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18 Apr 2022, last revised 25 May 2024

Breweries typically used "Brewery" or "Brewing Co." as part of their name, while a "Bottling Works" typically bottled soda or mineral water. Thus, it was puzzling that Excelsior Bottling Works used beer-type bottles despite being a "Bottling Works". Two possibilities exist for such an occurrence: 1) someone used beer-type bottles to bottle soda or mineral water or 2) the bottling works was a distributor for a brewery. These bottles were cataloged in the Unknown Brewers and Bottlers section of Old Copper Country Bottles, but now we have more information on their history.

Newspaper notice - <i>The Calumet and Red Jacket News</i>, 30 Jan 1891
Newspaper notice - Jan 1891

Since the Excelsior Bottling Works bottles have applied Baltimore loop seal tops, we focused our search to the late 1880s and early 1890s. The newspaper stated in Jun 1891 that "Excelsior Bottling Works" purchased a beer wagon (2). In May 1892, "Excelsior Bottling Works" was listed among accepted liquor bonds (3). Thus, the bottling works evidently bottled beer. Unfortunately, the articles did not identify the agent's name or the brewery. On the other hand, the 1891 Polk directory did not list the bottling works by name, but it listed George P. Hahn as a bottler in Hancock under "Mineral Water and Soda" and under "Beer" (1). It also listed him as a beer agent in Houghton (1). Fortunately, a notice from Jan 1891 connected the two together by identifying George Hahn as "proprietor of Excelsior Bottling Works and dispenser of Milwaukee beer at Hancock" (4).

George P. Hahn was born in 1864 or 1865 in Michigan (6,7), probably in Houghton since he was a resident of Houghton since 1865 (11). His father was Franz Hahn (6), who ran a brewery in Houghton under the firm F. Hahn & Bro. (8,9,10).

The lingering mystery is whose beer did he bottle. The newspaper only stated that he was a "dispenser of Milwaukee beer". Magnaghi (5) stated that George Hahn became an agent for Val Blatz Brewing Co. in Hancock, but we have not been able to confirm this with a historical document, and it seems improbable based on what we have found. Joseph Malherbe became the Blatz agent in Hancock in Jun 1890 (16), and then Paul Schenk filled the agency in Apr 1892 after Malherbe resigned (17). Thus, even though a Blatz branch was located in Hancock, it had other people as agents during the time George Hahn was proprietor of Excelsior Bottling Works.

George Hahn started as a beer agent when he lived in Houghton. The 1887 Holland directory listed George as a resident of Houghton and agent for the Philip Best Brewing Co. of Milwaukee, and his father was listed as the bottler (11). Their office and residence were at 302 Albion St. at the corner with Pewabic St. (Albion St. is now called E. Houghton Ave.).

Jacob Best Sr., with his four sons as partners, started the Best brewery as Best & Co. in 1844 (15). When one of his sons, Philip Best, became sole proprietor by 1859, the name was changed to the Philip Best Brewing Co. (15). Philip's son-in-law, Frederick Pabst, purchased half the interest in the company in 1864, and another son-in-law, Emil Schandein, purchased the remaining half in 1866 (15). Schandein died in 1888, leaving Frederick Pabst as sole proprietor, and the company was renamed as the Pabst Brewing Co. on 12 Mar 1889 (15).

George Hahn was the manager of the Houghton branch of the Pabst Brewing Co. (12). In Nov 1889, Emil G. Riewe took over as manager (18) and moved his family from Minneapolis (19). The branch still had a bottling operation in 1890 (20). In Mar 1893, the company had plans to erect a new building in Houghton (21). In Feb 1894, John Knivel succeeded Riewe as manager (22), and by May 1894, the branch had moved from Houghton to Red Jacket (23). Thus, George Hahn was no longer the agent of Pabst when he was proprietor of Excelsior Bottling Works, and the Pabst branch was never in Hancock.

It is unknown when George moved to Hancock, but he resided in Hancock by 29 Nov 1888 (26), although he was stated as being "of Houghton" in Feb 1889 (25) and "of Hancock" in Dec 1890 (13). In Dec 1889, he became an agent for the Fred Miller Brewing Co. (12), which was another Milwaukee brewery, and thus a potential source of "Milwaukee beer". The Fred Miller Brewing Co. was started as the Plank Road Brewery in 1850 by Charles and Lorenz Best, two of Jacob Best's sons, after they left Best & Co. (15). It was later purchased by Frederick Miller and became the Fred Miller Brewing Co. (15). It was announced in Nov 1891 that James Ryan of Hancock became the agent of the Fred Miller Brewing Co. (24). We have not found confirmation of the Miller agency being located in Hancock, especially since neither Hahn, Ryan, nor the Miller agency was listed in the 1893 directory (14). However, both Hahn and Ryan were residents of Hancock during the time of Excelsior Bottling Works.

Excelsior Bottling Works probably started in 1890 and closed in 1892. It is unknown what happened to George Hahn thereafter.

References

  1. R. L. Polk & Co. 1891. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1891-92. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  2. anonymous. (1891, Jun 25). About Portage Lake. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  3. anonymous. (1892, May 05). The Liquor Bonds. Michigan Copper Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 1.
  4. anonymous. (1891, Jan 30). Keweenaw Jottings. The Calumet and Red Jacket News (Calumet, MI). p. 2.
  5. Magnaghi, R. M. 2015. Upper Peninsula Beer: A History of Brewing Above the Bridge. American Palate. Charleston, SC.
  6. U.S. Census Bureau. 1870 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  7. U.S. Census Bureau. 1880 United States Federal Census. accessed on ancestry.com.
  8. J.E. Scripps & R.L. Polk, compliers. 1973. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1873. Tribune Book and Job Office. Detroit.
  9. R. L. Polk & Co. 1875. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1875. The Tribune Printing Company. Detroit, MI.
  10. anonymous. 1883. History of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Western Historical Company. Chicago, IL.
  11. Holland, A. H. 1887. 1887-8 Hand-book and Guide to Houghton, Mich. Mining Journal Book and Job Print. Marquette, MI.
  12. anonymous. (1889, Dec 12). About Portage Lake. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 4.
  13. anonymous. (1890, Dec 06). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  14. R. L. Polk & Co. 1893. Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1893-94. R. L. Polk & Co. Detroit, MI.
  15. anonymous. accessed Apr 2022. Pabst Mansion. www.pabstmansion.com
  16. anonymous. (1890, Jun 17). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  17. anonymous. (1892, Apr 12). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  18. anonymous. (1889, Nov 14). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  19. anonymous. (1889, Nov 21). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  20. anonymous. (1890, Jun 05). untitled. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.
  21. anonymous. (1893, Mar 08). Will Build. Semi-Weekly Copper Journal (Hancock, MI). p. 1.
  22. anonymous. (1894, Feb 06). untitled. The Native Copper Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 1.
  23. anonymous. (1894, Mar 08). untitled. The Native Copper Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  24. anonymous. (1891, Nov 03). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  25. anonymous. (1889, Feb 05). untitled. Torch Lake Times (Lake Linden, MI). p. 3.
  26. anonymous. (1888, Nov 29). Hancock Happenings. Portage Lake Mining Gazette (Houghton, MI). p. 3.

122
Excelsior Bottling Works bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: NOT TO BE SOLD OR TRADED (back)
date: 1890-1892
rarity: extremely rare
  • exceptionally large plate
  • plate low on mold

123
Excelsior Bottling Works bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: (none)
date: 1890-1892
rarity: extremely rare
  • different plate design
  • exceptionally large plate
  • plate low on mold

124
Excelsior Bottling Works bottle
capacity: quart
color: amber
top: Baltimore loop seal - applied
base: post-bottom
maker's mark: (none)
other marks: THIS BOTTLE NOT TO BE SOLD (back)
date: 1890-1892
rarity: extremely rare
  • different plate design
  • exceptionally large plate
  • plate low on mold