Blatz Brewing Company Records, 1862-1944


Valentin Blatz

Valentin Blatz was born on October 1, 1826, in Miltenberg am Main, Bavaria. The son of a local brewer, Caspar Blatz and his wife Barbara, he attended school until age fourteen at which time he began an apprenticeship in his father's business. In 1844 Blatz began an extended tour of some of Europe's greatest breweries where he spent his time learning new techniques and the latest in brewing technology until, at age twenty-one, he was forced to return home in order to fulfill his military obligation in the army. However, his father, a prominent community leader, obtained a substitute to serve in his place and shortly thereafter, like thousands of his countrymen, Valentin Blatz left Bavaria for the United States. Landing in New York City in August 1848, Blatz found work almost immediately at the Born Brewery in Buffalo, New York.

Blatz remained in Buffalo for approximately one year after which time he journeyed west to Milwaukee. Arriving in 1849, he found work as the foreman (some sources say brewmaster) at John Braun's Cedar Brewery that had been established in 1846. It was a small operation, employing only a few workmen and capable of producing approximately 150 barrels of beer annually. The brewery's storage capacity was said to be only 80 barrels. Blatz worked for Braun and boarded at his home until 1851, when, after having saved $500, he purchased half of a city lot and began his own brewing business.

Around the time that Blatz was establishing his own brewery, John Braun was killed suddenly after being thrown from his horse-drawn wagon while on a trip selling beer. He left a son, John, and a wife, Louise, who was pregnant with the couple's second child. In December of 1851 Blatz married Braun's widow and adopted her infant child (also named Louise) who was born after Braun's death. Blatz also raised his late employer's son John as his own. Although he was never formally adopted, John Braun became known generally around Milwaukee as "John Blatz." Valentin and Louise (Braun) Blatz also had five children of their own: four sons; Albert, Emil, Valentin Jr., and Louis (who died at a young age); and one daughter, Alma.

The marriage allowed Blatz to acquire Braun's small brewery and combine it with his own operation, which he named City Brewery. This formed the basis of what would eventually become one of the largest and most prominent breweries in Milwaukee. Blatz was widely acknowledged to be the first of the great Milwaukee brewers to establish a reputation outside Wisconsin, the first to begin developing a national distribution network, and the first to establish a bottling plant in connection with his brewery. During its early years of development, the Blatz brewery reportedly out-paced both the Pabst and Schlitz operations.

Blatz operated his business as a single proprietorship until 1889 when it was incorporated as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company with a capital stock of 21 $2,000,000. Officers of the new corporation were Valentin Blatz, president; Albert C. Blatz, vice president; John Kremer (a son-in-law), secretary; and Val. Blatz, Jr., superintendent. The company was quietly sold in 1891 to a group of British and American investors incorporated as the United States Brewing Company and known variously as the "English Syndicate" or the "Chicago Syndicate." The sale reportedly netted Blatz (who was himself a member of the syndicate) and his family $3,000,000 and left them in full control of the local operation.

Three years later, on May 26, 1894, Valentin Blatz died suddenly while staying at the Hotel Ryan in St. Paul, Minnesota, on his return from a trip to California, where he vacationed and attended a midwinter exposition. Ironically, it was a journey that he had reportedly postponed several times because of a premonition that he would not return to Milwaukee alive. A newspaper reported at the time that it was only because of his wife's deteriorating health that he agreed to go to California where they could spend part of the winter in a milder climate. At the time of his death at age sixty-eight, Blatz was regarded as one of Milwaukee's wealthiest men, with an estate estimated at between $6,000,000 and $8,000,000. Throughout his life Blatz was a generous man. In his will he not only left thousands of dollars to more than a dozen local charities, hospitals, orphanages, and homes for the aged, but also provided for the four children (Cora, Selma, Elsie, and John) of his late step-son "John Blatz." He was survived by his wife, Louise, who was with him in St. Paul; three sons, Albert, Emil, and Valentin, Jr.; and two daughters, Louise (Mrs. John) Kremer and Alma (Mrs. Gustav) Kletzsch. He was interred in Milwaukee's Forest Home Cemetery.

Throughout his life, Blatz had been active in community affairs. He was a lifelong member of the Milwaukee Musical Society and belonged to a host of other groups, including the Milwaukee Old Settlers Society, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), the Aurora Lodge of Freemasons, The Arion Club, the Frei Gemeinde, the Liederkranz Society, the Germania Maennerchor of Chicago, the Eichenkranz Maennerchor of New York, several local Turnverein Societies, and--reportedly one of his favorite haunts--the West Side Old Settlers Bowling Club. In 1866 he became the first president of the Merchants National Bank, and in 1868 he was elected President of the Second Ward Savings Bank, a position he held until his death. Blatz was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and also belonged to an influential committee of local businessmen who organized the Milwaukee Industrial Exposition in 1879. Blatz, who became an American citizen in 1855, was elected for a single term as a Milwaukee city alderman in 1882

After Blatz's death, the brewery was operated by two of his sons, Albert C. and Val. Blatz, Jr., and John Kremer, a son-in-law. The United States Brewing Company, which purchased the brewery in 1891, owned and operated it until the onset of national prohibition in 1920.

Blatz Brewing Company Chronology

The Blatz Chronology that follows traces the development of the brewing company and provides some context for understanding the records that are 22 included in this collection. The information was collected primarily from published secondary sources, newspaper accounts, and summaries of government inspection reports. Some of the figures pertaining to the number of employees is approximate, as are some of the production totals. For example, evidence suggests that much of the work at the brewery was seasonal in nature and it is not clear whether the employee totals represent the peak employment, the average number of employees during a given year, or the number that were employed at the time the information was gathered. Likewise, there is some question whether the production figures represent the total production capacity of the brewery at that time or the number of barrels actually produced during a given year. But even with these limitations, the Chronology gives a good sense of the growth of the Blatz Brewing Company during the period of time encompassed by the records in this collection.

1840 Valentin Blatz begins an apprenticeship in his father's brewery at Miltenberg am Main in Bavaria.
1844 Blatz embarks on a four-year tour of the celebrated breweries of Europe, at which time he learns their methods and procedures.
1846 John Braun opens the Cedar Brewery in Milwaukee. The annual output is 80 barrels.
1848 Blatz immigrates to the United States, settling in Buffalo where he finds work at the Born Brewery.
1849 Blatz moves to Milwaukee and accepts a position as foreman at John Braun's Cedar Brewery.
1851 Valentin Blatz opens a brewery, on half of a city lot, a short distance away from Braun's Cedar Brewery. John Braun is killed in an accident in March. Valentin Blatz takes over Braun's brewery, and merges it with his own. The combined brewery, called City Brewery, and it has an annual output of 350-500 barrels.
1861 Blatz's City Brewery reportedly produced 8,000 bottles of beer.
1868 Expansion of facilities begins at the City Brewery to include a new malt house, malt-kiln building, and ice house. The annual output at this time is reported to be 15,000 barrels.
1871 The Blatz brewery produced approximately 34,000 barrels of beer annually.
1873 American brewers begin to use pasteurization in the production of their beer. This process allows the beer to be preserved for longer periods, adding to the "shelf life" of the beer. Pasteurization also allows for beer to be transported over longer distances.
1873 Valentin Blatz rebuilds. A fire heavily damages part of the brewery. The brewery's annual output increases to 44,689 barrels.
1875 According to some accounts, Blatz's City Brewery opens the first bottling plant in Milwaukee. The brewery's annual output is reported to be 64,000 barrels.
1876 Valentin Blatz's beer is awarded the "highest premium" at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. 23 Milwaukee. The brewery's annual output is reported to be 64,000 barrels.
1877 Blatz's City Brewery has a capital of $600,000 and employs 124 people in Milwaukee. The company has established branches and depots in Chicago, IL; Danville, IL; Muskegon, MI; New York City; Racine, WI; and St. Paul, MN.
1878 The management of Valentin Blatz's bottling plant is given over to a Milwaukee company, Torchiani & Kremer, and is located one block away from the Blatz brewery in Milwaukee.
1881 The Blatz City Brewery employs approximately 100 workers and has an annual output of more than 100,000 barrels. The company has established new branches and depots in Boston, MA; Charleston, SC; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; and Savannah, GA.
1885 The Blatz City Brewery employs 300 workers and produced 155,000 barrels of beer annually.
1886 Blatz's City Brewery employs 300 people in Milwaukee and ships products to every state in the union.
1888 The Blatz City Brewery produces 200,000 barrels of beer during the year.
1889 On September 28, the Blatz City Brewery is incorporated as the Val. Blatz Brewing Company. The company produces five types of beer: Tivoli, Imperial, Wiener, Private Stock, and Muenchener.
1890 A new law permits beer to be produced and bottled in the same building. Later that year, the Internal Revenue Act is changed to allow brewers to run pipelines directly from their brewing tanks to a bottling plant. Prior to these new laws, brewers sold their beer in wooden barrels to private bottlers or directly to retail outlets, like taverns, and were taxed on each barrel that they sold.
1891 Val. Blatz Brewing Company is sold for $3 million to a London investment group known as the "English Syndicate", doing business as the United States Brewing Company. Valentin Blatz continues to run the brewery, which has an annual output of between 250,000 and 300,000 barrels of beer.
1892 The crown cap is invented. This allows for a crown shaped metal cap to be locked on top of the bottle to form a gas tight seal. One year after the crown cap was invented, the Crown Cork and Seal Co. began production of an inexpensive and reliable crown cap. Soon, this would become an industry standard.
1892 Val. Blatz Brewing Company employs 500 people in Milwaukee. Its annual production capacity is reported to be 600,000 barrels of beer, although less than that is actually produced.
1893 Blatz is the only beer on tap in the German restaurants at the Chicago World's Fair.
1893 Val. Blatz Brewing Company is run entirely on electricity. The actual annual output of the brewery increases to approximately 365,000 barrels.
1894 On May 26, Valentin Blatz dies at the age of 68 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The estimated value of his estate is $6 million at the time of his death. The new management structure at the Val. Blatz Brewing Company includes Albert Blatz as president, Valentin Blatz Jr. as vice president
1917 Milwaukee brewers begin to develop non-alcoholic beer.
1917 The Val. Blatz Brewing Co. produces a "near beer" called Brewette Temperance Beer.
1920 The Eighteenth Amendment goes into effect, outlawing the manufacturing and sale of any beverage with more than .5% alcohol in it.
1920 The Val. Blatz Brewing Co. starts to rely on their non-alcoholic products for their main source of income. These products include Brewette Temperance Beer, Blatz Root Beer, Blatz Ginger Ale, and For-U Temperance Beer.
1933 Congress repeals the Eighteenth Amendment.
1933 The Val. Blatz Brewing Company is reopened by Edward Landsberg, Frank Gabel, and August L. Klein. Later that year, they change the name to Blatz Brewing Co.
1935 Blatz Brewing Co. begins selling beer in cans.
1958 Pabst purchases Blatz Brewing Co., but a federal court order prevents Pabst from brewing beer at the Milwaukee facility.
1959 G. Heileman buys the Blatz label.