Map of 1910 Philadelphia German Population and Historic Brewery Locations

I put this map together as a part of my on-going research into pre-prohibition breweries. The brewery footprints are drawn from Sanborn and Hexamer fire insurance maps and the Bromley atlases of Philadelphia, 1895 and 1910. I could not find existing GIS files for historic Philadelphia ward boundaries, so I drew the 1910 boundaries myself using Bromley and other sources. The earliest ancestry census data I've found at the ward level, so far, is from the 1910 census. The shading of the map is based on German born and those with both parents being German in 1910. There is also information on other ethnic groups in the ward data, which is not displayed on the map but can be seen in the pop-ups. The map was made using Leaflet, QGIS, and the qgis2web plugin.


You're welcome to download this data as Javascript files here: Philly Ethnic and Philly Breweries. Or as shapefiles here: phillyShapefiles.zip


My research project does not focus on Philadelphia specifically. I've chosen Philadelphia as a case study for the urban geography of breweries for several reasons. One good reason to study Philadelphia is the incredible and free historic geographical resources for that city. Pennsylvania State University has made historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlases available to the public for most cities in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia. The Sanborn atlases PSU has for Philadelphia were published from 1910-1930. The Greater Philadelphia Geohistory Network project has made a number of other resources available to the public. Hexamer & Locher published a detailed atlas of Philadelphia from 1858 to 1860. This atlas has been digitized and geo-referenenced, along with many others, and can be viewed as a layer in the Geohistory Sites' map viewer. The Hexamer and Locher atlas was followed by Hexamer and Sons surveys which were detailed drawings and plans of industrial facilities including many breweries. Samual Smedley published a street atlas of Philadelphia in 1862 which has greater coverage but less detail than the Hexamer and Locher atlas. The G. M. Hopkins atlas of 1872 shows the location and footprints of industrial plants including breweries with good detail. The G. W. Bromley atlases of 1895 and 1910 have excellent detail and good coverage. I searched the above maps for all breweries operating in Philadelphia from 1860 to 1919 indicated in the American Breweriana Association's database of breweries. This database is a direct descendent of Bull's 1984 "American Breweries" and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive listing of historic US breweries. Many of the breweries in the ABA database didn't appear in any of the atlases I searched. Some of the breweries in the database don't have listed addresses. I suspect that some of what are listed as breweries might actually have been brands. I have located 90 facilities, so far. I am beginning to cross reference what I've found and fill in details, using Rich Wagner's Philadelphia Beer and other sources as guides.


Philadelphia is a good city for a case study because its' large brewing industry was mostly typical, if a little ahead of, key national trends. Traditional British style beers had been brewed in Philadelphia at pre-industrial scale from the cities' founding in 1682 until the national transition to lagers and German styles of beer in the post 1860 period. Many people cite Philadelphia as the first place in the United States that lager was brewed in 1840. After lager brewing began, the brewing industry in Philadelphia seems to have followed the same pattern as the rest of the nation with lager gradually replacing ales and porters from the 1840s to the 1880s. The scale of breweries increased dramatically during this period. The 1860 Hexamer & Locher atlas shows numerous breweries located in alleys within dense residential neighborhoods. These "breweries" were often smaller than the houses that surrounded them. There was a flourishing of very small breweries supplying a quickly expanding market that peaked in the 1870s throughout the nation. Many of them only operated for a few years and employed only the owner and maybe his family. The larger brewers in the 1860s and 70s were meanwhile adopting steam power and other industrial processes that made them more efficient. Mechanical refrigeration became commonplace at larger breweries by the 1880s. The capital costs of starting and operating a brewery increased beyond what a sole proprietor could afford. The larger brewing companies had pushed most of the smallest out of the market by the 1880s. The larger brewing companies in the late 1800s almost exclusively produced German styles like lager and pilsner rather than British ales, stouts and porters that had been most common in the first half of the century. This was the trend in the nation at large and this pattern can be seen clearly in Philadelphia. The amount of beer produced increased dramatically in this period as a result of an increased market and larger and more sophisticated plants. The association between this increase in production, the switch to German styles and German immigration is a little unclear though. The vast majority of brewery owners and workers in the late 1800s were German immigrants. But there were never enough new German-Americans to account for the increase in market size. Germans didn't drink more beer than other northern European people and in fact drank less than the British and Belgians. German beer culture was also not uniform throughout German lands. The German styles of beer that were popularized in the US were mostly from Bavaria and what is now the Czech Republic. This is not where most German immigrants were from. Many of the Germans who found success in the American brewing industry including Anheuser and Busch arrived in the US with no brewing skills whatsoever. How the Germans became America's brewers is one of the questions I'm researching and thus my interest in mapping the German population of Philadelphia here. Another interesting aspect of Philadelphia's brewing history is that it never developed a big national shipping brewery. In this way it's similar to New York City but smaller and easier to study. The geography of breweries in Philadelphia is also more or less typical of other large cities in the US. Breweries were embedded and distributed throughout the urban fabric in the early to mid 1800s. They sometimes were constructed near supplies of natural ice, which was used for cooling, from the 1850s to the 1880s when mechanical refigeration eliminated the need for natural ice. They were also built near natural caverns, where available, also for cooling but Philadelphia doesn't seem to have had any of those. The cluster of breweries that developed in Brewerytown is attributed to the area being close to supplies of ice from the Schuykill, but far enough away from the river, as required by law, to avoid polluting the city's water supply. Breweries also were built in neighborhoods with mixes of residential and industrial uses, like Kensington and Northern Liberties, that also had significant German populations. Brewery location does not seem to have been dependent on rail transportation or access to rivers or streams. Breweries were more likely to be located close to populations of beer drinkers. This market orientation made brewing a fundamentally local industry until after the repeal of prohibition in 1933 which is one of the reasons I'm so interested in studying it.




All content on these pages Copyright Mark Hedlund 2012-2017. All rights reserved. Use in school projects and with links on social media is always okay. Please send me an email to request permission for any other use: hedlunch@yahoo.com Non-exclusive commercial publication rights for most photos is $25 per image.

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