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The Man Behind The Beer


[*Note -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." ]  

If anyone has additional information or corrections to this material, I would gladly receive it.

1826 - Valentin (pronounced 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.

Valentin 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.

1846 - 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. 

1851 - 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 Valentin 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 was elected 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.

1891 - Valentin Blatz sold out to a group of London financiers known in brewing circles as "the English Syndicate".

1894 - Valentin Blatz died on May. 26, 1894 and was buried at the Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee 
Wisconsin, USA in the family mausoleum.