Monday, February 1, 2016

A Brewer's Stamp

Here's something beautiful passed along by my buddy, Oshkosh beer historian Ron Akin.

What we have here is a brewer's tax stamp for the 12 month period ending April 30, 1878. The stamp originated from the fifth district Internal Revenue collector's office in Oshkosh. Let's have a look – you can click the image to enlarge it.

Brewers were required to clearly display these stamps, which were essentially permits, near the entrance of their breweries. This particular grade was issued to brewers who produced fewer than 500 barrels of beer annually. For those brewers, the annual permit fee was $50 (or about $1,170 in today's money). If a brewer produced more than 500 barrels, the annual tax jumped to $100 (or about $2,340 in today's money). Crossing that threshold could be especially costly for a small brewer.

In 1878, Oshkosh had 3 breweries required to display the $50 stamp.
     • Christian Kaehler's Fifth Ward Brewery, with production of 140 barrels.
     • Charles Rahr's City Brewery, with production of 340 barrels.
     • Lorenz Kuenzl’s Gambrinus Brewery, with production of 470 barrels.

Kuenzl was about to get slammed with the 500-barrel tax. It necessitated his enlarging the brewery to increase capacity to the point where he could produce enough beer to make the leap profitable. Here's a look at Kuenzl’s brewery in 1893.

One more thing: the stamp pictured above was never issued, but it was signed by Albert K. Osborn, who from 1868 to 1883 was the Internal Revenue's tax collector in this region. Osborn had deep ties to Oshkosh. He was born in Colesville, New York in 1824 and moved to Oshkosh in 1844 with his father, Joseph Osborn. Incredibly, the Osborn homestead still stands at 840 Osborn Ave. It's the oldest house in Oshkosh and on the National Register of Historic Houses. Here's how the old place looks these days.

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