Monday, July 21, 2014

August Horn’s Epic Spree

Lets go back about 119 years and do some palling around with a happy man. It’s our old friend August Horn and he’s out on a spree. But before we hook up with Horn, let’s take a look at why he’s so pleased to be throwing money over the bar as he pub crawls his way around Oshkosh.

The story begins in 1893. Times are tough for the brewers of Oshkosh. The Panic of 1893 has had a crushing effect on the local economy. Competition for beer dollars has grown fierce. There are four breweries in Oshkosh and they’re undercutting one another trying to get a leg up.  Worse yet, big breweries from Milwaukee and beyond are putting the squeeze on. There are a half-dozen agents from Milwaukee breweries operating in the city. They’re buying saloons and establishing distribution facilities for their beer in Oshkosh. The brewers here are under siege.

On May 15, 1893, three Oshkosh brewers meet to plan a counter-attack. Lorenz Kuenzl of the Gambrinus Brewery, August Horn of Horn and Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery, and John Glatz of of the J. Glatz & Son Union Brewery team up in an attempt to stop the bleeding. The agreement they draw up fixes the price of a barrel of beer at $8. They also agree that when visiting Oshkosh saloons, they won’t spend more than 25 cents treating others at the bar. Finally, “none of the parties shall attend any dancing parties held in connection with any saloon by or for the benefit of the keeper of such saloon.” You know they mean business when they quit dancing.

August Horn
Essentially, it’s a price-fixing scheme. It wasn’t exactly amicable and it wasn’t exactly illegal in 1893. It also wasn’t effective. Less than a year later, Glatz, Horn and Kuenzl decided there was just one thing left to do. To contend with mega-brewers such as Pabst and Schlitz they would need to join forces in a more substantial way. On March 21, 1894, the trio merged their breweries to form the Oshkosh Brewing Company. Horn became the president of the brewery and the dancing parties returned. Once again, August Horn was in his element.

The restriction on treating people at the bar must have been a particularly onerous one for Horn. He was a titan of the South Side and well known for being a soft touch. After the dust had settled and the Oshkosh Brewing Company was up and running, Horn returned to the Oshkosh saloon scene. It seems he had some pent up generosity that needed releasing.

Oshkosh’s barflies must have loved seeing Horn walk into the saloon, but back at the brewery the company’s treasurer, William Glatz, was less than pleased. Glatz often chided the brewery’s principals for being too lenient with saloon keepers. He was especially irked by Horn’s spendthrift ways and recorded every nickel that Horn spent when “treating” at the bar. Apparently, Horn couldn’t have cared less.

Glatz’s penny-pinching is our gain. The ledger’s he kept give us a glimpse of August Horn carousing through Oshkosh saloons. It wasn’t at all unusual for Horn to visit 30 or more saloons on one of his runs. But his spree of May 22, 1895 was truly epic. Horn made his way through 41 saloons on this jaunt. The record isn’t clear how long it took Horn to accomplish this, it may have been spread over several days, but it remains an impressive crawl, nonetheless. Consider also, that at this point Horn was less than three months shy of his 60th birthday, had poor vision and was hard of hearing. You get a sense that Horn was dedicated to his fun.

Most of the saloons that Horn visited during this session have either been torn down or are now occupied by other types of businesses. But there are a few of them where the beer still flows. If you’d like to get a feel for Horn’s saloon trotting, here’s a mini-tour of a few of the places where he bellied up to the bar to buy a round for his countless friends.

As a South Sider, we’ll assume Horn began his journey on that side of town and headed north. Here we go.

Park Avenue Bar. 358 W South Park Ave.
Horn only bought four beers at Bernhard Domann’s saloon. This place was just a few blocks from Horn’s house, so maybe he was still getting warmed up. Domann, by the way, also had a cigar making business running out of the back of his saloon. Wouldn’t it be nice to see something like that in Oshkosh again.

Andy's Pub & Grub. 527 W. 9th Ave.
Horn bought five beers here. At the time, this place was known as Frank Bruehmueller’s Wisconsin Central Railroad Sample Room. Bruehmueller also had a beer garden connected to his saloon. A good place to whet your whistle while you waited for the train.

Ohio St Station. 815 Ohio St.
Back when Horn stopped in, this was the saloon of Joseph J. Nigl. Horn paid for 14 beers at his old friend’s bar. Nigl would eventually take issue with the Oshkosh Brewing Company. After Horn’s death in 1904, William Glatz became president of the brewery, which didn’t please Nigl. Glatz and Nigl would go to battle in 1913 when Nigl, among others, helped launch the Peoples Brewing Company.

Walleye's Pub. 458 W 6th Ave.
Unfortunately, Walleye's is now shuttered, so you won’t be able to do as Horn did. Again, Horn split after buying just five beers. Back then it was a grocery store and saloon operated by John Christian Heise.

Over the river we go, to the corner bars. Yes, they were the corner bars even back then.

Mable Murphey’s. 701 N Main St.
This is more like it. Horn buys 15 beers at the saloon run by Albert Thom and his sons, Rheinhold and Emil. There was no Mable in sight.

Calhoun Beach Club. 695 N Main St.
Horn crosses the street and buys five beers at the saloon run by John C. Voss. Back then CBC was known as Bogus Corner. I think I like that name better.

Distillery Pub. 515 N Main St.
Horn’s holding up pretty well. He buys 10 beers at the sample room of A.E. Mantz, a “A fine bar of wines, liquors, cigars and fresh beer.” I was at D-Pub a couple weeks ago. The beer is still fresh.

There you have it. You’ll have to add 37 more saloons to the list if you want to pit your stamina agains’t Horn’s. All in all, Horn spent just over $33 on his crawl, which would amount to 660 beers at a nickel a piece. It’s easy to see why Horn had so many friends.

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