Monday, February 10, 2014

Beer Ads in Oshkosh No. 22: The Rahr’s New Bottle House

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Here’s a bland looking ad that’s short on eye appeal, but loaded with back story. This ad appeared in the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern on June 29, 1915. It’s for the Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh. Under the listless banner “Business Announcement” is some big news for - what was then - a 50 year year old brewery. They’re here to make it known that their first bottle plant is up and running.

In 1915, Charles Rahr Jr. was nearly finished with the renovation of the brewery he had taken over from his father in 1897. Over the course of the preceding decade, he replaced the old wood and stone structures that had gone up in 1865 with new brick buildings. The last vestige of the earlier era, was the bottling operation.

Prior to 1890 and changes to the way beer was taxed, it was simpler for most brewers to have the bottling of their beer performed by others. For the Rahrs, the bottling task largely fell to the Neumueller brothers – Fred and Ludwig, whose bottling plant was located across the street from the brewery on the south side of Rahr Avenue. The Rahrs and Neumuellers were long-time family friends, neighbors and fellow German expats. But those sorts of ties were no longer binding.

After his father died in 1913, Charles Rahr Jr. decided to end the arrangement with the Neumuellers and take the bottling operation in-house. In 1914, Rahr began construction of a brick, bottling plant located near the shore of Lake Winnebago on the north side of Rahr Ave. Construction was completed in 1915 and with it came this ad. It basically amounts to an apology for what Charles Rahr Jr. clearly believed was a lackluster job on the part of the Neumuellers: “We wish to say that we realize that this department of our business has not delivered the service that the public has the right to expect.” But Rahr couldn’t have been all that disappointed with the Neumuellers. Among the first people he hired to work in the new bottle house was Fred Neumueller (Ludwig Neumueller had died of pneumonia prior to the completion of the transition).

Playing out behind all this was an epic battle raging within the Rahr family that had erupted upon the death of Charles Rahr Sr. I’ll save that mess for another day. Check out that lovely bottle house below. This picture is courtesy of Dan Radig whose work to preserve Oshkosh history through images of the city is unparalleled. This shot is from 1964, shortly before the brewery complex was dismantled. Go there today and you’d never guess that such a thing ever existed at the end of Rahr Ave.

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