Monday, February 27, 2017

Off the Beaten Path with Buffalo’s Joseph Dingens


In 1882 Joseph Dingens bought a rundown house on Grand Island in the Niagara River, accessible only by ferry and muddy rutted roads — a place only the adventurous sought out.  As proprietor of the Buffalo liquor house and grocery known as Dingens Bros., however, Joseph was accustomed to veering off familiar pathways:  He had invented a bitters that advertised with a thuggish picture of Napoleon, produced bottles fashioned after banjos;  marketed a bourbon allegedly made on a French recipe, advertised with a trade card entirely in German, and issued a 500-page recipe book for such delicacies as “Ox Cheek Cheese”:  “Directions:  Split an ox head in two, take out the eyes, crack the side bones and lay in water one hour….”

Joseph Dingens was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1836, the son of French immigrants. His father, John, ran a grocery store in Buffalo and his sons were taken into the business as they achieved maturity.  After their father’s death, the brothers about 1870 reorganized into an establishment they called “Dingens Bros”,” advertising as “wholesale liquor dealers and cigar manufacturers.”   Joseph, the oldest, was president, partnered initially with his brothers, Frank and John C. and an outsider, Eugene Bertrand Jr.  

The company initially was established at 77 Main Street, a busy commercial avenue in Buffalo. A small crock, shown here, is one of the artifacts available from those early days, likely used for a line of syrups.  A crude impressed label indicates “Dingens Bros., Wines & Liquors, Ginger Cordials, Syrups, 77 Main St., Buffalo.”

As many liquor dealers were doing, Joseph Dingens early on explored making and marketing a bitters product.  Bitters were popular because, although they delivered plenty of alcohol, they were considered medicine and avoided federal liquor taxes.  He touted his bitters as a remedy for dyspepsia, liver complaint, sea sickness, costiveness [constipation], and ague [malaria].  He called them “Dingens Napoleon Bitters” and chose to advertise them with an unusually brutish portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte, shown below.  The French dictator looks as if he is about to order someone beheaded.

Perhaps even more unusual were the bottles in which Dingens chose to sell his Napolean bitters.  They are best described as having a banjo shaped body and a tall “lady’s leg” neck.  Bearing an applied lip and metallic pontil mark, these bottles are found in colors ranging from yellow amber, olive amber, yellow green, smoky clear, aqua,  and, particularly interesting, “lilac amethyst.”  The Ring and Ham Bitters Bottles book list them as very rare and they are highly sought by collectors.  On most the original paper labels have long since been washed away but where they remain the same menacing portrait of Napoleon appears.
The first decade of Dingens Bros. saw a number of changes in the organization.  Frank Dingens left the partnership for other pursuits.  By 1880, Eugene Bertrand had departed, leaving management in the hands of Joseph and his brother, John C. Dingens.  Meanwhile the business was steadily growing, necessitating moves, first to larger quarters at 597 Main Street (1975-1979), shown here, and then to 333 Main Street (1881-1895).
Throughout this period Joseph was having a personal life.  He had married in 1859, his bride Julia Grimard.  Like her husband she had been born in New York of French immigrant parents.  They would have a family of five children, four girls and a boy.  Eventually Joseph would house his brood in a large comfortable home at 166 Park Street, shown here.

Dingens Bros. featured only one proprietary whiskey label.  It was called “Persymons’” and came in both rye and bourbon.  Joseph mixed it up on the premises and offered it to the public as “pure and unprejudicial to the nerves.”  The whiskey was advertised as having come from the recipe of a French distiller named “M. Persymons,” the inventor of a still that removed all unpleasant oils, ethers and acids from the liquor.   Claimed an ad:  “Dingens Bros. of Buffalo, N. Y., in 1871, obtained this secret and the first made Whiskies by this process.”   My research to date has failed to validate the existence of the Frenchman.

Similarly off-beat was an ad by Dingens Bros. for their “hot punches” containing a range of ingredients from arrack and rum to cognac and whiskey.  A trade card describing these products features a variety of devils at work and a text that is entirely in German on front and back.  The headline reads “Gebrauchsanweisung,” meaning “instructions.”

By far the most compelling material published by Dingens Bros. was a 532-page cookbook for preparing “American, French, German, English, Irish and Other National Dishes, Both Costly and Economical.”  In addition to the ox cheek cheese mentioned earlier, the 1882 book described, among other things, how to prepare beef palate,  goat’s feet, hog brains, calf’s head hash, fried turnips and boiled macaroni pudding.  It carried ads for Dingens Bros. and other (non-competing) businesses and may have been given away rather than sold.   In a diary, Joseph recorded receiving his final lot of the second edition of 500 cookbooks in July 1885.

Among the pages was a illustration of the “mammoth grocery” that the Dingens were operating along with their liquor sales.  It stood four stories on a corner where two trolley lines passed.  In April 1894 a major fire broke out at Main and North Division Streets, perhaps started in an printing establishment adjacent to Dingens Bros. By the time the flames were extinguished, the gourmet grocery and liquor house lay in ruins.  Damage equivalent to $1.8 million today was estimated but was said to have been covered by insurance.  Dingens Bros. quickly relocated to 375 Washington Street.  After two years it moved to a final location at 601-603 Main Street.

In 1885, Joseph bought his family a second home on Grand Island.  Shown here, he called it “Red Top.”  At that time he began his diary, now with the Buffalo History Museum, and recorded what it took to reach his new property.  He rode a railroad train to Tonawanda, New York, then hired a boat for a dollar to get out to the island, then walked to the site on muddy, slippery roads.  He found the house rundown but fixable.  It became his family ’s summer home — considerably off the beaten path.

 I cannot resist quoting from Dingens’ diary about another off-beat experience:  “I walked to Military Road…drove to New Road and crossed Two Mile Creek to Kaiser’s where we saw a two-headed calf, a few days old.  Mrs. Kaiser was feeding it.”  I  wonder if Joseph thought back to recipe No. 332 of his cookbook on making “Mock Turtle of Calf’s Head”:  Directions: “Take a calf’s head, split it open….

As the 20th Century dawned things were changing at Dingens Bros.  The fire may have been a disruptive force.  For whatever reasons, the last entry for the company in Buffalo business directories was 1901.  The brothers went their separate ways.  Joseph  partnered with Henry A. Hempel to create a firm known as Hempel & Dingens.  They manufactured specialized furniture for printers.  John C. was listed in directories simply as “broker.”  

In 1907, Joseph died at the age of 71 and was interred in Holy Cross Cemetery, a Catholic burying ground in Erie County.  His wife, Eugenia, joined him there 19 years later.  Even in death Joseph eschewed the familiar.  Note here the Dingen cemetery monument.  No tall marble statue or massive granite plinth; rather a craggy boulder stands over family graves with “Dingens” in carved relief.
































Friday, February 24, 2017

Harry Goldsborough’s Bloodlines Ran Maryland Rye

The scion of a distinguished American family but orphaned and on his own in his mid-teens, Henry P. “Harry” Goldsborough seemingly found his manhood in Texas but made his fortune in Baltimore producing and selling Maryland rye whiskey.

Shown left, Harry was born in Maryland in 1859, the fourth in the line of children of William S. and Sarah R. (Pascault) Goldsborough, his father a prosperous farmer in Queen Ann County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  The Goldsboroughs were descended from an English Catholic family of eleven generations in America, an ancestry that claimed a background of European nobility and produced six governors of Maryland.  As he grew up Harry might have imagined a bright future for himself.

In 1867 when Harry was only ten, however, his father died at the age of 48, leaving his minor children solely in the care of his widow, Sarah, who remained with her family on the Eastern Shore.  Four years later she was dead and Harry at 14 years was orphaned and thrown on his own resources.  He soon moved to Baltimore and found work.

After several years in Baltimore, the young man grew restless.  Perhaps lured by the adventure stories of the West that were a staple of the dime novels boys read, Goldsborough fixed on Texas as his land of opportunity, one thousand miles away.  He chose to settle at Ennis, a small town in Ellis County in the northeast part of the state.   The railroad had reached Ennis in 1872 and the locale was registering something of a population boom, growing from 300 in 1874 to 3,000 in 1890.  The map below shows the town as it looked about the time Harry arrived.

Energetic and intelligent, Goldsborough took advantage of the opportunities offered by the frontier atmosphere, working initially as a field hand and as he accumulated resources moving into other occupations, including running a business that moved houses from place to place using rollers and horses.

Meanwhile, Harry was continuing to be in touch with a childhood sweetheart.  She was Helena Elizabeth McManus, the eleventh child of Dr. Felix R. McManus, Maryland’s first homeopathic physician.  In 1879, Harry returned to Maryland to marry Helena.  He was 23, she was 25.  Of her it was said “And never was more vitality, love of life, and love of family contained in one human being than in this young bride, whose head did not reach to her husband’s tall shoulders.”

When Goldsborough’s business interests drew him back to Texas, Helena was by his side as the people of Ellis gathered at the small railroad station to serenade the newlyweds with a brass band when they arrived.  Her letters back home indicate the Wild West environment that still prevailed in Ennis County where her husband more than once, she reported, was required to fight for his rights.

After the birth of their first child, Agnes, in 1879 the thrill of their Texas adventure began to pall.  Agnes was a fussy baby and it was concluded that the climate did not agree with her.  Helena also may have yearned to be closer to her family and the gentility and culture of Maryland.  Goldsborough liquidated his Texas enterprises and the family returned to Baltimore.  There he looked around to invest his profits.

Meanwhile a Baltimorean named George J. Records with a partner had established a liquor house at 116 Light Street, advertising as “rectifiers, distillers and wholesalers.”  Goldsborough invested in the company and within a few months had bought out the partner, the firm about 1885 becoming Records & Goldsborough.  About the same time, reputedly at Harry’s instigation, the company introduced its “Melrose” brand, the label that made the company a national reputation.  The name was derived from Melrose Road, on which sat an ancestral English mansion of the Goldsboroughs.
Melrose Rye was an unabashedly “rectified” product, that is, a mix of as many as five different whiskeys and a special unspecified “blending agent” said to consolidate the aromas, flavors, body and taste of the five into the distinctive characteristics Records & Goldsborough desired. Like some other Maryland ryes, Melrose was a deep red color.  The partners packaged their whiskey in quart bottles and flasks, originally with paper labels and embossed on the glass with the house name and other information.

Like many rectifiers Records & Goldsborough may have had problems obtaining raw whiskey for blending.  Although Maryland boasted a number of distilleries, competition by wholesalers for their output could be fierce and drive up prices.  The partners were keen to own a plant themselves.  The opportunity presented itself in 1897 when Edwin Walters, another well known Baltimore whiskey man, [See my post October 2014]  died from injuries in a buggy accident and his survivors put his Canton Distillery up for sale.

This facility was located in a neighborhood along Baltimore’s outer harbor in the southeastern section of the city about two miles from downtown.  In 1785, an Irish merchant named John O'Donnell had settled in Baltimore and began trading with merchants in the Chinese port of Guangzou, then called Canton.  Eventually a number of waterfront industries developed there, including Walter’s distillery.   Records & Goldsborough joined a syndicate of two other Baltimore liquor houses to buy the plant, changing the name from Orient Distilleries to Canton Distilleries.  Shown here is an illustration of the complex as it looked about the time of the sale.

With an more assured source of whiskey for blending, the partners were able to expand the number of proprietary brands beyond Melrose offered to the public.  Among them them were “Happy Days Rye,”  “Mountain Hill,” “Gold Medal,” “Kentucky Crown,” “Maryland Golden Age,” “Maryland Pride,” “Old Record Rye,” and “R and G.”  Those brands generally were sold in glass bottles; Happy Days was given an attractive ceramic jug with an elaborate underglaze illustration of “scholars” drinking and smoking.  To advertise Melrose Rye the partners issued fancy etched shot glasses to prime customers, such as saloons and restaurants stocking their whiskey.

Meanwhile Harry was having an active personal life.  The diminutive Helen bore him eleven children, all of whom lived to maturity.  Shown here, the family lived in a large town house on St. Paul Avenue, a scene described by a relative:  “…The dining room resembled that of a hotel rather than a private home, when all members of the family were seated at the table…And parties—the Goldsborough home was open house on Christmas and New Years, with all friends welcome to drop in….”  We can assume that Melrose Rye was served on such occasions.


In February 1904, Records & Goldsborough suffered a setback when the Great Baltimore Fire ravaged a large section of downtown Baltimore destroying parts of Light Street, including their building.  By the following year, however, the partners had rebuilt, their new address becoming 36 Light Street, their location for remaining years.  From there, for the first time, they trademarked two brands, Melrose in 1906 and Happy Days in 1907.

In April 1909, George Records died at the age of 59, the cause given in the press was “hemorrhages.”  Because Records and his wife were childless, ownership of the liquor house devolved to Goldsborough as a sole proprietor.  Harry, by contrast, had plenty of children and as his sons matured he brought them into the firm.  Two of them, Felix Vincent and William Yerbury Goldsborough showed particular affinity for the liquor trade.  Under their father’s watchful eye, they learned the business “from the ground up,” including hauling barrels, labeling bottles and keeping the books.  William, from the beginning is said to have demonstrated an exception ability at the rectifying process.   His older brother Felix exhibited skills attuned to management.  Later a third brother, George J., was added to the young Goldsboroughs working for their father.

World War I interrupted this family affair.  William, George and a third brother, Leroy, enlisted.  William and Leroy joined the Army;  George became an instructor in the Air Corps.  As a result of their service, William suffered a permanent eye injury and Leroy was killed.  Felix, married with children and in 1915 named the president of the company, stayed home to run the liquor business.

As he aged, Harry Goldsborough’s health deteriorated and he died in 1917 at only 58 years.  He was buried in Baltimore’s Cathedral Cemetery, Section MM, while his widow, children and grandchildren mourned at his burial site.  His gravestone is shown here.  Helena would join him in the plot four years later.

With the end of World War One, William and George came home to help Felix in operating Records & Goldsborough, then reported to have been “in the full bloom of its success.”  With the coming of National Prohibition, however, the company was forced to shut its doors in 1919.  The last transaction listed for the Canton Distillery was 1920.  

The Goldsborough brothers turned to other pursuits.  The 1930 census listed both Felix and William as salesmen.  With Repeal, the brothers join forces once again and revived  Melrose Rye.  They succeeded in overcoming the challenges posed by the Great Depression and World War II to achieve substantial sales for this Maryland rye.  In 1945, however,  the brand name was sold to Schenley Industries and disappeared.

Note:  Much of the information for this post comes from a 95-page book entitled “Melrose, Honey of Roses,” by Stirling Graham who was married to a descendant of the Goldsborough family.  The book, published in 1941, tells the story of Harry Goldsborough and his sons, dwelling on the making and use of Melrose Rye and containing Melrose drink recipes. The portrait of Harry and the drawings of the Light Street building and Canton Distillery also are from that volume.






































Monday, February 20, 2017

The Schimpelers of Louisville Were Rolling in Clover




“Rolling in clover” Fig. having good fortune; in a very good situation, especially financially.  From the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms.

Labeling their proprietary whiskeys “Old Clover” and “Cloverdale,” the Schimpelers of Louisville joined more than a dozen distilleries and liquor wholesalers aspiring to be “in clover” with their liquor brands.  In that pursuit the Louisville, Kentucky, liquor wholesalers were exercising one of the principal strategies (tricks?) of the whiskey business — shamelessly making dubious claims.

Clover, that attractive and sweet vegetation, was a popular name bestowed on whiskey in the pre-Prohibition era.   The trademark for “Clover” itself belonged to Rhem-Zeihler Company of Louisville.  Boyle and McGlinn of Philadelphia registered “Clover Club”;  J & G Butler of Columbus, “Clover Dale”;  Deverlaux & Meserve of Boston, “Clover Leaf”; and S. Hirsch of Kansas City, “Clover Nook.” [See my post on Hirsch Dec. 2011.]   Another six whiskey houses, not bothering with trademarks, variously issued “Clover Bottom,” “Cloverdale,” “Clover Lawn,” “Clover Leaf,” “Clover Rye,” “Clovertop,” and “Clover Valley.”

In order to fight their way through this crowded field of “Clovers,”  the Schimpelers resorted to stretching the truth that, while not at all unusual in the liquor business, might have startled their customers had they known about it.  For example,  a “puff” article the company generated in 1895 asserted that the Schimpelers “…are largely interested in the famous Cloverland distillery, Nelson County, Ky., the entire output of which they handle….”  An embossed bottle with that name is shown here.

In truth, there is no evidence that the “famous” Cloverland Kentucky distillery ever existed.  The name appears nowhere in government records that were carefully kept for taxing purposes.  Clover Bottom was a name given to a Kentucky distillery but it was located in Anderson County, not Nelson County.  Other records indicate that at the time the Schimpelers actually were obtaining whiskey from the Pleasure Ridge Park Distillery in Jefferson County.  Far from handling the entire output of that distillery, the Schimpelers were only one of about two dozen whiskey dealers who were drawing from it for their brands and often claiming ownership for themselves.  

The Schimpelers were prone to making claims without documentary evidence.  They advertised that “Old Clover” had been endorsed by the president of the Kentucky Board of Health, prominent physicians of Louisville,and “leading professors of Louisville’s medical colleges.”  Just assertions, no evidence. In an 1899 ad they also claimed to be …One of the first houses to bottle their product in bond under the supervision of government officers, thus guaranteeing to the consumer the absolute purity and quality of “Old Clover” whisky….”  The National Bottle-In-Bond Act, passed by Congress two years earlier, had nothing to do with guaranteeing whiskey quality.  Moreover, the act dictated that distilleries age whiskey four years.  None would have been available for bottling until 1891 — two years after the Schimpelers’ ad appeared.

It is hard to be too judgmental about the Schimpelers’ “alternative facts,” however, since similar claims were standard in the liquor industry and the family was struggling for profitability in a crowded, competitive field. 
F. X. Schimpeler, known as “Xavier,” had been born in Baden Germany, in December 1829, in the resort town of Bodman on the shores of Lake Constance.  It is a wine-growing region and after his education in German schools Schimpeler may have been employed in viniculture before leaving for the United States in early 1854.  A brother, Joseph, appears to have arrived earlier and settled in Louisville where he was engaged in the liquor trade and had become a partner in Wolff & Schimpeler, a business located on Market Street between Second and Third.  Xavier also found work in the field, working for C. Henry Finck & Company, a whiskey wholesaler located on the same block.

In 1873, the Wolff & Schimpeler partnership fractured, with each man going his separate way.  Joseph set up on his own at 47 Market Street and by the next year Xavier had left C. Henry Finck and partnered with him to open a liquor house called Schimpeler Brothers.  In the meantime Xavier had married Katharina Krieger, born in O Neustalt ander Hardt, Germany, and an immigrant to the United States.  In quick succession the couple had two sons, Charles Xavier born in 1859 and Henry born in 1860.  As they matured both sons were taken into the firm, initially as clerks.

About 1878, Joseph died leaving Xavier as the sole proprietor of the firm.  About 1884, he took son Charles as a partner and changed the firm name to F. X. Schimpeler & Son.   When Henry was ready for executive status about 1892, he was made a partner and the name amended to F. X. Schimpeler & Sons.  The company headquarters then was located at 230 West Market Street, the building shown right.

With Xavier’s death in April 1900 at age 71, Charles took over the presidency of the organization, moving it to a building, shown here, at 416 Main Street.  Within two years, however, for reasons I have not yet discovered, the whiskey business his family had established more than a quarter century earlier disappeared from Louisville business directories, never to return.

The Schimpeler are buried together in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery, the burying ground for so many well-recognized Kentucky whiskey men.  The family occupies Section P, Lot 290.  Lying beside Xavier is his wife, Katharina who died at age 41.  Both Charles and Henry are buried there with their wives.  During their lifetimes the family had been “rolling in clover” — wealthy —  from profits gained from their liquor house.  Now they lie beneath it. 
Note:  The descendants of the Schimpeler family may think it unfair of me in making them the poster boys for the chicanery that was so common in the liquor industry before National Prohibition.  Why target them when “everybody was doing it”?   Well, a principal reason for fingering them is that the Schimpelers seem to have been so good at it. 


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Frederick Welz Found Wealth in Hotels and Hooch

At five feet, nine inches tall, Frederick Rudolph Welz was not a big man, but he carried a lot of weight in St. Paul, Minnesota, as owner of the city’s largest and most prestigious hotel and a major liquor house and saloon.  An immigrant from Germany, Wells was worth the equivalent today of $25 million when he died. It was said of him: “…Every dollar which he possesses has been earned since he came to America….”

Early Days. Frederick was born in Germany in 1833, the son of Rudolph and Elenore Bohme Welz.  His birthplace has been given variably as Berlin and Finsterwalde, a city 135 miles distant from Berlin.  He was educated in local public schools and must have shown early promise.  By the age of 24 in 1857 he had become the proprietor of a woolen goods factory.  According to a biographer:  “He made it a successful, productive industry,  one he conducted until 1873.   

This period encompassed three major wars that disrupted the German economy, particularly affecting manufacturing.  Welz’s company suffered heavy losses and he was obliged to shut it down.  He looked across the Atlantic to the United States and concluded that this country offered more opportunity for him and his family. In 1857 he had married Maria Theresa Goepfert, known as “Theresie” throughout her life. The next year a daughter, Marie Theresa, was born.  She would be an only child.  In 1874 Welz packed up and left Germany with his family.

Philadelphia.  Welz’s first stop on his American journey was in the City of Brotherly Love.  He carried with him letters of introduction from prominent citizens of Berlin, one of them to the banking house of Drexel & Company.  The bank offered him the money to buy a stake in a failing Philadelphia woolen mill and thereafter manage it.  After surveying the prospects, Welz wisely rejected the opportunity finding that only one of 400 mill employees spoke German and he at the time spoke no English.  Instead he accepted a lesser job with the Public Ledger newspaper supervising their newsboys.

Ever frugal, Welz in time saved enough money to buy a restaurant, where he soon found he had a particular ability in providing food and drink.  After three years of running his restaurant he had saved $10,000, equivalent to $250,000 today, and looked around to buy a hotel.

Indianapolis. He found one in Indiana in 1878, purchasing the Circle Park House in Indianapolis, a leading hostelry and favorite of circus folks.  Although Welz spent only four years in Indianapolis, they proved to be pivotal in two ways.  They launched him on a career in the hotel business and he met Dr. Christian Fry, who would become his son-in-law and business partner.  Fry, a native of New York, had come to Indiana as a farm worker, studied medicine, practiced in for a time, and then opened a pharmacy in Indianapolis. The two met when Fry wooed and later married Welz’s daughter Marie Theresa.

While in Indianapolis, Welz, now speaking English with some facility, became a naturalized citizen.  From a passport we have a description of his appearance in middle age:  dark brown hair;  swarthy complexion; high forehead; broad face, nose and chin, full mouth and gray eyes.  After three years of running the Circle Park House, in 1882 Welz, always looking for a better opportunity, sold the property and with his wife, and the young Fry couple, headed north to St. Paul, Minnesota.

St. Paul and Hotels.  In his new home city, Welz managed  Welz Found Wealth in Hotels and Hooch  and eventually acquired the Clarendon Hotel at the northeast corner of Sixth and Wabasha.  Although that hostelry had proven unprofitable under three previous owners, Welz transformed it into a first class, money-making hotel.  “He brought to the business keen discernment, unflagging enterprise, and a knowledge of the demands of the traveling public….”   After three years, however, Welz tired of running the Clarendon, sold it, and took an extended holiday with his wife to Germany.

Upon his return, in association with Dr. Fry, who was running a St. Paul pharmacy, Welz brought or, some sources say, leased the Merchants Hotel, shown left. This was a premier property in St. Paul at the corner of Jackson and Third Streets, a popular place for social reunions and political gatherings.  Just before the convening of the Minnesota legislature and state conventions the hotel’s rotunda and halls were crowded with politicians and onlookers.

As was his usual pattern, after five years of operating the Merchants Hotel, Welz with Theresie in 1892 embarked on another extended trip to Germany, taking the waters at Carlsbad.  This time he apparently had decided to get out of the hotel business entirely and instead set his sights on St. Paul’s lucrative liquor trade.
The Sterling Wine House.  Upon returning Welz took a local businessman, Robert Mangler, as a partner and established a wholesale and retail liquor business called “Welz-Mangler Co., Importers and Jobbers, Wines and Liquors.”  Located in a four-story building at 466-468 Wabasha, corner of Ninth St., the facility also housed a saloon called the Sterling Wine House, as shown here in an illustration.  
The company decanted whiskey received from distilleries elsewhere into its own ceramic containers and peddled them to a range of drinking establishments. In the matter of wooing clientele Welz demonstrated the same good instincts that had served him in the hotel industry.   Competition for the business of St. Paul and Minneapolis saloons, restaurants and hotels was keen.  Customer loyalty could be fostered by attractive giveaway items like back-of-the bar bottles and shot glasses advertising Welz-Mangler.  Frederick saw to it his clients were well supplied.

The German-American entrepreneur would find that running a saloon could have its downside.  In April 1897, at the behest of a crusading mayor, the St. Paul police raided the Sterling Wine House, apparently on the spurious grounds that it was a front for prostitution.  According to a  press account, The police discovered no evidence to charge the on-site manager with conducting a bawdy house, but found five women, one a cook, on the premises and charged them with “disorderly conduct and visiting saloons.”  

Local newspaper stories derided the mayor and police, suggesting that nothing illegal had occurred and questioning why “a place which has been conducted as orderly and well as [Sterling Wine House] should be pulled and the visitors of a Saturday evening hustled off to the police station.

The Ryan Hotel.  While still involved in the liquor house, Welz’s interest took another turn.  A St. Paul family named Mehls had built and attempted to operate a large luxury hotel called the Ryan. It is shown right.  Apparently not experienced at managing such an establishment and facing a economic downturn during the Panic of 1893, the Mehls went bankrupt and a bank repossessed the hotel.  Welz, in partnership with Fry, bought it.

St. Paul newspapers were positive about the takeover, citing Welz’s past success in turning hotels profitable and noting that the new owner, despite other business interests like the liquor house, would be “giving his whole attention to the Ryan.” While promising repairs, renovation, new decorations and furnishings to the Ryan, Dr. Fry warned that the partners “…do not expect to make much money out of the hotel for the first year, but think that hotel business being now at the bottom in this city is bound to go up again and will be profitable.”

Welz and Fry were right.  The economy rebounded.  The Ryan Hotel prospered. To quote a biographer:  “They [Welz and Fry] made it the leading hotel of the city….They made the name of Ryan famous throughout the northwest….”
Once again Frederick Welz made money, retiring from running the hotel in 1904 at the age of 71.  He continued, however, to be listed as secretary-treasurer of the liquor house and saloon.

The Latter Years.  Throughout his career, Welz — now referred to as a “capitalist” — had made investments in Minnesota real estate and was considered a leading landowner in Hennepin County.  In addition, he had nine grandchildren to hold his attention, the product of the fruitful marriage of Christian Fry and his daughter..

As he aged, Welz traveled to Florida to escape the harsh winters of Minnesota.  He was in Daytona when he died in February 1910 at the age of 76. The cause given was “a stroke of apoplexy,” meaning either a cerebral hemorrhage or a heart attack.  His daughter was by his side in his last moments and arranged for his body to be taken back to St. Paul.  As his family grieved by his graveside, Frederick Welz was interred in Oakland Cemetery next to Theresie, who had died four years earlier.  A large plinth marks their individual graves and those of other family members.
A last word about this remarkable hotelier and whiskey man will be left to his contemporary biographer: “Mr. Welz is a man of generous impulse, of kindly disposition and is liberal in his contributions to the many charitable movements and plans for the benefit of the city.  He has never had occasion to regret his determination to come to America….”  

Note:  While this post was derived from many sources, of particular value was the two page biography of Frederick Wells to be found in the 1908 book, “Past and Present of St. Paul, Minnesota, Illustrated with Views and Portraits,” by W. B. Hennessy.  Except as otherwise indicated, all the italicized quotes are from that volume as is the Welz portrait.