Excelsior Brewing Co., 271 Pulaski Street, Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

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The driving force behind the Excelsior Brewing Company was John Reisenweber who was the owner of a restaurant called “Reisenweber’s at the Circle.” Located at Columbus Circle, it was one of the oldest and most popular New York City restaurants at the time. His entry into the brewing business and the early history of the brewery was described in a section of the Staunton (Va.) Daily Leader entitled “Industry and Commerce” published on May 23, 1908.

Scores of New York’s prominent citizens and many thousands whose frames are not enrolled in any Hall of Fame have quaffed the foaming steins of beer dispensed at the popular hostelry and restaurant of mine host John Reisenweber at Columbus Circle, but few of them are aware, perhaps, that the grateful beverage served there has been brewed under the vigilant eye of the genial hotel man himself. To them it will be interesting to learn that Mr. Reisenweber is the president and active head of the Excelsior Brewing Company, whose large plant at Hart and Pulaski Streets, Brooklyn, N.Y., is a worthy example of a large industry.

What is now the Excelsior Brewery was established in 1890 by the Fred Hower Brewing Company. This company went into bankruptcy in 1895, and the brewery was taken over by the John Kart Malting Company of Buffalo, a creditor. In 1898 a number of gentlemen engaged in the liquor business in Greater New York conceived the idea of co-operating in the establishment of a modern brewing plant. The leader in the movement was John Reisenweber and associated with him were Frederick D. Frick, Charles P. Faber, Franz Neumuller and others…

Casting about them for a suitable site, they learned that the Hower plant was in the market, bought it, and on the 16th of May, 1898, took possession. The new owners almost immediately took steps to remodel the then small brewery. They built extensive additions, including new cellars, which increased the storage capacity from 75,000 barrels to 150,000 barrels, and installed a new 75-ton refrigerating machine and complete set of new boilers.

As a result of these extensive alterations, which cost $200,000, the Excelsior Brewery today is second to none in New York in point of modern equipment, and ranks among the largest in point of capacity and output. The buildings, which are fireproof, are up to date in every detail. The company owns a plot equal to 33 city lots, having a frontage of 700 feet on Pulaski Street and running through to Hart Street. The output, which was only 20,000 barrels in 1895, was gradually increased to 160,000 barrels last year. To operate the brewery requires over eighty employees, while 95 horses, 38 wagons and 2 electric trucks are required for the distribution of the output. This output, besides having many consumers in Greater New York, is shipped to points on Long Island, in New Jersey and Connecticut. The value of the plant has practically trebled and it is today worth about $1,500,000.

Four grades of beer are brewed – Real German Lager, Pilsner Bohemian and Wurzburger. In quality they are equal to the best imported product and their popularity is attested by the strong and growing demand for them.

The officers of the company are John Reisenweber, President; Franz Neumuller, Vice President; Frederick Frick, Treasurer, and Charles P. Faber, Secretary.

The feature mentioned that the Reisenweber ownership group took possession of the plant in May of 1898. It wasn’t long after that the brewery reopened. The August 1898 issue of the “American Brewers Review” announced that:

The newly organized Excelsior Brewing Co of Brooklyn NY was opened on July 31, 1898. Some German singing societies were invited among others who helped entertain the visitors by a number of songs. The favor accorded to the new brew must have given John Knoll, the brew-master, intense satisfaction. The guests were received by Franz Neumueller, the first vice president and Ernst Distler, the superintendent.

An advertisement published in March of 1909, provided an overall picture of the plant less than a year after the feature was written.

The Bottling Department of the brewery was apparently run by John H Muller. His name appears on an October 5, 1907 advertisement that touted the same four beers mentioned in the 1908 feature: Pilsner, Real German, Bohemian and Wurzburger.

The 1913-1914 Copartnership and Corporation Directory of the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens continued to list John Reisenweber Pres, Frederick D Fricke Tres and Charles P Faber Sec. Frick was an old time New York hotel man who owned Earle’s Hotel on Waverly Place. Faber, also in the hotel business, was a director of the Dollar Savings Bank.

A June 21, 1921 article in the “Beverage Journal” provided a review of brewery activities (during prohibition) that stated that the Excelsior Brewery was operating a cold storage plant and was producing cereal beverages. In May 1923 the plant apparently closed and was sold at public auction.

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The plant in Brooklyn ultimately sold for $500,000 and the Excelsior Brewing Company was dissolved in August of 1924. The July 1, edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote:

The dissolution of the Excelsior Brewing Company, 254 Hart St., another victim of the Volstead law, will be completed by August 15, as the result of an order signed today by Justice Callaghan, setting that date as a limit for the filing of any claims against the defunct corporation. The certificate of dissolution was filed today in the County Clerk’s office and the petition to Justice Callaghan by John Reisenweber, who was president of the corporation, states that all of the presented claims have been paid.

Four years later the plant was operational again producing a “near” beer called “OLDe KEG” under the name of Excelsior Brewery, Inc.

While Olde Keg may have been “Within the Law,” other beverages being produced by the brewery in the late 1920’s apparently were not. On August 8,1930, the current reputed owner, Charles I. Mandel, was arrested and the brewery seized for violation of the prohibition law. This followed a seizure the day before of equipment for bottling and distributing beer in a garage on DeKalb Avenue, a block away. The prohibition agents contended that they traced a pipeline through an old sewer trench from the garage into the brewery. Later the arrest and seizure were voided on the grounds that the federal agents failed to obtain a search warrant prior to invading the premises.

Nonetheless, the brewery was seized again in August of 1931. This seizure was also set aside even though 35,000 gallons of beer were found on the premises. It was ruled that the search warrant was obtained on insufficient evidence.

In 1932, the plant was sold to a group of Manhattan purchasers headed by Samuel Rosoff, a contractor and subway builder. It operated as the Kings Brewery from 1932 to 1938 when it was closed after an attempted reorganization in 1937.

A community school is currently located at the former brewery location.

I have three bottles from this business. One is a champagne style tooled blob embossed Excelsior Bottling Dept that probably goes back to the beginning of the Reisenweber ownership. The bottle also has the initials JHM embossed on it which stand for John H Muller. The two other bottles are champagne style tooled crowns from 1900-1910.

 

Columbia Bottling Co., 105 & 107 Columbia Street, New York & 734 East 6th Street, New York

The proprietor of the Columbia Bottling Company, Bernard (sometimes Barnett) Sandrowitz was listed in the 1897 and 1898 Trow NYC Business Directory under “mineral water” at 330 Stanton Street.

The Columbia Bottling Company was first listed in the 1900 NYC Corporation and Copartnership Directory at 330 Stanton Street . They also appear in the 1901 New York State Factory Inspection Report with 8 employees. In 1902 the company moved to 734 East 6th Street and remained listed there through 1909 with Bernard Sandrowitz as proprietor.

The January 15, 1909 issue of the “American Bottler” announced that the business had incorporated.

The incorporation is announced of the Columbia Bottling Co 734 East 6th Street New York to bottle water and beverages: capital $ 5,000. The incorporators are: Harry Schiffman No 135 E 115th St, Leon Katz No 1461 Fifth Avenue, Samuel Slonim No 1590 Lexington Ave, all of New York.

In 1910 the business changed their name in the directories to the Columbia Bottling Works but remained at the 734 East 6th Street location. Sandrowitz continued to be listed with the company in the Copartnership and Corporation Directories  so I assume that he continued to run/manage the business.

The company apparently went out of business in 1914. The 1914 directory stated that the company name had been discontinued.

In the 1915 NYC General Directory, Sandrowitz was still living at the East 6th Street location but was employed as a foreman at the Columbia Soda Water Works, located at 375 East 4th Street. Adolph Goldstein was listed as both president and vice president of the company and Frances Sandrowitz (probably a relative) was secretary/treasurer. By 1920, this company was not listed either.

I’ve found two Columbia Bottling Company bottles. One is embossed Columbia Bottling Co with an address of 105 & 107 Columbia Street. This is the same block as 330 Stanton Street, so it looks like the business was located on the northwest corner of Stanton and Columbia. Recognizing that the business moved to 6th Street in 1902, this bottle dates between 1900 and 1901 or possibly a couple of years earlier depending on when Sandrowitz started using the Columbia name. The bottle is quart sized (27 or 28 oz) with an applied blob finish.

The other bottle is embossed with the 724 East 6th Street address, so it probably dates between 1902 and 1909, before they started calling themselves the Columbia Bottling Works, but certainly no later than 1914. The bottle also has the monogrammed initials “BS” embossed on it which must stand for Bernard Sandrowitz. The bottle is also quart sized (27 oz) with a tooled blob finish.

I’ve also seen bottles on the internet embossed Columbia Bottling Co with a Harrison St address in Brooklyn. Their Bottle Registration Notice, printed in the February 18, 1898 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stated that they had been in business since 1896 and that they maintained addresses at 117 Columbia Street and 36 Harrison Street in Brooklyn. They were owned and operated by Eugene R Judge. I can’t find any connection between the two companies.

The City Bottling Works of New York, Henry Downes, 1873

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According to his obituary in the December 15, 1905 edition of “The American Bottler” Henry Downes was one of the first makers of ginger ale in the US.

Henry Downes, the veteran bottler, died at his home, 429 Henry Street, Brooklyn on the 23rd, at the age of 72 years.

He was a native of County Clare, Ireland, and came to this country when a young man, and as a pioneer in the soda water business was one of the first manufacturers of ginger ale in this country.

He was one of the original members of the Bottlers’ and Manufacturers’ Association of New York.

Henry Downes was first listed in the 1870/1871 Trow New York City Directory at 411 1st Avenue with the occupation minerals. A year later, he was listed as a bottler at the same address. In 1873-74 he changed his address to 404 E 25th St. (on the same block but on the other side of First Avenue) with the following description:

manufacturer of Belfast Ginger Ale, Honey Mead Soda, Sarsaparilla, Fruit Syrups and Extracts; also original manufacturer of Extract of Ginger Ale.

He was still listed at that address through 1888. In 1890/91 he was listed as a bottler in Brooklyn at 98 Wycoff Street. He was still listed at this address in 1897 but as an agent, not a bottler.

Downes held the rights to at least two patents. One (No. 145139), dated December 2, 1873, and held jointly with Frederick W. Wiesenbrock was for “a fountain for soda water.” The other (196437 A) was for improvements in vent faucets for bottles, Filing Date: May 31,1877, Publication Date: October 23,1877.

Another obituary, this one in the November 25, 1905 issue of the New York Sun, said that Downes was a writer and lecturer, and for many years was connected with the Bottlers Gazette.

Today this area of First Avenue in Manhattan is heavily occupied by NYU. Their College of Dentistry occupies the former 411 First Avenue address. The 25th Street address is just east of First Avenue and is also occupied by a modern building.

The bottle I found is a pony style with an applied blob finish. Its embossed  with the date of 1873 which puts it on the bubble between the First Avenue and East 25th Street locations. I’ve seen bottles embossed with the Wycoff Avenue address on the Internet but have not found one.

Bajorath, Long Island City

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Charles Bajorath appears to have been a small-scale bottler of lager beer that worked out of his residence. According to the 1910 census records he immigrated to the U.S. in 1886 but the first mention of him in the NYC Directory was in 1892 as a bottler with just a home listing at 428 E 92nd Street. Subsequently, he was listed sporadically (1903 Trow Business Directory and 1909 City Directory are the only listings I could find) as a beer bottler at 1735 Second Avenue.

In 1910 he moved to 461 Washington Avenue in Long Island City. The 1910 Census Records indicated that he had a beer bottling business that he ran out of his house and the 1912 Queens Business Directory listed him as a bottler of lager beer at the Washington Avenue address. In addition, the Annual Report of the State Commission of Excise listed him as a liquor tax certificate holder for the years 1911 and 1913. He was listed in the 1920 Census Records (name spelled incorrectly) but at this point he’s in his 70’s and did not list a business or occupation.

Washington Avenue was later renamed 36th Avenue in Long Island City. I can’t relate the No. 461 to any specific block.

The bottle I found is a brown champagne style bottle. It has “L. I. City” embossed on it, dating it to after his move to Long Island City in 1910. Interestingly it is machine made but has a blob finish (almost all machine made beer bottles that I’ve found have a crown finish).

Brock L Carroll, Far Rockaway L.I.

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Brock stands for Brockholst Carroll, apparently a prominent Far Rockaway name at the turn of the century. He served as the last Village President of Far Rockaway (before they became part of NYC). His mineral water business existed from at least the mid 1870’s until his death in 1905.

The first listing I can find for Brockholst L. Carroll was in the Rockaway section of the Lain’s Directory of Long Island in 1878 -1879, classified as mineral water. He was also listed as the excise commissioner in the same directory.

The business was listed under Soda and Mineral Water in the Far Rockaway section of the 1890 Lain’s Business Directory of Brooklyn, located at the foot of Broadway. According to “Far Rockaway Reminiscence” a presentation given by Valentine Smith in 1934, the original bottling plant on Grandview Avenue burned to the ground on Columbus Day 1892.

Later, the business continued to be listed as a manufacturer of mineral water. In the 1899 Trow Business Directory of the Borough of Queens two locations were given: Broadway in Far Rockaway and Central Avenue in Lawrence. It was also listed in the 1903 Trow Business Directory of the Borough of Queens with just the Broadway location (foot of Broadway).

Grandview Avenue is currently named Beach 17th Street and Broadway is named Beach 19th Street. Based on the address given as the foot of Broadway, I suspect that the business (both original and rebuilt) was located near the ocean beach between what is now Beach 17th and Beach 19th Streets.  The second location in Lawrence may have been needed during the rebuilding process. The area between Beach 17th and 19th Streets now serves as parking for beachfront residential high rises.

Strangely, I found the story of Carroll’s death in the February 1, 1905 edition of the Scranton (Pa.) Republican.

Brockholst Carroll Passed Away. A Hymn on His Lips.

New York, Jan 31. – Brockholst L. Carroll who was the last president of the village of Far Rockaway, died in his home in Review Avenue, Far Rockaway, Sunday evening.

Mr. Carroll was fifty-eight years old. Calling his wife and five children to his bedside on Sunday afternoon he told them he believed his end was near and began to sing hymns.

At night he grew weaker, and then he started to sing “Think of Me.” After a few words he gasped for breath and passed away.

His bottles are one of the most plentiful finds on the bay,  probably because they are extremely heavy and durable. I’ve found a total of 18 (16-8oz pony’s and 2-28 oz sizes) and all are tooled blob tops. I’ve never observed a crown top finish or machine made version. This agrees with a 1905 or earlier end date.

The embossing on all of them refers to “Far Rockaway Long Island.” This would indicate they were manufactured in 1898 (the year Far Rockaway became part of NYC) or earlier. I’ve never found one with “Far Rockaway N.Y.”embossing so it’s possible he just never went through the cost of changing his molds.

The embossing includes a picture of two gentlemen seated at a table that are being served bottles of presumably Brock Carroll Mineral Water by a waiter with a large mustache.