The McLean County Museum of History holds a small collection of artifacts used by the Meyer Brewing Company of Bloomington, IL, a local brewery that enjoyed much success prior to Prohibition. The brewery's proprietors, Anton Meyer and Franz Wochner, were immigrants from the Baden region in southwestern Germany, arriving in the United States from much different paths. Meyer came to New York City at the age of 18, quickly learning brewing skills and eventually setting up a small brewery of his own. Moving west, he settled for about three years in Rock Island before moving on to Springfield, IL, where he would work as foreman for a local brewery. In 1862, Meyer married Sophia Wochner, whose brother Franz would soon become his business partner.
Advertisement from The Sunday Eye, December 19, 1897
Franz Wochner arrived in New Orleans, LA, with his parents at the age of eight in January 1840. From there, they traveled by wagon to St. Louis, eventually settling in Springfield. Wochner took care of the family farm in Springfield until 1856 when he married Amalie Phillips. The two purchased a farm of their own which they maintained until 1862. It was at this time, that Wochner and his new brother-in-law, Anton Meyer, decided to purchase a small brewery at the site where Highland Park Golf Course is today. Sophia Meyer, Anton's wife, would take over the partnership of the Meyer & Wochner Gambrinus Brewery with her brother upon her husband's death in 1883. In 1904, the name of the brewery was simplified to the Meyer Brewing Company.
(Seen above: Meyer Bottle, c. 1910; box, c. 1910; Shipping crate, c. 1915)
Meyer Brewing Company was known for its "American Eagle" brand beer; however, by 1910, "Blue Label" and "Extra Select" lagers were also in production. With between 8,000 and 9,000 barrels of beer annually, the brewery was supplying all of McLean County and much of Central Illinois. Prohibition put an end to the Meyer Brewing Company in 1920. The city of Bloomington purchased the defunct brewery and 90 acres of surrounding area on May 22, 1922, renaming the site Highland Park. The 9-hole golf course built a couple of years later was expanded to 18 holes in 1937. After most the brewery's existing buildings were torn down, much of the brick was repurposed for construction of the Ewing Castle at the corner of Emerson Street and Towanda Avenue. This Meyer Brewing Company bottle opener is a wonderful reminder of how immigration and cultural diversity have been a driving force in shaping McLean County.
Bottle opener used as an advertising item for the Meyer Brewing Company. The bottle opener's design was patented February 16, 1916, by the Electro Chemical Engraving Company, a New York City firm specializing in stamped metal parts and etched lithographs.