Monday, March 14, 2011

Germans, Beer and Philadelphia

Jim attended Extreme Beer Fest in Boston this past weekend, and it got me thinking about our German roots and how beer played a role in our family history.

Schmidt's in the 1880's

When Joseph Enz left the farmland of Drackenstein via Bremen for Philadelphia in 1882, he sailed on the SS General Blucher. Passage cost about $10 (about $250 today) and took about 2 weeks. Steerage passengers slept in bunks stacked 3 high with 2' of width. Small tables and chairs were between each bunk, and that was where most people spent the voyage. Diseases were rampant.

Beer is recorded in Germany since 800 BC, and was made by the women until it became the domain of men, namely monks. In Revolution-era Philadelphia, there was a tavern for every 25 men, and it tied with Boston for the most taverns of anywhere in the English speaking world!

Schmidt's of Philadelphia, founded in 1860 by Christian Schmidt (also from Wurttemburg) was family owned for it's first 116 years. When it closed in 1986, it left Philly without a brewery for the first time in 300 years! (Sadly, the brewery was demolished in 2000 and has since become "The Piazza at Schmidt's, " an open-air plaza with boutiques, condos, etc.)

Back to Joseph Enz, he spent most of his young working life driving a horse-drawn beer wagon for Schmidt's, delivering the popular beer to taverns all day. This was likely how he met his wife Krescentia (Kressie for short, which then morphed into Grace). 

She was working from the time of her arrival in Phila in one of the German restaurants, a common practice back then. She worked for $5 a month plus bread and board. Kressie told her kids how much she liked Joe back then, because he was so nice. They were married in 1885, and had 8 daughters, plus one son that didn't survive.

At some point after they married, Joseph and Kressie lived over top of the horse stables and had to jump out of their window during a fire. She limped for the rest of her life from that leap!

One hundred years ago,  Philadelphia was known as the greatest brewing city in the Western Hemisphere. Today,  Philadelphia-area microbreweries are reclaiming the region’s reputation by brewing some of the world’s best beer.

Beer Drivers Union Mug 1913

Joseph & Kressie - so happy!

I am getting a letter from Joseph to his hometown in Drackenstein written in 1893 translated - hopefully it will tell us more about their lives!

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1 comment:

  1. Nice page, we have similar histories. My great grandfather was a harness maker for Baltz, Bergdohl, Engel and Schmidts as well as others. His shop was recently just torn down, one other still exists. I'm doing a family history that has a section on Brewery Town. Thanks
    Bill Karleskind