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.

No comments:

Post a Comment