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Of Bavarian Brewery Co.  (1882 - 1889)

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 emigrated from Bäden, Germany, to America in 1870 at the age of 20. He arrived in Cincinnati with only $1.15 and first lived with his mother, who had previously emigrated and settled in an area of the city known as the Over The Rhine (OTR) Area in 1867. She had seven brothers, all of whom had emigrated to America before her. Some of her brothers may have arrived around 1848 and formed part of the “Forty-Eighters” group discussed previously. Her brothers fought for the Union Army in the Civil War, with only three surviving. Although William's father died in 1858 when he was only eight, he had 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). See the photo on the right.

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.


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, only about a year after the two formed their partnership, Charles Ruh suffered fatal injuries in a carriage accident. Charles was succeeded as brewmaster by his brother Anthony (Anton or Tony), and Meyer acquired the ownership interest that had belonged to Charles from his widow. Even though Meyer expanded his ownership interest in the brewery, a substantial lien against the brewery remained with the Deglow family that had originally founded the brewery. It amounted to what was a one-half interest in 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 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. Charles Ruh came to Cincinnati in 1871 and evidently his father, Ferdinand, his brother, Tony, and their other family members arrived at or around the same time. This was just a year after William Riedlin arrived in Cincinnati. Both the Riedlin's and the Ruh's lived in the same area during the early to mid 1870s - Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine (OTR). So, it's possible these men may have known each other during this period. Ferd's son Charles became a principal in the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, in 1877. Presumably his family may have moved from Cincinnati a year or two earlier. So, there was a timeframe of at least a few years when William may have developed a friendship with some members of the Ruh family when they both lived in the OTR. There may also be some evidence Ruh's and Riedlin's may have known eachother at that time. William's first son born in 1881, William Ferdinand Riedlin (a/k/a Wm. Riedlin, Jr.), had a middle name that was the same as 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, Tony and Ferd, 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 his brother and 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.)  Besides the possibility that William may have known the Ruh family in Cincinnati and before they began working together at the Bavarian Brewery in Covington, KY, the men may have known one another even earlier. Both families were  from Bäden (now part of the German state of Baden-Würtenburg) in the southwest corner of Germany. They lived in villages south of Freiburg im Breisgau, which are only about 12 miles apart. William was from Vögisheim next to Müllheim and the Ruh's were from Ehrenstetten next to Ehrenkirchen. Because their small villages were relatively close, and there were often activities between nearby villages as indicated by marriages by individuals from such villages, it's possible these families may have known one another when they lived in Germany. The Ruh family had reportedly 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. Regardless, even had these families not known each other in Germany, or when they both lived in Cincinnati, being from the same area in their native land must have helped forge a strong bond between them.


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 1880 until 1917. 


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 half-interest in the Bavarian Brewery that remained from a descendant of J.H. Deglow, the original founder of the brewery. The ownership and management of the brewery was now controlled by these two men.


Since the Deglow family also owned a tannery next to the brewery, they decided to concentrate solely on that business. 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 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 plaques in the photo advertise the 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.