Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Friendly Beer with the Friendly Flavor: Grain Belt Beer

2018.0520.336.JPG

Image from HHM Collections

Grain Belt is Minnesota’s best-known beer. The brand has endured a tumultuous history that spans over 125 years, but still has a loyal customer base in the upper Midwest, especially in Hennepin County. The collection at the Museum includes Grain Belt memorabilia, like the drink tray seen above, and the electric bar sign seen below. The local favorite has proven it’s not going anywhere and a look back on Grain Belt’s past sheds light on what it had to overcome to achieve such longevity. 

2018.0520.340

Image from HHM Collections

Grain Belt traces their roots back to 1890, when the Minneapolis Brewing and Malting Company was incorporated. The company was formed through the consolidation of four breweries in the Twin Cities. In 1891, they built themselves an enormous new brewery in Northeast Minneapolis and installed in it the most modern equipment available. By 1893, they shortened their name to Minneapolis Brewing Company. The same year they introduced a beer called Golden Grain Belt Old Lager and it quickly became a best seller.  

During Prohibition, the brewery tried to stay afloat by producing near beer, but ultimately was forced to close its doors in 1929. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Grain Belt started production once again. This is when they coined the slogan “the friendly beer with the friendly flavor.” The brewery became even more popular than before and maintained their success for the following decades. Sales began to lag in the early fifties, so the brewery introduced a new formulation they called Grain Belt Premium. In just a few years Grain Belt Premium had become the flagship of the company and in 1967 the company officially changed its name to Grain Belt Breweries 

Unfortunately, the company once again suffered from low sales, and the Grain Belt brewery closed its door forever in 1975. After being sold to local businessman Irwin Jacobs, Grain Belt was then acquired by the G. Heileman Brewing Company of Wisconsin, who also owned Grain Belt’s largest competitor, Schmidt. This was nearly the demise of Grain Belt. Heileman ceased nearly all advertising and promotion of Grain Belt, in favor of Schmidt. 

Grain Belt managed to withstand this near-death experience after the Minnesota Brewing Company acquired the rights to Grain Belt’s labels in 1991. Despite achieving moderate success, sales once again began to suffer, and Minnesota Brewing went out of business in 2001. However, Grain Belt’s story wasn’t over yet. In 2002 the August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm began brewing Grain Belt. The beer experienced a resurgence, and today has become a permanent fixture. 

Today, Grain Belt can be proud that it survived such an uncertain journey. Though the Grain Belt Brewery is now an office building, it still stands as a landmark of a beloved beer that persevered against all odds, as does the renovated and newly relit landmark Grain Belt sign that shines above the Mississippi River, standing as an enduring tribute to the local favorite. 

 

Written by Alyssa Thiede 

Sources: 

“Brewer Plans Name Change,” Minneapolis Tribune, April 1, 1967. Star Tribune Archive. 

Feyder, Susan. “Shell’s Game,” Star Tribune, January 15, 2003. Star Tribune Archive. 

Kennedy, Tony. “A Regional Brand’s Boisterous Century,” Star Tribune, August 30, 1993. Star Tribune Archive. 

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/180260014 

 

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

Print

Advertisements

Short and Sweet: Zieve’s Fruit Nectar

2018.0520.277.JPG

Image from HHM Collections

Many of us grew up drinking Tang or Kool-Aid. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Hennepin County residents relied on The Zieve Nectar Company for fruit-flavored drinks that could be made at home. This Zieve’s Fruit Nectar packaging in the Museum’s collection, which includes a four-ounce glass bottle and box, dates to 1925. The company was founded in downtown Minneapolis in 1904 as Twin City Chemical Company. They originally manufactured pharmaceuticals, but this fruit extract concoction proved to be their most successful product. By 1915 they had changed their name to Zieve’s Fruit Nectar Company. 

Advertisements for the product ran in local newspapers from 1912 to 1932. With an aggressive marketing campaign and clever slogans, the product enjoyed moderate success. According to the company, the compound was extracted from pure fruit juice and concentrated using a special process, which made it free from artificial ingredients and coloring. The company would develop fourteen flavors, including wild cherry as seen above. One four-ounce bottle like this would produce three gallons of the fruit beverage. The company boasted that this made each glass cost half a cent. 

Unfortunately, it is unclear what exactly happened to the company after their last advertisement appeared in the Minneapolis Star in July of 1932. For whatever reason, the company went out of business and the product disappeared. Today, bottles like this are rare. The slogan used by the company for their final advertisement read “Who can resist the zest of Zieves?” The answer is, evidently, everyone. 

 

Written by Alyssa Thiede 

Sources:

“A Real Fruit Nectar.” Northwestern Druggist Volume 16, (August 1915): 97. 

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/187272759 

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/181447883 

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/178851050 

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/186806305

 

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

Print

The Spirit of an Entrepreneur: Wilbur David Dover

Dave Dover sm

Image from HHM Archives

Wilbur David “Dave” Dover was born on March 4, 1914 in New York. He was the eldest child of George and Fanny (Weintraub) both first generation immigrants to the United States. George was an Englishman, born in London, who worked as an electrician in Manhattan. Fanny, was a German Jew who had immigrated to America in 1907, at the age of 13, by herself. Fanny raised her children Jewish and the family acquired a set of silver and brass menorahs, from Israel, which have now found their home in the collection at the Hennepin History Museum.  

2019.0114.002

Image from HHM Collections

The Dover family relocated to Minnesota in the mid-1920s, buying a home in Robbinsdale, just northwest of Minneapolis. George took up work as a taxi cab driver, while Fanny worked as a clerk at a local grocery store. Together they raised their four sons and went from the new family in town to respected members of the growing community. Inspired by his father’s hard work and long hours, Dave set out to start the first taxi cab company in Crystal. He founded Flash Cabs, in 1948, and later established the Robbinsdale Yellow Cab Company. In addition, he went on the open the Beltline Diner, in Crystal, and become the city’s first Constable.  

An article in the Star Tribune, dated November 7, 1946, tells the tale of an action-packed night in Dave’s lifeHe was visiting his friend’s home when the water pump in the basement caught fire due to an electrical malfunction. Dave immediately jumped into action to help put out the fire and saved the home. With one blaze under control, Dave returned to his cab stand, only to have an oil stove explode 15 minutes later! Thankfully, he escaped unharmed, but most of the building was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Ironically, following this eventful evening, Dave became a volunteer firefighter in his community, just another skill for this jack-of-all-trades.  

Perhaps the most notable position in Dover’s career was his service as Deputy Sheriff of Minneapolis, under Ed Ryan. Ryan was a political ally of Hubert Humphrey and together the men ran for Sheriff and Mayor, respectively; both being successfully elected in 1946. The goal of Humphrey, Ryan, and his deputies was to clean up the crime-ridden streets of downtown Minneapolis. The group notoriously built a reputation for cracking down on corruption and organized crime that was prevalent at the time. As Deputy Sheriff, Dave Dover worked alongside these two men and helped build Minneapolis into the thriving city it is today.  

Dave Dover 01

Image from HHM Archives

 

Author: Ashley Fischer is the Undertold Stories Intern at Hennepin History Museum. She is earning a bachelor’s degree in English and History from the University of Minnesota, with a focus on literary criticism and 19th century American history. 

Citations:
Romskog, Anna. “Ed Ryan.” The Historyapolis Project. December 17, 2014. Accessed April 17, 2019. http://historyapolis.com/blog/tag/ed-ryan/. 

“Taxi Operator Busy as Fireman.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 7, 1946. Accessed April 17, 2019. https://www.newspapers.com/image/182521906/?terms=wilbur dover. 

The Famous Golden Guernsey: Ewald Brothers Dairy

2018.0520.349

Image from HHM Collections

This insulated box in the collection at Hennepin History Museum once sat on a Minneapolis resident’s porch awaiting the arrival of an Ewald Brothers milkman to come and leave dairy products in it. At one point in time, Ewald Bros. was the largest home delivery dairy in Minneapolis, supplying milk to one out of every three homes. The family business was successful for nearly a century, and it all began with one immigrant’s story. 

Chris Ewald immigrated to Minnesota from Denmark in 1884 with his mother and siblings. For two years Chris worked hard delivering milk in Minneapolis. By 1886 he had saved enough money to purchase a wagon, horse, and route from his employer, thus creating Ewald Bros. with his brother John. What began as a one-horse operation soon expanded to include one hundred horses and forty wagons, which were eventually replaced by a fleet of over 100 refrigerated trucks. 

Ewald Bros. became successful because they were the exclusive retailer of Golden Guernsey brand milk. All the milk produced by the dairy came from purebred Guernsey cattle, which was sought after for its rich flavor due to its high fat content. The company capitalized on this by incorporating an image of the cow into its advertising. The image below from the fifties depicts the Ewald Bros. sign that once stood over Hennepin and Lake Street in Minneapolis.  

STR 8.2 MP P25

Image from HHM Archives

The last bottle of Ewald Bros. milk was produced in 1982, and the brand would cease to exist by 1986. The company went out of business for several reasons. One key factor was that milk produced by Guernsey cattle fell out of favor with the public when studies showed that milk high in fat was bad for health and could lead to heart disease. Despite this, it is the images of Guernsey cows that live on to tell the story of Ewald Bros. At one point in time, Ewald Bros. billboards were scattered throughout the area. Today, one of those billboards still displays the enormous, three-dimensional heads of a Guernsey bull and a cow at the Minnesota State Fair. The sign, though now used as a landmark of the fair, serves as reminder of family business that brought quality dairy to Hennepin County residents for nearly one hundred years. 

 

Written by Alyssa Thiede 

Sources: 

Crosby, Jackie. “Cows Not Going Out to Pasture, Star Tribune, August 29, 2017. Star Tribune Archive. 

Ewald, William D. Ewald Bros. Dairy. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2017 

http://startribune.newspapers.com/image/183224650 

 

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

Print

An Advancement in Audiology: The Maico Audiometer

2018.0520.348

Image from HHM Collections

For a short time, one Hennepin County company was the nation’s leading innovator in the field of audiological diagnostic instruments and hearing aids. The device seen here from Hennepin History Museum’s collection is a Maico audiometer that dates to 1940. This device was renowned for being the first of its kind to precisely measure an individual’s hearing, making it possible to accurately diagnose hearing loss.

The Medical Acoustic Instrument Company was founded in Minneapolis in 1937 by Leland A. Watson, and shortly thereafter its name was shortened to the Maico. Watson had graduated from the University of Minnesota, and then became a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University. At Oxford, Watson studied with engineers that were developing new hearing aid technology and equipment. When Watson returned to Minnesota, he brought with him this innovative technology and founded his company. His expertise in the field led to the development of the Maico audiometer. Just a few years after the formation of the company, ninety percent of the audiometers in the country were made by Maico. It was used by audiologists in hospitals, clinics, and universities nationwide, as well as the U.S. Army and Navy, and even some foreign governments.

Since Watson’s time, his company has been acquired and is currently operated by an overseas hearing healthcare company. Today, many audiological diagnostic instruments still bear the name Maico, which is a testament to the innovative developments in the field that were started by Watson and his company.

 

Written by Alyssa Thiede

Sources:

“America’s Ears Tested on Minneapolis Instruments,” Minneapolis Tribune, April 14, 1941. Star Tribune Archive.

“Maico Used at Purdue University,” Minneapolis Star, July 5, 1941. Star Tribune Archive.

“The Mayor at Maico,” Minneapolis Star, May 12, 1941. Star Tribune Archive.

 

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

Print