Val Blatz Brewery
VALENTINE (VALENTIN) BLATZ
compiled & edited by Mike Reilly
Last Revised 11/08/2007
Much of this information was originally printed in the "Industrial History of Milwaukee - 1886". Thanks to former MABC member Ken Obermann, much of it was reprinted years ago in The Cream City Courier. As Ken wrote, "these may tend to be a little wordy, and some facts may be distorted, or omitted. Remember, however, that these biographies were written while their subjects were living." To that I add, if anyone has additional information or corrections to this material, this editor would gladly receive it.
Valentine Blatz was born October 1, 1826, at Miltenberg-on-the-Main, Bavaria, the son of Casper and Barbara Blatz. His father, a brewer by occupation, owned a brewery and was a man of considerable influence in Miltenberg.
Valentine attended the common schools of his native place until fourteen years of age, and at that time entered his father's brewery with a view to learning the business. After working three years in order that he might acquire a more perfect knowledge of the business, he visited the large brewing establishments of Wuruzburg, Augsburg and Munich, and at these different places spent nearly four years. He also spent time in other cities.
Upon attaining his majority, in obedience to the mandate or the national law requiring every able-bodied young man to serve a certain length of time in the army, he returned home to report for military duty. His father, however, relieved him from this duty by procuring a substitute.
Young Blatz being thus at liberty to seek his fortune, a few months later bade good-bye to his native land, and sailing for America, landed in New York in August 1848. Going thence to Buffalo, New York, he was there employed at his trade for one year [at which brewery?]. Having heard of the growing young city of Milwaukee, and the inducements which it offered to enterprising young men, he removed thither in 1849 and soon found employment at his trade.
What eventually became the Blatz brewery was founded in 1846 by John Braun at Main and Division Streets (N. Broadway and E. Juneau Ave.)..
During the next two years he was, at different times, foreman of several breweries [at which breweries?], but being unsatisfied, resolved that as soon as he had accumulated sufficient capital, he would engage in business on his own account. Accordingly, in 1851, having by prudence and economy saved his earnings, five hundred dollars, he made a start. Then nearly a year later was married on the 4th of December, 1851, to Miss Louis Schmidt, a native of Gudengen, Prussia, whose father was mayor of that city. [Miss Louis Schmidt also happened to be the widow of his ex-employer, thus acquiring Johann Braun's City Brewery [1846-1852] which was next door to his own. [They later had four sons and two daughters; the eldest daughter is the wife of John Kremer, of the Milwaukee Oleograph Company. The eldest son is first engineer of his father's brewery; the second son is employed in one of the largest breweries in Cincinnati, the third son is assistant bookkeeper in the Second Ward Savings Bank, Milwaukee; while the fourth son and younger daughter are attending school.]
His brewery at that time was situated on lots one and two of block fifty-nine. It was a small establishment employing only four hands, and during the first year yielded a product of five hundred barrels of beer. Mr. Blatz was the first to manufacture the celebrated "Milwaukee Beer". From the first his business prospered, and by his peculiar business tact, steadily increased until it grown to enormous proportions. In 1861, the sales amounted to eight thousand barrels; in 1871 to thirty-four thousand, and in 1875 to sixty-five thousand barrels. He buys yearly about one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of hops, and pays a revenue of from sixty thousand to seventy thousand dollars, and taxes on his property of over seven thousand dollars.
In 1875 he contracted to have part of the brewery's output bottled, and soon 2,000 bottles a day - the first beer bottles in Milwaukee - were being turned out. The next year the Blatz bottled product took the top award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition
He has added to his establishment as his business has increased, and now his vaults and ice-cellars have a capacity of over twenty thousand barrels. Agencies are established in New York City, Chicago, Danville, Illinois, St. Paul, Muskegon, Michigan, and Racine, Wisconsin; while the amount of capital employed is six hundred thousand dollars, furnishing employment for one hundred and twenty-four men and fifty-two horses.
Although Mr. Blatz has met with success in his enterprises, he has by no means been free from misfortune. The brick building which he erected in 1858 he continued to enlarge from year to year until 1873 [On the night of August 25, one of the largest fires which have occurred since the United States Hotel burned down [August 24, 1854], partially destroyed the large brewery of Valentine Blatz, corner of Division and Broadway. The fire originated in the rear of the malt house next to the engine room. The buildings were soon in a blaze, and made it impossible to use the large court yard between them, which was hot as a furnace. Crowds filled the streets, and in the course of an hour, a solid half a block was one sheet of fire. The malt house, the engine room, and much of the main building succumbed. Loss, $143,000; Insurance, $159,000.Source: History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1881, The Western Historical Company, Chicago, A.T. Andreas, Proprietor], when all his buildings, except the brewery proper, were destroyed by fire. The large stock which he had in his vaults, however, prevented any interruption in the supplying of his agencies, and with characteristic energy he set about repairing his losses. Within sixty days he began rebuilding, employing from one hundred and fifty to two hundred men, and pushed the work forward until January 1874, when the structure was completed. The building fronts on Broadway, occupying block number fifty-nine between Division and Johnson Streets. Besides, he has two ice-houses on lots seven and eight, block sixty, where he manufactures most of his barrels.
About this time also, he met with a heavy loss at Kenosha, by the burning of his malt houses, which he had rented of Lill & Bollen. In April 1874, he met another loss, caused by the breaking of the iron pillars on which rested the floors where malt and barley were stored, all of which was precipitated to the ground in a mixed mass. Notwithstanding all these various calamities, which would have broken down many men, Mr. Blatz has borne up with courage, making the best of his misfortunes, and today is as full of energy and enterprises as when he first began.
As a man, Mr. Blatz is public-spirited and generous, and has attained to a wide popularity and been honored with positions of honor and trust. He was selected president of the Second Ward Savings Bank in 1868, and since that time has continued to hold that position. In 1872 he waselected alderman, and performed his duties with satisfaction to his constituents. Mr. Blatz has a wide experience, having traveled both in Europe and in this country, and being a man of observation, has gathered a fund of practical knowledge, which renders him a most agreeable social companion.
The following biography is from Men of Progress. Wisconsin. A selected list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Together with short notes on the history and character of Wisconsin.
BLATZ, Valentine, founder of what is now known as the Blatz Brewing company, was born at Miltenberg on the Main, Bavaria, on the 1st of October, 1826, and was the son of Caspar and Barbara Blatz. Caspar Blatz was a brewer in a small way in Miltenberg, where he occupied a prominent position among his fellow citizens, whose confidence he had acquired by honorable business methods. Having received such education as the village schools could give him in a limited time, he entered his father's brewery, at the age of fourteen, and served an apprenticeship of three years, at the end of which he visited some of the large breweries of the cities of Augsburg, Munich and Wurtzburg, where he spent four years in the further study of the business of brewing in its various departments. Returning home when twenty-one years of age to enter the standing army for a term of years, as required by law, he was agreeably surprised to find that his father had procured a substitute for him; and the young man, a few months thereafter, sailed for America, arriving in New York in August, 1848. Stopping there for a few days, he departed for Buffalo, where he obtained temporary employment at Page 397 his trade; and, in the fall of the same year, he came to Milwaukee. The next three years he devoted to the earning and saving of money; and, having accumulated five hundred dollars, he invested it in a little brewing plant, and began the brewing of beer on his own account. The annual output at first was only about one hundred and fifty barrels; but the business steadily grew, and enlarged buildings, new methods and new machinery followed until now the brewery covers four blocks of ground in the city, and is one of the largest and most complete establishments of the kind in this country, if not in the world. The business was conducted in the name of its founder until 1889, when a corporation was formed, with a capital of two millions of dollars, under the name of the Valentine Blatz Brewing company. Mr. Blatz was president of the company until his death, which occurred May 26th, 1894. Since that time the management and control of this extensive business has been in the hands of his sons, Albert C. and Valentine Blatz, Jr., and his son-in-law, John Kremer.
Mr. Blatz' business, though phenomenally successful in most respects, did not escape misfortune, for in 1873 the buildings of the great plant, excepting the brewery proper, were totally destroyed by fire. With characteristic energy, however, the proprietor cleared away the ruins, and by the beginning of the following year a new and completely equipped building was erected and occupied. About this time his malt house in Kenosha was burned, and sixty thousand bushels of barley were precipitated into the ruins.
Mr. Blatz was elected president of the Second Ward Savings bank in 1868, and was continued in that position up to the time of his death. He was an alderman from his ward in 1882, but he was too much engrossed with the cares of his vast business to give much thought to the details of public affairs, or to desire and seek after official honors. He traveled extensively in this country and Europe, and his observations made him an intelligent and extremely entertaining companion. He was a public-spirited citizen, and benevolent where he saw that benevolence was needed; but he had small patience with the drones of society and those who gave little thought or effort to making their own way in life.
He was married to Louise Braun, a native of Guedingen, Prussia, on the 14th of December, 1851. Her father was mayor of the city, and a man of prominence in the region where he lived. Four sons and two daughters were born to Mr. and Mrs. Blatz, all of whom are living.
1889 (1891?) - Blatz sells part of its business to Milwaukee and Chicago Breweries Ltd.
The Blatz brewing interests were incorporated in 1889 as the Val Blatz Brewing Company with a capitalization of $2,000,000. In 1891, Valentin Blatz sold out to a group of London financiers known in brewing circles as "the English Syndicate".
1938 - Emil Blatz donates $100,000 to build a "Temple of Music" - a bandshell and amphitheater in Washington Park.
Although Blatz was the first Milwaukee brewer to go national, it was forced to close in 1959, and the label was sold to Pabst. Heileman purchased it in 1969 after Pabst's anti-trust problems.
1986 - the Heileman Brewing Company unveiled its new automated Val Blatz plant in Milwaukee.
1988 - The Blatz brewery was converted to "upscale" apartments.
The following is a portion of an article that Ron Feldhaus wrote concerning the Blatz business in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Minneapolis and St. Paul each had a Blatz agency. From preceding articles it would seem the St. Paul branch was established prior to 1877, but no record of it appears in the city directory until 1884. Its' various known addresses were as follows:
1884-90 282 Jackson
1891-93 Levee & foot of Pine
1894-04 Levee & foot of John
1894-10 184-188 Eagle
There exists a very, very rare pottery beer marked BLATZ & CO./ST. PAUL MIN. This would have to be from the early days of the St. Paul branch, as the abbreviation MIN was not used much after the 1870's.
The Minneapolis city directory first lists "V. BLATZ MILWAUKEE BOTTLING COMPANY" in 1884. In 1889 Val Blatz sold out to a London syndicate and the Minneapolis Branch's name was changed to the "Val Blatz Brewing Co." It was located at 245 2nd Ave. S. from 1884-90 and at 1316-18 S. 6th from 1891-10. (This was right on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad tracks). In 1900 the Minneapolis Journal wrote "The plant consists of office building, warehouse, cooler, bottling works, and stable, and covers half a block. All the product handled is shipped direct to Minneapolis from the Milwaukee brewery. This branch receives a thousand carloads every year which is distributed throughout Minnesota, the two Dakotas, and most of the northwestern states. The Val Blatz beer is noted among epicures for its clearness and sparkle. It is widely used as a tonic and invigorator for invalids and is endorsed by the medical profession.
Val Blatz bottles are among the most eagerly sought of the Minneapolis and St. Paul beers, some being very rare. Among the earliest are those manufactured by the Chase Valley Glass Co. (1880-81) and Marked C.V.G. Co. or C.V.G. Co. #1 or C.V.G. Co. #2. The quart size Chase Valley bottles have an extra large blob, nice whittling and a ton of eye appeal.
In rough chronological order, other bottles are marked as follows:
WISC. GLASS CO. MILW. 1881-86
C.C.G. CO. 1888-1894
W.F.& S. 1895-1926
S.B.& CO. 1881-1905
Most of the S.B.& CO. bottles have a year of manufacture marked on the side of the base and were made after 1895.
Three of the rarest Val Blatz bottles (having less than 5 of each known ) are 1. the amber bottle from the St. Paul branch, 2. the bottle marked simply BLATZ/MINNEAPOLIS, 3. the St. Paul branch bottle with a backwards 'Z".
A real puzzler are the bottles (circa 1882-84) marked MINNEAPOLIS AND MILWAUKEE BOTTLING CO. (Karl Hutter) stopper and those marked MILWAIKEE AND MINNEAPOLIS BOTTLING CO. So Far I (Ron Feldhaus) have been unable to find any evidence definitely attributing those bottles tot he Val Blatz companies, but I believe it to be so.
On Fri, 28 July 2000, Sarah.Braden@intpark.com wrote: > > I just discovered that my nephew lives in an old building in Chicago with > the words "Val Blatz" in stone on the side and wonder if you know any of > the history behind this. The address is 835 N. Wolcott. > > Thank you. I haven't delved that deeply into the Blatz history yet but the building he lives in most likely was a saloon owned by the Val Blatz company at one time (before prohibition). If it's very large, it might have been a warehouse or other distribution center, like a wholesaler. Mike Reilly (Schlitzpro) MY NEPHEW TALKED TO THE LANDLORD; TURNS OUT THIS PARTICULAR BUILDING WAS BUILT IN 1896 AS A RESIDENTIAL BUILDING FOR EMPLOYEES WHO WORKED AT THE PLANT ACROSS THE STREET (WHICH IS NO LONGER THERE ... A BASKETBALL COURT SITS ON THE SITE). ORIGINALLY THERE WAS A CHICKEN COOP IN THE BASEMENT!! THOUGHT YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING IN AN UNFORTUNATE NEIGHBORHOOD ...
John Blatz, a dealer in hotel china, bar, glassware and restaurant supplies from Richmond Hill, NY.