calendar courtesy Thomas Jacobs collection
Mission Street Brewery (1860-1867)
The City Directory for 1856 indicated that Anthony was employed as a drayman, but didn't mention for which brewery. However, the 1859 Directory indicated that he was a drayman for the Empire Brewery, which also employed his brother-in-law.
Mission Street Brewery
In 1860, he established A. Durkin & Company, at 608-610 Mission St., for the purposes of brewing ale and porter. His two partners in the company were Charles M. Armstrong, a 35 year old Irish immigrant, and a German immigrant, Louis Luhden. In naming the brewery Anthony simply referenced its location, thus the Mission Street Brewery.
In 1862, Louis Luhden sold out and the company was comprised of just the two Irish partners, Durkin and Armstrong, an arrangement that remained until 1865. However, the luck of the Irish didn't seem to follow these two. The company's first decade was to be plagued by misfortune, and the two partners themselves were destined for dire circumstances.
The first serious incident occurred on June 16th, 1861. The following account was reported by the Daily Alta California:
In spite of this tragic accident the business experienced steady growth and in 1863, in addition to its ale and porter, the brewery began producing lager beer. This wasn't lager in the traditional sense, but a lager peculiar to the San Francisco area called steam beer. It was made without refrigeration but with a bottom fermenting yeast. Another steam beer producer, and major competitor, was a company that also took their name from their location, the Broadway Brewery.
In 1864, Anthony severely injured his left arm, leaving him partially disabled, but he didn't quit brewing. Then in July of 1865, all that changed. The following is a newspaper account from the July 4th edition of the Daily Alta California:
As a consequence of the accident, Anthony sold his interest in the brewery to his partner, the month after the incident.
Anthony then took his proceeds and opened a saloon, but in 1867 he removed to Virginia City were saloon keepers were prospering as much as the miners. This decision proved to be an unlucky one for Anthony. Rather than prosper, he met an untimely death from pneumonia on Jan. 15, 1868, at the age of 36.
With the purchase of Anthony's share in the Mission Street Brewery, the business was known as C. M. Armstrong & Co., a sole proprietorship. But not for long. In 1866, another Irishman, Matthew Nunan, bought into the company. Matthew's oldest brother, John, was a driver for the brewery and no doubt made him aware of this opportunity. The two partners, Armstrong & Nunan, planned an expansion project but soon found that they required more space. So they leased two adjoining lots on Howard St., between 8th & 9th, and purchased another lot located directly behind their Howard St. lots.
On April 30, 1867, Armstrong & Nunan entered into a new agreement for the construction of their brewery on Howard St., and instead of naming the brewery after its location, the partners choose to name it for the land of their birth - Hibernia (the Classical Latin name for the island of Ireland).
The 1867 structure that housed their new brewery would have been a modest one compared to the 1887 version depicted above. But the image shows that the ensuing 20 years were good to this Steam beer brewery.
The new partner, Nunan, had four older brothers in the city and they were all involved with the brewery to some degree over the years. His oldest brother, John, had been at the Mission Street plant and continued with the new brewery on Howard St. Also in '67, his brother-in-law, Robert Little was put on the payroll, and appears here on one of the company's beer wagons. The lettering on the side reads: "Hibernia Brewery - C. M. Armstrong & Co."
However, the following year, Little had an
unfortunate accident. This account is from the
Daily Alta California dated March 4, 1868:
Robert Little survived his burns but was incapacitated for nearly a year. He did, however, return to the brewery and served as an agent/salesman. In April of 1873, Little divorced his wife Anna, sister of his employer, and was no longer a Hibernia man. He died the following year.
With the move to Howard St. in 1867, the initial cost of a new brewery and building the business, with ever increasing competition, was a financial struggle for the company. By 1870, the company was burdened by debt of $25,000 to $30,000 (over $800,000 today). The senior partner, Armstrong also had other financial issues, and ultimately they overwhelmed him. The following is an abbreviated account published in the March 1st, 1870 edition of the Daily Alta California:
Charles Armstrong was only 45 years old.
Matthew Nunan, was financially unable to purchase his deceased partner's share. So Matthew made an agreement with his brother, Thomas to make the purchase. Additionally, Thomas was the owner of the Howard St. lots, and it was he that granted the 15 year lease to the partners in '67.
Thomas agreed to purchased Armstrong's share but wished to remain a silent partner. Consequently, Matthew proceeded as a sole proprietor in accordance with this verbal agreement. However, the following year Thomas and Matthew had a disagreement over the scope of the previous years arrangements. They couldn't come to terms and in May of '71, Thomas brought suit against Matthew. Due to delays and mistrials the suit dragged on for years resulting in a family feud.
In 1874, another of Matthew's brothers, Edward, joined the company as a bookkeeper, and remained in that position for a number of years. James Nunan, Matthew's younger brother, also joined the brewery as a driver and remained until 1882. In 1885, Matthew's 21 year old son, Frank, signed on as an assistant bookkeeper, remaining for the life of the company. Including family members, almost 100% of Hiberna's employees were of Irish extraction.
In 1878, another family member joined the company. Edward F. Sweeney, Matthew's nephew was hired as an assistant bookkeeper. After a couple years, Edward went to work with Fredericksburg Brewery in San Jose, where he learned lager beer brewing techniques. He then returned to the Hibernia Brewery were he served as plant superintendent. In 1882, Edward relocated to Seattle were he established the Claussen-Sweeney Brewing Co.
The year 1885 ushered in a new era for the
breweries of San Francisco. Prior to '85, no S.F. brewer was
using refrigeration to produce and age a
genuine lager beer, instead they produced the popular form of lager
called steam beer.
The December, 1903 edition of the American Brewers'
Review offered this description of California steam beer:
The December, 1903 edition of the American Brewers' Review offered this description of California steam beer:
San Jose's Fredericksburg Brewery was established as a true lager beer brewery in 1869 and was selling its product in S.F. almost immediately. Also, the Boca Brewing Co. (near Truckee) was using harvested ice to produce a true lager, and they were selling it in S. F. as early as 1875. Local agents for eastern brands like Pabst, Schlitz, and Budweiser, were established in the '70s, and real lager was gaining in popularity in San Francisco. So, the city's major breweries were forced to compete with these growing threats to their market share.
The largest brewery in the city, Wieland's Philadelphia Brewery, was the first make the make the change. The Aug. 7, 1885, edition of the Daily Alta California published this story:
Another major producer, Hansen's National Brewery, followed Wieland's lead and soon released it's first lager beer. By 1890, Lager beer was out selling steam beer by a huge margin. But there was still a strong demand for the old favorite, mainly due to steam beer's cheaper price, giving Hibernia a welcome increase in business.
Hibernia plant, ca.1899
In 1885, when San Francisco's brewers began switching over to lager beer, the Hibernia Brewery's output of steam beer was over 25,000 barrels annually. In the ensuing 14 years the plant's output nearly doubled. The Imperial City, published in 1899, stated:
Besides its tremendous output of steam beer, porter is made quite a feature, and it is stated, on the best authority, that in this department Mr. Nunanís great brewery equals the best products in this hue."
Hibernia's porter, mentioned in the above article, was the only product that was bottled. The brewery didn't have its own bottling works but contracted with outside bottler/agents. One such agent, was Nunan's son-in-law, J. R. Spellacy. Coincidently, another son-in-law, Joseph M. Bettencourt, joined the family and he too had a bottling works - in Sausalito.
Hibernia's defacto "Irish only" policy was set aside in 1900 when Frederick "Fritz" Kaiser was hired as the plant's brewmaster. He came to them from Hagemann's Albany Brewery, a steam beer plant, where he had been for the previous 10 years. He remained with Hibernia for 20 years.
In 1906, an event occurred that devastated, not only The Hibernia brewery, but the majority of the city's breweries. At 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18th the city was hit by a massive earthquake. The May, 1906 edition of the American Brewer's Review reported:
Most of the plants would have survived the the earthquake shock without very serious damage, but were located in the section of the city which became prey to the flames. Of the twenty-five breweries in the city, fourteen were burned, and one, the National, was badly damaged by the falling of a large brick stack which demolished the stock house.
Ironically, the Hibernia plant might have been saved had a proper hose coupling been at hand. J.T. Murphy, Capt. of Engine No.29 reported:
"Word reached us that the tanks of the Hibernia Brewery contained 50,000 gallons of water, and on our arrival we were unable to make any use of this water, as the pipes connecting with the tank (located on the roof) were too small to make connections with our Engine."
As bad as it was, with the expectation of insurance reimbursement, the Hibernian Brewery was rebuilt and in production by the end of the year.
Matthew's only son, Frank, had joined the company as a bookkeeper in 1885 and twenty-eight years later, in 1913, he's finally made a manager of the plant. This would appear that Frank wasn't motivated or that his father was reluctant to give up any control, but the position of "bookkeeper" was actually an executive position in this company equal to a corporate title of secretary/treasurer. Three years later Frank would be the manager, with total control.
As destructive as the fire & earthquake had been to his brewery, Matthew Nunan would be spared the pain of seeing his legacy destroyed. Matthew died on Jan. 7, 1916, four years prior to the enactment of national Prohibition.
Frank Nunan & Michael Sullivan were executors of the estate and Frank became the proprietor of Hibernia. Sullivan was the company's bookkeeper.
The Nunan family was never properly compensated for their claim against the insurance company. To avoid paying, the insurers claimed that it wasn't a natural disaster that destroyed the brewery, but a fire. The family sued but it was against a German insurance company and with the probability of entering the war in Europe, and receiving nothing, the family settled the claim. They received some compensation, but it was only pennies on the dollar.
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