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Famed Frederick Miller born today

Frederick Miller (1824-1888)

One of Milwaukee’s famed beer barons was Frederick Miller, who was born on November 24, 1824 in Riedlingen, Germany as "Friedrich Eduard Johannes Müller." He went to France at 14 to study for seven years. He traveled Europe after graduation, finally stopping in Nance, France where his uncle ran a brewery.

Miller took the opportunity to learn the art of brewing and he worked in every facet of the business. He even took trips to Germany to further his education in the brewing process. Eventually he rented the former Royal Brewery at Sigmaringen, Hohenzollern.

Because of the political climate in Germany, Miller came to America with his wife and son in 1854, finally settling in Milwaukee because he felt the area was favorable to brewing. He purchased the Plank Road Brewery in 1855, which had been run by Charles Best and abandoned the year before. Best was one of the sons of Jacob Best, whose own brewery would soon become known as Pabst.

He produced 300 barrels of beer his first year. Because the brewery was located outside of the town, he provided room and board to his workers. In 1857, he opened a beer garden.

His personal life was full of trajedy. Josephine, his wife of seven years, passed away in 1860. Sources are unreliable as to the cause. Some say influenza, others say cholera, which has struck Milwaukee, and still others say she died in child birth. Sadly, of their six children, only one survived childhood, Louisa, and she died of tuberculosis at 16.

Miller remarried in 1860 to Lisette Gross. Of their children, five survived infancy: Ernst, Emil, Fred, Clara and Elise. Elise became the mother of Harry G. John, who was president of Miller Brewing from 1946 to 1947.

Miller passed away in 1888 (dates vary between May 11 and June 11, depending on the source) from cancer. He was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Milwaukee. At the time, his brewery was producing 80,000 barrels of beer a year.

Miller continued to be family run until 1954 when Frederick Miller, the grandson of Miller, and his son died in a plane crash. Norman Krug became the president. In 1966, a large interest in the company was purchased by W.R. Grace & Company. Philip Morris, the tobacco giant, purchased those shares and soon bought controlling interested in the company.

In 2002, South African Breweries bought the company. Miller was the last of the great Milwaukee breweries actively operating in Milwaukee. Although the brewery still resides here, the World Headquarters have moved to Chicago.

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