The best aspect these stories is the way they avoid conventional brewery trope. They’re not about beer production or business. They’re about people. They’re rare intimations of what daily life may have been like at Oshkosh breweries of this period.
I want to share a few of these stories. We’ll start light and end in a very dark place. Here’s one about a horse...
|Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Monday March 24, 1890|
That keg of beer is also worth noting. Remember, this was a time when bottled beer was an extravagance. Most folks drinking beer at home were doing just like Burkhardt Krieger. They were bringing their beer home in kegs, often purchasing it directly from the brewery. They didn’t have kegerators either. What they were drinking was gravity flow, cask lager. I’ll bet it was delicious.
Here’s one of those kegs from Horn & Schwalm’s Brewery. The keg Krieger’s horse made off with would have looked just like this one. You can’t see it from this angle, but “Horn & Schwalm” is branded into the wood on the top side of the barrel seen here.
Here’s a story that's positively bucolic. The newspaper I found it in was in rough shape, so I’ll transcribe it.
- Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Friday, September 28, 1883
Too bad you’re not allowed to keep pigs in town anymore. I’d like to have a pig. Back then on Doty Street there were plenty of families keeping a porker or two.
By the way, Oshkosh breweries still dole out their spent grain as animal feed. Both Bare Bones Brewery and Fox River Brewing have arrangements with local farmers who use the brewhouse leftovers as livestock feed.
I have to include this next one because it’s about one of my favorite subjects….
- Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Wednesday, December 31, 1890
A boot in the ass! On New Year’s Eve, no less. Oshkosh was beset with tramps all through the late 1800s. The city tried a number novel solutions to stem the transient tide. For example, in the 1880s Oshkosh cops were paid a bonus of 37 cents (about $6.50 in today’s money) for each tramp they collared. That didn’t help.
They finally hit upon a solution. A workhouse was established near 17th and Knapp. Tramps pinched in Oshkosh were sent there to pass their time breaking rocks. By the turn of the century, word had spread among the wandering tribe that Oshkosh was no longer hospitable. Problem solved.
Here’s an interesting tidbit. One of the people who played a role in the establishment of the workhouse was Fred C. Horn, a member of the same family that owned the Horn & Schwalm Brewery. I guess kicking ass stopped being fun after a while.
OK, I warned you we were headed for a dark place. Here we are. Abandon all hope, this one is utterly bleak. Here’s a story that hints at just how different the lives of these people were from our own. Prepare for some old-school nihilism.
- Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, Monday, October 4, 1875
Let that sink in.... A dead baby found half eaten by dogs and nobody cares to investigate it.
Imagine the uproar that would ensue if it happened today. It would be national news instead of a 9-line blurb consigned to an inside page of a local paper. No doubt there’s more to this story. The rest of it was taken to the graves of those involved. Maybe that’s for the best.