The William Riedlin Beverage Co.
PROHIBITION & THE ROARING 1920s (1920 - 1929)
THE COMING OF PROHIBITION
Prohibition did not occur overnight. The Temperance Movement to eliminate the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages began to accelerate after the Civil War. Those that supported this movement, which included many religious denominations and organizations, believed that it would eliminate social evils. Even before the 20th Century, some states began outlawing alcohol consumption. In 1893, the Anti-Saloon League was formed in Oberlin, Ohio, and increased the pressure to adopt Prohibition. Brewers were in a quandary of how to deal with this issue and it was discussed at the Kentucky Brewer's Association in 1903 while William was President, and even before then. It became an issue at St. Paul's Church that William attended in Covington, where the minister criticized his congregation of being one of only two in the county for not supporting temperance. However, most of the church members were of German descent, associated with the brewery trade and knew Prohibition would not only negatively affect their livelihoods, but those many others, e.g. employees at cooperage firms and those in saloons, taverns and restaurants. Some states were more resistant to banning alcohol than others. Before Prohibition could become a nationwide law, it was necessary for 36 states to ratify Prohibition. Regardless, if some states did not want Prohibition, they would still need to comply. Some brewers hoped that there would be an insufficient number of states to agree to Prohibition. But towards by the middle teens in the 1900's it must have been rather obvious that there wouldn't be more than a dozen states to stop Prohibition, and that alcohol production would legally be outlawed in the U.S.
Not to be ignored were the political and social events occurring just before Prohibition was legalized nationally. These created some significant and long lasting changes not only to the German community and brewing in Cincinnati, but in other such communities throughout the country. The beginning of WWI in 1914 would negatively affect German-Americans and would greatly reduce and often eliminate German printed newspapers and German-American political groups shortly after the U.S. entered WWI in the spring 1917. There was such an outpouring of animosity in America against those with German-American organization and those with German ancestry that many with the organizations were abandoned and some Germans anglicized and changed their names. Numerous streets and buildings with German names were changed, German was no longer taught in many schools and local newspapers that were printed in German ceased. WWI also resulted in shortages of materials and eliminated the use of grain for the production of beer in late 1918. This was a prelude to the coming of Prohibition.
Besides the pressure against German communities in America around 1917, the Riedlin's had some family misfortunes during this period. In 1912 William's wife Emma passed away. In 1915 his son Walter died at a resort in Asheville, NC. William's health was also declining. To make forward plans in anticipation of Prohibition,at a meeting of the stockholders of the Bavarian Brewing Co. on August 20, 1918, it was decided to discontinue that corporation and establish the Wm. Riedlin Beverage Co. In the corporate filing four days later it was stated that the purpose of this new entity "...shall be the manufacturing and selling of maltuous liquors, ice, malt, soft drinks, mineral waters, distilled waters, fruit extracts and juices, and other non-intoxicating beverages and for general storage and refrigeration." These operations would also include the production of "near beer" (a beer without more than 1/2% alcohol). William Riedlin Jr. became the President of this beverage concern. So, a plan for transition was established before the brewery made their last production of beer on November 30, 1918. Even so, the brewery was able to store quantities that were estimated to last until May, 1919. The official date that the bars in Kentucky closed due to Prohibition was June 30, 1919. However, before then, William passed away on February 19th, 1919, in Asheville, NC, while he was trying to recuperate from his bout with asthma. He died in the same city, and possibly the same resort, as did his youngest son Walter only four years earlier. Just about two weeks later, on March 6th, 1919, William Jr. died at his home in Covington, KY at the young age of 37.
Before the national onset of Prohibition, and within a period of only several years, William, his wife and his sons had all passed away. The Riedlin men that were most familiar with the brewery and the brewing business no longer remained to navigate through the challenging times of Prohibition and the Great Depression. However, the Riedlin daughters (Mayme and Lucia) all married and had families with children as did Walter before he passed away. (See The Riedlin Family.) As discussed in other sections, Riedlin's son-in-laws and other descendants would become involved in his family's brewery business and investment holdings.
After Prohibition went into effect on June 30th, 1919, there were some 380 saloons in Kenton and Campbell counties that closed, eliminating some 1,500 jobs. Overall in the Greater Cincinnati area, it was estimated that due to layoffs a breweries, barrel makers and other trades associated with the brewery business, there was a total loss of about 35,000 jobs.
In order to sell their beer, many brewers owned real estate that were rented to saloons, which were typically located on corners. Bavarian was such a brewer. As previously mentioned, Riedlin Realty Co. was formed to own the brewery property and other real estate. The location of this entity was at the same address as the brewery, l367 Pike Street. Of course, saloons were also owned by individuals as investments and owner-users. All owners of saloon properties were confronted with the challenge of finding alternative uses for their properties. It often proved very challenging.
The William Riedlin Beverage Co. & the Riedlin Realty Co.
At first, the reaction of many brewers to the advent of Prohibition was to make a malt beverage, called a "near beer," with an alcoholic content that could not exceed 1/2 percent, and/or sodas. By all accounts, these pseudo beer beverages did not taste good and, consequently, they had little public acceptance. Even though William Riedlin Jr. and Sr. had passed away before the of Prohibition, they had made plans for the William Riedlin Beverage Co. to enter the near-beer and soda business. However, their deaths transferred their assets to the families of William's two daughters and his son-in-laws, as well as to his daughter-in laws family. Consequently, the husbands of William Riedlin Sr.'s. daughters Mayme and Lucia, Clarence Cobb and William C. Schott, respectfully, became involved in the family businesses. Over the next several years, It appears Lucia Riedlin Schott and her family ultimately obtained certain real estate assets, including the ice house and the brewery properties.
Evidently, Clarence Cobb became in charge of William Riedlin Beverage Co. in 1919. In an effort to legally use a portion of the brewery, some employees were retained, but unfortunately many were laid off. Most breweries tried to compete in the business of sodas and malt beverages, but they found it was extremely difficult to do so with firms already established in those businesses. The William Riedlin Beverage Co. operated in name for about seven years, until 1925. However, they may have actually tried to make near-beer and non-alcoholic beverages for a much shorter period. On February 6, 1925, The Courier newspaper in Louisville, KY, reported that Lucia Riedlin Schott, who owned the brewery buildings, had requested permission to drain 25,000 barrels of beer (presumably "near-beer") into the city sewers from the Internal Revenue Service in Covington. During this year, federal authorities became much more strict in prohibiting the illegal production of alcohol products in the Cincinnati area. According to members of the Riedlin and Schott families, they were extremely disappointed in the passing of Prohibition, but respected the laws at that time. They did not make any attempts to have beer made illegally, or to consort with anyone to do. However, that was not the case for several of the other brewers in the Cincinnati area, and one nearby in Newport, KY. After Clarence and Mayme Cobb divorced in 1925, Clarence no longer was involved with either the Riedlin Beverage Co. or the Realty Co. At that point, William C. Schott, the other son-in-law of William Riedlin, had greater control of these entities with his wife Lucia. William C. Schott's brothers also became more involved in the ownership of properties formerly owned by Riedlin Realty and the brewery.
With respect to Riedlin Realty Co., Clarence Cobb had been an officer of this firm before Prohibition and William C. Schott (Will) became President of this entity in the early 1920's, if not earlier. Will was the General Manager of the Cincinnati Galvanizing Co. and also had experience with his family's firms, Schott Brothers Realty and the J.M. Schott & Sons Cooperage Co. He knew it would be advantageous to retain the brewery property so that it could again be used when Prohibition would eventually be repealed. Will and Lucia Schott made arrangements to keep the main brewery property from being divided and sold, but there were dispositions of ancillary and surplus property. Various transactions were made between Will and Lucia along with the families of a couple of Will's brothers and his good friend Pete Miller (a Kroger Executive). These were executed over several transactions between 1925 and 1932. Lucia Schott also personally disposed of the ice manufacturing plant, which was sold to the Ruh family in 1925. She also sold some other properties that she had retained from her family in 1920's, which were not necessary for the brewery operations.
Note: Virtually no information has been obtained thus far of the products made and the labels thereon by the Wm. Riedlin Beverage Co. Further, the real estate transactions with the Riedlin Realty Co. were relatively complicated and the precise transactions are unknown. Anyone that has such knowledge about these topics is encouraged to contact us.
The Roaring Twenties & The Bootleggers
(Think Boardwalk Empire.) No sooner than Prohibition began, there were those that devised ways to circumvent the laws that created Prohibition and profit from the illegal sale of alcohol. They became known as bootleggers. Besides the 18th Amendment that created Prohibition, the 19th Amendment was passed allowing women to vote, and entitling them to vote in elections and more freedom than they had ever enjoyed before. In addition, the economy in the 1920s was booming. Despite the passage of Prohibition, speakeasy's and other places made it relatively easy for people to obtain alcohol and celebrate.
Even though Remus was shrewd, he was caught for failing to pay income taxes and was sent to Federal Prison for a couple of years in Atalanta in 1925. While he was serving time, he developed a friendship with Franklin Dodge, who unbeknownst to Remus, was an undercover Federal agent who was actually gathering evidence on crimes against the Volstead Act and Prohibition. Remus confided in Dodge that he had transferred a fortune to his wife, Imogene. Dodge left prison about a year before Remus and conspired to have an affair with Imogene and take Remus's fortune. After Remus was released from prison and returned to Cincinnati, Imogene apparently had no interest in Remus and offered him only $100 to disappear. Infuriated, he followed her car one evening and forced it to stop in Eden Park, where he shot her to death. He was charged with murder. Representing himself in a highly publicized legal trial, he was the first person to plead innocence by temporary insanity. He was successful in being released. He remarried and spent the remaining days of his life in Covington, KY, not far from the Bavarian Brewery.
Newspapers.com and Cincinnati Enquirer (1919 - 1929)
Riedlin and Schott family items and information, including notations on photos by Lucia Riedlin.
Trousdale, C.B., A History of the Bavarian Brewery, 1954
KING OF THE BOOTLEGGERS; GEORGE REMUS
Because of the large number of distilleries that had operated in and around Cincinnati, it attracted the attention of one of the most famous bootleggers, George Remus. He had been an attorney in Chicago and represented some early bootleggers in that city. He quickly learned that they were making enormous profits and became knowledgeable of ways to circumvent some of the laws and pitfalls. From his research, he believed that some of the facilities in the Cincinnati area would be suitable for making alcoholic beverages illegally. In 1920 he moved to the Westwood/Price Hill area of Cincinnati, acquired and established an bootleg empire. A couple years later, he reported made $40 million in one year. He through lavish parties in a large home, and once gave away dozens of cars to the women that attended his parties. It is said that, by coincidence, he had met F. Scott Fitzerald in the early 1920's, which inspired the author to write the Great Gatsby.