Joseph Schlitz, Beer Baron

Joseph Schlitz

Born: May 15, 1831

Lost at Sea: May 7, 1875

Joseph Schlitz was born in Mainz, Germany.  He immigrated to the United States in 1850 and settled in Milwaukee.  He was hired on at the Krug Brewery as a bookkeeper by August Krug. Krug died from a fall in 1856.  Two years later, Joseph Schlitz and Krug’s widow, Anna Maria, were married. Schlitz invested his savings in the Krug Brewery and changed the name to the Schlitz Brewing Company.  Schlitz began expanding his business, setting up distribution points around the country made easier by the use of the railway.  The beer was a hit.

Joseph Schlitz was on his way to visit his German homeland, when the ship, the SS Schiller, he was on hit a rock while in thick fog and sank off the coast of Cornwall, England.  He and 340 people on board the ship died—his body was never recovered.  The company did not change hands until Anna Maria Schlitz died in 1887, when her nephews, the Uihlein brothers, acquired full ownership.

Schlitz beer became the number one selling beer in America in 1902 and vied for the title throughout the first half of the Twentieth Century.  The beer became known as the “The beer that made Milwaukee famous!”  The company had an ad campaign that claimed, “When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer.”

A large and elaborate cenotaph honors Joseph Schlitz in the Forest Home Cemetery at Milwaukee.  The large gray granite monument is topped with a statue of a woman looking upwards with one hand reaching toward the sky. The statue is atop several ornamental layers that rests upon a gothic-inspired design with a pointed arch and four columns.  This middle structure is on top of the plinth that has a bas-relief carving of a ship, presumably the SS Schiller.  Above the sculpture is a banner that reads, “LOST MAY 7, 1875” memorializing the date the ship sank.

His widow, Anna Maria Hartig Krug Schlitz and many family members are buried in the large family plot surrounding the cenotaph.

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