Monday, June 20, 2016

Boiled Alive!

Here’s a tragic tale. I first came across this about five years ago. It made my stomach turn then. Same thing now. I’ve touched on this incident a couple times before, but never posted the entire, gruesome episode. Well, here it is...

We’re back at Horn & Schwalm’s Brooklyn Brewery located at what is now the 1600 block of Doty St.

On the Friday evening of February 2, 1872, a young brewer named Leonard Schiffmann was finishing up a long brew day when things went horribly wrong…

A Man Falls into a Vat of Boiling Beer
On Friday, a young man named Leonard Schiffman [sic], employed in Schwalm’s Brewery, Third Ward, met with one of those horrible accidents which occasionally startle the community and make us wonder at the carelessness of human nature.

A large vat, seven or eight feet deep had just been filled with hot beer which had just been drawn off from out of the kettles where it had been boiling. A plank lay across the top and Schiffman attempted to cross it. The room was dark and in groping his way across, poor Schiffman slipped and fell into the seething hell beneath him. Fortunately he grasped the plank and saved himself from a descent which would have ended his career at once. As it was, he descended into the boiling liquid as far as his waist, and then, after struggling for several minutes, during which his lower limbs were in the boiling beer, he succeeded in extricating himself, with the assistance that his agonizing screams soon brought to his aid. Dr. C. and F.H. Lind were at once sent for and they did what was possible for his relief.

His flesh is boiled and his recovery is very doubtful. The physicians think that the amputations of one or both limbs may be necessary, and even in that event he may not recover.
  - Oshkosh Weekly Northwestern, February 8, 1872

A double amputation in 1872 would have been as torturous as his plunge into the boiling liquid. He was spared that additional agony. Three days after his accident, Schiffmann died on Tuesday, February 13, 1872. I haven’t located his exact birth date, but he would have been about 22 years old at the time of his death.

Some background on young Schiffmann: He was born about 1850 in Prussia and immigrated to America with his parents and siblings sometime prior to the Civil War. The family had reached Oshkosh by 1865.

Early on, Schiffmann worked here as a carpenter while living above his father’s saloon on the east side of what is now the 400 block of N. Main.

But the Schiffmann’s were brewers. In addition to the saloon, his father operated a Weissbier brewery in Oshkosh, first on N. Main and later on Doty. And Leonard’s older brother Andrew appears to have preceded him into the Horn & Schwalm brewhouse.

Leonard Schiffmann took up the brewing trade just months prior to his death. The 1872-1873 Oshkosh City Directory lists his occupation as “saw filer and carpenter.” That directory was being compiled about the same time Schiffmann was changing careers. A move in the direction of a very bad end.