Jacob Ruppert was the son of Franz Ruppert, a NYC brewer who owned the Turtle Bay Brewery. The 1865 NYC Directory lists Franz as a brewer at 192 E 45th St.
At the age of 10, Jacob began working in his father’s brewery before founding the Jacob Ruppert Brewing Company in 1867. His obituary, in May, 1915 provided an brief overview of the business up to that point.
As a boy of ten years Mr. Ruppert began his career as a brewer in the employment of his father, Franz Ruppert, in this city. Later he started his own brewery in a building hardly fifty feet square, with no machinery. His establishment now has an annual capacity of 25,000,000 barrels. It contains four of the largest brew kettles ever built up to the time of its construction, each of which is composed of 200,000 pounds of copper and has a capacity of 25,000 gallons.
In the 1869 NYC Directory, the Ruppert Brewery address is listed as Third Avenue, near 91st Street. Beyond 1870, the Brewery address is continuously listed as 1639 Third Avenue.
Ruppert’s brewery and George Ehret’s brewery were located adjacent to each other in Yorkville. By 1879, Ehret’s Hell Gate Brewery was the largest in the country and Ruppert was 7th largest. Ultimately their combined operations covered the four blocks from 90th to 94th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. The Hell Gate Brewery shut down in 1929, before the end of Prohibition, and in 1935, it was purchased by the Ruppert Brewery.
Ruppert’s son, Jacob Jr, was also in the business and by 1890 he was serving as the Brewery’s general manager. When Jacob Sr died in 1915 he took over the operation and ran it until his death in 1939. At the same time Jacob Jr was running the Brewery he became an owner of the NY Yankees and he was the president of the team when they acquired Babe Ruth, built Yankee Stadium and won their first championship.
The brewery registered three labels with the United Stated Patent Office on April 14, 1908. They were:
14,137 – Jacob Ruppert Extra Beer
14,138 – Jacob Ruppert Ruppiner Beer
14,139 – Jacob Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer
I found each of these labels and a fourth, Jacob Ruppert Metropolitan Beer, in a 1911 advertisement that provided pricing information.
Their flagship beer was Knickerbocker. I’m not sure when they started using the name Knickerbocker but I haven’t seen an advertisement for Knickerbocker that I can date prior to the 1908 Label Registration date. Their slogan was “The Beer That Satisfies.” Advertisements as early as the one below from October 1909 contained the slogan and they continued to use it up through the early 1930’s.
The beer survived Prohibition and in fact an April 6, 1933 advertisement for Knickerbocker Beer signaled the end of Prohibition for Ruppert:
To many of the fathers and Grandfathers of this present generation of New Yorkers the return of Knickerbocker Beer must be like the home coming of a genial friend, absent for a while from his native place, but never wholly forgotten…The rare unforgettable flavor is back again – all the zest and the sparkle, the tonic qualities and the wholesome delight that made the Knickerbocker beer of their youth the favorite of taste wise New Yorkers is yours today!
According to “Beer in America, The Early Years”, during Prohibition, Ruppert failed to modernize his plant. This coupled with the increased competition by the national brewers put the Ruppert Brewery in a vulnerable position and the brewery ultimately closed in 1965. The Poughkeepsie Journal reported the closing in their January 2, 1966 issue.
The Jacob Ruppert Brewery, a landmark in the Yorkville section of New York City ceased operations Friday.
The Ruppert beer will continue to be brewed by Rheingold Breweries, Inc., which paid $12 million for the trademark, formula and equipment.
Two years ago the brewery made known plans to build a plant near Carmel, Putnam County, but difficulty is assuring an adequate water supply, among other things, caused these plans to be abandoned.
There’s no sign of the brewery complex today. The entire area from 90th Street to 94th Street between Second and Third Avenue consists entirely of modern high rise buildings.
I’ve found quite a few Ruppert bottles over the years, both tooled crowns and machine made versions of the same export style embossed “Jacob Ruppert Brewer New York” in a small circle at the base of the neck. The brewery certainly preferred the export style bottle as evidenced by their advertisements. I’ve also found a porcelain top that says”Compliments of Jacob Ruppert Bottling Department.”
I’ve seen blob top finishes on the Internet but have never found one.