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Busch, Adolphus - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Adolphus Busch

beer anheuser company brewery

Anheuser-Busch, Inc.


A German immigrant to the United States, Adolphus Busch started his career with a small brewing supply company and went on to found one of the largest and most successful breweries in the United States.

Personal Life

Adolphus Busch was born July 10, 1839, in Mainz, Germany, and was the second youngest of 22 children born to Ulrich Busch and Barbara (Pfeiffer) Busch, Ulrich’s second wife. Ulrich was a prosperous merchant, innkeeper, and landowner and Adolphus was educated in some the finest schools in Europe. He went to the Gymnasium at Mainz, the academy at Darmstadt, and the high schools of Brussels. After finishing school, Busch worked in a brewers’ supply company that was owned by his father and in a mercantile house in Cologne.

Busch led a comfortable life in Germany. He was well educated and his family was wealthy, but Busch decided to immigrate in 1857. Accompanying some relatives Busch arrived in New Orleans, traveled up the Mississippi River, and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked on a steamboat and in the wholesale supply house of William Hainrichschofen. When his father died, Busch used his inheritance to establish a brewers’ supply business, Adolphus Busch & Co., with his brother Ulrich. One of Busch’s customers was Eberhard Anheuser, a soap maker who had acquired the rather unsuccessful Bavarian Brewery by default. On March 7, 1861, brothers Adolphus and Ulrich married Anheuser’s two daughters, Lilly and Anna, in a double ceremony.

Also in 1861, Adolphus enlisted in the Union Army and served his duty during the American Civil War as a corporal. After the war, he returned to his wholesale business. In 1864, he was convinced by his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser, to join the management of his brewery. Busch proved to be a good salesman, made improvements in the brewery, and turned the small, struggling brewery into a successful one.

In 1867, Busch became an American citizen. During their marriage, Aldophus and his wife, Lilly, had 14 children, nine of whom lived to adulthood. Busch, through his entrepreneurial talents and good business sense, became a very wealthy and generous man. He entertained many celebrities including William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Enrico Caruso. In his lifetime he built all of his children mansions; had several other business ventures; contributed heavily to many institutions, disaster relief causes, and political campaigns. He contributed to the relief funds for the victims of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, flood victims of the Dayton, Ohio flood in 1913, and to Harvard and Washington universities. He also contributed to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 and gave large sums of money to presidential and congressional candidates who were anti-Prohibition. Busch, along with other brewers, supported William Howard Taft in the 1908 presidential election. The opponent, William Jennings Bryan condemned taverns and bars as places of ill repute.

Busch was a man who was involved in all aspects of his business. For example, he was involved with agriculture—better hops produced a better beer—and helped to create the Crop Improvement Bureau in Chicago. He developed innovative methods to brew, bottle, transport, and advertise his beer. Furthermore he devised the first refrigerated rail cars to keep the beer cold during delivery. While Busch was a brewer of beer, he preferred wine and champagne. He died, when he was 74 years of age, as a result of cirrhosis of the liver, at his residence in Langenschwach, Germany on October 10, 1913, before Prohibition was instituted in the United States. Adolphus Busch’s body was placed in a mausoleum in Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. His funeral was an extremely extravagant event attended by thousands of loyal employees. The eulogy was given by Charles Nagel, secretary of commerce and labor in the Taft cabinet, and it took 25 trucks to carry all of the flowers sent in his memory.

Career Details

Busch worked in his own business and for his father-in-law until 1869, at which time he sold his interest in his brewers’ supply house and bought out William D’Oench’s half ownership of Eberhard Anheuser’s Bavarian Brewery. The company was restructured with Anheuser as president and Busch as secretary.

Now a full partner, Busch plunged into his work with enthusiasm and took more responsibility for the day-today operations of the brewery along with selling the beer to other areas of the country. Most of the beer was sold to areas where a large number of Germans had settled. His technical proficiency became apparent when he developed a network of rail side icehouses to keep his brew cool en route to neighboring communities. This demand led to the development of refrigerated rail cars.

Busch was an enthusiastic and creative promoter of his beer. He made friendships with tavern owners and merchants along his business routes. His “calling card” was a small jackknife with the E. Anheuser & Co. logo on the handle, and at one end of the knife was a picture of Adolphus Busch that could only be seen if one looked through a peep hole. The knives also doubled as corkscrews since bottled beer at that time was corked rather than capped with metal. The delivery wagons driven around town were fancy green and red wagons pulled by gleaming, high stepping Clydesdale horses. He also offered public tours of the brewery. Busch commissioned the artist, F. Otto Becker, to paint Custer’s Last Fight, which depicts the Little Big Horn Massacre in 1876. In 1896 Busch had reproductions made of this painting, and distributed them to the establishments that served his beer this consequently made that particular battle scene a popular part of Western Americana.

Busch also demonstrated a keen understanding of market preferences. Around 1875, he collaborated with the St. Louis Restaurateur, Carl Conrad, and developed a new light beer to suit the tastes of those who did not care for the heavier, sweet brews that their company produced. While traveling in Germany, Conrad had tasted a remarkable beer and had brought the recipe back to St. Louis. The new beer, which they named Budweiser, was naturally carbonated due to a European brewing method known as Kraeusening, a process whereby fermentation is induced a second time. Budweiser was an immediate success. But Conrad and Busch had to go to court to keep the name, because Budweiser was already an established brand of beer made in the former Budweis, Bohemia, presently the Czech Republic. When Conrad and Busch applied for a U.S. trademark in 1907, the Bohemian brewery tried to sue Anheuser-Busch. The dispute was settled in 1911 with the agreement that the name Budweiser could only be used in the United States and Latin America.

Using a method developed by Louis Pasteur, he discovered a means of bottling the beer to keep it fresh and to retain its carbonation for long periods of time. This enabled the brewery to distribute the beer nationwide. Busch was the first American brewer to pasteurize beer and the first brewer to establish a national brew. He eventually exported the beer to Mexico, Cuba, England, and Singapore. A well known advertising symbol that came from Budweiser beer was the ubiquitous “Budweiser Girl” who appeared on trays, plaques, postcards, and posters.

In 1879, the company was renamed the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association, and when Eberhard Anheuser died in 1880, Busch became company president. Carl Conrad, Busch’s Budweiser partner was also the bottler and distributor for Anheuser-Busch until 1883, when he went bankrupt. Busch bought Conrad’s interest thus becoming Budweiser’s exclusive brewer, bottler, and distributor. By 1901, the Anheuser-Busch Company had become the nation’s largest brewery, surpassing its rival, Pabst, with an annual production rate of 1 million barrels of beer.

Busch continued as president of the company for 33 years. The brewery expanded, stretching out 70 acres along the Mississippi River. In addition to his brewery, Busch assumed the presidency of the South Side Bank and the Manufacturers Railroad Company; bought coal mines in Illinois; and bought the Louis & O’Fallon Railroad to transport the coal. He founded the Adolphus Busch Glass Manufacturing Company, the St. Louis Refrigerator Car Company, and the Busch Sulzer Brothers Diesel Engine Company, which produced the first diesel engine in 1898. He also had a controlling interest in six hotels, including the Adolphus in Dallas, and five other breweries. In addition to all of this Busch also had interests in some 30 other businesses in the United States and Europe.

In his final years, Busch left much of the operation of the Brewing Association to his son August. He traveled back and forth between his homes in St. Louis, Missouri; Pasadena, California; Cooperstown, New York; and his lodge, which he called “Villa Lilly”, in Langenschwalbach, Germany.

Social and Economic Impact

At the time of his death, Busch’s personal wealth was estimated to be $60 million. His heirs still have substantial interests in what has become one of the world’s most successful breweries. Anheuser-Busch is currently the top domestic brewer, surpassing Miller, Stroh, Coors, and Pabst. Internationally the company is also at the top of the list, followed by Heineken, Miller, Kirin, and Kronebourg.

The company produces approximately 35 brands of beer, including well-known brands as Budweiser, Michelob, Red Wolf, Busch, and King Cobra Malt Liquor. These beers are only ones sold under the Anheuser-Busch name in the United States. The list does not include beers like Roscoe Red (English), Elephant Red, Rio Cristal, or custom brews for restaurants.

Chronology: Adolphus Busch

1839: Born.

1857: Immigrated to the United States.

1859: Establish Adolphus Busch & Co.

1865: Joined Anheuser & Co. brewery as a salesman.

1867: Became a U.S. citizen.

1875: Introduced pasteurization of beer.

1879: Established Anheuser-Busch Brewers Association.

1880: Became president of Anheuser-Busch.

The Anheuser-Busch company has the most extensive distribution networks in the industry, bringing beer to its customers through its 900 independent wholesalers and 11 company owned wholesale operations. Its contribution to the American economy can not be discounted: in 1996, Anheuser-Busch spent $534 million on advertising alone. Its brand name labels, like Budweiser, have become synonymous with American popular culture.

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