So begins the last ditch effort of Oshkosh’s three largest brewers to save their own hides. By the spring of 1893, Oshkosh’s breweries had lost their lock on the local beer trade. The city was swamped with beer sent in by some of America’s largest breweries (for more on that see this, this and this). The local brewers were in a panic.
Faced with the dread prospect of having to compete with breweries that dwarfed them, three of the four Oshkosh breweries scrambled to contrive a united front against the onslaught. The old rivals were now allies. Together, they created a binding agreement to prevent each of them from undercutting the others.
|From left to right, Oshkosh brewery owners John Glatz, Lorenz Kuenzl, and August Horn|
The agreement of 1893 had three main provisions.
- The price of beer would be fixed at $7.20 a barrel after discounts were applied (the actual list price was hiked to $8 a barrel).
- The brewers and their delivery men would be limited as to the amount of money they could spend at saloons “treating” customers when delivering beer or making collections.
- The brewers would not be allowed to spend money at “dancing parties” held at saloons.
Oshkosh was at the cusp of the brutal depression that followed the Panic of 1893. Unemployment was high and growing worse. New construction was headed for a screeching halt that triggered local woodworking plants to shed workers.
It didn’t help that at this same time, the men who owned Oshkosh's breweries had taken up residence in splendid homes that made a show of their wealth. Here’s a couple examples of their opulent digs.
By 1900, the Oshkosh Brewing Company attained utter domination of the Oshkosh beer market. But this city would never again have the multitude of breweries that existed prior to those big breweries coming to town and forcing the hands of our local brewers.