Category Archives: History

Over-the-Rhine

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Cincinnati, OH. My oldest daughter moved there back in February.  She recently graduated from Nursing School at the University of Toledo and is now working as a Registered Nurse at The Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. I like Cincinnati. It was, in fact, the first large American city that I visited after I arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1985. I was a graduate student at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Oxford is a college town and so a day-trip to Cincinnati, which was a short fifty minute drive to the south, was arranged within the first few weeks of arriving on campus. It was the first of numerous trips I made to the Queen City during my two years as a student at Miami; on one of those I even toured the now closed Hudepohl Brewery.

Bill (left) and Mike (right), our highly informative and entertaining brewery tour guides

For the beer lover, Cincinnati is a wonderful place to visit. Not only does the city have some fantastic craft breweries but it also has a rich brewing history. On this particular visit my wife, daughter, and I decided to spend part of Saturday afternoon learning about some of this history by taking a tour of the city’s historic Over-the-Rhine brewery district. We opted for a one hour walking tour that was offered by the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (BDCURC).  The BDCURC was established by local residents in 2005 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It’s mission is to “make the Brewery District a healthy, balanced and supportive neighborhood economy by preserving, restoring and redeveloping our unique brewing history and historic urban fabric.” The tour started at the Rhinegeist Brewery on Elm Street. It was led by two volunteer guides, Bill and Mike. Mike, as it turned out, had a connection with the city I live in, Toledo, OH. He is a retired English teacher who completed his undergraduate education just down the road from Toledo, at Bowling Green State University. He had done his student teaching at McTigue Elementary School in Toledo. Mike and Bill’s tour was well-organized, did not involve too much walking, and was highly informative. The cost was $15, with the money being reinvested in the neighborhood; some of it going to help preserve historic brewery buildings.

The Over-the-Rhine District was settled by German immigrants. Overall, during the 1850s close to one million Germans arrived in America, making it the  peak decade for German immigration to the U.S. Not surprisingly, as was the case with migrants from other countries, the Germans tried to preserve many of their cultural values and traditions after they arrived in the United States. According to one commentator “when they settled, they often established German-speaking communities, setting up their own churches, schools, newspapers, and other institutions, and keeping their cultural traditions alive in the New World.” Many of the German immigrants settled in the industrial Midwest in cities like Milwaukee, WI, St. Louis, MO, and Cincinnati, OH. Indeed, such was the size of their German populations, these three cities comprised points on what was referred to as “the German triangle“.   By the end of the nineteenth century an estimated sixty percent of the Cincinnati’s population was of German heritage.

Preservation of cultural identity is easier when immigrants cluster together in space and interact on a daily basis at work and at home. In the case of Cincinnati, German immigrants settled primarily in what would become known as the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. According to Colin Woodard, contributing editor to Politico Magazine:

“By the 1870s it [Over-the-Rhine] was one of the densest neighborhoods in the Western Hemisphere, with German-speaking churches, German-language schools and newspapers, and a network of breweries built atop enormous beer cellars, themselves connected to taprooms and beer gardens by clandestine tunnels, built to circumvent city ordinances.”

The name, Over-the-Rhine was coined by locals who would visit Cincinnati’s German neighborhood. The Germans had settled in a part of the city which was close to the Miami and Erie Canal. Residents often referred to the canal as “the Rhine” and so crossing the canal to visit the German neighborhood became known as going “Over-the-Rhine”.

Italiante architecture in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. The building on the left was a home for a member of the Christian Moerlein family while the one on the right served as office space for the brewey.
The old Cristian Moerlein bottling plant where our walking tour started

As we learned on our tour, the Over-the Rhine neighborhood is an architectural gem. It is one of the largest historic districts in the United States, boasting over 350 acres of densely-packed 19th century brick Italianate and German Revival buildings. We saw many of those buildings on our tour. These included buildings that had been homes to some of the Christian Moerlein family, as well as buildings that had served as offices for brewery operations. The Rhinegeist Brewery, where our tour started, was an old Christian Moerlein bottling plant. Christian Moerlin was a German immigrant who established a brewery in 1853. The Christian Moerlein Brewery was one of over three dozen breweries in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It grew to be the largest brewery in Ohio and the fifth largest in the United States.

By the end of the nineteenth century Cincinnati breweries were producing over a million barrels of beer annually. Almost all of this beer was consumed by the local population, In 1893 forty gallons of beer were consumed for every man, woman  and child who lived in Cincinnati – this was two and a half times the national average. Cincinnati was home to over 1,800 saloons; one for every one hundred and sixty residents. The brewery workers themselves were huge consumers of beer, receiving free beer as a perk of the job. The volume of beer consumed by brewery workers was astonishing. Employees at the city’s Kaufmann Brewey, for example, typically drank 18 kegs of beer a day. This was an average of  35 glasses per worker.

The old Jackson Brewery – lagering tunnels are accessible via grey doors
Nineteenth century lagering tunnels under the old Jackson Brewery

A love of beer was one of the cultural traditions that the German immigrants brought with them to the United States. Up until around 1840 American beer was dominated by ales, which are darker beers made with top-fermenting yeast. Ales were popular in the United Kingdom and had been brought to the Americas by the first British immigrants. In contrast, in Germany, lager was the preferred beer style. Unlike ales, lagers are brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast. Lager yeast was introduced into the United States in 1840 by a German immigrant by the name of John Wagner. Wagner, who was from Bavaria, arrived in Philadelphia, PA, and used the yeast to brew lager for his friends and neighbors. He gave some of the yeast to a fellow brewer, John Manger, who then opened a brewery in Philadelphia . One of the key differences between between ales and lagers is that, as part of the brewing process, the latter undergo what is termed cold conditioning. During this cold conditioning stage, which may last anywhere between four and ten weeks, the beer is stored at a temperature between 33 and 34 degrees Fahrenheit. Indeed the term lager is a German word meaning to store. So the process of lagering is that of storing the beer. During lagering some of harsh flavors that result from the fermentation process are mellowed. Prior to the advent of refrigeration, breweries would lager their beer in lagering tunnels that were located underneath the brewery. These tunnels provided an environment that was cooler than above-ground storage facilities. As part of our tour we visited the lagering tunnels of Cincinnati’s old Jackson Brewery. The Jackson Brewery was open for thirty-two years, between 1887 and 1919.

Patrons enjoying a beer at Rhinegeist Brewery

The walking tour finished where it had started, at the Rhinegeist Brewery. Back at Rhinegeist we were given a tour of that brewery’s facilities. Rhinegeist is a relative newcomer to the craft brewing landscape, having been founded in 2013. In that short time it has experienced phenomenal growth; in 2016 Rhinegeist brewed fifty-seven thousand barrels of beer.  The name Rhinegeist translates as “ghost of the Rhine”. It seems an appropriate name for a brewery that is (a) housed in an nineteenth century bottling plant and (b) is a key player in the brewing renaissance that is occurring in Cincinnati. In addition to Rhinegeist I also enjoyed a beer at Rivertown Brewery and Madtree Brewing Company on this visit to Cincinnati.  On a previous trip back in February I had lunch at the brewery Taft’s Ale House.  All the breweries were full of young people enjoying the fruits of the brewer’s labor. Today’s brewing landscape in Cincinnati is quite different than it was in the nineteenth century. The breweries are more geographically dispersed and are producing a much greater variety of beer styles than their nineteenth century counterparts. But there is no question that locally brewed beer in Cincinnati, as in almost every other American city, is back in vogue. To that I say “Prost”.

Further Reading:

Stephens, Sarah. 2010. Cincinnati’s Brewing History. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing.

Morgan, Michael D. 2010. Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King. Charleston, SC: The History Press.

 

 

 

Moses’ Acquittal

Jackie Robinson is famous in the world of sport for being the first African-American, in the twentieth century, to play Major League baseball. Robinson’s first professional game occurred on April 15, 1947 when he played first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers were the only Major League team for whom Robinson played; his final game for them was on October 10, 1956. Among other achievements Robinson was named Major League Rookie of the Year in 1947, chosen as the National League MVP in 1949, and won the World Series with the Dodgers in 1955.

Advertisement for the Blue Stockings vs. Eclipse game that appeared in Louisville’s Journal-Courier newspaper on May 1, 1884

Robinson was not the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, however. On May 1, 1884, sixty-three years before Robinson played his first game for the Dodgers, a twenty-six year old African-American made his Major League debut. His name was Moses Fleetwood Walker and he turned out for the Toledo Blue Stockings in a game against the Louisville Eclipse. The game, in which Fleetwood played catcher, took place at Eclipse Park in Louisville, KY. ; the Eclipse won 5-1.

Moses Fleetwood Walker (back row center) and the 1884 Toledo Blue Stockings team

The Toledo Blue Stockings were established, as a minor league team, in 1883. That year they played in the Northwestern League, which they  also managed to win. In 1884 the Blue Stockings joined the American Association. The American Association was an alternative professional baseball league to the National League. The Blue Stockings lasted just one season in the Major Leagues (finishing eighth out of thirteen teams)  and in 1885 were back in the minors, before being disbanded at the end of that season. They played their games at League Park which was located on a city block in downtown Toledo; the block being bounded by Monroe Street, 15th Street, Jefferson Avenue, and 13th Street. This meant that League Park was located just a few blocks northwest of the Fifth Third Field, where the present-day Toledo MudHens currently play.

Moses Fleetwood Walker Ohio Historical Marker

Walker was born in Mount Pleasant, OH on October 7, 1856. He was the third-born son of Moses W. Walker and Caroline O’Harra Walker. In 1879 the Walker family moved to Steubenville, OH and it was probably here that Moses first played baseball. In 1877 Moses enrolled as a student at Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) where he played catcher and lead-off hitter for the Oberlin College prep team. In 1888 Oberlin fielded its first varsity baseball team, of which Walker was a member. In the final game of the season Oberlin defeated the Univetsity of Michigan, 9-2; so impressed were Michigan with Walker’s performance that they invited him to join their team. So Walker transferred to the University of Michigan in 1882, where he spent his junior year studying Law and playing baseball. The  following year he decided to not return to Michigan, opting instead to sign for the Toledo Blue Stockings. And it was with the Blue Stockings that Walker made history when he became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball.

An excerpt of the letter warning the Toledo Blue Stockings not to play Walker in their game against the Richmond Virginians appeared in The Cincinnati Enquirer.

As an African-American it is perhaps not surprising to learn that, during his career, Walker faced opposition because of the color of his skin. There were a number of times when opposition players and managers objected to his playing against them. For example, on September 5, 1884 prior to a visit to Richmond, VA Charlie Morton, manager of the Toledo Blue Stockings, received a letter from the Richmond Virginians which contained the following:

Dear Sir: We the undersigned, do hereby warn you not to put up Walker, the Negro catcher, the evenings that you play in Richmond, as we could mention the names of 75 determined men who have sworn to mob Walker if he comes to the ground in a suit. We hope you will listen to our words of warning, so that there will be no trouble: but if you do not, there certainly will be. We only write this to prevent much blood shed, as you alone can prevent.

As it was Walker was released by the Blue Stockings prior to the trip to Richmond and so this particular situation never came to a head. After being released by Toledo, Walker bounced around from one minor league team to another before finally retiring from the game in 1889.

Richard Reed’s painting of Moses Fleetwood Walker inside Fleetwood’s Taproom
Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre put on a play about Walker’s murder trial

Although not from Toledo, it was in Toledo that Walker made history. And it is a history of which an growing number of Toledoeans are increasingly aware. And beer is playing a part in this increased awareness of Walker. In April 2016 a new bar opened in downtown Toledo. In honor of Walker, it is called Fleetwood’s Tap Room. It is a bar with a craft beer focus and Fleetwood’s menu includes over one hundred craft beers. One of these beers is called Moses’ Acquital, a Brown Ale brewed exclusively for the tap room by the nearby Black Cloister Brewing Company. The brew is the creation of Black Cloister’s Head Brewmaster Shannon Fink. The name of the beer refers to an event that has its beginnings in Syracuse, NY in April 1891. Walker was walking home from a bar when he was challenged by a group of white men. Words were exchanged, Walker drew a knife, and killed a man by the name of Patrick Murray. Walker was tried for second degree murder; the jury, which was all white, acquitted him; hence the name of the beer.  Interestingly, in 2015 a Chicago theatre, the Black Ensemble Theater, told the story of Walker’s trial in a play. Titled The Trial of Moses “Fleetwood” Walker, the play was met with acclaim from a number of theatre critics, with one describing it as a “brave, honest, and powerful drama”.

Island Sanctuary for the Ghost of Moses

Inside Fleetwood’s Taproom there is a painting of Walker that was done by local artist Richard Reed. The artwork in Fleetwoods is not the only image of Walker you will see in Toledo. There is a wall mural in downtown Toledo that bears his image. Completed  in October 2015, it is the work of artists Natalie Lanese and Douglas Kampfer and is called Island Sanctuary for the Ghost of Moses. The mural, at 19 St. Clair’s Streer, is about a block from Fifth Third Field, home of the MudHens.  Walker is the central figure in the mural, which also includes other Toledo-related content such as the city’s High Level Bridge and Mud Hens among the rushes.

In March of this year the Ohio House of Representatives voted 92-0 to designate October 7 (Walker’s birthday) as ‘Moses Fleetwood Walker Day’ throughout the state of Ohio. It still has to be approved by the Senate and the Governor. But if it is, and hopefully it will, this will be a fitting tribute to a great Ohioan.

Further Reading:

Zang, David W. 1995. Fleet Walker’s Divided Heart: The Life of Baseball’s First Black Major Leaguer. Omaha, NE; University of Nebraska Press.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to my friend and colleague Peggy Gripshover of Western Kentucky University for providing me with old newspaper articles about Moses Fleetwood Walker.

Guid Ale Comes and Guid Ale Goes

Back in January I participated in an evening celebrating the life and poetry of Robert Burns. Burns is the National Poet of Scotland. Every year, Scots and non-Scots alike gather on or around January 25 (Burns’s Birthday) to commemorate the life of this literary genius. Growing up in Scotland I cannot recall a time when I was not aware of Burns and his poetry. At the very least, a rudimentary knowledge of Burns seems to be part of the Scottish DNA.

Whateverandeveramen celebrated the life and poetry of Robert Burns in Seattle, WA and Toledo, OH
Whateverandeveramen sing the songs of Robert Burns at the Black Cloister Brewing Company in Toledo, OH

The celebration was held at the Black Cloister Brewing Company in downtown Toledo, OH. The evening was organized by Brad Pierson who is Director of Choral Activities at the University of Toledo. Brad is a Burns aficionado. He has been organizing Burns’ celebrations since 2014. He started doing so in Seattle, WA while he was in graduate school. This year, in addition to the event in Toledo, Brad organized two other celebrations, both in Seattle. The fact that Brad chose the Black Cloister for his first Toledo Burns celebration is no accident. Brad is a craft beer lover and, in fact, one of the Seattle events that he organized was held in Naked City Brewery and Taphouse. Brad is also the founder of Whateverandeveramen, “a project-based ensemble dedicated to the performance of high quality choral literature of varied styles from all musical eras.”

Brad asked me to participate in the evening and to provide some background on the life, times, and poetry of the great man in between the sets performed by Whateverandeveramen. This I was happy to do. My first contribution to the evening was to regale the crowd  with a brief biography of Burns, while at the same time trying to convey why his poetry was, and still is, considered important.

Burns was born on January 25, 1759 (he died in 1796 at the age of thirty-seven) in the village of Alloway in Ayrshire. His father was a tenant farmer; a vocation that Burns later took up himself. He was the oldest of seven children. Burns was educated both at home and in a formal school setting. At age fifteen he discovered a love for poetry, to the extent that he soon started writing poems.  And it was his poetry that would make him famous the world over.

Burns’ poetry was important for a number of reasons. First, he wrote in the Scots language at a time when to do so was highly unpopular in Scottish literary circles. Scotland had entered into political union with England in 1707 and as a result there was a movement afoot to Anglicize Scottish culture and language. This is something that Burns opposed vehemently. He knew the important role that the Scots language played in Scottish identity.  Second,  Burns “used small subjects to express big ideas“. For example, in his poem To a Mouse he makes comparisons between the lives of mice and men. A farmer, plouging his field, accidentally upsets a mouse’s nest. On doing so he apologizes to the mouse; realizing that he has upset the mouse’s plans.  It is at this point that the farmer recognizes that mice, like men, make plans and that these plans can, in a split second be upset. As Burns notes in the poem – “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” –  (translated as “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew”). In Tam ‘o Shanter he suggests that Tam, upon being chased by witches, should perhaps have heeded the advice of his wife and stayed at home (are you listening gentlemen?).

Postage stamps issued by the Soviet Union in 1956 on the 160th anniversary of Burns’ death

Centuries after his death Burns’ work continued to be recognized and have impact. John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 novel Of Mice and Men from a line of the Burns’ poem To A Mouse. In 1956 the Soviet Union issued a set of commemorative postage stamps on the 160th anniversary of the poet’s death. In 2008, when asked to name the verse of lyric that had the greatest impact on his life the iconic American artist Bob Dylan identified the poem A Red Red Rose, written by Burns in 1794.

Here I am reciting “Guid Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon”

After some more singing by Whateverandeveramen I got back on stage and recited one of Burns poems – Guid Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon. It was a poem written in 1795, a year before Burns’ death. It tells the story of a farmer and the lengths to which he goes to keep himself supplied with good ale and the price that he sometimes pays for over indulging. The latter included being publicly rebuked by the minister in the local church. Burns lived in post-Reformation Scotland which meant that the Church of Scotland was dominant religious institution. The Church of Scotland, colloquially known as the Kirk, was Presbyterian. It was heavily influenced by the ideas of the French reformer John Calvin and, as a result, was quite puritanical in its outlook. Drinking and drunkeness were most certainly frowned upon; too much beer and you ended up on ‘the stool” in Kirk on a Sunday morning where you would be chastised by the minister in front of the entire congregation.

The individual in Burns’ poem went to great lengths to finance his love of guid ale. He owned six oxen (sax owsen) and found himself selling them one by one (ane by ane). When he had spent that money he sold his stockings (hose) and pawned his shoes (shoon). Drastic steps, but worth it because drinking guid ale lifted his spirits (keeps the heart aboon). It also causes him to meddle with the servant girl (“gars me moop wi’ the servant hizzie”).

Guid Ale Keeps The Heart Aboon

I had sax owsen in a pleugh,
And they drew a’ weel eneugh:
I sell’d them a’ just ane by ane –
Guid ale keeps the heart aboon!

O, guid ale comes, and guid ale goes,
Guid ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon –
Guid ale keeps my heart aboon!

Guid ale hauds me bare and busy,
Gars me moop wi’ the servant hizzie,
Stand i’ the stool when I hae dune –
Guid ale keeps the heart aboon!

O, guid ale comes, and guid ale goes,
Guid ale gars me sell my hose,
Sell my hose, and pawn my shoon –
Guid ale keeps my heart aboon!

Robert Burns Scottish Ale from Belhaven Brewery

The ale for which Burns’ character was willing to go to such lenghths to acquire was known as Scottish Ale (those with an ABV of 6.5% and higher were known as Scotch Ales). Hops were not grown in nineteenth century Scotland; the closest hop fields were in Kent in the south of England.  High transportation made hops cost prohibitive for Scottish brewers; so few were used and with the result that the ales of the period had a sweet, malty character. A number of modern-day breweries produce an ale that commemorates Burns. One of these is Scotland’s Belhaven Brewery who brew a Robert Burns Ale which they describe as a “classic, malty Scottish Ale”.

The evening at the Black Cloister was highly memorable. As a Scot, participating in events liks this affords me an opportunity to reconnect with my cultural roots. I have lived in the United States since 1985; but I still have a strong emotional affinity for the land of my birth. And while I am a passport-carrying American (I became a U.S. citizen in 2003) evenings such as this remind me from whence I came.

 

 

Slàinte, Salud, and Saħħa

Slàinte, Salud, and Saħħa – three words that are all used in the same way and to convey the same sentiment. Slàinte is Scots Gaelic, Salud is Spanish, and Saħħa is Maltese. All are used as toasts when glasses of alcholol are raised and all essentially translate as “good health”.

Continue reading Slàinte, Salud, and Saħħa

Beck’s, A Lawsuit, and Terroir

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My $12.00 check

Earlier this summer I received a check for twelve dollars in the mail. It was my share of a class action lawsuit that had been successfully brought against Anheuser-Busch (A-B). The focus of the lawsuit was Beck’s beer. Beck’s is ostensibly a German beer. The Beck’s Continue reading Beck’s, A Lawsuit, and Terroir

Rebels, Renegades, and Revolutionaries

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Huggy Rao

 

I’ve been reading quite a lot of the writings of Huggy Rao recently. Huggy (or Hayagreeva to give him his Sunday name) is the Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Continue reading Rebels, Renegades, and Revolutionaries

Aloha

Aloha is one of those words that has multiple meanings. It is a Hawaiian word, of course, and in the native language of America’s fiftieth state it can mean both hello and goodbye. My wife and I just spent eight days on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was a trip that mixed
business and pleasure. I was there for the 55th Annual Meeting of the Western Regional Science Association. We arrived a few days before the meetings started so that we could Continue reading Aloha

Norwalk This Way: Back To The Barley Future

In the 1840s, newspapers in Norwalk, Ohio, published numerous advertisements for breweries begging farmers to sell the beer makers more malting barley. Today, over 170 years later, Norwalk home brewers and craft brewers alike could make the same largely
unanswered request. In fact, in most places in the U.S., local malting barley production does meet the needs of beer makers. The same could be said for hops, but that is a story for another blog entry. Continue reading Norwalk This Way: Back To The Barley Future

Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet

I was in Stockholm, Sweden a few weeks ago. I wrote about my visit in my last entry. It was a great trip that allowed me to sample some fine Swedish craft beers. The Swedish craft beer industry is growing steadily. New breweries are opening up every year and one in particular had peaked my interest – Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet (New Carnegie Brewery). The brewery is a joint venture between New York’s Brooklyn Brewery and Danish brewing giant Carlsberg. Continue reading Nya Carnegie Bryggeriet

School Days

Beer and college tend to go together. Those of us who attended an institution of higher learning, in all likelihood, consumed huge volumes of beer while pursuing our studies. I know I did. But then again I was in college for ten years straight while amassing an undergraduate and two graduate degrees. So between 1981 and 1991 I had plenty of time to drink beer. And like most college students on a tight budget it was Continue reading School Days