Monday, February 15, 2016

An Illustrated History of Oshkosh’s Independent Beer Bottlers – Part Two

This is the second in a two-part series about independent beer bottlers in Oshkosh. Part one can be found HERE.

This time, we'll start on the South Side...

Frank Lutz
Lutz was a long-time alderman for the old 3rd Ward on the South Side of Oshkosh. He also dabbled in beer. In the early 1880s, Lutz ran a bottling operation from his saloon, which doubled as his home. The property still stands at what is now 1301 Oregon St. Here’s a look at his layout circa 1885. The Lutz property has a red "X" floating over it. Notice the ice house at the rear of the lot. An ideal place for storing kegs of beer prior to their contents being bottled.

Lutz also found time to work as a beer-wagon driver for the Glatz Brewery, so there's a good chance his bottles were filled with Glatz-brewed beer. Bottles embossed with the Lutz name are very rare, but here's one.

Charles Maulick
If you've been in Oblio's Lounge, you've tromped the same ground Charles Maulick did more than a century ago. Maulick was the first proprietor of the Schlitz Beer Hall at what is now 432-434 N. Main Street. It’s currently the home of Oblio's.

Maulick was an agent and bottler for Schlitz Brewing from approximately 1888-1898. Maulick was all about Schlitz Beer. Even the saloon he operated was owned by Schlitz. Initially, it appears Maulick did his bottling inside his saloon. Here’s a Maulick bottle that may have been filled at Oblio’s.

In 1891, Maulick’s bottling operation moved to a bottling house built by Schlitz at what is now 101 Commerce St. Along with his new partner Frank Kitz (not the same Frank Kitz mentioned in part one of this series), Maulick managed the Commerce Street plant until 1898. Most bottles that came out of there prior to 1898 bear both the Maulick and Kitz names. Here’s an example.

The Neumueller Brothers
Brothers Fred and Ludwig Neumueller were independent bottlers for the Rahr Brewery from about 1893 until 1915.

Here you can see the location of the Neumueller’s small bottling plant in the early 1900s at what was then 66 Rahr Ave. It was located just up the street from the Rahr Brewery.

Here’s one of those old bottles that was once filled with beer by the Neumuellers.

Charles Noe
A former carpenter and a Civil War Veteran, Charles Noe began bottling beer in 1893. He worked from his home at what is now 202 Rosalia St. His bottling operation lasted about four years.

Noe bottles are purported to exist. I’ve never seen one. The Oshkosh Public Museum has a great picture of Mr. Noe, though. Here’s our man in the mid-1880s, about a decade before he undertook his bottling endeavor.

Louis Plate
Louis Plate took over the Schlitz bottling house in about 1902, after Maulick and Kitz (see above) dissolved their partnership. Plate also operated a Schlitz tied house located on the south side of Washington Ave. between Main and State (right about where the Exclusive Company has its parking lot). Here’s a look inside Plate’s lovely, palm-strewn saloon.

Plate bottled beer for just about five years. His bottles are now quite rare. Here’s one that’s had its blobbed top knocked off.

Charles (Carl) Priebe
Carl Priebe bottled beer for Horn & Schwlam’s Brooklyn Brewery during the 1890s. His bottling operation was set up in a barn on the north side of Ceape Ave. The property spanned the current addresses of 1316 and 1322 Ceape Ave. The property was owned by Dietrich Havemann, who had previously bottled beer there. It appears Priebe leased the property from Havemann.

After Horn & Schwalm merged with the Glatz and Kuenzl breweries in 1894, Priebe abandoned bottling and went to work for the newly formed Oshkosh Brewing Company. He worked there into the early 1900s as a beer peddler and delivery-wagon driver. I’m aware of no surviving Priebe bottles. Here’s an ad from 1893 showing Priebe listed among other bottler’s of Horn & Schwalm’s beer.
(Note: I accidentally omitted this entry for Priebe when I originally posted this blog).

Oshkosh Labor Advocate, October 20, 1893.

August Rahr
Along with his brother Charles Rahr, August Rahr helped launch the Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh in 1865. August Rahr, piloted the brewery’s early foray into bottling in the late 1870s. But that project was abandoned soon after. In 1883, August Rahr left the brewery and become an independent bottler. His stint as a bottler lasted into the early 1890s. He primarily bottled the beer brewed by his brother Charles.

Rahr’s bottling business ran in conjunction with a saloon and grocery store, all of it housed in a large building that still stands at 320 Rosalia St. Here’s a recent look at that.

Better, yet, here’s a picture of August Rahr himself.

John Sitter
An Austrian immigrant, John Sitter came to Oshkosh in 1883, finding work at Lorenz Kuenzl’s Gambrinus Brewery. Sitter went solo in the early 1890s. He primarily bottled beer for the Kuenzl brewery and, after 1894, for the Oshkosh Brewing Company. The Sitter bottle house was located at what is now 1255 Harney Ave. Here’s a 14-ounce bottle of his that was in use from about 1912 to 1919.

Sitter remained in the bottling business until Prohibition arrived in 1920. He also ran a beer distribution company. Here’s an ad for Sitter’s Beverage Company from that same period between 1912 and 1919.

Frank Thielen
Frank Thielen began bottling beer in the late 1870s, probably from his saloon located at what is now 420 N. Main St. Here’s a Thielen ad from the 1879 City Directory.

Thielen bottled beer for Milwaukee’s Cream City Brewing Company. He was also an agent for the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company. Thielen’s bottling operation appears to have remained in operation into the early1890s. Here’s an up-close look at one of his very rare bottles.

Emil Thom
Emil Thom started in the beer business in the 1880s at his father’s saloon on the corner of Main and Irving streets. The same place now known as the Mabel Murphy's. Thom took over the Schlitz bottling house in 1903, following Louis Plate’s (see above) tenure there. Thom ran the bottling business for just four years. Few of his bottles made it into the 21st century. Here’s an exceedingly rare glimpse of an Emil Thom bottle.

Otto Villnow
Around 1883, a former cobbler named Otto Villnow began bottling beer from his home at what is now 1417 Oregon St. Villnow appears to have had no direct tie to either a saloon or brewery. Like many such bottlers, Villnow bowed out of the business as bottling became more mechanized and less profitable for small-scale operators like himself. By 1893 he had given up bottling for barbering.

Here’s a picture of Villnow from about 1887, when he was at the height of his bottling career. He wears the uniform of the 2nd Wisconsin National Guard.

And here’s a map from the same period with a red arrow pointing towards the layout of Villnow's home and bottling operation. He may have used the building in back as his bottling house.

Few of Villnow’s bottles have remained intact. Here’s one.

The End of the Indies
By 1915, each of Oshkosh’s three breweries had constructed bottling lines within their respective breweries. Independent beer bottling in Oshkosh faded soon after. By 1919, there were just two independent bottlers working in Oshkosh. The crushing blow came a year later with the onset of Prohibition in 1920. The Great Mistake spelled the end of the independent beer bottler in Oshkosh.

Again, I need to send thanks to Steve Schrage whose bottle collection was sourced for most of the images here. These posts would have been sorely lacking without Steve's help.


  1. Great article! Growing up on Frankfort St. I am familiar with some of the breweries. Love your blog.