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Conrad Seipp Brewing Co., c1900

Conrad Seipp

Seipp & Lehmann, c1870

Seipp & Lehmann: Conrad Seipp, a German immigrant, got his introduction to brewing in 1854 when he took over the M. Best Brewery at the foot of 14th Street in Chicago. After only one year the brewery was destroyed by fire.  He then purchased property on the lakefront at 27th Street (27th & Cottage Grove Ave.) and constructed a new brick brewery with lagering cellars underground and living-rooms for the family on the second floor.  After forming a partnership with Frederick Lehmann in 1858 the brewery was known as Seipp & Lehmann.  Lehmann died in a buggy accident in 1872; Four years later the Brewery officially became  the Conrad Seipp Brewing Co. Both Seipp and Lehmann contributed to developing this brewery into a leader in Chicago — and for a while, 1872-73, the brewery ranked number one in the US. Its remarkable growth is apparent in the following table.


   Year                           bbl sold 

   1867                          33000        #2 in Chicago (Lill’s was #1)

   1868                          48000        #2 in Chicago (Lill’s was #1)

   1869                          55000        #1 in Chicago

   1873                          104000     #1 in US

   1877                          95000        #5 in US, #1 in Chicago

   1895                      ~275000      #9 in US, #1 in Chicago

~1903                       ~250000      #1 in Chicago


Obviously, this rank in the very competitive Chicago market required more than just good beer.  Seipp had effectively developed ’tied houses’ in Chicago to go along with an effective national distribution network.  In addition he had made effective use of advertising well before it was the norm in the industry. Seipp’s Son, William, his son-in-law, T. J. Lefens, and long time employees, John A. Orb, ; Theodore Oehne, and Julius H. Schiller played key parts in the management of Chicago’s number one brewery. 


In 1881 Conrad Seipp acquired a second brewery in Chicago when he took over the three year old Frank Walther Brewery at Paulina & Augusta Steets, upgraded it, and re-named it the West Side Brewery Company.


Conrad Seipp died at the age of 65 in 1890 and his oldest son, William C. Seipp, succeeded him as president. That same year Seipp’s two breweries plus the F. J. Dewes/City  Brewery at 1843 N. Hoyne Avenue and two malt houses combined to form the —


Chicago Consolidated Brewing and Malting Company, Chicago.— In 1890 the Conrad Seipp Brewing Company, the West Side Brewery Company, the City Brewery Company and the L. C. Huck and George Bullen malt-houses were sold to the Chicago Consolidated Brewing and Malting Company, organized in that year. The plants retain their individual names and organizations. Bottling-works are connected with each of the breweries and the malt required by them is all made at the Seipp plant. The officers of the Chicago Consolidated Brewing and Malting Company are John A. Orb, president; A. N. Young, vice-president; Theodore Oehne, treasurer, and James Miles, secretary. From 100 Years of Brewing, 1903


The syndicate was owned by British Investors.  Because the Seipp management team had assumed local control and all facilities continued to use their pre-syndication names it was business as usual from the consumers view. However subsequent events would suggest Conrad’s leadership was sorely missed.


The Seipp Brewery continued impressive growth and maintained its leadership position in the Chicago market through the turn of the century, but then, with the threat of National Prohibition growing, things began to unravel for the industry as a whole and especially for this Chicago syndicate. Things got real personal for the Seipp’s in this downturn when William, Conrad’s  oldest son, committed suicide in 1916. That same year the syndicate went into receivership and reorganized. Clearly, it was the beginning of the end.


When National Prohibition became a reality in 1920, the Seipp Brewery continued by selling soft drinks and 1/2% cereal beverages and there were rumors about brewing real beer for Chicago’s bootleggers. By 1925, they ceased in-house brewing and began purchasing near beer from the Schoenhofen Co. Suddenly they were just a distributor! Quite a change for Chicago’s number one brewery, and once number one in the US!! In 1933 when most breweries were shaking off the cobwebs and preparing to get back to brewing, the Conrad Seipp Brewery properties were sold to make way for Michael Reese Hospital. All of a sudden the leader in Chicago Brewing for the last half-century was gone. Now it’s up to collectors to preserve their history! You might call the following mementos a start to their genealogy scrapbook.

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