Mid-Atlantic Brewing News April/May 2013


Brewing History on Display at Philadelphia Museums


By Rich Wagner


A few years ago I compiled every article I could find about the development of Philadelphia’s craft brewing industry, an evolution that by now spans a quarter of a century. That’s enough time that many of the earliest companies are already history!


Not long ago, Jeffrey Ray, curator of the newly re-flagged Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent., announced that they were planning an exhibit devoted to Philadelphia’s craft breweries. I told him about my Craft Brewing in Philadelphia 1985-2000 file and said there were a couple of collectors who could probably flesh out the exhibit with more object than he had room to display.


Larry Handy and Dale Van Wieren are members of the Eastern Coast Breweriana Association and both have outstanding collections of Philadelphia breweriana that include items from “microbreweries” and brewpubs. They immediately got on board and invited Jeffrey to their homes so he could see what he had to work with. To hear him tell it, he was absolutely awestruck by what he saw!


The volume and variety of items that are collected can be overwhelming. Breweriana includes: matchbooks, pins, glasses, coasters, labels, cans, bottles, trays, lithographs, cardboard, metal and neon signs. There are even people who collect television radio ads. Collections consist of just about anything with a brewery’s name on it. I know one collector up state that had to buy a building to house his collection and another who built one that’s larger than his house!


Jeffrey returned to the museum with a boatload of stuff and created a fabulous exhibit. It chronicles the transition from regional breweries to microbreweries after Schmidt’s closed in 1987 and occupies an entire room on the second floor of the museum. There is an interactive video presentation with interviews with Bill Barton of Philadelphia Brewing, Rosemarie Certo of Dock Street, and Tom Kehoe of Yards.


The craft beer exhibit will be replaced with other “made in Philadelphia” themes, but not until after Philly Beer Week is over.


Craft Brewing in Philadelphia 1985-2005, a 200 page file.


Caption. Blending old and new: View of McGillin’s Old Ale House back bar spans one wall of the exhibit which includes breweriana from post prohibition survivors as well as craft brewing success and failures. Photo courtesy of Philadelphia History Museum by Jeff Fusco.


Browse and Brews”


By Rich Wagner


Elsewhere in the city, I’ve visited just about every department of the non-profit Free Library. There is an entire hallway of display cases that patrons see when they enter the library’s rear entrance. Ever since the very first Philly Beer Week in 2008, I would look at those cases and imagine beer-related exhibits.


Last year George Hummel and I both had new books out and Library Coordinator Dan Shiffner set up an author event with both of us during Philly Beer Week. I told Dan about my idea for an exhibit and he was all for it. I presented a proposal and have worked with the library staff to create an exhibit to promote the library’s holdings of things beer and brewery related. I’ve found the map collection to be most helpful, but there are many other valuable resources including city directories, newspapers, trade journals, old brewing texts and prints.


A fundraising reception, “Browse & Brews,” will be held on Wednesday June 5 during Philly Beer Week to celebrate the opening of the exhibition which is entitled “Brewed in Philly: Images of brewing from the collections of the Free Library of Philadelphia.” The exhibit will remain in the display cases at the top of the main staircase throughout the month of June.


07-17-20 Philadelphia History Museum at Atwater Kent has closed down.

Related Articles

Dubin, Murray. "Old Brews: History of Philadelphia Beer-Making is Traced in Exhibit (German Society of Pennsylvania)." Philadelphia Inquirer. Sept., 1987.

Wagner, Rich. “Beer and Pretzels Berks County Style.” American Breweriana Journal. May/June 2008.

Wagner, Rich. “The Road to Potosi.” Mid-Atlantic Brewing News August/September 2008.

Wagner, Rich. “The National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI. The KEG. Fall 2009.

Wagner, Rich. Historic Bethlehem Partnership Rolls Out the Barrel. Mid-Atlantic Brewing News Feb./March 2010.

Wagner, Rich. “Craft Brewing Exhibit at the Philadelphia History Museum.” American Breweriana Journal January/February 2013.

Wagner, Rich. Tapping Portsmouth Exhibt at Strawberry Banke Museum. American Breweriana Journal Nov./Dec. 2013.

Collection of Flickr Albums of Displays at the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI.

 Collection of Flickr Albums “Brewery History” and “Breweriana Exhibits.