The GREAT DEPRESSION
& The REOPENING OF BAVARIAN BREWING CO.
(1932 - 1937)
THE GREAT DEPRESSION & THE REPEAL OF PROHIBITION
The Roaring Twenties ended with the great stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. It is often considered as the beginning of the Great Depression. However, it took a year or two for the economic impact to have more serious consequences. By 1932 the country was in one of the darkest times of the Great Depression. It was horrendous period for most people in this country, and for many people in other countries as well. With the worsening of the economy and the establishment of organized crime, the "Noble Experiment" as it had been called, was widely considered to have been a failure. The country was ready for a change. In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned to help stimulate the economy, in part, through repealing Prohibition. Shortly after he was elected, the Cullen-Harrison Bill was enacted that legalized beer with an alcohol content of no more than 3.2 percent effective April 7, 1933. This allowed breweries to reopen. Over 100 permits were granted in Cincinnati for beer sales on the first day and bars were overloaded with patrons. To commemorate this occasion, National Beer Day was declared to be on this day. Congress then proposed the 21st Amendment to repeal Prohibition effective December 5, 1933. Within about a year, 785 breweries throughout the U.S. opened.
The Reopening of Cincinnati Breweries
Since the Bruckmann Brewing Co. had the only brewery that continued to be open during Prohibition in the Cincinnati area, making "near beer" and sodas, it was the first to reopen with its Brucks Beer. However, many breweries did not reopen, including the previous three largest in Cincinnati; Christian Moerlein, Hauck and Windisch-Mullhauser. The former brewery had been the fifth largest brewery in the entire country. But after 14 years of Prohibition, some brewers either no longer had relations to continue the business or that were willing and able to do so. Other brewing families sold their brewery properties for other purposes, and some breweries were demolished and redeveloped. The only breweries that operated under the same names after as before Prohibition, were Jackson's and Hudepohl in Cincinnati, and Wiedemann and Bavarian in Northern Kentucky. The other breweries that reopened in the Cincinnati area were mostly reopened in former breweries under different names and ownerships with new brands. For example, Burger occupied the former Windisch-Mullhauser brewery producing Lion Beer. In addition, the former Ohio Union Brewery was acquired by Bruckmann Brewing Co., as their Plant No. 2. Further, some new breweries were built, like the Heidelberg Brewery in Covington, KY, opening in 1934, near the Bavarian Brewery. Those other breweries that opened in Cincinnati a year or two after Prohibition were Schoenling, Redtop, Old Munich, Foss-Schneider, Vienna, Schaller, Clyffside and Delatron. In total, about a dozen breweries were open in Cincinnati by 1935, about one-half the number that existed shortly before Prohibition. Whereas a small brewery in an older building could be profitable before Prohibition, afterwards, it became necessary for a brewery to be larger and to have less obsolescence in their buildings and equipment in order to be successful.
ARRANGEMENTS TO REOPEN THE BAVARIAN BREWERY
Interestingly, initial efforts to reopen the brewery were not made by the husband of William Riedlin's daughter Lucia, William C. Schott (Will), who had been a Director of the Riedlin Beverage Co. and the President of the Riedlin Company (holding the rights to Bavarian Brewing Company) before Prohibition. A possible explanation for this is that Will had been successful and fully occupied as the General Manager of the Cincinnati Galvanizing Co. for over 20 years. He also must have realized it would be very capital intensive and timely to reopen the brewery to make it successful, especially since he was already committed to another firm. Even though Will and his wife Lucia established a family across the river in Cincinnati for 20-years, Lucia stayed in touch with her sister, cousins, nieces and nephews. So, she was probably very supportive when one of them approached her about reopening the Bavarian Brewery. In addition, her husband Will, likely didn't want to strain any relationships with his wife's family. Both Lucia and Will may have thought it was more financially prudent to let the property be operated by another family relative.
Another uncertainty, is how the initial attempt to open the brewery began with Leslie Deglow, an architect and relative of Julies Deglow who first established the brewery in 1866. The Bavarian Brewing Co. was incorporated in the state of Delaware in 1932 by Leslie as its President. Then, around 1933, Murray L. Voorhees, the husband of William Riedlin's granddaughter Rosemary, became President and Leslie Deglow become Secretary/Treasurer. This change in positions seemed to occur either in connection with the Voorhees acquisition of the main brewery property from Riedlin heirs, more specifically, probably Lucia Riedlin Schott. It may have also been aided by a loan Rosemary had made to the newly organized brewery with her inheritance derived from William Riedlin. Regardless, announcements were made by Voorhees in 1933 that he and others would reopen the Bavarian Brewing Co. and that stock solicitations were being made to raise capital to acquire new brewery equipment and refurbish the brewery. (Please see Corporate Material for a copies of the solicitation, the notices and a stock certificate owned by Murray Voorhees.)
THE BREWERY IN 1932
Between 1925 and 1932 several of the older brewery buildings between W. Pike St. and Lehmar Avenue were sold by the Riedlin Company, which included the assets of the Bavarian Brewing Co. to Lucia Riedlin Schott and her husband, William, and resold. (See the Riedlin Co's.) Most of the newer buildings and all of those located between Lehmar Avenue and W. 12th street were retained and would form the brewery going forward after Prohibition. In addition, the southwest corner of Main and W. 11th streets, lying north of Lehmar Avenue, was also retained, and would be used for employee parking and truck storage. The site outline of the brewery in 1932 is as shown below. The letters and numbers on the buildings primarily correspond to their use before Prohibition and are discussed in more detail in the Early and Later Riedlin Years.
The Ice Plants (F and 11) were no longer needed for brewery operations.
The old Brew House (C) and Mechanical Building (D) were no longer needed, even before Prohibition, because they had been replaced by newer buildings.
Those buildings that were no longer used for brewing were sold by the Riedlin heirs before Prohibition was repealed, primarily to George Rehkamp, who then leased the buildings to other users.
As mentioned, nearly all brewery equipment had previously been removed from the brewery and sold when the Riedlin Company began to be liquidated in January, 1925. Therefore, a great deal of capital was necessary to invest in new machinery and to update the buildings after a decade of neglect. Photos that show some of the disrepair of the buildings taken in 1932 are below. It took a couple of years to raise capital from stock solicitations and approximately another year to make the brewery operational. During this 1932 to 1934 period before the reopening of the brewery, the Bavarian Brewing Co. did not have offices at the brewery. Instead, they operated from two other locations. One was in First National Bank in downtown Covington and the other was a small office to help obtain capital located at 150 Broadway, Suite 1113, in New York City. (Please see Letterheads for 1934.)
1932. The photo on the upper left was taken from a stock offering prospectus in 1932.(See Corporate Material.) Interestingly, the buildings shown in the foreground were not actually part of the brewery property when it reopened in 1935. The other photos were of the brewery property and were taken on November 28, 1932. (Source: Kenton Co. Library.)
The BREWERY REOPENING IN 1935.
As mentioned, one of the new breweries was the Heidelberg Brewing Co. Since the former brewmaster for Bavarian and a Director of the Wm. Riedlin Beverage Co. and the Riedlin Co., Joseph (Sep) Ruh, became the brewmaster and officer with Heidelberg, it was necessary for Bavarian to obtain another brewmaster. Fred Faller, originally from Bavaria, served in that capacity when Bavarian reopened. The Bavarian Brewing Co. didn't have new brewery equipment acquired and installed until early 1935, and it took a couple months before they were fully operational to sell beer. Their grand reopening occurred on Saturday, June 1, 1935, attracting some 8,000 people. Attendees were treated to music from the Al Shield's German Band, along with some food and free beer.
Despite the reopening of the Bavarian Brewery, the economy was still in the midst of the Great Depression and the brewery raised less capital from stock offerings than expected. The brewery was not restored to its previous production capabilities. With its annual capacity of 125,000 barrels, it was far less than the annual production of 216,000 barrels before Prohibition. It appears the two brands of beer were offered upon its reopening; Riedlin's Select Beer and Bavarian. A label and a beer tap marker for theses brands are shown below.
C. 1937. The label on the near right was believed to be used for kegs sold in Ohio. It appears Riedlin's Select Beer was discontinued shortly after the brewery was sold in bankruptcy. The beer ball knob the the far right is possibly the first beer ball knob tap marker style used by Bavarian after Prohibition.
C. 1937. Above is one of the few signs that were made under the Voorhees Management. Please Signs: Neon for more information.
Even though the neon sign on the left, produced in 1937, indicated Bavarian Beer was available in bottles, that may have only been for a short time, if at all. Apparently, most of the production was in kegs. In researching ads for this period, they normally indicated that Bavarian Beer was served "On Tap" from kegs, and were mostly for saloons. Only a couple ads for Bavarian or Rieldin's Select Beer by the brewer were found between 1935 and 1937. (See Bavarian Ads: 1935 to 1945.) Very little advertising memorabilia has been found for this 1935 - 1937 period. It appears the brewer at this time had a very restricted operating budget that didn't allow for much advertising.
DIFFICULTIES FOR THE BREWER & BANKRUPTCY
From the above, it was apparent that after its reopening in 1935, Bavarian Brewing Co. was operating under significant financial constraints and had insufficient working capital. Furthermore, a law suit was filed against Bavarian Brewing Co. in 1936 involving a claim of $25,000, alleging that the management of the brewer had been transferred to Frederick Drybough with the Beverage Bureau in Louisville, KY. Even though this was refuted by the Voorhees management team, it was a harbinger of difficulties to come for the brewer. What was probably the final downfall for Bavarian Brewing Co. was the Great Flood of 1937 that occurred in late January of that year. Even though the brewery was about a mile from the Ohio River, the flood reached portions of the brewery and some buildings sustained water damage. This damage, along with limited reserves and a poor cash flow, caused the brewer to have difficulty in paying other financial obligations. As a result, the brewer was forced into receivership as a going concern in April, 1937. Former congressman Orie S. Ware was appointed as the receiver and he requested that John S. Bruckmann be installed interim managing supervisor of the brewery. Bruckmann, formerly with a brewery in Newark, OH, was part of the Bruckmann family of Cincinnati that produced Brucks beer. He also had a relative that married into the Schott family. Brewery assets were initially appraised at $457,02 and liabilities were claimed to be $260,432. However, as the case unfolded, claims rose to $395,806 by September, 1937. The largest default was on a loan from Rosemary Voorhees for $161,000. However, by the time this case was being heard in court in the fall, Rosemary had obtained a divorce from her husband and had legally changed her name back to Rosemary Riedlin. She had claimed that her loan was supposed to be converted into stock and purchased by others so that she would receive her loan back in cash. However, that didn't occur. To resolve debts with their creditors, the Bavarian Brewing Co. was forced into Bankruptcy Court and sold in December, 1937. Not unlike other many local brewers, the operation of the Bavarian Brewing Co. was unsuccessful for those that originally invested in this brewer after Prohibition.
Even though Bavarian suffered a bankruptcy in late 1937, it was not the end of the brewery. Learning of its fate, this situation attracted the interest of the husband of William Riedlin's daughter, Lucia, ( William C. (Will) Schott) and three of his brothers. It also reflected the desire of Lucia to and Will to retain the brewery's ownership within their families and uphold their family's repurtation. (Please see the Schott Brothers.)
Newspapers.com and Cincinnati Enquirer (1919 - 1937)
Newsbank, Inc. and the Kentucky Post (1933 - 1937)
Bavarian Brewing Co. Stock Solicitation, 1933.
Riedlin and Schott family items and information, including notations on photos by Lucia Riedlin.
Trousdale, C.B., A History of the Bavarian Brewery, 1954
Shown in the background is the Bavarian Brewery Stock House, with the Wash House in the lower right,
taken in August of 1932.