About That Latter 1700s Brewery At Brookland Ferry

This clean living is killing me. Up at 5:30 am on a Saturday after an eight hour sleep. What a choir boy. What a goodie goodie. As far as I can tell, Lew is still up from the night before boiling beef and pounding ales to wait out the winter storm down there. Seems the right thing to do. What am I up to? Well, for anyone keeping score, I created a new tag yesterday for posts with crude helpful diagrams and linked it to posts back to the beginning of 2013. Need to get those tied in back to 2003. And I have been thinking about those breweries of New York in the second half of the 1700s. Maybe it’s all that revisionist speculation about a shadowy “modern era” of craft – which I read only as the rise and fall of great leader big craft – that leads me to want the consolation of my shoe box of primary resources. But that is good. We need to disagree on these things. Makes for a rich discussion. Who the hell wants everyone to have the one same focus, same idea, the same opinion? Well, other than great leader big craft. Err…

Anyway, let’s get back to the certainty of the distant past. New York around the time of the great betrayal of the American Revolution. To recap:

=> There was a trade in importing beer into New York at least as early as the 1750s that developed into fairly elaborate retailing later in the century.
=> There was a trade in exporting beer out of New York at least as early as the 1790s.
=> In partial response to raids from New France down the Lake Champlain corridor and events like the Schenectady massacre of 1690, established brewing, two established brewing families – the Albany Dutch Rutgers and the New Paltz Huguenots Lispenards – migrated to the south, set up brewing operations along the natural water sources and particularly their own drainage works in lower Manhattan, intermarried and became fantastically wealthy and powerful.
=> They were not alone. Around the corner from the Rutger’s brewery on Maiden Lane – named for the former creek where Dutch maidens washed the laundry in the early 1600s – Medcef Eden of Golden Hill set up his brewery in the 1770s in a former meadow along a branch of the watershed flowing down a few hundred yard to the south to meet up with “Maagde Paatje, a footpath used by lovers along a rippling brook”.
=> William D. Faulkner appears in Brooklyn in the years before the start of the Revolution in 1775 and establishes his brewery further north on Manhattan before ending up in Albany. His reverse route compared to the Rutgers and Lispenards was due to the fall of New France and the securing of the northern route.
=> And the man who was born into this world as rich boy George Harison but died as George Harrison builds a brewery at scale on the west side in the 1760s by a wharf – and it never quite seems to do as well as it should have.

In that last post, I noted that Har(r)ison initially had a partnership with James Leadbetter who from 1764-65, appears in an earlier brewing partnership at Brooklyn Ferry with Thomas Horsfield brewing English ale, table and ship beer. That image above is a notice from the New York Mercury from 15 October 1764 memorializing the brief partnership’s hopeful early days. Horsfield’s “Long Island Brewery” was created in the early 1750s in what has then called Brookland but is now Brooklyn by a family of butchers. It continued operations into at least the 1780s. In an 1867 edition of The Historical Magazine the operation is described in this way:

Israel Horsfield, Senior, left three sons, Israel, Junior, Thomas, and William… In 1764, his brother Thomas formed a’ partnership with James Leadbetter, when they advertised for Barley and Oak-bark. The next year, they have for sale at their brewer}-, English Ale, Table, and Ship Beer ; but soon after they dissolved, wheu Thomas, again had “Excellent Ship and Table “Beer, from the Long Island Brewery” which was kept at the store of his brother, William, opposite to Lot & Son’s, in the City of New York; and, in 1778, Captain Thomas Horsfield had about three thousand weight of excellent fresh ship bread, for sale at Brooklyne ferry. The present Middagh-street was, at an early period, known as Horsfield-street.

The article conveys some sense of the family having both a certain level of established wealth in the 1760s and 1770s as well as an unsettled aspect. In 1769, Israel, Junior tries to sell the property which consisted of a house and lot of ground, a slaughter house and barn. Two years later land is for sale again as five lots at Brooklyn ferry, adjoining the house of Israel Horsfield, Junior, situated on a rising ground “which commands a prospect of the City of “New York, and very commodious for gentlemen to build small seats on, or for gardeners or butchers. And again in 1772: “to let, “The large, new brick house, in which Israel Horsfield, Junior, now lives, at the ferry; is “very convenient for a butcher.” Soon after that, Israel, Junior, engaged in brewing with Thomas about eight years after Leadbetter moved on to the Harrison brewery on Manhattan’s west side.

nymiddaghmap1776Middagh Street is still there in Brooklyn, the west end of which faces southern Manhattan. Click on the thumbnail to the right. That’s John Hinton’s map “A plan of the city and environs of New York in North America” from 1776. It shows what is almost certainly Middagh Street, then Horsfield Street, as a country lane to the south of the very small community of Brookland Ferry proper. This detail from the 1770 Ratzer map’s panorama view gives a sense of how small it was. See also this blurry detail from Ratzer’s later 1776 map. [I am now telling myself that paying attention to keeping the three maps distinct is important.] Notice from the notice up there from October 1764 that the brewery is both “opposite the Ferry” and facing their wharf. Is the Horsfield butchery and brewing complex on the shoreline at the end of Middagh Street or closer in to the main community? Middagh is currently over 300 metres from the suspiciously named Water Street in Brooklyn which I expect was near the actual original shoreline. Although Water Street is between the shore and the even more suspiciously names Front Street. Look at this comparison of the 1776 Hinton and today’s Google maps image. Middagh now appears to be a boundary line between fields back then. Land moves over time. Or at least shorelines do. Maybe the family owned multiple parcels. You can read about more of the later history of the area at the ever excellent Forgotten New York.

nymerc02nov1767landh2To the left you see something of the motherlode. The golden moment you dream of finding. It is the notice of the apparently unsuccessful sale of the brewery placed in the New York Mercury of 2 November 1767. It contains an incredible… or perhaps an extremely credible volume of detail about the brewery. First, notice that the ad is placed by Israel Horsfield, Senior. The old man is still around and in charge of the assets even though it was son Thomas who was operating the business with Leadbetter. Wow.

[Too much wow. I need a break. It’s 10 am. My brain hurts. More later.]

Later: OK, 11:20 am. What do we see in the notice of 2 November 1767. The lot is 112 fronting the river and it has its own dock with a certain depth – “a ten or twenty cord boats could discharge along side. The maps by Bernard Ratzer are largely formed from surveys taken in the same year. As an official British government document, locations of wharves and docks would be an important bit of data. But there is other information in the notice, too. There was 46 barrel capacity in two kettles. There seems to be five structures, four in brick. It has drains. A significant investment. They can steep 140 bushels of malt at a time. The 3:1 ratio of malting a bushel to brewing a barrel looks right.

Why was it for sale? Well, it appears that after Leadbetter left in 1765 for the greener pastures of the boy millionaire George Har(r)ison and his plaything of a brewery, the Horsfields were left without quite the same business position they might have imagined for themselves. In June of 1765, the dissolution of the partnership is announced and, ominously, 300 bushels of malt is offered for sale. The next month, they are offering to sell hundreds of pounds of hops. And in September 1765, even though they are offering beer for sale at the brewery as well as, interestingly, their cellars in the city itself, they are also looking for an investor to buy a 50% stake in the brewery. It appears not to have worked out in 1766 for them at all. By the end of the year, there is a writ of execution being exercised against Thomas Horsfield. Daddyman Israel Sr. must have stepped in at that point given, as we see above, the brewery is up for sale under his name. The Horsfield family’s prospects keeps waffling as brother William with the store in the city goes under but by the middle of 1768, Thomas is sufficiently secure to be the co-receiver of his sibling’s debts and in 1769 get the insolvency discharged.

In 1770 the brewery is still in the hands of the father. He had had brewing tenants earlier but in January one is Garret Rapelje is selling off all the beer and other stock – but not the equipment – while in April of the same year William D. Faulkner takes the same route as Leadbetter did five years before and shifts his operation to Rutgers old brewery on Maiden Lane in the city where another twenty years of success await. By June 1771, the Brookland Ferry brewery is again up for sale. A notice for its sale from February 1772 helpfully adds the dimensions of the buildings. It is still for sale in May 1772 with two interesting addition to the notice. It’s more clearly stated that it is Israel, Sr involved and he brags up the kettle capacity a bit. Maybe it’s just me and tell me after 244 years if it is still too soon – but do you think one issue might be the Horsfields might not be exactly the people you want to do business with?

While this goes on and on, something I appreciate being on the typing end of it all, notice one thing. Or rather one person. In at least the outset of 1770, Garret Rapelje is running the brewery. In one of the Razter maps of New York, there is a reference to the property of one “Mr. Rapailie” right next to one of the two wharves at Brookland Ferry. If the name is Dutch, “Rap-el-yee” would be the pronunciation. Which probably tells us that this doomed brewery was located on the north and east side of the road. Israel Sr dies soon thereafter and in December 1772 his house and the brewery are all up on for sale at an estate auction.

I was thinking that was it. That the operation died with the old man. But eighteen years later, one more notice was posted in the newspapers of the time which adds one more fact. In the New York Daily Advertiser for 6 August 1790, the property is up for sale or lease offered by the owner Cary Ludlow. He doesn’t seem to get rid of it until 1795 when it appears to be in the hands of a Mr. Sing. Good luck to you, pal. In addition to the name of the owner, the address is given in Ludlow’s notice. And 184 Water Street still exists. It looks like this – like something out of a police drama, one end of the Brooklyn Bridge rising in the background.

Who Else Misses Georgian Mass Drinking Events?

A year ago
, we read about certain Georgian era drinking habits of the early decades of the colony of Upper Canada – what is now Ontario. It includes my favorite observations included in Ontario Beer – in fact, one of my favorites in the entire history of drinking in Canada. It is from the events of 12 and, I suppose, 13 August 1827 at Guelph on the celebration of the King’s birthday:

…all sat down and enjoyed a hearty meal. “After the cloth was removed,” toasts were drunk to everybody and every conceivable thing, the liquors, of all imaginable descriptions, being passed round in buckets, from which each man helped himself by means of tin cups, about two hundred of which had been supplied for the occasion… those who remained continued to celebrate the day in an exceedingly hilarious manner, most of them, who had not succumbed to an overpowering somnolency, celebrating the night too, many of them being found next morning reposing on the ground in the market place, in loving proximity to the liquor pails, in which conveniently floated the tin cups…

A particular achievement in Pete Brown’s book on the history of the origins of IPA, the excellent Hops and Glory is how in contextualizing the history of the beer in the history of, you know, history – a rare enough thing in itself – he describes how the Georgians were quite unlike their grand-children, the Victorians. While they were cultural imperialists, they were not exactly racists. Leadership of the East India Company would intermarry into the royal classes of India just as how in mid-1700s upstate New York a man of the status of William Johnsonwould partner with a woman of the status of Molly Brant. We are in a sense as much or more the inheritors of Georgian free-spirited materialism as Victorian clenched paternalism. Maybe. One thing, however, we now definitely miss out on is the Georgian officially sanctioned staggeringly plastered public celebration.

Consider the celebration described in the newspaper report from 26 May 1766 as set out in the New York Gazette. If you click on the image you will see a bigger image of the first paragraph. A pdf of the whole article is here. A great dinner is described celebrating the repeal of the Stamp Act, that most sensible piece of imperial legislation aimed at helping the American colonies pay the cost of their own protection. Ingrates. Anyway, after the dinner twenty-one 
separate toasts were given. No wonder the article begins with the statement that the evening didn’t devolve into the riot and the mob “as is common on such Occasions“! My favorite toast is the fourth one: “may the illustrious house of Hanover preside over the United British Empire to the End of Time.” Not a long time. To the end of time. Such ingrates. The list is important in itself as it arises just before the interests leading to the Revolution are fully severed but what is also interesting is the last bit of the paragraph just below the toasts.

The Cannon belonging to the Province, being placed in the State-House Yard, the Royal Salute was fired on drinking the King, and Seven Guns after every succeeding Toast. The whole concluded in the Evening with Bonfires, Ringing of Bells, and Strong Beer to the Populace, and gave general Satisfaction to every Person concerned…

How was riot avoided? Free smashings of strong beer to the populace? What a time! What a splendid form of government!! And it was not just at state events or events of general public importance. Click on that thumbnail to the left. It’s from the New York Gazette of 12 August 1751 but it describes a celebration of another sort of birthday in England, a twenty-first birthday party held on 25 May that year for the Marquis of Rockingham at Wentworth House in Yorkshire. I grew up in Nova Scotia – first made a British colony just two years before this celebration – where both Rockingham and Wentworth are place names. Look what happens at the party:

Liquors drank that Day were three Hogsheads of Small Beer, 13 Hogsheads of Ale, 20 Hogsheads of Strong Beer, 8 Hogsheads of Punch, and 4 Hogsheads of Port Wine; besides 8 Hogsheads of strong Beer drank the Day following. There were 10,000 Guests in the whole; 3000 of which, or upwards, were entertained in the House; and after they had dined, the Victuals were carried out into the Booths to the Populace who had strong Beer and Ale much as they pleased… The strong Beer was most of it brewed in the Year 1730…

A few years ago, Martyn wrote about these coming of age, twenty-first birthday celebrations and their massive 21 year old beers brewed in the year of a child’s birth to celebrate their future adulthood. In fact when I came across this story I was just going to send it to him… until I read him “there is little or no evidence of 21-year-old ales before the 1770s or 1780s.”* It seems the news of these celebrations at Wentworth House for Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham** might represent a wee advance in brewing history. Maybe. Martyn might already know this. Probably does.

So there you are. Three mass gatherings of Georgians well prepared for and well able to meet the demands of massive public intoxications celebrating joy. I don’t think I could survive even a few hours of it. Damn Victorians.

*Being a wee bugger, I kept it for myself. Well, really, I kept it for this story. I would otherwise have sent it to Martyn, the very best sort of colleague in this beer writing game.
**A man who, if listened to, may have altered history to a greater degree.

The Best Advice A Brewer Was Ever Given

The winner hands down is Joseph Coppinger, from his book The American Practical Brewer and Tanner from 1815:

The common mode of keeping malt is in bins situated on upper lofts, often injured by leaks from the roof, and at all times liable to the depredations of rats, which in the other way can be effectually guarded against, and is a highly important object of precaution to be taken by the brewer. Should weevils at any time get into, or generate in your malt, which is common when held over beyond twelve or eighteen months, the simplest and easiest way of getting rid of them, is to place four or five lobsters on your heap of malt, the smell of which will soon compel the weevils to quit the malt, and take refuge on the walls, from which they can be swept with a broom into a sheet or table cloth laid on the malt, and so taken off.

Not three. Not six. Only four or five will do. Best advice. Ever.

The Sale Of Porter In New York City, 1750 to 1783

On 2 December 1783, James Hearn had a noticed placed in the New York Morning Post for his new business, opening the next day in Maiden Lane. Hearn’s Porter-House would offer wines, spirits and porter as well as a variety of dishes hot and in any quantity the single gentleman might desire. He even offered take away meals to anyone “sending their servants for the same.” A particular point is made about his soup. And then you notice the hours of operation. The soup is available from 11 am to 1 pm. The meals will be served from 12:30 noon to 3:30 pm. There’s a certain level of constraint at play.

One of the great things about researching through newspaper archives is how everything is contextualized for you. It is easy to think, read and write about beer in a bubble if all you look at is information about beer. The notice for Mr. Hearn’s new business is placed in the newspaper one week after New York’s Evacuation Day, the day when the last of the British troops left the City after months of evacuations of the Loyalists who became one of the foundations of the nation to the north, Canada. Just two weeks before the proposed opening of the Porter-House, the Governor of New York placed a Proclamation in the Royal Gazette on 19 November 1783, the last edition, confirming how the withdrawal of British troops would occur. Notice that the Governor placing the ad was George Clinton and not Royal commander Sir Guy Carleton. The notice was published on page three.

So, why was it a porter-house? Porter was certainly prized in the years after the end of the American Revolution. As we saw a few weeks ago, in 1798 Caleb Haviland’s porter vault in what is now Lower Manhattan stocked both London porter and American porter. It was “in the best possible order” – ripe and brisk. But the relationship with the drink started at least half a century before that. In the New York Gazette of 5 February 1750, an extract of a letter was published from a new colony at Nova Scotia, written the previous August, praising the provisions… except the lack of “a Pot of good London Porter and Purl.” The earliest advertisement that I have seen for porter in New York City was published in the same paper on 23 December 1751 in a mixed cargo from Scotland* containing cloths and linens, steel and writing paper… plus usquabaug – aka whisky. It appears late in quite a long list of goods. One year later on 18 December 1752, an ad is placed again in the Gazette which places the porter right to the forefront in a range of sizes from butts to five gallon barrels:

One year on, in December 1753 the same William Wright** has a store open. It’s at the city’s docks near the Royal Exchange a store called the London Porter-House. These initial offerings are a few years before the boom in ads about Taunton ale that appear to be concurrent with the 1754 start of the French and Indian War, the North American campaign within the global Seven Years War, and particularly the boosting of the troops in 1757-58. By that point, others are selling the beer not only in New York but also up in Albany nearer the battle front against New France. By the end of the 1750s, the cross-ocean trade in porter and a variety of English ales is well established with literally hundreds of notices for porter appearing in New York newspapers over the following years.

nyroygaz20nov1779porterJumping ahead, we find this ad from 1779 – the middle part of the war – which sets out some very interesting things. If you read it carefully, you will see it is not an ad for porter but an ad for a beer that is claimed to be as good as London’s porter. Imported porter is the standard to be met in the marketplace. The brewery is the one in Maiden Lane which has been taken over from the Revolutionary Rutgers clan of brewers. It’s brewed with English grain, which would be reasonable given how the city was surrounded by fields better known as “no man’s land.” War is bad for beer. But maybe not so bad for beer importation. Even in the middle of 1781, porter was being imported and made available along with other pleasures such as double spruce ale and coffee. By the summer of 1783, well after the impending surrender is inevitable, things are not as pretty. The Royal American Gazette of 7 August 1783 shows that everything is for sale: the billiards table in a house being advertised for leave, plenty of mess beef and pork in barrels, passage for your family to Canada and – yes – still those bottles of porter. All offered in return for cash or, as one notice states, “light and foreign gold taken in payment.” A few weeks later, the British are gone and Mr. Hearn has opened his Porter-House.

Why a porter-house? It was a last luxury of the previous regime. It is stored in cellars and is best when left to age down there. It needs to ripen if it’s going to be brisk. So, in the weeks and months after the peace breaks out and folk like the hatters Bickers* and Son  are returning from the war triumphant, the goods in storage needed to be put to use. The porter still needed to be drunk. Mr. MacPherson had the same idea and opened his porter house a few weeks before the British left. Folk were making do as the new nation had just begun to make its way.

*I did not know until today that a “snow” was a sailing ship somewhat similar but distinct from a “brig.”
** presumably.
*** a rather capable man for a hatter, Colonel Bickers.

Are We Approaching Peak Hard Cider?

The All About Beer column by John Holl posted today begins “[h]ard cider continues to climb in popularity and now the largest producer in the country, Angry Orchard, has its own place to welcome customers….” This is odd because of the following news as reported by The Motley Fool a few weeks ago:

Similar to last quarter, Boston Beer’s founding chairman, Jim Koch, opted to be the bearer of bad news: “Our total company depletion trends of 6% in the third quarter of 2015 matched our year to date trends, but represent a slowing from our expectations, primarily as a result of weakness in our Samuel Adams brand due to increased competition and a slowing in the cider category”… Boston Beer CEO Martin Roper elaborated: “During the third quarter, we […] saw a slowing of the cider category, but believe Angry Orchard maintained its share even as competitors continue to enter or increase investment. We remain positive about the long term cider category potential, but short term growth is less certain. We are planning continued investments in advertising, promotional and selling expenses, as well as in innovation, commensurate with the opportunities and the increased competition that we see.”

I’ve heard a bit about cider in the lead up to American Thanksgiving like this piece on NPR’s Science Friday that focuses on Albany’s Nine Pin Cider. Like the All About Beer column, however, there was nothing indicating that the market for hard cider is softening in the way that Boston Beer has admitted. While most stories last year were all about the boom in cider, The Motley Fool saw clouds on the horizon as early as in May of 2014. That concern continues:

Total U.S. cider sales were down 3.4 percent in the 13 weeks ended Nov. 7, and the rate of decline accelerated to about 7 percent over the past four weeks, according to Nielsen. Four and five years ago, the rate of growth was in the heady triple-digits. Even a year back, the pace of growth was nearly 50 percent. “It’s been getting a lot of attention, because of all the huge growth rates in the past three to five years,” said Danelle Kosmal, vice president of the beverage alcohol practice at Nielsen. “It’s obviously difficult to sustain those triple-digit growth rates.”

So is it a case as I tweeted earlier today just that, “basically, Sam Adams bought a pretendy farm to suggest their cider-like product isn’t industrial” or is it worse? Is the farm one form of “the new packaging and advertising expenses taken on in the second half of 2015” in an effort to retain sales in a shrinking cider market? We get no guidance from the All About Beer column other than the oblique observation that the “vast majority of the company’s main brands will be produced at the Boston Beer facility in Ohio, with the focus of the new location being experimentation and small-batch only recipes.” As Jeff found in June 2014, getting a straight answer about Angry Orchard can be difficult. But at least he asked the questions. If the market for cider continues to shrink, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for the farm to be re-purposed or even sold off.

New York: Har(r)ison and Leadbetter, The 1760s Odd Couple

What an odd story. As we know from our history as well as right up to today, brewers usually go in the direction from rags to riches – starting out in sheds and garages to become multimillionaires all the while pretending they are still small operators working on the level of a craft industry. Oh, how we laugh when that old fib is rolled out, don’t we? Well, it didn’t work out that way for Har(r)ison and Leadbetter, a brewing concern which operated apparently briefly but seemingly quite splendidly in New York City in the last half of the 1760s. It was located on that wee point sticking out in the Hudson River. Click on the image for a bigger version. As you will see, there is a bit of biography involved as well as a bit of mapping if I am to explain this so bear with me.

Let’s start with the man who was born into this world as George Harison but died as George Harrison – adding another “r” to the family name. This guy was exactly the sort of guy the Revolution was all about. Fortunately, he ended up at one point as the Grand Master of the Masons of the Province of New York, as a story in the New York Journal on 24 October 1771 shows – which means there is a reasonable amount written about him and his by, you know, my brothers… if my brothers would, you know, have me… being as lapsed a Mason as one can be. George (b.1719, d.1773) was born to Francis and father to Richard. His father and his son were great political leaders of their day. Francis was an Oxford trained lawyer who comes to New York in 1708 and, in 1720, was made a member of the New York Governor’s Council; in 1721, becomes Judge of the Court of Vice-Admiralty in New York and, in 1724 is Recorder or Clerk of the City of New York. He returns to England in 1735 and dies in 1740. Big time Loyalist power holder and lackey. Two generations later his grandson Richard (b.1747. d. 1829) is a New York born, Oxford trained lawyer who, after the Revolution ends in 1783 is a New York state legislator, a member of constitutional convention, the first US federal attorney under Washington at New York – and also Recorder or Clerk of New York City. Like grandpa, big wig.¹

Sandwiched between Francis and Richard? George.* What can we say about George? It is clear he is very rich. His father dies in 1740 when George is just twenty-one. That same year, George sells off a 1400 acre farm “six miles above of Newborgh” or what is now Newburgh. Later that decade, he sells off more than ten times that much land. In the New York Gazette of 25 April 1748 a notice is placed for the gathering of creditors who owe money to the estate, to meet George as heir and also to sell 15,000 acres of land which have been divided into 100 and 200 acre lots. In 1750, he buys 2,000 acres of Ulster County, NY. Suffice it to say, George as heir is loaded.

What then of Leadbetter? No so much about Leadbetter because he is not a big wig and might not even have been a wig at all. From 1764-65, he appears to be in a brewery partnership at Brooklyn Ferry with Thomas Horsfield brewing English ale, table and ship beer. The Horsfield’s Long Island Brewery was created in the early 1750s and continued into at least the 1780s… but that is for another post.













Enough about these people. What about the brewery? The partnership is described in the Masonic history of the George this way: “In 1765 he went into the brewing business with his father-in-law and James Leadbetter, a professional brewer.” Hmm… father-in-law. In the 12 May 1766 edition of the New York Mercury, to the upper left, a notice of the opening of the new brewery is announced, stating that only ship and spruce beer were to be had as yet but that ale was coming. To the upper right is the one from 7 July 1766 from the same paper stating that their ale was for sale. Notice that Harrison is located on Broadway. The next April, we see he has moved. The New York Gazette announced on 9 April 1767, as we see in the lower left above, that George moves from Broadway to the brewery lands. Ale, ship and spruce beer are sold and – interestingly – folk are told to be mindful about returning their empty casks. Was this a sign of problems? Whatever it was, things do not last. As we see in the 12 October 1769 edition of the New York Journal to the lower right, James Leadbetter announces that he is leaving for England and is selling his three-eighths interest in the brewery. The notice has a wonderfully detailed description of the site. There is a brew house of 60 by 30 feet with both a 15 and a 50 barrel copper. There is a mill house for grinding malt and pumping water that is 30 by 25 feet. The malt house of 60 by 31 feet is four stories high with two kilns and two lead cisterns for steeping barley. The store house is 70 by 23 feet and comes with an underground vault. There are stables and a cooperage and four dwelling houses along with land including 18 fenced acres. A significant industrial scale brewing operation. And the brewer is leaving.

What happens next? James Leadbetter appears to become a man of leisure and a bit of the lord of land himself – and he doesn’t leave for England. In 1770, Leadbetter becomes on the the original grantees of the Wallace Land Patent, a group of land speculators getting their hands on 28,000 acres along the Susquehanna, a strip two miles wide. In the New York Gazette of 26 November 1770 he is offering organ and harpsichord lessons to gentlemen and ladies. In the early part of the Revolution, Governor Tryon enlists Leadbetter to spy on the Revolutionaries. A James Leadbetter – late of New York with lands in America – has his will proven in 1799 in England** leaving a son in London and a daughter in New York.












The brewery and the Harisons went on, still playing with adding the
second “r” as they do. Though one for a bit more time than the other. Upper left is the obituary for George in the New York Gazette of 26 April 1773. He was only 54 when he died. Before he left us, he seems to have sold the debts of the partnership to a shopkeeper, David Jones of Broadway, who according to this notice in the New York Gazette of 10 Aug 1772 wanted creditors to show up or he was sending the lawyers after them. The upper right image above is a map from 1776 which shows the brewery on the point but does not name it. The map at the very top of the page was printed in France in 1777 from data collected in 1775 – it names it. Notice how the brewery appears to be strategically placed. Not only is it on the river so able to ship out directly, it is just north of the original site of Vauxhall Gardens, a privately run park for outings. It is just south of the Lispenard brewery also on the Greenwich Road. The area was described in testimony in the 1824 court case Bogardus v. Trinity Church in which the actual ownership of lands in the district were being disputed. One witness Benjamin M Brown described his recollection of the area:

At the period of his earliest recollection, there were but few houses in Chambers, Reade, or Barley (now Duane) streets, or in the lower part of Warren street, where it intersects the Greenwich road, now Greenwich street. North of Warren street was a hill, over which this road passed. After rising the hill, the first building on the west side was Harrison’s brewery, close to the North river, and in or about the block between Jay and Harrison streets. On the east side of the road, nearly opposite the brewery, was Speth’s oil mill, in or near Harrison street. The next improvement was Lispenard’s place of several acres of land, lying along the Greenwich road. His mansion house was east of and at some distance from the road, and near to what is now called Desbrosses street. North of Lispenard’s, was a tavern, a place of public resort, called Brannan’s Garden…

A near rural area of both industry and recreation it seems. The thumbnail to the upper right up there is another map, this from 1789 which again shows the facility to the south of Lispenard’s. The site continues to be associated with the family as noted in their Masonic history where we read that Harrison Street was among the streets named by the Vestry of Trinity Church in 1790, laid out by the Common Council in 1795, and deeded to the City by the church in 1802. The brewery and the lands was put up for sale in 1776 (actually 1775 – see below) but probably stayed in the family as they sold several lots at the site in 1824. In that last thumbnail to the lower right up there you can see that by 1803, the district has been leveled, regularized around the surveyor’s 90 degree angle with just an ornamental rectangle on the shore around where the point of land would have been. Quite charmingly, a Harrison Street still exists, crossing Greenwich at the site of the old brewery, now further inland with the fill from the Hudson river docklands. Houses on the street from the first decade of the 1800s still stand.

Update: A little more research a few days later tells a bit more of the story. Here is the notice in the New York Gazette from 27 March 1775:

But the property wasn’t sold. It stayed in family hands throughout the Revolution… well sort of. On 21 March 1788, a letter was published in the Daily Advertiser out of New York which set out a number of defences related to the character of various officials and in particular, Richard Harison, son of George. The anonymous author described how Richard took a neutral stance during the Revolutionary War. While he opposed the taxation imposed on the colonies, he feared the power of Great Britain and feared war would be a disaster. On the other hand he publicly declared early on that

“…he would take no part against this country… This conduct drew on him the resentment of the British, before the arrival of General Carleton, who with-held his house and brewery, at the North-River, for a long time, without paying for the same…

nyindjournal15sept1784ghAfter the peace breaks out in 1784, there was one more kick at the can, one more attempt to make a go of it. Click on that thumbnail. Richard leases the brewery to Samuel Atlee who takes up brewing porter there. In the first weeks of 1785 he adds a pale “transparent” table ale. One of the principals behind the porter operation leaves in June 1785. The malthouse burned in October 1786 and Atlee’s enterprise comes to an end in late 1787 as this notice in the New York Packet of 11 December shows.

[End of Update….]

So a bit of an odd story. A fabulously large scale brewery with seemingly a very short original operating life, a few restarts and not much longer a physical existence. A Loyalist’s dream. “Harison’s folly” maybe even. But a late 1760s brewery built to brew likely at least 250 to 300 barrels a week or 12,000 to 15,000 barrels a year is quite the thing, quite the dream. In a market already well served by the Lispenards and Rutgers as well as Faulkner and Medcef Eden. And likely others. Did it succeed? The family’s other independent wealth makes it a bit hard to know. Wonder if the beer was any good.

¹Like me, a graduate from Kings College though I was over 200 years later after the College relocated to Nova Scotia with the Loyalists. The commander of the British troops in North America, His Excellency General Thomas Gage, did not attend my graduation nor did I, with my sole classmate and pal of John Jay, entertain the audience with a debate on “the subject of national poverty, opposed to national riches.” I did, however, party.
*Note if you are hunting this out, too, that Richard’s son is also George Harison and is also into land but now farther up into northern NY. Federalists are just, after all, pragmatic Loyalists.
** at page 115.

New York: The Elusive Medcef Eden of Golden Hill


The latest project without all that much particular point is turning out to identify the brewers of New York City during the American Revolution aka the War of Independence. So far we have learned about:

William D. Faulkner;
The Lispenards; and
The Rutgers.

There are two more that I have noted so far, Harrison and Eden.¹ They are all located (if not all noted) on the clickable map above. A rather large version of the map for obsessive pouring over can also be found here. The breweries appear, as Craig predicted, to be lumped in distinct brewing areas. As we saw in Albany and is I suppose self-evident, these breweries were built near supplies of potable water. And while both New York and Albany are salt water seaports New York in the year 1775 is largely located on the lower tip of an island, Manhattan. Which means that fresh water comes at something of a premium. Important but I will get into that a bit more in a later post. Today it’s about Eden.

I hadn’t heard of this guy until I came upon this map of the Great Fire of 1776. In an essay recalling the world of New York in the early 1790s, we read:

At Number 26 Broadway, might have been daily seen the light-built but martial and elegant form of Alexander Hamilton, while his mortal foe, Aaron Burr, as we have stated, held his office in Partition street. John Jacob Astor was just becoming an established and solid business man, and dwelt at 223 Broadway, the present site of the Astor House, and which was one of the earliest purchases which led to the greatest landed estate in America. Robert Lenox lived in Broadway, near Trinity Church, and was building up that splendid commerce which has made his son one of the chief city capitalists. De Witt Clinton was a young and ambitious lawyer, full of promise, whose office (he was just elected Mayor) was Number 1 Broadway. Cadwallader D. Colden was pursuing his brilliant career, and might be found immersed in law at Number 59 Wall street. Such were the legal and political magnates of the day; while to slake the thirst of their excited followers, Medcef Eden brewed ale in Gold street, and Janeway carried on the same business in Magazine street; and his empty establishment became notorious, in later years, as the ‘ Old Brewery.’

Janeway is a later story in time and an interesting one in its own right, also for another day. What is important today is that Medcaf Eden brewed ale in Gold Street. Long before I got interested in the antecedents of Canadian brewing in the Loyalist world before the American Revolution I fell for the excellent website “Forgotten New York” and, upon reading about Gold Street, I looked again to see if there was anything I could learn. Jackpot. Not only did was there a FNY a post from nine years ago about Gold Street, he had found Eden’s Alley leading from it. He even posted photos. Go have a quick look at the post.

nycforgottenedensNow, click on the excellent FNY photo of the alley so I can point out a few things. So I can review. It is narrow. It is narrower than the narrowest bit of the photos of Gold Street see that? It’s narrower than the still narrow intersection of Beaver and Green Streets in Albany where in 1776 the King’s Arms was the flashpoint of the local insurrection. Eden’s Alley is that narrow because it is very likely not a street at all but the horse cart lane from Gold Street to the actual brewery. It’s probably the driveway. You can actually see it on the map of the 1776 fire. Check the red circle to the right of the other. Notice the break in street’s buildings at the circle’s 11 o’clock position? That’s Eden’s Alley. Notice how on the photo it leads east-ish according to the sun on the face of the north side wall. Parallel to Maiden Lane to the south where the competition in the form of one of Rutger’s breweries was located. See the bullet shaped carriage wheel bumper protecting the building’s corner from traffic pulling in from Gold Street? We have a few of those still in our old town. Notice another thing. It’s an uphill climb from Gold Street into the property of Medcef Eden. Because it’s built on uneven land. Because uneven land is next to the creeks and rivers where the fresh water was. What an excellent wee photo of an unappetizing back alley in one of the world’s great cities. Look at the topography on this map of NYC from 1783. You will find Golden Hill just inland above the “E” in east river. That hill? That’s what Eden’s Alley is climbing. FNY also traces the lane’s later history.

Medcef Eden passes away on 18 September 1798 leaving two sons, Joseph and Medcef Junior who die without children of their own. The will of Medcef Sr provided for this eventuality and, in doing so, tells us something about Eden’s origins.

It is my will and I do order and appoint, that if either of my said sons should depart this life without lawful issue, his share or part shall go to the survivor. And in case of both their deaths without lawful issue, then I give all the property aforesaid to my brother John Eden of Lofters, in Cleveland in Yorkshire; and my sister Hannah Johnson of Whitby, in Yorkshire, and their heirs.

Which means Medcef is very likely a Yorkshireman who immigrates to the new world leaving his own family behind. And what does he do between immigrating and expiring? He brews.










The ad to the upper left is from the The New York Gazette of 29 September 1777. Eden is buying hops and barley while selling strong and ships beer. In the upper middle ad from a year later on 2 November 1778 he is now selling four sorts of beer: ale and strong beer, ship’s beer and spruce beer. Almost three years later, the ad to the upper right from the The New York Gazette of 22 October 1781 focuses on his strong ale which he states “exceeds both in flavour and quality, any that has been brewed since the revolution.” By the time the lower left ad is placed in the New York Independent Journal of 1 June 1785, the war has been over for over a year and a half. He is selling double spruce beer, advertising rates by the barrel, half-barrel, ten gallon or five barrel. Finally, the ad to the lower right placed in the New York Daily Gazette from 21 June 1791 informs the public that George Appleby has taken over the brewing operations and is offering spruce beer, ship’s beer and others.

The immediate thing that strikes me is that Eden appears to have managed the transition from war to peace quite successfully. He stays on in the City during the Loyalist times and stays on after they leave and are replaced by the Revolutionaries. Just two month’s before the inevitable departure of the last of the British, according to the 22 September 1783 edition of the New York Gazette, Eden is buying barley. Eden’s neighbour, the widow Rutgers on Maiden Lane, left with the rest of the “popular party” as soon as the British showed up in 1776 – according to the 1784 court case over British use of her brewery during the war. Eden stays put.

There’s more to be found out of course even if in 1920, The New York Times could find no record of the brewery. Plenty of records likely no one other than a handful of masters students might have bothered looking at over the decades. But for starters that is an introduction to Medcef Eden – Yorkshireman, New Yorker and brewer.

¹Oops. One more. Robert Appleby, a spruce beer brewer on Catherine Street near the Ship Yards on the East River who advertised in the Royal New York Gazette on 19 April 1781.

An Anti-German Anti-Lager* NYC Riot In 1840

nycmap1839bThe map of the city of New York from 1839 shows the extent of development in grey. The streets north of 14th street are newly settled, sitting north of the established municipal wards. They are twice the distance from the tip of lower Manhattan that the rural Lispenard estate and brewery was just fifty years before. The block at 15th street between 6th and 7th avenue is just five blocks below open countryside. Evan’s tweets today on the anti-lager sentiments in the US of the 1850s reminded me of how at that time and in the decades before the setting was not as calm as it appeared. Over a decade earlier, in the Commercial Advertiser of 31 March 1840 reports on an unexpected violent event under the police reports:

RIOT – On Sunday afternoon a serious riot occurred in 15th street, between the 6th and 7th avenues, which caused great excitement, and was productive of serious injuries to many persons before it was suppressed. It appears that there is a public house in the location above mentioned, kept by a German, where it is common on Sabbath afternoons for persons of both sexes to assemble and indulge in music and dancing, after the manner of the people of the country from whence they come. On Sunday afternoon last, such a party assembled for such purposes, a lady playing on the piano, while others of both sexes were dancing. While thus engaged, a party of young men from the eastern section of the city proceeded to the house in question, and marching into the room where the music and dancing were carrying on, commenced a disturbance by tripping up the heels of the male and female dancers, and throwing them down on the floor. This led to acts of resistance on the part of the party assailed and a fight ensued.

You can read the whole story here but suffice it to say that the scene was nasty. Furniture is destroyed, the parties are beaten, women jump from second story windows. Women get caught up on the fences “caught by their clothes and hung suspended in a most painful and exposed situation” to the jeers of the growing mob. Order begins to be restored when the Mayor himself who rides into the crowd on his horse.

The 1840s is an early point in an ugly era. The Old Brewery at Five Points had been converted into a slum warren three years before. Five Points is said to have had the highest murder rate of any slum in the world. The worst of human experience was lived there. Times were tough. A year before, impeachment proceedings were brought against a grossly profane judge for refusing to take on a role in the management of the police. In October 1839, a riot broke out at the scene of a fire… between two companies of fire fighters. To the north, the first new German immigrants were making a better life for themselves along fresh new avenues neat the city’s rural edge. Tensions did not resolve quickly. The Albany Journal reported a deadly riot at a Philadelphia lager beer tavern in July of 1854. On 10 June 1854, a new political movement of anti-Irish and anti-German nativists or “Know-Nothings” was described in The Weekly Herald of New York, which formed to express antagonism against these newcomers and their ways:

The Germans are chiefly agitated about their lager bier saloons, and are very much incensed at the idea that their liberty to drink as much of that beverage, and at any time and place, as they see fit should be in any danger of restriction.

Change was coming. In 1855, the Evening Post published a very positive report on events at a NYC German outdoor gathering… which included a few well placed rifles. By the late 1850s, the question reached the courts with the ruling of Judge Strong that lager was not intoxicating so therefore could be sold on a Sunday. Times were changing and the children of those Germans attacked in the 1840 riot would become a cornerstone of the nation’s prosperous middle class of the latter end of the century. Along with that, lager does not first succeed because it is a technological marvel. It succeeds because it is a key cultural expression of the new immigrants who would not be beaten down.

*Note, 20 Feb 2016: Gary Gillman emailed right after I posted this and pointed out that this was a couple of years before lager actually arrived. Gillig’s story makes it a bit obscure one way or the other. What did he brew from 1840 to 1846 – and what made the lager he brewed lager?The beer could well have been schenck, a low strength German ale, or even good old local Anglo-American ale. Need to explore this as soon as the New York posts get into the middle third of the 1800s. I am still in the 1790s. So… maybe later this year. Maybe.

The Site Of Rutger’s Brewery, New York City, 1776


This is quite the thing:

In the summer of 1776 there stood on the northern side of Maiden Lane near where Gold Street now enters it, a large Brewery, with its attendant dwelling, malt-house, sheds, storehouses, etc. The premises extended from Smith, now William,* Street on the west, to Queen, now Pearl Street, on the east; and from Maiden Lane, on the south, to the present line of John Street on the north; and it was one of the most notable features in that part of the city.

Wow. That’s four full blocks of what is now Lower Manhattan. The red rectangle is roughly the location of the brewery itself according to this map. The text is from the introduction to an 1866 reprint of the ruling in Rutgers v. Waddington, an 1784 ruling of the Mayor’s Court of New York City. The case was about the use of the brewery property by the British during the American Revolution. The first beer had been brewed on that site by Harmenus the father-in-law of the plaintiff, Elizabeth Rutgers, on December 24th, 1711. Elizabeth owned the property at the outset of hostilities with her son, Robert, “who carried on the hereditary business of a brewer” as his father Harmanus had, as his grandfather (yes) Harmanus had before that. The elder Harmanus moved to New York in the late 1600s from Albany. Robert is also the nephew of the Anthony Rutger mentioned in the story of the Lispenards. Which makes him the first cousin once removed to the Leonard Lispenard who is sent to London to train with Barclay in 1783. Which means before the war the Lispenards brewing on the North River near Cortlandt Street are close family with the Rutgers brewing on Maiden Lane. And, like the brewing Gansevoorts of Albany, they all line up with the Revolutionaries.

I need to figure out more of this but suffice it to say that brewing at scale, political power and inter-married Dutch families with a significant lack of diversity in first name use are all key to the story.

*Further formerly Cart and Horse Street.

The Brewing Lispenards Of New York City


Lispenards. For a few days I have had Lispenards on the mind. We’ve seen them before. I’ve actually had them on the mind for years. In Upper Hudson Valley Beer, Craig and I wrote this:

After the war was won and New France conquered in 1760, William Johnson continued to import beer into his western Albany County estate but the records indicate that his choices were not local. He is buying Taunton ale from England as well as beer by the New York City brewer Lispenard. It may reflect his further increased wealth as he is also seeking out port wine and New Jersey cider from his southern supplier, the merchants Hugh & Alexander Wallace. Their invoice to Johnson dated Nov. 3, 1772, shows the extent he would go to pour himself and his guests the range of beers he desired:

6/-/- for 3 Barrl Strong Beer at 40/
4/10/- for 3 Barrl. Ale @ 30/
1/7/- for 6 Barrels at 4/6
7/-/- for 10 Barrels Newark Syder at 14/
0/3/- for Carting ale to the Sloop.

I got deeper into that order placed by William Johnson or rather Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet of New York and one of the richest, most powerful men in British North America back in 2010 but suffice it to say that what Johnson was buying was the best he could get. And that included Lispenard’s ale.

What, you might ask, was a Lispenard? As the perpetually excellent Colonial Albany Project tells us, the family was founded in the New World by Anthony Lispenard of La Rochelle France who emigrated in 1669 when he was 29 and lived along the Hudson River for the remaining 27 years of his life in 1696. He was a baker, a trader and a government official including Albany’s Viewer of the Corn from 1689. In the Manual of the Corporation of New York for 1856, this founder of the clan, Anthony, was also identified as a brewer. He left three children: Margaret, Abigail and their unhelpfully named brother Anthony. Anthony Lispenard the younger himself passed away leaving not so much in the records department but three children including a son – Leonard born in the 1714 who inherited the family’s estate.

He led a prosperous private and an important public one, too. He also married well and through his wife Alice or Elsie Rutgers came into possession of one third of a grant made by George II to her father, Anthony Rutgers, which they then expanded then named Lispenard meadows and then built a mansion next door on Lispenard hill – all near a swampy area that then sat in the middle of Lower Manhattan in the area is now part of Tribeca. You can seek these lands identified as “King’s Farm” on this map from 1729. As part of his estate, Anthony Rutgers owned “large breweries and mills located on the North River (as the southern branch of the Hudson west of Manhattan was known) not far from the foot of Cortlandt Street His son-in-law, Leonard, continued the brewing operations. They had children including the unhelpfully named Leonard born in 1743 and, yes, his brother… another Anthony. Rutger’s / Lispenard’s brewery is shown above as it was about 1776 according to Manual of the Corporation of New York for 1856.

It gets a bit trickier now. Not because of all the Anthonys. Because of the Leonards. Father and son are both fairly prominent in New York City before, during and after the Revolution. They show up in the news papers. In The New York Mercury of 22 April 1765, a notice was posted on behalf of Leonard Lispenard requesting the return of three indentured servants who had been in the colony for about five months. One, Phillip M’Cardell, was described as being by trade a brewer and distiller. One of the two Leonards was employing brewers. Another notice was placed in the General Advertiser dated 15 May 1776 stated that the house of Leonard Lispenard, Esq in Wall street was being occupied by students of King’s College. Despite such seeming Loyalist credentials, three months later on 17 August, George Washington issued an order that guards be mounted day and night at Lispenard’s brewery. Lispenard Senior (aka 1714-1790) had already thrown his lot into the Revolution. He was a member of the colony’s Committee of Correspondence in 1774 and backed Washington publicly on his return to New York City in 1775 and likely a Son of Liberty.












Anthony, brother of Leonard Junior (aka 1743-1800), takes off in the brewing business in his own right. He marries one Sarah Barclay in 1764 and becomes “the proprietor of the extensive breweries on the Greenwich road, near the foot of Canal Street.” I am guessing that this is the Lispenard that Sir William Johnson buys beer from through agents in 1772. In the 1 June 1791 edition of the New York Daily Gazette, a notice was placed under the headline “Brewery, North-River” which stated that Anthony Lispenard had taken his son – yes, of course.. because there was no other choice – Leonard into partnership. Note this map from 1783. Notice that they are still described as sitting on the Hudson. Shipping beer on the Hudson. And father and son – Anthony and Leonard – were inviting orders for porter, ale or table beer. The address for Leonard was given as 15 King Street. This Leonard traveled to England shortly after end of the American Revolution in 1783, and remained some years in London with the Barclays, relatives of his mother and founders of the famous breweries. On 10 December 1804, a short news item appeared in the The Daily Advertiser from New York stating:

At an early hour yesterday morning the city was alarmed by the cry of fire. It proved to be at Lispenard’s brewery, in Greenwich-street. The premises, at present occupied by Mr. John S. Moore, with the content were destroyed. What the probably loss may be we have not learned; it must however be very considerable.

An article in the Commercial Advertiser from the same date stated an entire wing of the building had been destroyed. Notice in the upper left of this map from 1789 how the Lispenard estate sits on the road to Greenwich.

The family name fades. Sons die childless. No one gets named Anthony or Leonard. The next generations in the 1800s also appear to lose interest in brewing. In 1907, the remains of Leonard Lispenard (1743-1800) were uncovered as part of a construction site. A report in The New York Times from 9 April of that year details the find as well as some of the family’s legacy. He had been buried near the farm in New Rochelle near where his great grandfather, the original Anthony, had settled after moving south from Albany. A street is still named after them.