Monday, August 31, 2020

Our Bock is Oktoberfest

Where we once had this....

We now have this...

For more than a hundred years, the most anticipated seasonal beer in Oshkosh was bock beer; a malt-driven amber/brown lager that was released just once a year. Today, the most anticipated seasonal beer in Oshkosh is Oktoberfest; a malt-driven amber/brown lager that gets released just once a year.
Cap: On the left is a 1934 depiction of bock beer from Rahr Malting.
On the right is Fox River Brewing's Oktoberfest.

The two beers share more than color in common. The recipes are also similar.

The post-Prohibition bocks from Rahr Brewing of Oshkosh and the Oshkosh Brewing Company used caramel malts. At Peoples Brewing they took a somewhat different approach by adding a heavy dose of Munich malt in their bock beer. The three Oktoberfests made by Oshkosh breweries this year each included Munich malt along with some form of caramel malt in their recipes.

Not surprisingly, the resulting flavors also share some things in common. In 1961, the Oshkosh Brewing Company described its bock as having a "toasted" flavor with the taste being "quite a bit sweeter" than its standard beer. Some 50 years later, when Fox River Brewing released its Oktoberfest, the brewery’s description mentioned that "The taste is full of a bready sweet maltiness."

The strength of the older bocks and the current Oshkosh Oktoberfests are also in the same ballpark. Wilhelm Kohlhoff, a brewer at Peoples Brewing in Oshkosh during the 1950s and '60s said that Peoples Bock was in the 5.5 to 6% ABV range. That's right in line with Fox River's Foxtoberfest at 6.2% ABV; and Fifth Ward's Oktoberfest at 5.8% ABV. Bare Bones Oktoberfest at 5% ABV isn't too far off that mark, either.

That leaves one major difference between these two types of beer: the release date. Oshkosh-brewed bock was considered a spring beer, released near the end of winter. Oktoberfests, of course, are thought of as the prototypical beer of fall released at the end of summer. But just like the older bocks, the Oktoberfests have succumbed to seasonal creep.

Prior to the 1880s, Bock beer in Oshkosh would usually hit the market in April. But in the 1890s, the creep began with bock beers arriving earlier every year. By the 1910s, Oshkosh breweries were releasing bock beers as early February. Each of the brewers was trying to beat the other to the punch.

From the February 25, 1910 Oshkosh Daily Northwestern.

The same sort of creep has happened with Oktoberfests. In the 1960s, when the first Oktoberfest beers started appearing in Oshkosh, they wouldn't start pouring until mid-September. This year there were Oktoberfest beers on sale in Oshkosh in July. And all three of the Oshkosh Oktoberfests were pouring by early August. The reasons for the creep are much the same. "We're basically forced to brew these beers early," says Andrew Roth, brewmaster at Fox River. “I would prefer we could release it at the proper historical time, but if we do that we won't sell any because the market will have already been saturated by it. It's unfortunate, but there's nothing to be done about it."

I'm part of the problem. I love Oktoberfest and I start grabbing it as soon as it's available. And for me the sooner, the better. Prost!

For more on the history of bock beer in Oshkosh, click here.
For more on the history of Oktoberfest beers in Oshkosh, click here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: Schlitz Hall

Schlitz Hall, Southwest Corner of Washington and State.
Fred Schild and Henry Wunderlich, Proprietors.

We’ve arrived at the ninth and final stop of the 1902 Oshkosh Saloon Crawl. I'm sure by now you've noticed a number of recurring themes along the way. For example, the Germanic heritage of so many of the people who ran these places. Fred Schild and Henry Wunderlich were steeped in that culture.

Schild was born in Germany in 1844. He came to America when he was 28 and soon after arrived in Oshkosh. Wunderlich was the son of German immigrants. He was born in Jefferson in 1859. In the mid-1880s, Wunderlich moved to Oshkosh and got a job tending bar at a saloon Schild was running on the south side of town.

In 1892, Schild and Wunderlich left the south side and launched Schlitz Hall at the corner of Washington and State. The building was owned by August Uihlein, chairman of the board and secretary of Schlitz Brewing. Like a lot of the saloons tied to Schlitz, Schild and Wunderlich had their place done up in a palm-garden motif. This saloon was unlike most others in Oshkosh. It was roomy and airy. It was a clean, well-lighted place.

The Schlitz Beer Hall; page 130 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

The only beer they’d serve you there was beer made by Schlitz Brewing. At the time, that included a host of specialties. Things like Schlitz Porter, Schlitz Extra-Stout, Schlitz Budweiser, and the Schlitz version of a Vienna lager. But the featured beer was Schlitz Atlas Brau, an “old-time lager” drawn directly “from the wood” (a wooden barrel). This was a premium beer aimed at connoisseurs. Schild and Wunderlich were the only saloon keepers in Oshkosh allowed to serve it. Here's the two of them in an ad from 1903.

From the 1903 Oshkosh City Directory.

Here’s an outside shot of Schlitz Hall in all its glory. The domed cupola is directly above the corner entrance to the saloon at the southwest corner of Washington and State streets.

And to think we gave up that for a parking lot…. 

The Exclusive Company parking lot at the corner of Washington and State streets.

Well folks, that damned parking lot is where our 1902 Oshkosh Saloon Crawl ends. I thoroughly enjoyed putting this together. And I hope you enjoyed it, too.

To go back to the beginning of the crawl, click here.
To see all of the stops along the crawl, click here.

The Schild and Wunderlich place was not the first or only Schlitz saloon here. At the turn of the century Schlitz was gunning hard for Oshkosh. To learn more about that, click here.

I mentioned the variety of beer styles that were produced by Schlitz during this period. This ad from 1891 gives you a sense of the diversity of Schlitz’ offerings.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Little Cozy Sample Room

The Little Cozy Sample Room, 216 N. Main Street.
George Miller and Bert Gough, Proprietors.

George Miller and Bert Gough were first-generation Americans born to parents who had come here from Germany. Both were seasoned saloon men by the time they opened the Little Cozy in 1901. I suspect this may be them standing behind the bar.

The Little Cozy Sample Room; page 90 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

This wasn’t just another nickel beer joint. This was a high-end beer bar serving premium beers made in Oshkosh, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and London. By this point in our crawl you may have noticed that you're not seeing tap handles jutting up from behind the bar in any of these places. They had a different sort of setup in 1902.

In the picture above, look between the man in the hat and the hatless man in the dark suit. You’ll see what looks like three faucets. That’s exactly what they are, but these faucets poured beer. They’re attached to an icebox. Block ice was loaded into the top of the cabinet. Cold air would drift down keeping the beer below nice and cool.

Let’s get a better look at one of these beer cabinets. The picture below is from a catalog put out by the Robert Brand and Sons Co. of Oshkosh. Brand was one of the Midwest’s main producers of these contraptions.

The back end of the Little Cozy was occupied by the card room. Have a look...

I’m guessing those potted plants were fake. Or short-lived. This would not have been a room conducive to the habitation of greenery. Imagine this place deep into a Saturday night. The booze is flowing. The cards are flying. The spittoons are filling up and the cigar smoke is so thick you can't see the portraits of the women on the walls. That place must have smelled just lovely by the time Sunday morning rolled around.

Well, it smells better now. What was the Little Cozy is now Screwballs Sports Club. And now the beer taps are front and center.
Screwballs Sports Club, 216 N. Main St.

Screwballs Sports Club.

The crawl continues….
The final stop on the 1902 Saloon Crawl is Schlitz Hall at the corner of Washington and State.
To return to the start of the crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl click here.

I have something of a minor obsession with the Little Cozy. If you want to know more, I’ve written about this place before here and here.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The White Seal

The White Seal Buffet, 300 Block of N. Main Street.
Peter Stein and John Larie, Proprietors.

Peter Stein and John Larie were born in Wisconsin. Both were the issue of parents who had migrated from Germany. For first-generation Americans of German descent, owning a saloon was the embodiment of the American dream. Stein and Larie dreamed big. Check out this place...

The White Seal Buffet; page 22 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

You don't see many old saloons decked out in white. The White Seal was all about projecting an atmosphere of elegance. It was variously described as "Wisconsin's most beautiful buffet" and "The finest bar west of Chicago." Towards the rear of the building was the club room. It was just as prim as the barroom. Let's have a look.

In case you're wondering, La Preferencia was a Cuban cigar. You could buy one of those in Oshkosh in 1902 for a dime. Below the cigar sign is the restroom. That's how luxurious this place was – they had an indoor bathroom. Plenty of Oshkosh saloons didn’t. And just outside the bathroom door is the sink. There are still a number of taverns in Oshkosh that have exactly this sort of arrangement.

Alright, let's get to the ugly. At the back of the room, you can see a doorway. That would have been the “ladies’ entrance.” The club room was a place where a woman could take her beer in peace. Because unless she was a prostitute or barmaid, she wouldn't have been welcomed in the front bar. There was a loud squabble in Oshkosh during this time whether women should even be allowed in saloons.

In 1899, the Oshkosh common council had seriously kicked around the idea of banning all women from the city's saloons. During the debate, second ward Alderman Charles Heath spewed, "I don't consider this matter a question of personal liberty in any sense." Thankfully, that breed of dinosaur no longer roams our land.

The White Seal is gone, too. That beautiful bar gave way to a parking lot. It breaks my heart.

From the 1903 Oshkosh City Directory.

The White Seal used to stand here, near the northeast corner of Waugoo and N. Main streets.

The crawl continues….
I’ll post the next stop on the 1902 is the Little Cozy Sample Room at 216 N. Main.
To return to the start of the crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl that are currently available, click here.

John Larie was among the Oshkosh saloon keepers behind the launch of Peoples Brewing Company. There's more on that here.

Oshkosh Up to Date is a book from 1902 that forms the basis for this series of saloon stories. For some background on Oshkosh Up to Date, click here. To see a digitized version of Oshkosh Up to Date, click here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Opera Buffet

Opera Buffet, Opera House Square.
William Bedward, Proprietor.

William Bedward was born in Wales in 1852. He was in his early 20s when he came to Oshkosh and found work as a railroad brakeman. In 1899, or thereabouts, he left that and took over a posh, little saloon that was just a short stroll from the famous Athearn Hotel. Here’s the look of Bedward’s place in 1902.

The Opera Buffet; page 126 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

Check out that U.S. flag with just 45 stars. Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii had yet to become states. More importantly, look to the lower right portion of the picture. You can see the corner of a table and part of a serving tray. Bedward was a proponent of what was called the saloon lunch. That's the start of his “buffet” there. 

At the turn of the century, the saloon lunch was a feature of many Oshkosh bars. Saloon keepers would put up a free buffet, starting at 10 or 11 in the morning, in hopes of luring in folks for a bout of day drinking. This wasn't just pretzels and popcorn. You could make a meal out of this. They’d serve things like roast beef, ham, turkey, venison, limburger cheese, oysters, soup...

The customers loved it. The saloon keepers came to hate it. They croaked about the expense of providing all that free food. But none who offered it dared be the first to quit. At one point, the saloonists even attempted to impose a collective ban on the free saloon lunch in Oshkosh. When word of that got out, the Daily Northwestern reported that "the retailers of wet goods have been pelted by a perfect hailstorm of abuse." The free lunch gradually dwindled away and died entirely in 1920 with the arrival of Prohibition.

Bedward's bar perished just like those free lunches. Opera House Square is now devoid of saloons. It once teemed with them. Here's a photo taken outside the Opera Buffet, circa 1913. The red arrow indicates the site of Bedward's old stand.

The Crawl Continues...
I’ll have the next stop on the 1902 Saloon Crawl posted later this week. 
To return to the start of the crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl that are currently available, click here.

If you’re curious about the “saloon lunch” I’ll be writing more about it in the not-too-distant future. If you can’t wait, check out the December 5, 1898 edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. There’s a fun story in there about it. You can get your hands on that via the Oshkosh Public Library.

If you’re curious about Oshkosh’s famous Aethern Hotel, here’s a brief primer.

Bedward’s saloon was part of a cluster of businesses located in Opera House Square. That little, and now grass filled, plot of land has an interesting history. Michael McArthur of the Oshkosh Public Library explored that history in one of his recent Librarian Learns videos. You can see that here

Oshkosh Up to Date is a book from 1902 that forms the basis for this series of saloon stories. For some background on Oshkosh Up to Dateclick here. To see a digitized version of Oshkosh Up to Dateclick here.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Meentzen Saloon on High

The Meentzen Saloon, 141 High Street.
John Meentzen, Proprietor.

John Meentzen was born in Germany in 1846. When he turned 21 he lit out and headed straight for Oshkosh. He spent his first few years here scuffling by, making shoes, selling cigars, and tending bar. By 1883 he had saved enough money to launch his own saloon on High Street. He’d call that place home for the next 27 years. Here's how it was 1902.

John Meentzen’s Saloon; page 104 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

And that right there is a classic, turn of the century saloon: mustache towels, spittoons, gob-stained floors, the brass rail, the boxy wooden partition... Most of that finery was probably financed by the Oshkosh Brewing Company. Meentzen's place was a tied house with OBC as its sponsor. The brewery footed the bill for the operation with the understanding that Meentzen would sell no other beer than that of the Oshkosh Brewing Company. This sort of arrangement was common before Prohibition. Now it's illegal (sort of). It was a sweet deal for Meentzen. He lived above the saloon rent-free.

I want to direct your attention to the middle of the mirror behind Meentzen's bar. Can you see the little hatchet hanging there (click the picture to enlarge it)? I might know the story behind that.

In the summer of 1902, Carrie Nation – the saloon-smashing prohibitionist from Kansas – paid a visit to Oshkosh. During her visit here, Nation stopped by Meentzen's saloon threatening to bust the place up. But Meentzen wouldn’t let her through the door.

While Nation was in Oshkosh, she went around selling souvenir hatchets like the one seen behind Meentzen's bar. It was how she financed her roving madness. I suspect the hatchet in the picture above might have been Meentzen’s mock tribute to the time Carrie Nation paid him a visit. The 1902 picture would have been taken not long after Nation's trip to Oshkosh.

Oshkosh Daily Northwestern; July 21, 1902.

John Meentzen as he appeared in 1900.

The beer still flows at Meentzen’s old place. Of course, the name has changed many times over the years. Today it's called The Reptile Palace. The general layout there is still pretty much as it was when Meentzen was working the bar.

141 High Street.

The Crawl Continues...
Our next stop on the 1902 Saloon Crawl is The Opera Buffet
To return to the start of the crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl that are currently available, click here.

Carrie Nation’s visit to Oshkosh was one for the ages. You can find out all about that here.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Zayat

The Zayat, 224 N. Main Street.
A.G Cone, Proprietor.

Almer G. Cone was born in Wisconsin in 1864 and had his own saloon in Oshkosh by the time he'd reached his mid-20s. He had a flair for the exotic right from the jump. His first bar, at 412 N. Main Street, was a swank joint called the Monte Cristo Club. It was billed as the "headquarters for theatrical people... where expert and distinguished dispensers of palatable decoctions are ever ready to accommodate customers with the best plain, bottled, or fancy drinks known to the profession." Try making sense of that after you've had a few.

In 1902, Cone moved down the block to 224 N. Main and opened The Zayat. Cone claimed it was "the swellest sample room" in all of Oshkosh. The name reflected his penchant for the eccentric. Zayat is a Burmese word for a type of refuge used by traveling worshipers. I'll bet that whatever was being worshiped at The Zayat had nothing to do with the Buddha. Here we are...

The Zayat; page 174 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902. 

Several of the images that appear in Oshkosh Up to Date were airbrushed. The photo of The Zayat received an especially heavy treatment. The mirror behind the bar has been all but blotted out. I suspect there may have been some racy illustrations attached to it. That doesn't matter. The thing to notice in this shot is the wooden partition with the classic swinging doors at the entrance to the barroom (you can always click on any of these pictures to enlarge them).

That barrier was there to prevent the prying eyes on Main Street from looking in. Most saloons of this era had large, plate glass windows facing the street. The partition and swinging doors were usually placed about six-feet back from the street entrance. The barrier made it impossible for passersby to see who was at the bar or what they might be doing there. The anti-saloon gang had mixed feelings about this setup.

Some of the prudes considered the barriers necessary to save the innocent from being corrupted by the spectacle of vice playing out in the bowels of a saloon. Other killjoys thought the privacy only served to inflame the debauchery. In some Wisconsin cities, the latter band of bluenoses won out and persuaded local governments to make such partitions illegal. That didn't happen in Oshkosh. Here, at least, the sober folks had enough sense to realize they were probably better off not seeing the sights on the other side of those swinging doors.

What was A.G. Cone’s Zayat is now Market Boutique On Main. The building was known as the Weisbrod Block when it was built in 1875. Here's how it looks today.

224 N. Main Street.

If you go there, check out the impressive ceiling. It looks much like it did when Almer Cone was slinging drinks there.

The 1902 Saloon Crawl Continues.
The next stop on the crawl is the John Meentzen Saloon at 141 High Street
To return to the start of the crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl that are currently available, click here.

There are some recent photos of the interior of the former Zayat that you can view here.
For more on the Weisbrod Block, go here.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Oasis Sample Rooms

The Oasis Sample Rooms, 416 N. Main Street.
Harry Maxwell, Proprietor.

Harry Maxwell was born in New York in 1855 and was five when his family moved to Jefferson, Wisconsin. The Maxwells arrived in Oshkosh in the mid-1870s. Harry worked in his father's painting business until 1892 when he abandoned the brush for the bar. Maxwell's very popular Main Street saloon was allocated two frames in Oshkosh Up to Date. The first shot shows his saloon's foyer where Maxwell sold accessories to the sporting life: liquor, wine, and cigars.

The Oasis Sample Rooms; page 128 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

After passing through Maxwell's pleasure shop, you arrived at the bar where it was always time for a Schlitz.

If you look closely in the back bar mirror you can see reflected a painting inside a draped frame of a nude sprawled across a bed. Class. Maxwell's saloon was known as a sporting house. Photos of boxers hang from the partition at the end of the bar. Here you could place bets and get up-to-the minute results for important boxing matches, horse races, or elections. It didn't matter where the event was taking place. Maxwell had a phone (his number was 351) installed so he could have the action called in. Totally illegal. Totally permitted. Maxwell was so well known as a handicapper that, on the eve of an important boxing match or election, the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern would sometimes print blurbs telling who Maxwell was putting his money on.

As a sideline to his saloon, Maxwell also ran the Maxwell Novelty Co., which made and sold slot machines.  A couple of years before the pictures above were taken, Maxwell caught a man feeding slugs into one of his slots. Maxwell made an example of the man, beating him "into insensibility" in the middle of Main Street. The performance was so brutal and ugly that it was followed by calls to have Maxwell prosecuted. The police shrugged. Chief of Police Weisbrod said it wouldn't be worth the effort without a complaining witness. The beaten man, who wished to remain anonymous, wanted nothing more to do with anything involving Maxwell.

The building that housed Maxwell’s saloon remains at 416 N. Main Street. It was built in 1884 from a plan by famed Oshkosh architect William Waters.

416 N. Main Street.

The Crawl Continues...
Our next stop on the 1902 Oshkosh Saloon Crawl is The Zayat at 224 N. Main.
To return to the start of the crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl that are currently available, click here.

The story about Maxwell pounding that man on Main Street appears in the August 13, 1900 edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern.

For more on the William Waters designed building that Maxwell occupied, go here and here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Baebler Saloon

The Baebler Saloon, Opera House Square. 
Jacob Baebler, Proprietor.

Jacob Baebler was born in Switzerland in 1858. He and his brother Casper came to America in 1876 and settled in Hustisford where Jacob plied his trade as a (Swiss) cheesemaker. A couple of years later Jacob left for Oshkosh. He got a house on the south side and continued making cheese. Right around 1890, Baebler ditched all that and began slinging drinks. He partnered with Herman Head and together they launched a saloon on what is now Parkway Ave. There's a bar still going at that location, it's called the Electric Lounge. That’s a story for another day. In 1900, Baebler struck out on his own, taking over the saloon at the southwest corner of Main and Algoma. Here’s how Baebler's bar looked in 1902.

The Baebler Saloon; page 126 Oshkosh Up to Date, 1902.

Our man Baebler is the fellow with the mustache. The clean-cut kid might be his son Fred, who sometimes worked in his father's saloon. 

Here’s something to make you queasy in the time of Coronavirus. See those towels hanging from the front of the bar? Those were called mustache towels. They were used for wiping beer suds and various effluvia from the mouths of saloon goers. These were community rags shared by anyone whose gob needed wiping. Think of that. It would be like going to a restaurant and using the same napkin that had been used by the five people who had previously occupied your seat. 

Just to the left of the bar, you can see a slot machine. These were illegal and utterly commonplace in Oshkosh saloons of this period. The flagrancy with which Oshkosh bars violated gambling laws caused repeated outbursts of outrage from the anti-saloon crowd. But their complaints were ignored as thoroughly as the law was. Oshkosh Up to Date must have given those folks a jolt. Here you have a book published in part by the police department showing a fine sample room that openly offers a gambling option. So much for law and order.

Unfortunately, Baebler's place no longer stands. The building was destroyed by fire in 1996. The giant sundial in Opera House Square now looms from about where the back end of Baebler's bar was. 

Below, we have another glimpse of Baebler. He's in the black coat and bowler standing not far from the entrance of his saloon. The "Bauman's" sign you see in the background is over the front entrance of what is now New Moon Cafe. 

To return to the start of the 1902 Saloon Crawl, click here.
For links to all of the stops on the crawl that are currently available, click here.

I've written a few things about this saloon before. Early on, it was run by an Englishman named Englebright, who in the 1870s may have been the first saloon keeper in Oshkosh to serve an IPA. You can dig into all of that by clicking here and here and here.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Oshkosh Saloons of 1902: The Cabinet

The Oshkosh City Directory of 1903 lists more than 120 saloons. That means there was one bar for every 220 people living here. The ratio today is approximately one bar for every 1,500 people in the Oshkosh metro area. We still like our social drinking, but we're no match for those earlier Oshkosh quaffers.

Beers at an unidentified Oshkosh saloon in the early 1900s.

Those early-1900s saloons were not only numerous, they were also lovely. At least some of them. And thanks to the Oshkosh Fire and Police departments, we get to take a virtual crawl through a few of Oshkosh's lavish "drinking-hells" (as the prudes used to call them). But before we start the tour, let's set the stage for how this slice of history came to be.

Oshkosh Up to Date
In 1902, Oshkosh's cops and firefighters were trying to drum up money for their relief association; a kind of insurance program that paid benefits to members in need. One of their efforts resulted in a book published in December 1902 titled Oshkosh Up To Date.

Oshkosh Up to Date Cover.

Oshkosh Up to Date was presented as a souvenir guidebook. It was filled with images of the city at its best. The 186 glossy pages were printed by Castle-Pierce of Oshkosh and had pictures of street scenes, stately homes, stores full of goods, churches, schools, headshots of cops, firefighters, politicos… And, of course, saloons. It wouldn’t have been Oshkosh or Up to Date without saloons. To be in the book, you had to offer a donation to the Firemen's and Policemen's Relief Association. This is where it gets a little sticky.

This type of publication was common at the turn of the century and they were commonly seen as shakedown operations. If you wanted to be treated well by folks carrying badges, well then it was probably in your best interest to show them your support in the form of a donation. And as we'll see, some of the saloon keepers who paid to present their establishment in Oshkosh Up to Date were dabbling in things that depended upon the leniency of the police. For example...

The Cabinet, 206 N. Main Street.
William Grady, Proprietor.

William "Billy" Grady was born in Canada in 1864. He was the son of Irish immigrants. Grady moved to Oshkosh when he was 20 to work in the lumber mills here. A few years later, he began bartending. By 1900 he was running his own place. The Cabinet was his jewel.

The Cabinet, 206 N. Main Street.

See what I mean about lovely? There are a few things in that picture that we’ll see more of in the saloons to come. First, there's the complete lack of bar stools. If you were taking your drink at the bar you were standing. Prior to 1920, that's how it worked in most places. The brass foot rail was the sole aid to repose. Tucked inside the foot rail you'll see four, large brass spittoons. Or if you prefer, cuspidors. There was a lot of spit flying in these places. Think of the poor soul who had to clean those out.

Would you have guessed that this place also operated as a brothel? It did. Maybe that's why Grady ponied up the money to have this picture included in Oshkosh Up to Date. His saloon was notorious. Grady needed to have the cops on his side.

The Cabinet was known as a stall saloon. These were saloons with back-room booths - stalls really - where a customer could privately engage in "disgraceful scenes" with a woman whose favors were available for purchase. Unfortunately, none of the Cabinets cabinets can be seen in this shot. The picture here shows the front half of the space looking towards the Main Street entrance. 

At the time this picture was taken there was an ongoing chorus of calls from local religious leaders to have Grady's license revoked. It would have solved nothing. As Rev. Anderson of the First Methodist Church remarked, "When Grady's license is revoked and the offenders punished, the old iniquity will go on just the same. This is like purifying the Fox River by dipping out a few pails of dirty water at the Main street bridge.”

The building that was home to Grady’s place still stands. But long gone are the fancy bar, the flying spit, the stalls, and the whores. Grady’s pleasure temple has been given over to a pursuit much more mundane.

The Hennig brokerage firm, current occupant of 206 N. Main Street.

The next stop on the crawl is The Baebler Saloon, on Opera House Square. . 
Links to each of the stops along the crawl are posted here.

Notes & Sources
Oshkosh Up to Date can be viewed online here.

The controversy surrounding the revocation of Grady's license was covered in the December 19, 1900 edition of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern.

More info on the 206 N. Main Street site is available here via the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A 1902 Oshkosh Saloon Crawl

You've arrived at the point of entry for a virtual bar crawl through nine saloons that were doing business in Oshkosh in 1902. Each link below leads to a specific saloon along the crawl. To get into the bar-crawl spirit of things, I suggest taking a drink each time the word saloon is used in this series. Let's go!

This saloon crawl is based upon the 1902 book Oshkosh Up to Date. To view a digitized version of the book click here.