Monday, August 10, 2015

The Beer Wagons of Oshkosh

In the years before Prohibition, beer deliveries in Oshkosh were made by horse drawn wagons. They were called beer rolls and all of the breweries here had them. In Oshkosh it was common to hear the thunder of dray horses tugging heavy wagons loaded with wooden kegs full of beer through the streets of the city.

Here’s a look at some of the old beer rolls of Oshkosh. As always, you can enlarge any of the images by clicking on them.

We'll start with a wagon from the 1880s used by Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery. This wagon was made in Oshkosh by carriage maker Gabriel Streich.

Another one from Horn & Schwalm. More horse than wagon this time. This picture was taken sometime between 1891 and 1894. It shows a beer delivery to the Josef Fenzl saloon, which is now Jeff's On Rugby.

Here’s a few wagons that hailed from John Glatz’s Union Brewery.

This picture is from the late 1880s. That’s a lot of beer on that wagon on the left.

I like this one. The picture is circa 1890. In front of a wagon loaded down with quarter barrels, are brewery workers. Looks like an interesting crew.

This is a shot from the backside of the Glatz brewery. In the middle, you can see the pulley system used to load those heavy barrels onto the wagon. A wooden-keg half barrel full of beer weighed around 180 pounds. Quarter barrels weighed about 100 pounds.

A couple from Lorenz Kuenzl’s Gambrinus Brewery.

This picture is from the early 1890s. Notice the wagon on the left. It’s loaded with cases of beer bottles. I’ll bet that made a hell of a racket as it went charging down Oshkosh’s unpaved streets.

In this picture, notice the barrels hanging from the underside of the wagon. They tried to pack as much as they could onto these things.

Here’s one from the Rahr Brewing Company of Oshkosh. I wish I had more pictures of Rahr’s beer wagons. Sadly, this is the only one I have. And it’s not even a wagon. It’s a sleigh for hauling beer around Oshkosh when the streets were full of snow. Wouldn’t you love to see this gliding down your street in winter?

Here’s a group of wagons from the Oshkosh Brewing Company.

The first wagon was in use in the early 1900s. Just to the right of the driver, you can see the Oshkosh Brewing Company’s emblem featuring an image of Chief Oshkosh.

I believe this picture is from the late 1890s. This was take after the Glatz, Horn & Schwalm, and Kunezl breweries merged to form the Oshkosh Brewing Company. This was taken in front of what had formerly been the Glatz brewery.

Another Oshkosh Brewing Company wagon at what had been the Glatz brewery. Looks like most of these kegs are empty, the bungs are missing.

Notice on the back of the wagon where it says WEISS BEER. In the early 1900s, that was a popular beer for OBC. This wagon was made by Oshkosh brothers, August and Gabriel Streich.

Here’s a couple that were taken after Prohibition. Though the beer rolls were no longer in use, the Oshkosh Brewing Company would bring out its old wagons from time to time for promotions and parades.

In this first picture you’ll see OBC treasurer Earl Horn, president Arthur Schwalm, and secretary Lorenz “Shorty” Kuenzl standing in front a wagon driven by John Pahlow.

Last one and this time in glorious color. Here’s Pahlow again in 1944 with the OBC wagon at the corner of 8th and Nebraska streets. Gaffney’s Tavern, shown in the background, no longer stands.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, the horse drawn wagons were replaced by beer trucks. And the wooden kegs were gradually discontinued as steel and then aluminum kegs became the norm.

Progress is nice, but it’s no match for the romantic images that come to mind when you think of horse-drawn wagons packed with wooden barrels full of beer rolling through Oshkosh.


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