2. THE MEYER - RIEDLIN YEARS of the
Bavarian Brewery Co. (1882 - 1889)
CATALYSTS CHANGING THE BREWING INDUSTRY
Throughout the 19th century, the industrial revolution transformed the world, including the American landscape. Beginning around the 1820s, the rise of steamboats escalated Cincinnati's growth. The telegraph was in use by the 1840s, railroads from the east coast were serving the Ohio region by the mid-1850s, and the telephone gained popularity in the 1870s and 1880s. These changes, particularly the advent of the steamboat, created a westward population movement, and caused the Cincinnati area to boom. In the three decades both before and after the Civil War, between 1830 and 1860, the population of Cincinnati increased in ranking from the ninth to the sixth largest city in the U.S. This growth was due in no small part to German immigrants. They liked beer, too, and the number of breweries in the area swelled.
Beginning in the mid-1800s, an alternative way to brew a previously unusual type of beer - called a lager - became much more popular. It was a lighter style of beer that had become very popular in Germany, and subsequently in America. Compared to the ales that dominated the market at the time, lager had a somewhat lower alcoholic content and was more easily digestible, so it could be consumed in greater quantities. However, unlike ale - which could be made in a couple of days with top-fermenting yeast - brewing lager was a difficult process, requiring bottom-fermentation with cooler temperatures and a longer fermentation period of up to multiple weeks. This required lager to be fermented in cool, underground stone cellars. Before mechanical refrigeration was possible starting in the 1870s, Lager also needed to be made in the cooler winter and early spring months, and stored with ice cut from lakes and ponds so that there would be enough beer to last as long as possible through the year. Consequently, the size of breweries producing lager beer before and just after the Civil War were all relatively small, each usually making from a few hundred to several hundred barrels monthly. Since lager beer was rather seasonal, most breweries also made ales and occasionally porters. Until the 1870s and before more industrialization, this complicated brewing process typically restricted the distribution and sale of lager beverages, usually in kegs and distributed only within a local area.
However, two particular inventions in the 1870s brought revolutionary changes to the brewing industry: pasteurization and ice making. Louis Pasteur invented a process to pasteurize substances in 1873, which prevented beer from spoiling and made the bottling of beer more practical. This made it easier to "export" beer to other states, and for individuals to consume beer at home or in public places beyond those that served beer out of kegs. In addition, ice-making equipment in the 1870s not only allowed lager beer to be made more easily throughout the entire year, but it also enabled breweries to ship their beer over longer distances. Of particular importance, ice making made it more practical for homes to use iceboxes year-round to help preserve food - and beer. These two important technologies, pasteurization and ice making, allowed brewers to more easily brew and distribute their lager beer at any time in the year. At the same time, there were improvements in manufacturing that also enabled breweries to increase beer productions.
As a result of the above, brewers were able to expand their regional market reach. Brewers willing to make the necessary capital commitments could "export" or ship their beer in refrigerated railroad cars to areas outside of their local town into a region, or even become national in scope. However, given the high national per capita consumption for beer in the Greater Cincinnati area - two or three time the national average due to its German heritage - the larger local brewers could make attractive profits without having to invest more capital to "export" their beer. Further, before Prohibition, most of the local Cincinnati area brewers were not located in places that made it easy were to bring railroad spurs into their breweries. This made it more difficult for Cincinnati brewers to transport beer outside of the their region via rail than brewers in other cities.
The technological changes affecting the brewing industry occurred in the 1870s just as many immigrants were arriving in the United States and beginning to establish new lives in America. One such German-American was William Riedlin. Before William and his brother, August, arrived in Cincinnati in 1870, their mother had moved to Cincinnati a couple years earlier to join her brothers.
WILLIAM RIEDLIN'S EARLY YEARS
William Riedlin emigrated from Bäden, Germany, to America in 1870 at the age of 20. For more biographical information about William, please refer to the Wm. Riedlin Family.
Even though William's father died in 1858 when he was only eight, he followed in his father's trade and became a blacksmith. He began in this line of work when he first arrived in Cincinnati. However, after a couple of years he began to work for the McNeale & Urban Safe Company. By the time he married Emma Hoffman in 1877, he had been operating a grocery store at Elm and Green Streets for about a year. In 1878, he became the proprietor of Tivoli Hall, a beer hall and saloon located in the OTR at 469 Vine Street (1313 Vine Street today.) According to the 1880 Census, the Riedlins were one of three families living next door to Tivoli Hall, at what was 467 Vine Street, (and now 1311 Vine Street. It is known as Union Hall and today supports start-up companies. See the accompanying photo.
Former Riedlin Residence & Tivoli Hall, now 1311 & 1313 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH. Apparently, there was a former brewery on the site of Tivoli Hall and a lager cellar still remains below it.
What became Tivoli Hall was built on a site formally used by Peter Noll in 1848 as the Cincinnati Brewery with lager cellars built 40 feet underneath. Noll is credited with "experiments" that created a very light ale, or possibly even a lager beer. It was more tasty and suitable for family use, which was imitated by other local brewers, and his efforts are attributed to the development of a lager beer in Cincinnati. Despite some success, Noll sold his brewery to Karl Class around 1850. The business failed a couple years later, and this site was used to build the current structure around 1855. It was used as a saloon and beer hall under different names, but was known as Tivoli Hall 1877. This name stuck for a while, but was called other names around 1890 until it became known as Cosmopolitan Hall in 1897. The building retained this name for almost 50 years, until it became a furniture store in the 1950s. Eventually, it became a nightclub known as The Warehouse in 1992 for about a decade. In 2006, it was acquired by 3CDC and it was included on American Legacy Tours from 2010 until 2012. For a detailed history of this property up until this time, please see Digging Cincinnati History by Ann Senefeld.
Around 2018 the ground floor was used as a sandwich shop and in 2022 a new restaurant opened known as Krueger's Tavern. It was named after the first brewery that canned beer after Prohibition. The former lager cellars are now an entertainment venue and bar known as Ghost Baby with access on the other side of the building, at 1314 Republic St. When the cellars were being renovated, there seemed to be some unusual paranormal activities, including what seemed to be the faint cry of a baby, which resulted in the naming of this establishment.
WILLIAM RIEDLIN ACQUIRES AN INTEREST
IN THE BAVARIAN BREWERY CO.
As discussed under 1. The Beginnings, the ownership of the Bavarian Brewery had changed several times since it was first established in 1866 and suffered a bankruptcy in 1877. John Meyer acquired an interest in the brewery about a year or two after it was emerging from bankruptcy. By 1878, he had become a proprietor along with the brewmaster, Charles Ruh. However, Charles passed away late that year and Meyer acquired the ownership interest that had belonged to Charles from his widow. Even though Meyer expanded his ownership interest in the brewery, there was a substantial lien against it amounting to a one-half interest, which remained with the Deglow family that had originally founded the brewery. Either unable or unwilling to obtain complete ownership of the brewery, John Meyer was interested in obtaining an investor and partner. In 1882, William Riedlin sold his interest in Tivoli Hall to purchase an interest in the Bavarian Brewery from Meyer. By late 1882, William had moved his family from the OTR to Covington, KY, with his three-year-old daughter Emma and one-year-old son William Jr., to begin working at the brewery. Shortly after they arrived in Kentucky, if not initially, they soon established residency at 241 W. 12th Street in Covington. (With address changes it became 519 W. 12th St. decades later.) This frame home was on a double lot located across from the brewery. In February, 1883, the family had a third child, Mary Anna Marie (a/k/a Mayme or Maime).
The Rieldin & Ruh Families
It is not known exactly how William Riedlin heard about an opportunity to become a partner with John Meyer in a small brewery in Covington. It may have been through word-of-mouth conversations at his Cincinnati saloon. However, another possibility is that it was through an earlier friendship William had with the Ruh family.
The Ruh family was from Bäden (now part of the German state of Bäden-Württemberg) in the southwest corner of the country. They lived in the village of Ehrenstetten, next to Ehrenkirchen, and south of Freiburg im Breisgau. Reportedly, the Ruh family had been involved in brewing for two or three centuries. The area where they lived in the Upper Rhine Valley, next to the Black Forest, has the warmest climate in Germany and is known for its vineyards and wine, besides beer. Charles Ruh came to Cincinnati in 1871 with his brother Anton (Tony), evidently their father, Ferdinand (Ferd), and other family members. They may have initially settled in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine (OTR) area when they arrived. However, it appears Charles and Anton were living in Covington, KY, by 1872 and were working the Bavarian Brewery under the proprietorship of Charles L. Best. Charles was the foreman, became the brewmaster and was one of the proprietors in the partnership of Knorr, Ruh & Schaub that owned the brewery in 1876. A year later, the proprietorship changed to Meyer and Ruh. Unfortunately, Charles suffered fatal injuries in a carriage accident in late 1878 and John Meyer became sole proprietor of the brewery. Anthony (Tony) succeeded his brother as the new brewmaster for Bavarian. Tony continued as the brewmaster at Bavarian for about 30 years - through the proprietorships of John Meyer and Meyer & Riedlin and after the brewery incorporated in 1889 - possibly until Prohibition in 1918. Tony's son Joseph (aka Seph) Ruh worked with his father at Bavarian until Prohibition. Tony passed away in 1925.
As mentioned, William Riedlin arrived in Cincinnati’s OTR in 1870 - about a year before the Ruh family arrived. Since the Riedlin's and the Ruh's may have both lived in the OTR in the early 1870s, William may have developed a friendship with some members of the Ruh family during this period. Besides the possibility that William may have known the Ruh family in Cincinnati before they began working together at the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, the men may have known one another even earlier. William Sr. was from the village of Vögisheim, which was only about 12 miles from Ehrenstetten where the Ruh’s lived. Because their small villages were relatively close, and there were often activities and marriages among those from such nearby villages, it's possible these families may have known one another they lived in Germany. There may be some evidence to support that Riedlin may have known the Ruh family before they worked together at Bavarian because William's first son born in 1881, was named William Ferdinand Riedlin (a/k/a Wm. Riedlin, Jr.). His middle name was the same as Ferdinand (Ferd) Ruh's first name. This may have been a coincidence, but it may have been because William had previously formed a close connection to Ferd and the Ruh family. As soon as William arrived in Covington in 1882, he began working at Bavarian with the brewmaster and son of Ferd, Tony Ruh. William Sr., William Jr., Tony, Ferd and Seph, are all shown in the worker photos at Meyer & Riedlin (see the 1884 photo below) and at Bavarian Brewery (see the 1899 photo in the next section). Incidentally, the middle names of William's second son, Walter Ferdinand Riedlin born in 1887, also had the same middle name as Ferd's first name. (Please note that Ferd gifted the stein shown below to William and his wife the same year that Walter Riedlin was born.) Regardless, whether these families may have known of each other before they moved to America, or when they may have lived in Cincinnati, being from the same area in their native land undoubtedly helped them forge a strong bond with one another.
Note: Besides Ferd Ruh, who was about a generation older than William, Ferd also had a younger relative that shared the same first name.
Above are portraits of Wm. Riedlin & Anton Ruh, and an 1887 Stein - given to the Wm. Riedlin family by the the father of Anton Ruh, Ferdinand Ruh. Anton Ruh was the Bavarian brewmaster from about 1875 until 1917.
MEYER & RIEDLIN OBTAIN FULL CONTROL OF THE BREWERY
The August 23, 1884 edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer ran a notice about a local business transaction: John Meyer and William Riedlin had purchased the outstanding one-half interest in the Bavarian Brewery that remained from a descendant of J.H. Deglow, the original founder of the brewery. The Deglow family also owned a tannery next to the brewery. Rather than operate two different businesses, the Deglow's evidently decided to exit the brewing industry and concentrate solely on their tannery. As a result, the ownership and management of the brewery became controlled by Meyer and Riedlin.
An early photo of the brewery workers and signs promoting their Celebrated Meyer & Riedlin's Lager in 1884 is shown below. Various individuals are identified in the text that accompanies the photo when this picture is clicked.
Meyer-Riedlin 1884 Photo. Beginning second from the left on the first row are J.H. Kruse (who became Secretary/Treas.), William Riedlin Sr. (co-owner who became Pres.) & his son William, Jr., Anton Ruh (who was brew master & became V.P), Joseph Ruh, Ferdinand Ruh and John Meyer (co-owner). The carved wood signs in the photo advertise Meyer & Riedlin's Celebrated Lager Beer. The Meyer and Riedlin partnership was the beginning of a long and successful relationship between William and many other employees who worked at this brewery. Please click on the photo for additional names.