The GREAT DEPRESSION
& The REOPENING OF BAVARIAN BREWING CO.
(1930 - 1938)
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, and the beginning 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 in the early 1930's, the ramped corruption and the establishment of organized crime during Prohibition, the "Noble Experiment" as it had been called, was widely considered to have been a failure. Most importantly, however, It was thought that the repeal of Prohibition would help stimulate the economy. Congress proposed the 21st Amendment to repeal Prohibition on February 20, 1933. Even though the formal passage was December 5, 1933, the Cullen Bill was enacted that legalized beer with an alcohol content of no more than 3.2 percent effective April 7, 1933. Over 100 permits were granted in Cincinnati for beer sales on the first day and bars were overloaded with patrons. Within about a year, 785 breweries throughout the U.S. opened. However, the three largest breweries in Cincinnati, including Christian Moerlein, which had been the fifth largest brewery in the country, as well as the Hauck and Windisch-Mullhauser breweries, did not reopen. Some new breweries were built, like the Heidelberg Brewery in Covington, KY, near the Bavarian Brewery. Other breweries were reopened in former breweries, like Burger that occupied the former Windisch-Mullhauser brewery that produced Lion Beer. Since Bruckmann Beer had continued to operate, it was the first to reopen with its Brucks Beer in the Cincinnati area.
THE REOPENING OF THE BAVARIAN BREWING CO.
Interestingly, initial efforts to reopen the brewery were not made by William Riedlin's daughter Lucia and her husband, William C. Schott (Will), who had been a Director of the Riedlin Beverage Co., the Riedlin Realty Co., the Riedlin Co. and the Bavarian Brewing Co. A possible explanation for this is that Will had been successful and was 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's wife, Lucia, who was the daughter of the former brewery owner Wm. Riedlin, had been living across the river in Cincinnati for 20-years, she 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 her family and both Lucia and Will may have thought it was more financially prudent to let the property be operated by another family member.
What is somewhat unclear, if how the initial attempt to open the brewery began with Leslie Deglow, an architect and relative of Julies Deglow who first established the brewery. The Bavarian Brewing Co. was incorporated in the state of Delaware and Leslie became its President in 1932. However, at the end of 1932 Murray L. Voorhees, the husband of William Riedlin's granddaughter Rosemary, and his wife, evidently acquired the main brewery property William C. Schott and his wife Lucia, and possibly other Riedlin heirs. This transaction was apparently aided by a loan Rosemary had made to the brewery with her inheritance. By 1933, her husband Murray Voorhees was President of the Bavarian Brewing Co. and Leslie Deglow was Secretary/Treasurer from In the spring of 1933, Bavarian Brewing Co. issued solicitations 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.) Nearly all brewery equipment had previously been removed from the brewery and sold around 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 late 1932 to 1934 period before the before the reopening of the brewery the Bavarian Brewing Co. had two offices. 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.)
Several breweries in Cincinnati reopened after Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and a new Heidelberg Brewing Co., opened in March of 1934 in Covington. Since the former brewmaster for Bavarian, Joseph (Sep) Ruh became involved with Heidelberg, it was necessary for Bavarian to obtain another brewmaster. Fred Faller, originally from Bavaria, served as Bavarian's new brewmaster. 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, 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 also appears the brewer had a very restricted operating budget that allowed for limited advertising. In researching newspaper ads, that there were only a couple for Bavarian or Rieldin's Select beer between 1935 and 1937. The few ads that referenced Bavarian Beer were by saloons, not the brewer. (See Bavarian Ads: 1935 to 1945.) In addition, it seemed that most if not all of the brewery's production was in kegs, as it seems that the brewery was not using bottles and labels for the period from 1935 to 1937. Therefore, Bavarian Brewing Co. was operating under significant financial constraints and had insufficient working capital. Furthermore, there a law suit was filed against Bavarian Brewing Co. only a year after it opened involving a claim of $25,000. As a result of this suit, there a statement was issued that the management of the brewer was 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.
C. 1937. The first item on the right is possibly the first beer ball knob tap marker used by Bavarian after Prohibition. Beside it is one of the few signs that were made under the Voorhees Management. Please visit Ball Knobs and Signs: Neon for more information.
What was probably the final downfall for Bavarian Brewing Co. under Voorhee's management 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 some of its 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 also part of the Bruckmann family of Cincinnati that produced Brucks beer and 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, she 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 scheduled to be 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.
However, this bankruptcy in late 1937 was not the end of the Bavarian Brewery. With familiarity of the brewery property and the industry, and becoming aware of this bankruptcy, husband of William Riedlin's daughter, Lucia, Will, saw this as an opportunity. He and his wife also wanted to retain the brewery's ownership within their family, and uphold the family's reputation. (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