Frederick Pabst, Beer Baron

Frederick Pabst

March 28, 1836 – January 1, 1904

Frederick Pabst was born in the small Saxon village in what was then the Kingdom of Prussia.  When he was twelve, he immigrated to the United States with his father and mother, Gottlieb and Johanna Pabst.  While working at odd jobs in restaurants to make ends meet his mother died in a cholera epidemic in Chicago.  Pabst eventually took a job on a steamer on Lake Michigan.  He earned his pilot’s license and while serving as captain on a steamer met Philip Best, the owner of a small and successful Milwaukee brewery.  Pabst and Philip Best’s daughter, Maria, were married in 1862.  By 1864, Pabst had joined his father-in-law in the brewery, learning everything he could about the business.  Through savvy business and marketing skills, the Best Brewery was brewing 100,000 barrels of beer annually, up from the production of 5,000 barrels a year when his father-in-law retired nine years earlier.  The company went public to raise the money necessary to modernize the brewing process and facilities.  Pabst became president of the corporation in 1873.

By the time the Best Brewery had its name changed to the Pabst Brewing Company in 1889, Pabst was producing over a million barrels of beer annually, the first to do so, and was the largest brewing company in the world.  The beer being produced was also recognized as pretty tasty winning ribbons and gold medals.  As a marketing ploy, the company had blue ribbons hand tied to each bottle of beer to designate its “select” beer even before it actually won a blue ribbon at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  When customers started referring to and asking for the “blue ribbon beer” the name stuck and the company made it official.

By the time of his death in 1904, Frederick Pabst was a successful Milwaukee businessman and civic leader.  He was survived his widow, Maria, and five adult children.  Pabst was laid to rest in the Forest Home Cemetery at Milwaukee.

The Pabst Monument is an example of Victorian design and craftsmanship carved of white marble.  The central features is a woman in a draped and flowing gown, her head bowed in grief.  Often these sepulchral figures are referred to as weepers, representing mourning and sorrow.  Since ancient times, women have been the ones in our families and in our society who showed grief and shed tears over those lost to death. They stand over the graves and weep.

According to, Victorian Cemetery Art by Edmund V. Gillon Jr., published by Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1972, “The large amounts of space in the Victorian cemetery were to revolutionize cemetery art, and permit the use of sculpture in a way that the crowded churchyard had never allowed.”  Now there was room in the garden cemeteries of the nineteenth century for lavish monuments. Gillon goes on to write, “Sepulchral sculpture, with its prone effigies and kneeling weepers, had flowered in the past, but only for the rich and powerful.”

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