Monday, April 20, 2015

An Old Friend Comes Back

One more look back to the Spring of 1933 when folks around here were getting their first taste of legally brewed Oshkosh beer in 14 years.

Last week, I posted an ad from Rahr Brewing of Oshkosh that ran on March 22, 1933. That was the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. The new law made it legal to produce and sell beer that was less than 3.2% alcohol by weight beginning April 7, 1933.

Roosevelt signed the bill at 1 p.m. At 1:03 p.m. the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern received a wire telling of the good news. Word spread quickly. Oshkosh breweries and factories began sounding their whistles in celebration. Mayor Taylor Brown declared that April 7 would be a half-holiday in Oshkosh beginning at noon, freeing people to get out and drink beer.

Rahr wasn’t the only brewery in town that rushed giddy ads into the evening paper on March 22. Peoples Brewing and the Oshkosh Brewing Company also had their say. Here’s the Peoples ad. As always, if you click the images, they’ll expand in size.

And here’s the ad from the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

“Our hand has never lost its skill, we are masters in the brewing art.” I really like that!

Each of these were large, 3/4 page ads that dominated the page. The Rahr ad ran on page 7, Peoples on page 9, and OBC’s on page 11. Interspersed were stories telling of how many people the breweries would hire, the tax revenue that would be generated, and how fine it would be to have legal beer again.

This played out while Oshkosh was being pummeled by the Great Depression. With unemployment here estimated to be over 30%, the city was in dire straits. Things had degenerated to the point that city workers maintained 20 fishing nets in Lake Winnebago. They were raised twice weekly with the catch being distributed among the needy. Amidst the despair, the return of legal beer was something to be happy for.

The response in Oshkosh nearly overwhelmed the local breweries. Orders for beer immediately poured in. On April 6, the Daily Northwestern reported that, “there has been such a heavy demand that it is doubtful whether it will be possible to make all the deliveries the first day that have been promised.”

Not to worry, they all received their beer. The “old friend” had come back to stay.

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