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About this collection

The collection showcases advertising from Milwaukee's most famous Beer Barons. The library includes print and video advertising from Miller, Blatz, Schlitz, and Pabst. Brewing was one of Milwaukee's largest industries in the 19th and early 20th century. Known today as Brew City, Milwaukee is home to countless breweries including Lakefront and Sprecher. It remains a large and important aspect of Milwaukee's economy.

Miller Brewing Company was established in 1855, founded by Frederick J. Miller. Miller Brewing grew rapidly, expanding to Chicago in the late 1850s and 1860s and later, nearby states including Michigan and Minnesota. By 1887, it was the fourth largest brewery in Milwaukee. Thoughtout its life, it remained largely successful. During the Second World War, Miller limited its supply to only 25 states and produced only one of its signature beers, High Life. This scarcity led to increased demand for the beer for returning soldiers abroad following the war. This strategy paved the way for Miller to begin expanding and modernizing during the late 1940s and 50s. Miller Brewing acquired the Gettelman Brewing Company in 1961, and expanded into California and Texas in 1966. In 1977, Miller Brewing was the second largest brewer in the United States. In 2008, Miller merged with Coors to create MillerCoors. In 2015, Miller again was part of a large merger. This time, it was with Anheuser-Busch. Miller remains a strong symbol of Milwaukee brewing today.

Pabst Brewing Company called Milwaukee home for over 150 years. In 1844, Jacob Best founded the brewery on what is now Juneau Avenue. Pabst had a slow start as the brewery changed hands between various members of the Best family. The panic of 1857 was certainly a setback as well. In 1866, owner Phillip Best retired selling his shares in the brewery to Pabst and Schandein. Phillip Best and Company remained the company namesake until 1888 when it was officially changed to Pabst Brewing Company. Expanding to Chicago in the 1880s and early 1900s, Pabst became a strong name in Milwaukee brewing. Prohibition proved difficult for Pabst Brewing Company, but they remained strong producing malt syrup and soda as alternatives. Despite their success, Schlitz and Anheuser-Busch continued to outsell Pabst. During the 1950s, Pabst was no longer a top U.S. brewing company. Regardless, Pabst continued to expand. In 1985, Pabst finally closed its Milwaukee production plant. They subsequently moved their headquarters to Chicago in 1996. Today, Pabst survives by contracting out their familiar brands to much larger brewers such as Miller. 

Schlitz Brewing Company began operation in 1849 under August Krug. Soon after beginning production, Krug brought on a recent immigrant from Germany, Joseph Schlitz. In 1856, following the untimely death of August Krug, Schlitz purchased the brewery. In 1868, Joseph Schlitz expanded the burgeoning brewing company to nearby Chicago. Following the the death of Joseph Schlitz in 1875, the Uihlein family took control of the company. The Uihleins retained ownership of the brewery until the death of Robert Uihlein Jr. in 1976. Schlitz Brewing was known as an innovator in the brewing industry. Schlitz founded the Union Refrigerator Transit Company in the 1890s. They worked to develop cheaper and more efficient freight refrigeration technology. In 1883, William Uihlein brought the world's first pure culture yeast strain from Copenhagen. This allowed Schlitz to craft better beer and maintain better consistency. During Prohibition, Schlitz survived by creating malt syrup and selling bakery products. By 1947, Schlitz became the largest brewing company in the United States. It remained in the top two brewers in America through the mid-1970s. Schlitz suffered a few setbacks in the late 1960s and mid-1970s. Their attempts to streamline production and cut costs resulted in a lower quality beer as well as labor disputes with employees. These factors snowballed into the eventual selling of Schlitz Brewing Company to Stroh Brewing in 1982. Beer drinkers can still enjoy Schlitz today under the ownership of Pabst Brewing Company.

Blatz Brewing Company was the shortest lived of the four Milwaukee Beer Barons we are showcasing here. Blatz Brewing Company was in operation from 1851 to 1959. Blatz grew out of the Cedar Brewery founded in 1846. The owner John Braun hired Valentin Blatz when he arrived from German in 1849. Blatz opened his own brewery next to Cedar, buying out the brewery following Braun's death in 1841. Coming from a deep industrial brewing background, Blatz used his expertise to heavily industrialize his production. Like Schlitz, Miller, and Pabst, Blatz took advantage of the Chicago market. By 1875, Blatz had a bottling department. Blatz Brewing was the first brewery in the city to have a dedicated bottling department. Valentin Blatz remained the president of the company until he died in 1894. Following his death, his son Albert took over control of the brewery. Blatz was incredibly successful in its early years but they found it difficult to keep up with other breweries such as Miller and Pabst that began expanding nationally. Pabst purchsed Blatz in 1958 to simply remove them from the playing field, and closed the Blatz plant in 1959.

All of the information referenced came from the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee. Here are the links to each entry:

Miller Brewing Company by Joseph B. Walzer,

Pabst Brewing Company by Joseph B. Walzer,

Schlitz Brewing Company by Joseph B. Walzer,

Blatz Brewing Company by Joseph B. Walzer,

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