American Breweriana Journal July/August 2015
Brewing in Shamokin, PA
By Rich Wagner
The Early Days
“King Coal” was still growing into his crown in Shamokin, PA, when Gottlieb Fritz established the Eagle Run Brewery in 1854. Little more is known about its early days other than it was located along a run emptying into the Shamokin Creek where it makes a bend that became known alternately as “Brewery” or “Dead Man” Curve, one of many small ale and porter breweries in the region that helped “cut the dust” for generations of anthracite miners increasingly drawn to the area from England, Ireland and Wales, Germany, Italy, Poland and Lithuania.
The earliest production figures for breweries in the U.S.A. were reported for the years 1878 and 1879. During this time Eagle Run doubled its production from 630 and 1,126 barrels. There were about fifteen breweries operating in Pennsylvania’s southern anthracite fields at the time. Pottsville served as a hub with three breweries, including the only one exceeding 10,000 barrels a year, D.G. Yuengling & Sons’ Eagle Brewery with 13,500 barrels, representing nearly half the region’s output. Two thirds of the brewers made less than 1,000 barrels a year, with one producing only 30 barrels.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Original Eagle Run brewery plant. Notations in the accompanying Sanborn Map show how the early brewery was arranged. Eagle Run was in a period of transition from being dependent on ice cut from an adjacent pond to the luxury of producing ice by machine.
PICTURE: CAPTION: 1891 Sanborn Map takes us inside the buildings shown in the photograph. Visible on the left is wooden (yellow) storage building G. There is a vault in the basement which extends beneath building F (not visible). There is a dwelling on the second floor. Behind these is building E containing an ice tank in the basement, freezing tank on the first floor and storage on the second; behind which is building A, “refrigerator” for beer storage, cooled with ice.
The building D, closer to the viewer contains an ice machine, engine and beer kettles on the first floor with a condenser and malt mill on the second. The louvered gable permitted heat from the condenser to escape to the air. Note the smokestack in the corner of this building as well as the one in the shed (probably a boiler) to the right on the floor plan. In the center we see a wooden building B, an ice house and shed in the background.
By this time Eagle Run had been in business for nearly a quarter of a century and was being run by its fourth owners, Markel & Schweibinz. Among the improvements made by Markel was carving a vault for lagering beer in the rock face that bounded the brewery. The industrial census of the day shows five hired hands working ten-hour days during the brewing season, which lasted from November until May. Wages amounted to $2,000 and the brewery turned $4,500 worth of malt and hops into $12,000 worth of beer.
The brewery was a family affair with three of Martin Markel’s sons employed. Another son ran the Central Hotel in Shamokin. One daughter was married to the brewery foreman, and another to Markel’s business partner, Pius Schweibinz, who left in 1878 to start a brewery in nearby Mauch Chunk.
As one of the community’s leading citizens, Markel was a director and treasurer of the First National Bank of Shamokin; a director of the Shamokin Powder Manufacturing Company; founder and director of the Shamokin & Mount Carmel Street Railway Company; and a director and treasurer of the Shamokin Street Railway Company.
Fuhrmann & Schmidt Brewing Co.
In 1893 Philip Henry Fuhrmann had overseen the construction of the new Kaier brewery in Mahanoy City before removing himself from a partnership with that firm (See ABJ March/April 2014 “C.D. Kaier Success Story”). He purchased the Eagle Run brewery and enlarged the plant by building new brew and stock houses to increase production of lager beer. In 1896 the firm became Fuhrmann & Schmidt, and they built a warehouse, bottling shop and office at Commerce and Washington Streets in Shamokin.
PICTURE: CAPTION: View of Fuhrmann & Schmidt’s complex circa early 1905 (Citizen Shopper January 1972).
PICTURE: CAPTION: The 1896 Sanborn Map shows Fuhrmann & Schmidt’s new brick (red) brew house under construction.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Built during the expansions at Eagle Run, offices, bottle shop and warehouse gave Fuhrmann & Schmidt a downtown presence with rail access. This could very well have been a model for their network of depots and bottling establishments throughout the region.
PICTURE: CAPTION: 1907 Sanborn Map.
Shamokin Brewing Co.
During the time Eagle Run was expanding, the Shamokin Brewing Co. was organized with a capital of $5,000 for the purpose of brewing ale, porter, lager and weiss beer. A modern 40,000 barrel plant by Koelle, Speth & Co. was erected on South Harrison St. The firm went into receivership in 1909 and three years later the property, appraised at $125,000, was purchased by F & S for $77,000.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Post prohibition view of Fuhrmann & Schmidt plant.
PICTURE: CAPTION: 1907 Sanborn Map shows the recently constructed Shamokin Brewing Co. plant purchased by Fuhrmann & Schmidt in 1911.
PICTURE: CAPTION: 1907 Sanborn showing the Shamokin Brewing Co. plant and nearby bottling house.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Label. (Fink Collection).
PICTURE: CAPTION: Detail from McArdon Ale label.
Additional research would be required to determine whether the investors who formed the Shamokin Brewing Co. were connected to Fuhrmann & Schmidt. In retrospect, it certainly seems fortuitous that when Shamokin went out of business, F & S got a good deal on a modern brewery in town near their new warehouse and office building.
In 1906, Fuhrmann & Schmidt were among a group of investors who incorporated the Cumberland Valley Brewing Co., purportedly with $100,000 in capital, and announcing intentions to build a modern brewery near Carlisle, PA. There is no evidence a brewery was ever built and the company was only listed in the Carlisle city directory for one year. However, one of the investors ended up running the Carlisle Bottling Works, which bottled F & S Pilsener as one of the company’s depots. F & S had depots and/or bottling works in: Harrisburg, Gettysburg, Williamsport, Carlisle, Mount Carmel, Girardville and Trevorton.
PICTURE CAPTION: This building located at 33 N. Pitt St. in Carlisle, PA is at the address listed for the Cumberland Valley Brewing Co. in the 1906 directory. There was a liquor rectifier and bottler there and later was home to the Carlisle Bottling Works, bottlers of F & S Pilsener Beer and managed by J.A. Ring. (Cumberland County Historical Society)
In 1918 the nearby Ashland Brewing Co. was sold to a group of Shamokin businessmen, which included W.J. Linder, the former brewmaster at Fuhrmann & Schmidt.
Shortly after the consolidation, Fuhrmann & Schmidt’s total production was just under 60,000 barrels split 80:20 between Eagle Run and the Shamokin plant. A fire ravaged the Eagle Run brewery in 1916. It was rebuilt and adapted for manufacturing cider and vinegar. Anticipating the oncoming prohibition, F & S was incorporated as Shamokin Pure Food Products Co. in 1917. In 1926 the company was reflagged as the Shamokin Beverage and Ice Company, which continued to produce “F & S” cereal beverage.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Cereal beverage F & S produced for a firm in Baltimore. (Hertzog)
When beer came back in April 1933, F & S was ready with $500,000 in capital stock on the New York Produce Exchange and rolled beer out by August, complete with a clam bake for citizens and distributors. The first improvement was upgrading the bottle shop to handle 150,000 bottles per day. By 1939 the brewery had over 50 employees.
PICTURE: CAPTION: View of bottling shop.
F & S celebrated its golden anniversary in 1945 with founders P.H. Fuhrmann, president and semi-retired Max Schmidt, secretary. The following year the brewery embarked on an extensive building program. They won First Prize for excellence in point-of-sale advertising material at the Small Brewers Association Convention. Over the next five years $300,000 was spent on a 6,000-barrel storage cellar; a new laboratory; new hop storage, tap room, new bottle washers, pasteurizer, flat-top canning machine, and a new loading platform designed to permit palletized loading. The resulting advertising campaign touted their “Sealed-Ageing” process which eliminated any chance of air, light or impurities of any kind coming in contact with the beer.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Fuhrmann & Schmidt’s new laboratory. (American Brewer March 1951)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Ads promoted F & S “Sealed Ageing” process.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Bruce Hertzog with team shirt from the mid-1930s. In September 1949 F & S took the local league pennant in what the Shamokin News-Dispatch described as “the hottest race in local loop history.” (35 wins, 9 losses).
PICTURE: CAPTION: F & S Mens’ Bowling Team for 1957. (The Keg Head)
During this period many breweries saw the value of an educated sales team that could speak intelligently with customers about all aspects of beer and answer questions from tavern owners. In 1950 F & S held a three day seminar on draught and bottled beer for over 300 salesmen, distributors and retailers. There were lectures from a representative of the Beer Dispensing Institute of America and presentations concerning warehouse and delivery followed by a program on beer systems, pressure, temperature and complaints about wild, cloudy and flat beer.
The following year all F & S salesmen and key personnel attended an in-house seminar with films about the latest developments in the industry, two-hour tours of the brewery and sessions on correct handling of draught and bottled beers by masterbrewers Frank Omlor and Nesbert Appel. The technical side was complimented by a review of past year sales and new advertising campaigns.
PICTURE: CAPTION: F & S sets the table with their clean, modern design label to Continental’s new white crown top can to make a good-to-look-at, sales-wise package. (American Brewer December 1949)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Shamokin Mayor Lester Weller and Frank W. Schmidt, F & S president examine the shipment of $25,000 in silver dollars to be distributed as payroll.
In 1953 the nation’s top 21 breweries were producing over a million barrels. F & S was the 69th largest brewery in the country at 110,000 barrels. This was a time of tremendous growth, consolidation and brewery closures. In 1960 F & S was 47th with 66,000 barrels, jumping up to 24th five years later with only a modest increase in production.
Frank Schmidt succeeded his father's partner as president and served F & S in that position until his retirement in the 1960s. He was succeeded by Alfrd F. Buehler, Fuhrmann's son-in-law.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Painting by Michael Zyla. (Cody Collection)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Painting by Gloria Zielinskie, whose father-in-law worked at the brewery. (Cody Collection)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Early post prohibition labels. (Hertzog Collection)
PICTURE: CAPTION: J. Oliver Schmidt, Sr., president of F & S announces the introduction of a new seven ounce package known as “Little F & S.” (American Brewer August 1952)
F & S Sold to Ortlieb
Philadelphia’s Ortlieb brewery had financial interest in a number of Pennsylvania breweries over the years and in 1966 purchased F & S as well as the Kaier brewery in nearby Mahanoy City. They closed Kaier’s after a year but kept F & S running with its local management intact: Buehler remained president and J. Oliver Schmidt was vice president of sales. F & S was already specializing in private labels for supermarkets and liquor stores where the source of the product was of no significance. “Sealed Ageing” was no match for slick advertising campaigns by the nation’s leading brewers.
"Our only desire in acquiring the Fuhrmann & Schmidt plant is to maintain the Pennsylvania brewers’ image in the Pennsylvania market,” said Mr. Henry T. Ortlieb. A presence they were able to maintain in Shamokin for a decade. The F & S brand was retired, but Ortlieb sold brewed-in-Philadelphia Kaier’s brand until they closed in 1981.
F & S Brewmasters
Today’s Master Brewers Association of the Americas (formerly “of America”) is a professional organization dedicated to educating its members on scientific and technical developments in the brewing industry. The U.S. Brewers’ Academy in New York City was the school many of the young post-prohibition brewers attended. Training was designed to provide attendees with knowledge in all aspects of their profession. In those days the term masterbrewer was used to describe members. As time progressed, the “brewmaster” of the old days, gave way to the plant and production manager positions. What we know of the brewers at F & S comes mostly from obituaries in The Western Brewer and American Brewer trade journals and the F & S house organ, The Keg Head.
P.H. Fuhrmann and J.A. Ring attneded the Brewmasters' Association Convention in 1910. Ring was one of the investors in the Cumberland Valley B.C.
Prior to prohibition W.J. Linder and Gustav Ziehm were brewmasters at F & S. After 12 years, Linder was hired in 1918 to manage the Ashland B.C.
After repeal Otto Schmalzreid, a brewmaster with over 25 years experience, was hired. He had apprenticed under his father at the John F. Betz brewery in Philadelphia and was a 1907 graduate of Wallerstein. He worked for Camden Breweries, Inc. in NJ, and was brewmaster at the Pennsylvania Central Brewing Company’s branch in Hazleton for 18 years. In 1935 he became masterbrewer at Christian Heurich Brewing Co. in the nation’s capital and was president of District Baltimore MBAA during the national convention in Baltimore in 1941.
Francis P. Omlor started as a bottler for F & S. Mr. Omlor began his brewmaster’s apprenticeship under Gus Ziehm. As a journeyman in 1907 he joined the local brewery workers’ union and later served as its president for two years. Frank Omlor attended the U.S. Brewers Academy in 1935, subsequently replacing Schmalzreid as brewmaster. His article “Seedless Hops Will Benefit Beers and Ales” (American Brewer in December 1936) addressed a problem brewers dealt with in the years following prohibition. He was a pioneer in completely closed brewery fermentation process, which when installed at F & S was only one of two in the entire country.
PICTURE: CAPTION: F & S masterbrewer Frank Omlor. (American Brewer May 1955)
Omlor hosted members of District Philadelphia, Master Brewers Association of America, in June 1937 at the Shamokin Rod and Gun Club. Activities included trap-shooting and various other sports with sandwiches and beer served throughout the afternoon, followed by an evening clam-bake, music and entertainment. The following morning many of the party took advantage of a trip previously arranged into one of the anthracite coal mines. The members walked about one and a half miles underground suited up in the rubber coats, boots and miners’ hats, which proved to be quite an undertaking.
In 1950, Omlor’s title became production manager. He retired five years later after 50 years with F & S.
Francis R. Omlor received his early training in brewing under his father, Frank P. Omlor, at F & S. He was a graduate of the U.S. Brewers’ Academy, and was assistant master brewer at the Eichler Brewing Co. and Liebmann Breweries, Inc., New York, before joining Heurich as masterbrewer in 1947, becoming general manager five years later.
Nesbert Appel, Graduated from Albright College in 1933 and began an apprenticeship at F & S. He graduated from the U.S. Brewers’ Academy in 1936. Appel became head brewer at F & S in 1947 and plant superintendent in 1950. In 1960 he joined The Lion, Inc., in Wilkes-Barre as assistant and in 1962 became masterbrewer. When interviewed, he said his philosophy was to “beat them in the kettle” as far as crafting a superlative brew.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Nesbert Appel left F & S and went to The Lion, Inc. in Wilkes-Barre, PA where he became masterbrewer.
His brother Bob Appel started working at F & S in 1939 at the age of 18 and ended up running the bottling shop. He was one of the people who tried to resurrect the brewery in 1975.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Nesbert’s brother Bob was superintendent of the bottle shop when he appeared in the company’s house organ, The Keg Head in 1955.
Donald Mudrick graduated from the U.S. Brewers’ Academy in 1948 and was assistant brewmaster at F & S until he left to become a laboratory technician at Ortlieb’s brewery in Philadelphia. After Ortlieb’s closed he worked at The Lion, Inc. in Wilkes-Barre, PA. It was Don who conducted an impromptu evening tour of The Lion for Rich Dochter, myself and our girlfriends back in 1980. We were treated to “The Freshest Stegmaier Ever!” right out of the storage tanks from the zwickle.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Assistant masterbrewer, Don Mudrick was featured in the company’s house organ, The Keg Head in 1957.
In 1955 Kenneth Schmidt, chemist for F & S, left for a position with the Lone Star Brewing Co. of San Antonio, TX.
Edward Maerkl became brewmaster in 1963. He served his apprenticeship at the Gruner Brewery in Bad Toelz, Bavaria, Germany and graduated from the U.S. Brewers’ Academy. He was previously connected with the San Miguel Breweries in Hong Kong and Lerida, Spain, where he was head brewmaster. He was brewmaster when Ortlieb sold F & S in 1970 and was instrumental in trying to revive the plant.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Shown here in The Keg Head from 1957, Edward Maerkl would become the last brewmaster at F & S.
In August of 1980 Rich Dochter, myself and our respective girlfriends set out to visit Pennsylvania breweries, enjoy their hospitality and go camping along the way. At the time there were nine breweries in business in Pennsylvania. We toured six that week but it was the abandoned ones in between that sparked our curiosity. The F & S brewery in Shamokin had only been closed five years or so and was one of the “carcasses” we toured and photographed that summer. In subsequent camping vacations we went to every town we could find that ever had a brewery and photographed anything that was left (including in some cases walls or foundations).
Those days seemed like ancient history when I met Eric Rosengrant. A decade ago he was taking full advantage of Sanborn Maps, and online satellite imagery and GPS to determine the most likely locations to explore. He has discovered quite a few that were new to me, particularly older rural breweries in Pennsylvania’s northern tier. The Eagle Run brewery is one that escaped our attention in the summer of 1980. Eric found something to photograph a dozen years ago when it was being demolished.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Front of stock house on S. Harrison St. (1980)
PICTURE: CAPTION: The future Anna Wagner and Rich Dochter examine the litter-strewn interior, 1980.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Eagle Run brewery photographed in 2003 by Eric Rosengrant.
PICTURE: CAPTION: It would appear that much of the building was utilized after the fire in 1916. This view of the building in ruins gives us a clue as to how it was laid out. Cold storage for the brewery, listed as the Jelly Room on the 1922 Sanborn Map.
PICTURE: CAPTION: View of office, bottle shop and warehouse as it appears today. It was designed by Philadelphia brewery architect and engineer A.C. Wagner. The Sanborn Map identifies the building as a “Bullion plant” during prohibition. It housed a V.F.W. post for many years and has been converted to housing. Breweriana
PICTURE: CAPTION: Innsbrau neon. (Ziegler)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Vienna plate. (Seidel)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Vienna plate obverse. (Seidel)
PICTURE: CAPTION: “Little F & S” seven ounce package. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Lighted sign. (Watt)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Label (1948-55). (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Post prohibition tin sign. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: F & S conetops. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Sign. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Bruce Hertzog’s back bar showcases some rare F & S neons.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Pre-prohibition glass advertising non-alcoholic malt tonic “Malto Manna.” (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Pre-prohibition F & S glass. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: According to The New Who’s Who in Brew Innsbrau, produced from 1965-69 was one of seemingly countess brands produced during the Ortlieb years. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Display featuring the modern F & S plant. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Tap knobs. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Sign. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Brass door push plate. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Sign. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Sign “My Favorite.” (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Sign “Great on Ice.” (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Foam scraper. (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Ad “F & S Ale.” (Hertzog)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Bruce Hertzog surrounded by his collection of F & S breweriana.
PICTURE: CAPTION: Atop this woodpile is a brewery-produced “can” of F & S that Rich Dochter found on the Phi Mu Delta Fraternity House lawn of Lock Haven State College (now University) many years ago. It was a large display for salesmen at special events. When Rich opened the drum recently, there was at least a few gallons of adhesive used for labeling beer bottles which appeared to be none the worse for wear.
PICTURE: CAPTION Pennsylvania Rod & Gun
PICTURE: CAPTION: F & S Beer (1965- ?)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Bilow
PICTURE: CAPTION: Innsbrau (1965-69)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Milwaukee (1969-71)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Bilow (1959-63)
PICTURE: CAPTION: State Fair (1962-65)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Brauhaus (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Old German (1965-75)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Beer Master Permium (1960-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: 100th Anniversary (Mt. Carmel, PA) (1962-63)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Dallessio’s (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Levittown (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Geisler’s (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Holiday (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Culver’s (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Bella (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Tom’s River (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Four Cedars (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Millrose (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Esta-Brau (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Park Avenue (1964-66)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Old Bohemian (1969-71)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Thrifty (1968-71)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Panther (1967-70)
PICTURE: CAPTION: Malta Capitan
07-17-2020 There are current efforts to restore the Shamokin B.C. Bottling plant described in this article.
Wagner, Rich. “From the Coal Fields of Pennsylvania.” American Breweriana Journal May/June 2018.
Wagner, Rich. “The Ortlieb Dynasty.” the KEG Spring 2019. Eastern Coast Breweriana Association.
Wagner, Rich. Preserving the Legacy of Brewery Architects: A.C. Wagner of Philadelphia. American Breweriana Journal. September/October 2017.
Wagner, Rich. “Beer Vautls I Have Known and Loved, ...and Some I've Only Heard About.” American Breweriana Journal #224 March/April 2020.