brewery, or limit his other business and civic activities. So, it appears he simply didn't want to take more time to take a political position that would have greater imposition upon his time.
Still, by remaining politically active it not only allowed him to remain very influential, and also likely positive for his business aspirations. I When factions in the Republican party occurred in 19xx and some members left the Riedlin Club, he did not try to be defiant. Instead, he was conciliatory and believed it was much better to be united on election tickets and certain positions than divided. Basically his philosophy was similar to the state motto - "United We Stand." He was pragmatic and realized to have a successful Republican Party in elections, they could not divide themselves by factions. There were others that were more defiant and obtained more clout in the party, such as .He was not considered the Strong Man of the Republican Party in Kenton, as was XXX, Interestingly, in some of his business activities he sat on boards with those with other political beliefs and party affiliations, such as the Ludlow Park Lagoon Board where a prominent Democrat, William Goebel, also served.
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.
A way men controlled power was through politics. In city politics, those in charge could control nominations for a myriad of well paying and prominent positions such as Mayor, City Attorney, Prosecuting Attorney, City Treasurer, Auditor, Assessor, Clerk, Jailer.. Similar positions were also available on the county level.
Holian, Timothy J., Over the Barrel, Volume I (1800-1919), Sudhaus Press, 2000.
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.