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  • As you can see, Knapstein beer was a local favorite.

    From: "Standard History of Waupaca County, Wisconsin" Edited by John M. Ware 1917.


    One of the old established enterprises of Waupaca County, which has been in existence for more than forty years, although not under, the same name, is the Knapstein Brewing Company, of New London. Throughout the period of its life, Theo Knapstein has been connected with it, and for the greater part of this time has been its directing head. He has watched it grow from a modest venture, catering almost entirely to the immediate local trade, to an establishment whose product is in demand all over the section. Not alone has Mr. Knapstein been prominent as a business man, but also as a participant in public affairs, his services in official positions having extended over a long period of years.

    Theo Knapstein was born November 12, 1848, in Germany, a son of Mathias Knapstein, and was six years old when brought to this country, the family settling on a. farm in Greenville Township, Outagamie County, Wisconsin. The son of a well-to-do farmer, Mr. Knapstein passed his youth on the homestead, securing his education in a log schoolhouse, which he attended until fifteen years old, and then being employed by his father until after he had reached his majority. On leaving the farm, Mr. Knapstein came to New London, where he answered the knock of opportunity and, with Messrs. Becker and Beyer, bought the small brewery of Joe Lechner, a little frame plant. This transaction involved a total cash outlay of $5,000, of which Mr. Knapstein contributed $1,500, which he had borrowed from his father. The business was carried on under the name of Becker, Beyer & Company, and all the work was done by hand, while such a thing as modern icemaking machinery was totally undreamed of, and the processes used, while up-to-date at that time, would now be considered primitive. Later, Mr. Knapstein and his brother, Henry, took over the interests of Becker & Beyer, after the death of the former, and the Knapstein brothers conducted the brewery until 1908, in which year Henry withdrew. In the same year the Knapstein Brewing Company was organized, Theo Knapstein taking in his son. The business was incorporated at $50,000, with the following officers: Theo Knapstein, president; H. T. Knapstein, vice president, and M. W. Knapstein, secretary and treasurer; while William T. Knapstein, a member of the board of directors, is the brewmaster and has contributed much to the popularity of the Knapstein brew. The plant now has a daily output of sixty barrels, or about 20,000 annually, and many improvements have been introduced during the past forty years, the present industry being conducted in an entirely new set of buildings, equipped with the latest and most modern machinery. Near the brewery Theo Knapstein has erected a large brick residence, the site of which when he first came to New London was a dense thicket of underbrush.

    The members of the Knapstein family have always been prominent in politics. Many years ago Mr. Knapstein was a member of the village board, later he served as a member of the city council, and for two terms was mayor and one of the best that New London has known. He was elected on the democratic ticket to the State Legislature in 1889 and received the re-election in 1891, and during these two terms did much for his community and for the interests of his constituents. It is a singular fact that Mr. Knapstein should have been a member of the General Assembly when there were twenty-nine democratic members, in the year of the democratic landslide in Wisconsin, and that he should have also been one of the meager minority of the democratic side of the House when there were twenty-nine republican members. He was postmaster during President Cleveland's second administration and was succeeded in that office by John C. Freeman. His entire public service was characterized by faithful discharge of duty and honest and efficient handling of the affairs of his various offices.

    Mr. Knapstein was married in September, 1879, to Miss Frances Werner, a native of Wisconsin, and they became the parents of twelve children: Margaret, who is the wife of Joachim Poepke and has four children, Frances, Irene, William and Margaret; Lena, who married John Croak; Mathias W.; Frances, who married Frank Hetzer and has five children, Lucille, Margaret, Edward, Dorothy and Catherine; Henrietta, who is Mrs. Leonard Heuer and has two children, Helen and Harold; Irene; Henry, who married Josephine Simon, and has three children, Simon, Magdalene and Gertrude, William; John; Theo, Jr.; Raymond and Loraine. The family belongs to the Roman Catholic Church of the Most Precious Blood, of New London, and one of Mr. Knapstein's brothers is a Catholic priest. Mr. Knapstein belongs to the Catholic Knights of Wisconsin. He is one of the substantial and public spirited citizens of New London, who has contributed largely to the growth and development of his adopted community, and who still takes a keen and active interest in its welfare. He is alert in mind and active in body, and at an age when a large majority of men are content to retire is still engaged in the handling of his numerous interests.

    Mathias W. Knapstein, one of the sons of Theo Knapstein, is now the active manager of the brewery. He was given a public school education at New London, following which he further prepared himself by a course in a business college at Milwaukee. When he had completed this, he returned at once to New London, and in 1896 was given a position as bookkeeper in his father's business. When the Knapstein. Brewing Company was incorporated, he became secretary and treasurer, offices which he still retains, in addition to which he has assumed a large part of the responsibility in directing the company's policy. Like his father, he has been active in public affairs and is a stanch and influential democrat. After serving for four years as city treasurer, he was elected mayor of New London, an office in which he served four years, during which time, in spite of the extreme youth that gained for him the nick-name of "the kid mayor," he gave New London excellent service, a number of city improvements having had their inception during his administration. Mr. Knapstein is a member of the Catholic Order of Foresters and the Catholic Knights of Wisconsin: He married Miss Eleanor Ostermeier, and they are the parents of four children: Edwin, Mary; George and Lewis.

    From History of Outagamie County, Wisconsin by Thomas Henry Ryan.

    THEODORE KNAPSTEIN, president of the Knapstein Brewing Company, of New London, Wisconsin, has long been identified with the business interests of this city, and has also been chosen by his fellow citizens to represent them in various places of honor and trust on numerous occasions. He was born in Prussia, Germany, November 12, 1848, a son of Mathias and Marguerite (Kretzberg) Knapstein. Mathias Knapstein was born in Alfter, Kreis Bonn, Prussia, Germany, March 21, 1825, and in his native country was engaged in farming and harness making. In April, 1855, he started for the United States with his wife and three children, Theodore, Anna and Henry. The voyage to New York consumed 104 days, and during this time there was another child born, William on shipboard. The remainder of Mr. Knapstein's life was spent in agricultural pursuits in Greenville township, Outagamie county, although one and one-half years prior to his death he went to New London to live with his son Henry, and there he died August 25, 1894, his wife having passed away in 1893. Five other children were born to this estimable couple in Wisconsin: Peter, Elizabeth, Barbara, Margaret and Conrad. Theodore Knapstein received his education in the district schools of Greenville township and worked on his father's farm until he was twenty-one years of age. In September, 1869, he went to New London, where in company with Edward Becker and Anton Beyer he purchased the small brewery which was being operated by Joseph Lechner. At that time New London had less than 400 inhabitants, but the business has grown with the city's growth. In 1875 Mr. Beyer died and Mr. Knapstein purchased Mr. Becker's interests, admitting his brother Henry into partnership, and the latter sold out in 1908 to Theodore Knapstein's son, the firm now being known under the style of the Knapstein Brewing Company, being incorporated. The officers of the company are: Theodore Knapstein, president; Henry Knapstein, vice-president; and Mathias W. Knapstein, secretary and treasurer. The plant, which was started with a capacity of 500 barrels, now has a product of 10,000 barrels annually. On December 13, 1875, Mr. Knapstein was married to Frances Werner, daughter of Franklin Werner, of New London, and they have twelve children, as follows: Margaret, Magdaline, Mathias W., Frances; Henrietta; Irene, Henry, William, John, Theodore, Raymond and Loraine. Mr. and Mrs. Knapstein belong to the Catholic Church. In 1872 Mr. Knapstein was elected to the then village board, and he was then a member of the city council until 1884; was mayor in the latter year and president of the council in 1885; member of the assembly in 1889 and re-elected in 1890, and elected sergeant-at-arms in 1893; in 1894 appointed postmaster, and held that office for a number of years. In filling the duties of his numerous offices, Mr. Knapstein brought to them the methods that have made him successful in business, and he gained a reputation for integrity of character and honesty of purpose.

    Click here to read a brief article about New London's early mayors that appeared in the 1952 New London Centennial edition of the New London Press-Republican newspaper, which mentions Theodore and Henry Knapstein.

    Here are a couple of photographs of a quite young Mathias. The first (left) was inscribed "To Nora" March 11, 1900. The second (right) was taken in 1920.


    A Laid-Back Beer-Enjoying Attitude

    Things were different years ago...there was a tap accessible to everyone on the back of the Knapstein Brewery and anyone--workers, local residents, anyone who was thirsty for a good, hearty brew--could help themselves. Local residents could fill their six-quart beverage pail for a quarter. Or, neighbors could get together and fill a pony-keg for a couple of dollars and spend a great Saturday night playing cards, telling jokes and tossin' back a few.

    The local hobos who lived by the river could help themselves to the tap and have a fresh brew to go with whatever they had caught or found for supper.

    Beer was a beverage...not just a drink to have in the evening, but to be enjoyed throughout the day and with meals. Workers could drink all they cared to while they worked...they would just grab a copper cup and help themselves.

    This laid-back mentality is also evident in many of the advertising slogans selected for Knapstein products:

    In Any Weather--Knapstein's Krausen Beer

    Knapp's Special Bohemian Style...Here Is The Beer That Makes You Glad When You Are Thirsty

    Bottled Beer Is An Excellent Tonic--Make It Your Daily Beverage

    The Best What Gives

    You'll Like Knapstein's Krausen Beer...It's Better--Try It

    You Can't Go Wrong When You Drink Knapstein's Beer

    Make Mine Alfter Brau

    Red Band Beer..."Always Good"

    Ah, the "good old days."

    The Knapstein Brewing Company owned a barge-type riverboat that they used to load up with kegs of beer and entertain local business owners on the Embarrass River. It sank and lives were lost.

    More on this story to come...

    Article from the New London Press-Star, February 17, 1989

    Knapsteins: A flavor from the past     Thoughts In Passing by Leona Mech

    Today's picture is of Knapstein's Brewery. It was an impressive building on the corner of Cook and Mill Streets, and a thriving business for many years. The house on the right of the picture was owned by Henry Knapstein.

    My parents owned the house across the street from the Knapstein home. My Dad was an engineer (self-taught) and later brewmaster at the brewery, before 1913. I spent a lot of my first seven years in the brewery.

    I pretty well knew every "crook and cranny" of the large buildings. My Dad took me up the tower to look out the top at the surrounding countryside. You had to climb a ladder to get there. A flag pole tipped the steeple when the U.S. flag was always displayed on national holidays.

    I REMEMBER playing there--the men would let me open the spigot on the dispenser to fill the copper mugs with glowing beer.

    One time I got a spanking for climbing up a ladder to peer into one of the vats, which were usually filled with beer. My brother Art often told a story about a young man falling into a vat, and swimming for his life, before he was rescued.

    Dad finally had to quid his job there--could not take the moisture--because of rheumatism--so applied to the City and became Supt. of Streets.

    During prohibition Knapstein's closed up. 1920-33. New London had many "home beer industries" during that time. In 1933 Knapsteins were back in business again.

    On Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1970, the bulldozers, trucks and machinery arrived to start the demolition the next day, of the old brewery. The old buildings by that time were filthy, with rotting floors and ceilings, and much broken glass.

    Farmers in their wagons filled with barley, no longer came to weigh their produce on the big scales. From the scales the grain was no longer emptied into the hopper, which was taken to the second floor.

    The two beautiful louvered doors on the entrance now hung askew. The hand-wrought latch stuck on the platform down two steps, where the heavy iron door was embossed with a sheaf of barley and hop vines, to the charcoal furnace.

    Down a few steps into the lower malt house, there was no malt spread over the cement floor--to sprout. No faithful workers were there with wooden shovels to spread it.

    There was no malt drying on the seventh floor either, and you smelled no fumes penetrate the high steeple above, as before.

    The boiler room was silent, and the cords of wood were absent. The shed on the south side of the malt house had no bedding for the horses.

    The big washing machine room, where the kegs used to be steamed, contained no kegs, and the dispenser and copper mugs were gone. The racking and the huge oak vats were empty, and the brew kettle was missing.

    There was no feed (malt residue) at the chutes, where the farmers (and other people who owned a cow) came with wheel-barrows to get the feed for their animals. The storage rooms were empty too. There were no hop vines visible.

    Knapstein's Brewery is "no more," but many MEMORIES remain of their product, and their wonderful family.


    It was Wednesday, October 14, 1970 the big bulldozers, trucks and machinery arrived to start the demolition the following day. With my memories of my early boyhood days, I decided once more to tour the old buildings now filthy, rotting floors and ceilings.

    The first building was my malt house because it was always my favorite and I called it my castle. I remembered the farmers with their wagons weighing the sacks of barley on the big scales. East of the building from the scales the grain was emptied into a hopper which took it to the top floor. The two beautiful louvered doors the only entrance. I could barely reach the hand wrought latch opening to a platform down two steps where the heavy iron door was embossed with sheaf of barley and hop vines which held the charcoal furnace. Down a few steps into the lower malt house cement floor where the malt was spread by a faithful worker with wooden shovels to sprout. From there it was elevated up to the seventh floor where the heat from the furnace dried the malt. It was always a mystery how it could hold all that weight. It was still there up a curved stairway a door opening on the roof and still another stairway led to the floor where the square framework carried the fumes up through the high steeple above. The older boys climbed the wooden ladder to the very top. A flag pole tipped the steeple when the U.S. flag was always displayed on national holidays. Working my way down the ladders I took one look back.

    Next I went to the boiler room which had a long wooden bench for maintenance repairs (a shed on the south side of the malt house held horse bedding and cord wood for firing). All along the wooden sidewalk on Cook Street were piles of the cord wood. Up a few steps into the keg washing machine where the kegs were thoroughly steamed--here the dispenser and the copper mugs were in constant use. Our big dog "Jumbo" always made his early morning call. The men filled the top of a keg for his beer. There were 1/8, 1/4 and 1/2 barrels. The 1/8 for home use. The racking room off the steaming room where the beer was put into the kegs. It was a very cold room. I never could figure how the beer from the huge oak vats deep below got up to the racking room, but I suppose there was a pump of some kind. I avoided the deep cellars on my tour.

    I did, however, go in where the brew kettle always intrigued me. I can still see the beautiful huge copper kettle with the lid of copper with brass engravings. Then a few narrow steps up to the large iron kettle where the malt from the malt house once more cooked before going to the brew kettle and the residue was emptied out there. A chute outside where the farmers and the people who had a cow came with their wheelbarrow to get the feed. I know our cows and hogs got their share.

    From the brew kettle where the hops and sugar were added. The final preparation was pumped up to the lines of copper pipes which were refrigerated and like a waterfall, the clear beer flowed down and piped down to the huge vats in the cold cellars below.

    The upper floors were used mostly for storage and I liked to go up there for a nibble of the sugar used in the beer process.

    The hop room was off the brew kettle room. In the early years, certain farmers grew the hop vines and not too long ago I found vines on Pershing Road where one of the growers lived. The hops gave the beer the added flavor--just as parsley gives an added touch to salad.

    My tour ended. I hesitated, looking around and seeing rotted floors and broken glass, I made my way out.

    The next day progress stepped in to destroy this source of my wonderful memories of my boyhood days.

    Progress-and I ask myself, is it progress?

    Uncle Tead (Theodore Knapstein Jr.)

    P.S. I never could figure how all the machinery worked and how the malt was elevated and carried to the brewery proper and transferred from one kettle to another. Those were mysteries.

    I wanted to get this to you long before. I made several attempts and found this the better for conveying to you all the lifes work of your ancestor who was responsible for everything.

    In my collection I have a picture of the "Old Wooden Brewery" located where the Verifine building now stands. The family lived upstairs; and underneath huge cottonwood tree where the spruce now are was a cistern with a wooden top and a place where the water for laundry work was located.

    The first child to be born in the present home was Aunt Irene (Margaret Poepke, Magdalene Croak, Mathew Knapstein, Francis Hetzer, Henrietta Hoier), all were born in the wooden building.

    The Thursday, April 27, 1939, New London Press-Republican reported the following story on the front page:


    Get $600 in Cash and Checks; No Clue of Identity

    After gaining entry through a rear window and blowing the safe in the office of the Knapstein Brewing Company, robbers of unknown identity made a get away early Wednesday morning with approximately $600 in cash and checks.

    About half of this amount was currency and the balance checks, which will be of no value to the yeggs it is assumed. An unusual method of blowing the safe was employed. The dial was knocked off the safe and the charge inserted near the lock. As a result of the blast the door was sprung, and the lock broken so that the safe was opened without difficulty.

    The robbery occurred at about 3:00 o'clock in the morning. Theodore Knapstein who lives adjacent to the Knapstein Brewery office building heard the concussion, but thought that the explosion had occurred in the Edison plant. In spite of the fact that the safe was charged with tear gas, the robbers evidently experienced little difficulty in getting to its valuable contents and making a get away without leaving any tracks.

    The robbery was discovered shortly after 6:00 o'clock by Art Unger, an employee of the brewery, when he entered the office. The small building was filled with tear gas at that time but he managed to open a window, ventilate the building and then put in a call for police officers. Investigation up to the present has disclosed no clue as to the identity of the robbers. The loss to the brewery is covered by insurance.