3. Late 1800s:

Although corporations had existed in America since around 1800, it was very difficult to legally incorporate in Kentucky until the legislature made changes that facilitated the process in 1889.  In March of that year, a filing was made for the incorporation of Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc., thereby succeeding the firm of Bavarian Brewery Co. and the partnership of Meyer-Riedlin. Its capital stock was $125,000, divided into 125 shares of $1,000 each. Both John Meyer and William Riedlin were assigned 11 shares. It's unknown if Anton Ruh, also named in the filing, was assigned any stock, or the names of the other shareholders.  However, records show that the officers elected were Riedlin as President, John Meyer as Vice President and J. H. Kruse as Secretary / Treasurer.  Shortly thereafter, Riedlin apparently acquired John Meyer's interest in the brewery. As a result, Anton Ruh, the brewmaster, became Vice President; J. H. Kruse retained his titles. (Please see Letterheads.)  By incorporating, the stockholders in the brewery became personally exempt from all of the corporation's debts and liabilities.  Equally if not more important, incorporation enabled the brewery to more easily raise capital to expand. 

In addition to keeping the same officers as before, with the exception of Meyer, the newly incorporated brewery also retained most of the former Bavarian Brewery Co. workers; they also hired new employees. In comparison to the photo in the previous section—taken just a few years earlier than the photo below—several familiar faces are visible.

Worker Photos c. 1895 and 1897. The photo above on the left is a photo of the brewery workers in 1895 and the one on the right is possibly a couple years later. (From the Schott Collection at www.bcmuseum.org.)


A comparison between the Sanborn Insurance Map of 1894, printed below, and the earlier Sanborn Map of 1886 (in the Meyer-Riedlin Years), shows that the ice ponds no longer existed. They were probably very shallow to begin with and would have been easy to fill in, especially if their water source came from the creek, which could have been rather easily altered. Regardless of whether these ponds disappeared naturally or by man-made alterations, they were no longer necessary due to the ice-making equipment the brewery had acquired. Where a pond once existed on the east side of the brewery, a new wagon shed and stable were added.

Sanborn Insurance Map, 1894. The map above shows the Bavarian Brewery in the center, extending from Pike Street to W. Twelfth St. The letters on the map identify the brewery buildings, as mentioned below.  Please note that some the buildings are not outlined on the above map, but only identified by letters.


Before 1890, three previous buildings were constructed during the Meyer- Riedlin Years, including the:

A.  Original Brewery, modified as a Malt House.

B.  Mill House, added to the Malt House (1886).

C.  Brew House, with ice equipment (1888).

The location of the above-mentioned buildings are shown in the lithograph below.  This image provides an expansive view of the brewery from a postcard printed around 1900.  Additionally, buildings constructed after 1890, as described below, are identified on this image as well. The photo on the right below shows a ground-level perspective for the brewery around 1900. The three men standing in the center (left to right) are William Riedlin, Ferdinand Ruh and Anton Ruh.  Within this photo, buildings A, B and C are seen on the left, the entrance is visible in the background, and the Bottling Department (E) is partly shown on the far left. Both the lithograph and the photo are taken from similar perspectives, looking to the south from Pike Street. For comparison, the photograph was taken from what would have been the lower right corner of the lithograph.

c. 1900 Lithograph of the Brewery Complex & Photo of the Brewery Entrance in 1899. The lithograph is taken from a postcard, but this image was also used on stationery during the first decade of the 1900s. (Please see Stationery.) The photo above on the right shows workers standing in front the brewery's entrance. Please click the images for more data. (Sources: the Schott Collection at Behringer-Crawford Museum and the Kenton Co. Library.)

Economic conditions were favorable after the brewery incorporated in 1889. Shortly thereafter, it authorized the construction of some important buildings, as described in the following. These changes helped to increase the brewer's capacity and necessitated the hiring of additional workers. Note that there are more workers in the 1899 photo immediately above than those photos further up the page, which were taken five and 10 years earlier. This rapid expansion positioned the brewery competitively in the coming years.

D. Mechanical Building. This two-story masonry building was erected just south of the Brew House, with a framed shed possibly separating the two structures. It was evidently added around 1890, just before the Bottling Department building was constructed, as noted below. This building may have been referred to differently when it was used by the brewery, but it is referred to as the Mechanical Building herein because it contained certain ice-making or refrigeration equipment that had previously been used in the Brew House. 

E. Bottling Department. This frame structure was added in 1892, the year that William Painter developed the crown cork (bottle cap).  This made the bottling of beer much more practical, increased the demand for bottled beer, and created a need for a device to open these bottles - the bottle opener. (See Openers and Crowns.)  The Bottling Department building is depicted on the above map just south of Pike St. and east of the original brewery.

F.  Ice Manufacturing Plant. An Ice Manufacturing Plant was constructed just south of the Bottling Department in 1895. It contained a 31-ton refrigeration plant that produced 100 tons of ice per week. This building was constructed just east of the Brew House, and is not shown in outline form on the Sanborn Map above.

The Ice Plants were used to help cool and ferment the company's lager beer, but were also built to provide more ice than the company needed. This excess capacity allowed Bavarian to sell ice to the local neighborhood residents and to supply saloons with ice in exchange for selling Bavarian beverages. With ice-making capabilities and better refrigeration, the brewery was able to utilize large wooden casks or tanks to store and age their lager beer. These containers could contain up to 300 barrels each. The storage rooms were cool and wet, requiring workers to dress appropriately with high boots and warm clothes - get-ups shown in the photo below. 

Bavarian Brewery Photos c. 1890s.  The photo above on the left was taken in a refrigerated storage area of the brewery. A couple of the men in this photo also appear in the 1899 photo of workers in front of the entrance to the brewery, below. The other picture with men on a dock may be at the Bottling Department. Seated second from the left is Walter Riedlin, William Riedlin, Jr., J. Henry Kruse, possibly Fred Hoffman, Tony Ruh and Dick Kleier.  (Photos courtesy of the Schott Collection at the Behringer-Crawford Museum.

The Black List

Before Prohibition, and long before there were credit reports on individuals and businesses, brewers all over the country banded together in an organization to protect themselves against saloon owners and others who did not pay their invoices at a specified time for beer. They did this by creating a "Black List" including names of those that were not credit worthy.  Under the rules of the organization, no brewer was allowed to furnish beer to a "black-listed" customer. However, once the delinquency was paid in full to any and all breweries, that customer was no longer cut-off from purchasing beer. In January, 1892, Clem Schulten filed suit against both the Bavarian Brewing Co. and the John Hauck Brewing Co. for $10,000. This was because he had failed to pay $180 for beer deliveries, was black-listed and unable to purchase additional beer from any brewery.  State Senator Goebel represented the breweries and the case was dismissed in Kenton County Circuit Court on general demurrer. However, the plaintiff appealed the case. Nearly three years later, in December, 1894, the Court of Appeals in Frankfort, KY, affirmed the lower court, and recognized the rights of businessmen to protect themselves against dishonest debtors. This decision involving the Bavarian Brewing Co. was considered a landmark ruling not only for breweries, but for all corporations.

There are a couple noteworthy points about this case. First, the attorney representing Bavarian and the John Hauck breweries, William Goebel, was involved in a deadly feud only a few months after the Court of Appeals rendered their decision.  Second, the home of John Hauck whose brewery was sued along with Bavarian, would be owned a couple decades later by the King of the Bootlegers, George Remus. (See section 5A on the Roaring 1920s - and Remus.)

A Feud and Possible Duel in Covington in 1895

Dueling in various forms was popular in Europe and American in the 1700s into the mid-1800s. They occurred to defend ones honor by demonstrating a willingness to risk ones life. Duels were particularly common among junior officers and nobility. They were also popular, especially in the South, during the first half of the 1800s, but declined dramatically after the Civil War. Some states, like Kentucky, included a provision in their State Constitution that any members holding public office needed to swear that they never engaged in a duel with deadly weapons; it still stands. Even though the Civil War ended in 1865, some animosities still existed in Northern Kentucky between those that had served in the Confederate and Union armies. There were also men that took any personal attacks on their character very seriously. One such man was Colonel John Leather Sandford, a former Confederate officer and grandson of one of the earlier settlers of the area, General Sandford. (See 1. The Beginnings.) In 1895, William Goebel, a politician, made some abrasive accusations that appeared in a local paper against Sandford. Goebel created many political enemies, but was skilled in advancing his personal agendas, and was known as “Boss Bill” and the "Kenton (Co.) King." The two men noticed and confronted one another in downtown Covington at Madison Avenue and 5th Street on April 11, 1895. Sandford was shot to death by Goebel in what some witnesses said was a duel, while others said it was in self-defense. Goebel was acquited, however, had he been charged as participating in a dual, he would have been unable to hold public office due to the Kentucky Constitution prohibiting dualing.  In early 1900, William Goebel became Governor of Kentucky for a brief four days in early 1900 before being assassinated after a highly contested election. It was just after the Democratic Kentucky Legislature had rejected the election of Republican William S. Taylor who served as Governor for less than two months. Goebel was the only U.S. Governor ever assassinated. His assassin was never found. (A park named after Goebel is located in Covington at the west end of the Mainstrasse, off W. 6th Street.)

The Economic Panic of 1896

Just a few years after the Bavarian Brewing Co. was incorporated, there was a downturn in the global economy, called the Panic of 1893.  However, it took a few years before the crash exerted a more significant affect in the United States; the economic recession that impacted the country was known as the Panic of 1896.  It lasted for at least a year or two. The panic caused a massive run on bank deposits and a cash crunch. Stock prices plunged, interest rates spiked, and some companies went bankrupt. Gold reserves were also depleted; it was no longer possible to redeem silver certificates for gold. Unemployment rates skyrocketed during this period. The panic affected most people in America, including those in the Greater Cincinnati area, the Bavarian Brewing Co. and its workers. Unsurprisingly, it seems that there was a pause in the expansion of the brewery until 1900.

The Officers of Bavarian Brewing Co.

The officers and directors of the Bavarian Brewing Co. in 1899 are shown seated in the side photo; they had led the brewery through the 1890s. From left to right, they include Anton (Tony) Ruh, Vice President, William Riedlin, Sr., President, and J. Henry Kruse, Secretary/ Treasurer. Standing are William Riedlin, Jr., who would become Vice President several years later, and Fred Hoffman who was the bookkeeper and a very good friend of the Riedlin's. It appears this photo was taken on the same day as the 1899 photo of the Bavarian Workers above, as the attire of all the men is the same. Sadly, just a year later, Fred Hoffman (standing far right) drowned while contracting cramps during a visit to the Riedlin Farm and swimming in the Licking River with William, Jr. and friends in August of 1900. He was only 22.


In the 19th century, transportation options for the beer industry were limited. There were no cars or trucks before 1895, and the Wright Brothers’ first flight of an airplane didn't occur until 1902. Those motorized vehicles that were developed over the following decade were often unreliable, expensive and impractical. Therefore, before 1900 and for about a decade or more after, goods were delivered locally by horse-drawn wagons. It was not uncommon for larger breweries to keep a stable of horses used to pull wagons full of kegs or cases of beer into the early 1900s. Bavarian Brewing Co. was one of these breweries. Sometime in the 1890s, Bavarian built a new stable for the delivery horses that measured 46 by 188 feet. This not only improved their ability to deliver beer; it also helped them increase their deliveries of ice.


By enlarging any of the photos below, it can be seen that there are numbers on the wagons. This probably helped in routing the deliveries and identifying the drivers.  Because some of the numbers on the wagons were slightly over one hundred, it may be possible that the brewery had over 100 wagons, although it’s also possible that these numbers did not reflect the actual number of wagons at the brewery or that some wagons were not always needed. However, with many of these wagons requiring two horses, it would seem likely the brewery had over 100 horses.


In order to rest and breed horses, the brewery used the Riedlin Farm located on the Licking River near Decoursey, KY. Owners of other larger breweries also had such farms, and some even used their farms to grow hops and barley for their beers, or grasses and grains to feed their horses. It's not know if the Riedlin Farm was used for all of these purposes. However, another use of his farm was to host annual company brewery picnics and social gatherings. Pictures of such events occurring around 1910 are shown in the following section, 3. Later Riedlin Years.

Bavarian Brewery Horses and Wagons c. 1900.  The photo below on the left is believed to be in front of the stables constructed in the 1890s.  The other photo is in front of the former middle entrance to the brewery.  (Photos courtesy of the Kenton Co. Library; restored by LRS.)


The brewery formed an integral part of the local community. As more Germans immigrated to America, they often joined various German-American organizations and read local newspapers published in German. In addition, numerous schools and churches exclusively spoke German.  This was done partly to preserve their heritage, but it also helped ease their transition from their homeland to a new county and provided some level of social and economic protection. Not all Americans were receptive of the Germans from the mid to 1800s to the early 1900s. In particular, the famed "Know Nothings" group in the 1850's was particularly hostile to Germans and occasionally caused some altercations, as mentioned in The Beginnings under the section about the Forty-Eighters. Germans protected themselves from discrimination in part through their organizations, but they also simply enjoyed socializing with other Germans with shared customs and that provided community support. (Please see 4A. Community Involvement.)


The brewery produced beer and provided a livelihood for many Covington residents. It also provided a social space for people in the area to make use of - the Bavarian Rathskeller.  Often, the brewery allowed those connected to German-American Associations to conduct meetings and socialize. There were many events held in the Rathskeller over the years, helping to make the brewery an integral part of the community. One of the driving forces of the brewery as a force to improve the community was the work of William Riedlin.  He was involved in several civic and social groups, active in politics, and was an investor in other local businesses. (Please see 4A. Community Involvement.)

Bavarian Rathskeller Photo in c. 1899. Please see Pre-Prohibition Signs for an enlargement of the sign under the flag and Smoking Accessories for a souvenir Rathskeller ashtray.  (Courtesy the Schott Collection at bcmuseum.org and Kenton Co. Library).

c. 1900. Both items shown above are from the Bavarian Brewing Co. The flyer indicated the pricing of beer and credit provided for returning bottles and cases. The token above was possibly issued for an account credit. Sources: Schott Family Colection at the Behringer-Crawford Museum and Courtesy of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Libraries.


Breweries and saloons often provided tokens, that were coin like, for a free beer or drink, or a specified credit, which began in the Cincinnati area during the mid 1800s. Beer could be given to employees and guests for free before Prohibition with these tokens, but this was prohibited after Prohibition. A benefit working at most breweries is that an employee could usually have all the beer they could drink, as long as they were able to properly perform their work. Since the typical type of beer produced was a lager, which had an alcoholic content that was nearly half of an ale or other beers, intoxication would normally be limited with a combination of hard work and moderate consumption. It was also known that the Bavarian night watchman would also often provide free beer to certain people, like policemen, firemen, politicians or simply local residents. Consequently, beer tokens for Bavarian are unusual, and more common from other breweries and particularly some of the more than 400 saloons that were once operating in Covington before Prohibition.


What may have been more common at Bavarian than tokens for beer before Prohibition at Bavarian was a token that could be provided to a customer for credit to buy more beer when  bottles or cases were returned. Such a token is shown on the side. The initials A.C., may have meant "Account Credit." It appears the center hole in this token was stamped out so the token could not be reused. As shown by the flyer on the upper right, the price for buying four dozen small bottles for Riedlin's Select Beer was $3.50 and $3.30 for the same quantity of (standard) Bavarian Style Beer. This flyer also mentions that credit was provided of 20 cents for four dozen bottles and another 50 cents when a wood crate was returned. So, the token shown may have been provided to someone returning bottles and/or cases.

On the reverse side of the flyer shown above is promotional material for "good and pure" beer that was brewed at the Bavarian Brewing Co. Please click here to view the back of this flyer. 


To place the events described above in  perspective, following are some major events that occurred in the Bavarian Brewery Time Period 3: 1889 - 1900

  • Benjamin Harrison is President (1889 -1893)

  • Bottle Caps (Crown Corks) Invented by Wm. Painter (1892)

  • Grover Cleveland is President (1893-1897)

  • World’s Fair in Chicago (1893)

  • Economic Panic (1893-96)

  • William MicKinley is President (1897-1901)

  • Spanish Am. War (1898)

  • Cincinnati’s population declines from 9th largest in the U.S. after 1890 (& 6th to 10th from 1830-1900). 

For a summary of all the periods in the history of the Bavarian Brewery.  See the entire Timeline.



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.

Photos, all courtesy of Kenton Co. Library, except for those noted otherwise.

C.B. Truesdell, (The History of) The Bavarian Brewery, 1954. (Unpublished manuscript.) 1954. pg. 27.   

The background photo is of workers at the Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc. taken in 1898. 

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

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The Historic and Former
Bavarian Brewery

In Covington, Kentucky