By Emma Miller
Anthracite iron was a technological breakthrough during the later half of the nineteenth century and no one felt the affects more than the people of Allentown, Pennsylvania. It attracted people from around the country and the world but those people, especially those of the First and Sixth Wards of Allentown, experienced more than just the boom of the iron industry. Breweries also took off to become a lucrative industry in the city. With an increase in population and technological breakthroughs the alcohol industry grew along with the iron industry in the later half of the nineteenth century.
Brewing beer was an American pastime by the time the anthracite iron industry made its appearance in the Lehigh Valley. From the mid 19th century the brewing industry, especially German brewers, has worked hard to portray themselves as separate from other alcohol industries. German lager was especially used in this distinction because it became a distinctly German-American beverage. Lager is distinct in that the ‘lagering’ process requires cool temperature and longer aging than ale or common beer (Musson, 2013, 14). Like the iron industry, the beer brewing industry grew during the late nineteenth century because of the increase in European immigrants to the northeast United States. Immigration, the growth of large national shipping breweries, the increased leisure time of male workers, and the relatively low price of beer all contributed to the industries growth (Mittelman, 2007, 39). In 1879, it was reported that Philadelphia had a total of 94 breweries in the city alone (Wagner, 2012, 41). Overall breweries output went from 6.6 million barrels in 1870 to 39 million in 1900 (Mittelman, 2007, 38). Brewers were dependent on ice to keep their product cold and as a result most brewers only distributed locally (Mittelman, 2007, 39). Hell Gate Brewery, the largest brewery in the United States in 1877, produced about 138,000 barrels of beer that could only be distributed in New York State (Mittelman, 2007, 39). Brewing became the first industry to use mechanical means of refrigeration and in 1870 the Leimann’s Sons Brewing Company used an absorption machine to keep its beer cold (Mittelman, 2007, 39). By 1891, almost all American breweries had refrigeration machines and with the help of refrigerated freight cars many breweries were able to distribute nationally (Mittelman, 2007, 39).
Figure 1.Map depicting the locations of 3 of the Allentown residents (orange) who worked in breweries and 3 breweries (purple): The Kern Brewery in the lower left, J Wise brewery in northern most point, and the Lieberman Brewery located a block west from J. Lieberman’s residence.
Allentown, Pennsylvania became a leader in the anthracite iron industry in the United States. It attracted people from around the country and the world to find jobs in the iron furnaces. But those people, especially those of the First and Sixth Wards of Allentown, experienced more than just the boom of the iron industry. Breweries also took off to become a lucrative industry in the city. With an increase in population and technological breakthroughs the alcohol industry in Allentown grew along with the iron industry in the later half of the nineteenth century.
The 1880 census of the First and Sixth Wards of Allentown give the names and addresses of eight men who worked in breweries. Three of them are mapped in Figure 1. They all live fairly close together and it can be inferred that they most likely worked at the same brewery since they would have had to walk to work from home. They all probably worked at Lieberman Brewery, Kern Brewery, or Daeufer & Co. Brewery. One other interesting fact that all of these men, except three, have in common is that they are German immigrants. This is graphed below in image 2. This trend mirrors that of immigrants coming to the United States and Allentown at this time to look for work in the growing iron industry. One of the German immigrants is Joseph Lieberman, the owner of Lieberman Brewery, was living in the Second Ward even though he is listed in the first ward census. Although the house number was left blank, he lived very close to his brewery (refer to Figure 1). The increased working opportunities also led to more leisure money, which made establishments such as breweries so successful. The increase of especially German immigrants into the United States brought a new type of beer, the lager. Most of the breweries in Allentown brewed lager to cater to the local Germans and the growing taste for it across the U.S.
Allentown served as a transportation hub and a center of industry in Pennsylvania; other entrepreneurs saw this as an opportunity to start successful businesses and for many this dream came true. With the invention of the refrigeration and refrigerated train cars, breweries could keep send beer further and keep more of it at once. Since beer needs to be kept cold, breweries originally placed barrels underground, but refrigeration allowed them to expand vaults to above ground as well. Also with the increased presence of railroad systems, Allentown breweries could send/sell their beer to places much further away than just local taverns.
People moved to the First and Sixth wards because they were close to the iron furnaces but found many other opportunities as well. With the help of the growing population and improving technologies, industries flourished. Breweries especially benefited from the railway systems, increased numbers of Germans, and more leisure money of locals. Many German immigrants started very successful breweries in the area and placed them very close to the iron areas in Allentown.