Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Capturing the Pabst Flag in Oshkosh

Frederick Pabst
Pabst Square; 136 Jackson St
Captain Pabst always liked Oshkosh. As early as 1876, when his company
was still named Phillip Best Brewing and just three years after Frederick Pabst had been named the brewery’s director, Pabst had an agent living in Oshkosh trying to place his beer in the city’s saloons, hotels and grocery stores. In the 1890s, the Pabst push into Oshkosh intensified. In 1896, the brewery built a bottling and distribution center in Oshkosh. Now called Pabst Square, it remains standing in fine condition at 136 Jackson St.

Pabst followed up in 1897 with the Pabst Exchange, a large saloon at the
southeast corner of 6th and Ohio that housed a dancehall and bowling alley. On May 24, 1897 the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern announced that construction of the saloon was set to begin and that, “The structure will be of brick and its design will be that of an old German castle.” That building also still stands and if you look up at the gables above the building’s corner entrance you can still see the scars that were left when Pabst was driven into retreat in Oshkosh.

Pabst Exchange; 6th & Ohio
By 1914, the Oshkosh Brewing Company, along with the recently established Peoples Brewing Company, had regained control of the Oshkosh beer market. Pabst Brewing decided to reconsider its position here. In January 1914, the Pabst Exchange was sold to the Oshkosh Brewing Company. The circular Pabst signs that had been embedded at the buildings peaks were removed and the holes they left were bricked in. The Pabst flags had been captured by an Oshkosh brewery. And the Oshkosh Brewing Company was in no hurry to give them back.

The Oshkosh Brewing Company would hold onto the Pabst signs for almost 40 years. In 1953, the brewery finally got around to returning them to their owner. The signs were turned over to Harry Lee, the owner of Lee Beverage and the distributor for Pabst in Oshkosh. Earl S. Horn, vice president of the Oshkosh Brewing Company then wrote a letter to Pabst vice president Rudolph Zimmerman saying the signs were on their way. “Please be on the lookout for these signs,” Horn wrote, “as they may be of some value to your company.” In fact, the signs were probably of little worth to one of the worlds largest breweries. And they were certainly nowhere near the prize they had been for the Oshkosh Brewing Company in 1914 when they were a symbol of victory over one of its most powerful Milwaukee rivals.

HERE is a shot of what the building looked like shortly after its construction with the Pabst emblems intact at the top of the building.


  1. Did that used to be Beaners shot and beer in the 90's? Cool