Monday, March 1, 2010

The Oshkosh Brewing Company Emblem and Its Strange Journey to the Public Museum

In March of 1987 the City of Oshkosh was trying to figure out what to do with the thousand pound emblem that had once been the crest for the Oshkosh Brewing Company. An advisory committee appointed by the parks director was mulling over five possible locations - the Oshkosh Public Museum, the City Centre (now the Oshkosh Convention Center), South Park, the corner of Algoma and Jackson or back at Doty Street where the brewery once stood.

That the city even had possession of the huge logo was itself something of a fluke. When the emblem went up for auction in December of 1986 the city was prepared to spend $6,600 to keep it in Oshkosh. But they were outbid when a 27-year-old collector of brewery memorabilia from Tomah named Paul Winter put up $9,240. A week later Winter, who grew up near the brewery and had his own sentimental attachment to the emblem, made a deal to sell it back to the city for $200 less than he'd paid for it... with the stipulation that the city make a replica for him.

After much public hand-wringing and one very informal poll taken by the Northwestern that the paper proclaimed resulted in an “Outpouring of public sentiment” favoring the museum site, the emblem was hitched to the south wall of the City Centre overlooking the river. It wasn’t a bad spot, but it was a little confusing for non-locals. “Is there a brew-pub in there?” an out-of-town friend once asked me.

When the Convention Center was remodeled in 2008, the logo was disassembled and removed. The Oshkosh Public Museum took formal ownership in March 2008 and at the end of 2009 the emblem went on display. It was placed just outside the entrance to the Museum at a cost the museum director estimated to be around $12,000.

History may not be cheap, but this piece of it is great to see. The emblem, made of fired-clay, looks terrific and now that you can get up close it seems all the more impressive. This is an especially good time to go see it, as the museum is featuring a new exhibit of incredible panoramic photographs taken in Oshkosh around 1915. Included is a photograph of the Oshkosh Brewing Company and what was then their new brewery. If you look especially close, you’ll see the roaming emblem where it originally resided.

Snapshots of History at the Oshkosh Public Museum.

No comments:

Post a Comment