Brass Beer Sign

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This brass sign with bold black lettering advertised the Lager Beer produced by brewer George Günther, in Baltimore, Maryland. The “H. Schmidt” referenced on the sign was likely Henry Schmidt, who operated saloons at various Baltimore locations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The donor of the sign estimates it dates from the 1890s.
Günther was one of the many German immigrants who established breweries in Baltimore. Born in Wirtheim, Germany, he came to the United States in 1866 and worked at breweries in New York before arriving in Baltimore in 1870. By then a skilled brewer, he worked for another German immigrant, Christian Gehl, and became Gehl’s partner in 1878. By 1880, under unclear circumstances, Günther assumed control of operations.
When the brewery burned in 1886 Günther rebuilt a larger, more modern complex that significantly expanded production. Like other brewers in the highly competitive Baltimore trade, Günther sold his brewery in 1899 to the Maryland Brewing Company, a beer trust that sought to consolidate the independent breweries. With deep regrets for selling out, Günther went into business with his son George, Jr., and continued producing lager under the family name. During Prohibition (1920-1933), the Günther brewery remained open, making low-alcohol beer and ice. The company went into receivership in 1933, marking the end of Günther family involvement. The new owners continued to use the family’s name until the brewery was sold to Hamm’s beer, of Minnesota, in 1959.
This brass sign advertising Günther lager is part of a large collection of brewing material donated to the museum in 1967 by former brewmaster Walter Voigt, of Ruxton, Maryland, near Baltimore. Voigt’s collection consists of objects and archival materials reflecting the history of brewing in the mid-Atlantic region between 1870 and the beginnings of consolidation and large-scale, industrial production in the 1960s. His correspondence reveals an interest in preserving the history of brewing in America before brewmasters were “replaced by chemical engineers and highly trained chemists in modern laboratories.” Voigt’s papers are housed in the museum’s Archives Center, Collection #ACNMAH 1195, “Walter H. Voigt Brewing Industry Collection, 1935-1967.”
Currently not on view
National Museum of American History
Credit Line
Walter Voigt
overall: 24 in x 18 in; 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm
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Work and Industry: Food Technology
Industry & Manufacturing
Object Name
brass beer sign
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