E.C.B.A. the KEG Fall, 2019

The Krantz Breweries of Honesdale, Carbondale and Simpson, Pennsylvania

By Rich Wagner

August Hartung & Peter Krantz purchased the Irving Cliff Brewery in Honesdale from Charles Robinson in 1868. It had been established by Kessler & Burkhardt sixteen years earlier and had passed through a number of hands. The name honored Washington Irving who was friends with Philip Hone, a former Mayor of New York City and organizer of the Delaware & Hudson Canal Co. The two scrambled to the top of the cliff to take in the view and Hone named it after his friend, most famous as author of Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle.

001 Map Honesdale Steam Brewery, Hartung & Krantz

Peter Krantz came to this country at the age of fifteen in 1852. At some point he began operating one of the barges on the D&H canal. In1865 he became an agent for the Stegmaier brewery in Wilkes-Barre. Three years later he went to Honesdale where he entered into a partnership with August Hartung and purchased the Irving Cliff Brewery from Charles Robinson. Thirty years later, Robinson would go on to become head of a syndication of breweries throughout the coal region known as the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co.

002 Irving Cliff Brewery (Cobb Collection)

0031903 Sanborn Map

004 Irving Cliff Brewery bottle. (Cobb Collection)

Hartung & Krantz enlarged and modernized the brewery with various improvements over a five year period. As the terminus for the D & H Canal, Honesdale’s claim to fame was having the biggest pile of coal in the Lackawanna Valley and the Irving Cliff Brewery piggy-backed its beer on the coal barges headed to New York City, attaining a considerable market share despite the proliferation of breweries in the city.

As of the first of the year 1883, the Hartung & Krantz partnership was dissolved by mutual consent. Peter Krantz rented and continued to run the Irving Cliff Brewery. A year later he rented a second brewery in nearby Carbondale.

The Nealon brewery was started in 1840 by Richard Howarth & Bro. on land owned by John Nealon. It burned down in 1849 and was rebuilt a decade later by John Nealon. Four years later Loftus & Nealon became proprietors. Krantz purchased the brewery and moved to Carbondale in 1889 at which time August Hartung took over operations at his Irving Cliff Brewery.

005 1896 Sanborn Map

006 Aug. Hartung letterhead. (Cobb Collection)

In the spring of 1893 Krantz had Geo. F. Ott of Philadelphia prepare plans for a modern brewery. Plans included razing the existing buildings as the summer trade waned to minimize disruption to the business. The result was a 25,000 barrel plant equipped with a 100-barrel brew house.

There was a trend that developed in the brewing industry leading up to the turn of the last century towards consolidating the interests of a number of different brewing companies under one corporation in order to attain economies of scale with respect to purchasing raw materials, delivery, advertising, administration, etc. One article of the day announced plans to place all the breweries in Pennsylvania under such an umbrella, taking a page out of the Oil, Steel, Railroad and other Trusts of the day.

British capitalists were actively investing the United States creating what became known as the British syndicate. Pennsylvania breweries resisted the temptation to join and instead formed several combinations of their own: Consumers (6) in Philadelphia; Consumers (4) in Erie; Pennsylvania Central (12) based in Scranton; Pittsburgh Brewing Co. (22) and Independent Brewing Co. of Pittsburgh (15). There were proposals floated in the trade journals identifying plans to create similar combines in the Lehigh Valley and Anthracite region. The term consumers referred to breweries where retailers, hotel and saloon owners were primary stockholders.

007 Ad Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co.

It shouldn’t be surprising that both breweries Peter Krantz had been involved with became branches of the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co. when it was formed in 1897.

In the case of Honesdale, they purchased the two breweries in town: the Irving Cliff Brewery a.k.a. Hartung’s, which became a branch and the Guckenberger’s (d.b.a. Schimpff) was closed to eliminate competition and redundancy.

008 1885 Sanborn Map Guckenberger brewery.

Theodore Schimpff who had worked at his brother’s Guckenberg brewery in Honesdale was hired by the P.C.B.C. and started working at the main E. Robinson’s Sons plant in Scranton. He went to brewing school and was assigned to the Hartung branch. He went to the Krantz brewery in Carbondale in 1903.

Peter Krantz sold his Carbondale brewery to the syndicate in October 1897 and was retained as branch manager. Using the $25,000 he made on the sale of his brewery, Peter and sons paid cash for the failing (OH 195) Brilliant City Brewing Co. in Findlay, Ohio, changing the name to Krantz Brewing Co., producing about 7,000 barrels a year. When Peter Krantz died two years later, the sons cashed out and returned to Carbondale.

The Western Brewer reported in November 1901 that Joseph and Frank Krantz along with J. Scheck, Z.C. Lee and Thomas Norton were organizing the Carbondale Brewing Co. with the intention of building a plant there. As it turned out a company was incorporated as the Fell Brewing Co. which undertook a $110,000 construction project, completed in early 1903. It was outfitted with a 200-barrel kettle and 65-ton York Refrigerating machine. The company was described as as a consumers’ brewery. Michael Krantz, who also had a bottling business in Forest City was president; Charles F. Reedy, vice-president; Joseph Krantz, treasurer/manager; and Frank Krantz secretary. Fell was well positioned to give the P.C.B.C. a run for its money and when the syndicate tried to staff the Krantz branch, the former employees, many of whom were family members were all working for Fell forcing P.C.B.C. to look elsewhere for experienced workers.

009 Fell brewery. (Revak Collection)

010 1912 Sanborn Map Fell B.C.

Ironically it was only Fell in Carbondale that would survive prohibition. The P.C.B.C. attempted a comeback which never got off the ground. Otto J. Robinson went with Standard in Scranton, another survivor that had not been part of the combine. The post prohibition period was difficult with many false starts and short-lived revivals. Things got more difficult for brewers due to rationing during the war(s). The postwar period saw the development of regional chains of the nation’s largest shipping breweries creating national brands advertised on television, reducing local brand loyalty.

An assessment of the local brewing scene appeared in the Scranton Times-Tribune, January 11, 1949, noted that there were over 2,000 breweries in the U.S. in 1887 averaging just under 10K barrels a year. While there were then 471 averaging just under 200K barrels a year. It listed seven breweries in Scranton and Dunmore, and one each in Dickson City and Carbondale in 1900, and in 1949: Standard in Scranton, Pioneer or Fell in Carbondale with the Stegmaier brewery supplying the region from Luzerne County.

In May 600 members of Local 115, CIO-United Brewery Workers went on a nine day strike for shorter hours and higher wages against the six breweries in Luzerne County. The result was a $6 weekly raise for the same 40-hour week for workers from Stegmaier, Lion, Franklin, Bartel’s and the Standard brewery’s depot in Forty Fort. 100 Hazleton Pilsner brewery workers were only out for one day when management said they would abide by any contract that was negotiated. In August 1950 Fell Brewing Co., which had not signed the contract was in negotiations with the union.

Brewery workers in Lackawanna County rejected the contract when it was presented to 180 workers at Standard, the Stegmaier depot in Scranton and Fell in Carbondale. In June they ratified a two-year contract giving $7 for keg drivers and $6 other workers.

In August 1950 brewery workers used a clause in their contract to reopen negotiations for a cost of living raise. Brewery owners were united in opposition but relented an averted a strike. Howard Zimram, president of Fell Brewing Co., did not sign the contract with Local 115, CIO-United Brewery Workers representing its 22 union employees. When negotiators assembled for a scheduled session they received a call that Mr. Zimram was out of town.

In May the brewery workers received an additional 3% giving them an overall 10% raise. In short order three quarters of Fell’s workforce was laid off. On June 15, 1951 Zimram announced the brewery would be closing but that they were still selling beer. He added that there there were a number of possibilities for reuse of the property.

Recent Visit

I hadn’t been to Carbondale since August of 1981 when Rich Dochter and I were photographing breweries in Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties. This was before American Breweries (1984) was published and we had to rely almost exclusively on what the locals could tell us about names, dates and addresses of breweries.

But my most recent visit, armed with American Breweries III and Sanborn maps, was quite productive: vaults of two different breweries in Honesdale including a brewpub named for one of them and two brewery sites in Carbondale with buildings to photograph at each. Remnants of three different Krantz-owned breweries, two of which became branches of the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Co.

011 Entrance to the vaults of the Irving Cliff Brewery aka Hartung & Krantz at the base of Irving Cliff

012 Detail

013Entrance to Guckenberger brewery vaults.

recall seeing the Irving Cliff Brewery on Facebook a few years ago. The owner was giving tours of the Hartung & Krantz vaults at the base of the cliff. I recalled photographing the vaults when Dochter and I were there but I wanted to re-photograph, explore, and of course, sip some of Honesdale’s current brews.

014 Exterior Irving Cliff Brewpub

015 Brewhouse

016 Can display

17 Cooperage that supplied Irving Cliff with barrels has been adapted to reuse.

The trip was prompted when Larry Handy received an email from John Revak, of Carbondale. He is a formerly active E.C.B.A. member and collector of local, mostly Fell, breweriana. He sold the majority of his collection a while ago but he sent Larry information and pics of breweriana and of brewery buildings that no longer stand for the purpose of an article.

018, 019 Stable/Storage house.

020, 021 Bottling house.

We started off in Simpson, a former section of Carbondale, where two buildings remain of the Fell brewery: a bottling house and stable/storage building. Both were accessible to rail, with a spur running between them allowing cars to be loaded directly from the bottling shop. The rail has since been removed but we could see where it led and where the brewery buildings used to stand.

022 Krantz Brewery Stable.

Next we found what was left of the Peter Krantz brewery in Carbondale. As I stood there taking in the scene I remembered taking the exact same pic of the stables that I had nearly forty years ago and noticed the word “Stables” was no longer visible. There were stone walls, parts of vaults and foundations still there but the property is in a residential neighborhood and there is a house where the main brewery building used to stand.

After all that trekking, we landed in Honesdale at the Irving Cliff brewery for lunch and had quite an interview with the proprietor, Brian Cobb. He explained that his vault tours had been popular but the borough put up roadblocks due to liability issues. But he remains very interested in the history of not only the Krantz but also the Guckenberger breweries in town. In fact he had family members of the owner of that brewery show up on his doorstep with some incredible artifacts. The entrances to vaults from both breweries are still visible.

100-106 Revak breweriana