Monday, February 24, 2014


Back to the 1890s for more saloon-sourced mayhem. Here’s another cute episode from another of William Koch’s rowdy saloons. The action occurred in a short-lived dive that was located near the corner of Pearl and Market streets where the downtown bus depot now resides. It was front page news for the Daily Northwestern of Monday, April 10, 1899.
In a saloon brawl on Pearl street, last night, a young man named Will Bormann received a dash of carbolic acid in the face, thrown by an angry half-breed squaw. It appears that the saloon had been the scene of a fistic encounter between two pugilists a short time before in which the woman was involved in some way. Later she appeared with a hat pin and succeeded in having things her own way for awhile. The affair seemed to be cooling down somewhat when Will Bormann, who keeps a saloon with his father on lower Main street, entered with a friend and bought a glass of beer. They heard the jangling and waited to hear more. The woman suddenly produced a bottle containing carbolic acid and in throwing it about, Bormann received a splash In the face. He hurried to a basin of water and washed the burning fluid off before it damaged his face to any great extent. A reporter visited Mr. Bormann this afternoon. He told substantially the story as above. His face is blistered, but fortunately his eyes were uninjured. He says the affair occurred in the saloon kept by William Koch at 58 Pearl street. It was impossible to learn the name of tho woman who threw the acid.
Violence, casual racism, alcohol fueled chaos... just the sort of drama Monday evening newspaper readers were looking for from good, old Oshkosh.

Bormann's Old Stand
Bormann, who was 30 years old at the time of the incident, was no stranger to rough fun. A number of stories popped up in the Daily Northwestern during this period featuring his exploits. The tales range from assault and battery to selling beer at his saloon after closing time. In 1913, he even managed to get fined $2 for spicing his talk with “abusive and indecent language.” Sounds like an interesting fellow.

By the way, the saloon Bormann operated, first with his father, Henry, and then with his brother Gustave, later came to be known as the Wharf. A few of you might remember that joint. It was located on Main St. where the City Center Hotel now stands. It’s all gone now, but I can’t drive past that corner without thinking of good-time Bormann and his acid-scarred face.

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