Monday, February 20, 2017

Joseph J. Nigl on the Brink

I want to share a picture recently shared with me. I hadn't seen this photo before. It shows Joseph J. Nigl and his family. Nigl was a founder of Peoples Brewing Company of Oshkosh. This shot was taken before the brewery was launched. The Nigls sat for this photo about 1896.

From the left, the four girls in front are Mary (b.1891-d.1992), Rose (b.1890-d.1976), Elizabeth (b.1893-d.1983), and Karolena (b.1894-d.1928). The baby is Joseph Nigl (b.1896-d.1970). The woman in the dark dress is Maria (Seibold) Nigl (b.1869-d.1899). Her husband, Joseph J. Nigl (b.1866-d.1921) is seated on the right.

They all look quite serene. But they were headed for turmoil. Three years after this picture was taken, Maria Nigl died. Her death came six days after giving birth to her daughter, Anna.

Here's a picture from 1899, near the time of Maria's death. It's a  heartbreaking photo when you know its context. This is the Nigl family without mother Maria.

Joseph J. Nigl is in the middle flanked by his children. The man at the far left wearing a hat and white shirt is his father. They're all standing in front of the grocery store/saloon the Nigls operated at 9th and Ohio streets. This building is now home to Ohio Street Station at 815 Ohio St.

When this photo was taken, Joseph J. Nigl was struggling on several fronts. Suddenly he was widower with six children. At the same time, his livelihood was being threatened by the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

Nigl's saloon, the Gemütlichkeit, had been tied to the Oshkosh Brewing Company. But OBC had decided to eliminate the middleman at 9th and Ohio and build its own saloon and dance hall across the street (that property is now the home of Nigl's at 556 W. 9th Ave). Joseph J. Nigl was being squeezed out.

It wasn't long before Nigl rebounded. In the fall of 1899 he married Theresa Madl. And the squeeze from OBC would lead directly to Nigl initiating the formation of Peoples Brewing Company, which he became the first president of.

Joseph J. Nigl died in Oshkosh in 1921. He was president of Peoples Brewing at the time of his death.


  1. Great article Lee, it's great to get information to fill in the gaps, thanks.

    1. Thanks! Planning on having some more on Nigl in the near future.

  2. Where was the brewery located? I find it fascinating, but also sad how much has changed on the south side.

    1. Peoples brewery was on the SE corner of 15th & south main in oshkosh. Part of the brewery is still standing. Blended Waxes inc. is currently on the site.

    2. Tom, I'll paste a link below that will lead to more stories about Peoples Brewing of Oshkosh. If you're interested in learning more about this brewery, this will help: