Hollenkamp History

(Other Hollenkamp historical links are listed at the end of this page)



A Brief History of the Hollenkamp Family

By H. Robert Schoenberger (5)

Presented at the Hollenkamp Family Reunion, Dayton, Ohio 

July, 1985

This brief history is dedicated to Bernie, Joe, Mary, and Frank ... each of whom would have enjoyed this reunion immensely, and who are with us in spirit and love. 

We, of the Hollenkamp family, have a rich and proud history. Most families wander through life with very little heritage to draw upon. It is quite unusual for any younger person to know, or even care, about his or her heritage. And yet, these are our roots, our beginnings, and our base upon which to build.

Our history is one of success, deeply rooted in an industrious work ethic, which, if emulated, will stand all of us in good stead. Our forefathers managed to combine business, family, and church into a rich and satisfying lifestyle.

Early Years in America: Theodore Hollencamp Sr. was born in November, 1834 in Hanover, Germany. He was the son of Henry H. and Kate (Gerling) Hollencamp.  

At the age of 20 he came to America. For thirteen years, he resided in Cincinnati where he learned the brewery business. Eventually, he moved to Xenia where he continued in the brewery business with an uncle.  

In 1870, he married Miss Anna Tepe in Cincinnati. She, likewise, was born in Hanover, Germany. It is interesting to note they knew each other while growing up in Hanover, but at that time there was no thought of marriage. They had six children, Anna, Elizabeth (Fr. Charles’s mother), Lena, Katie, Theodore (our “Co-Founder”), and Benjamin.  

Brewery Business: The Xenia uncle died in 1871, and Theodore Sr. moved his family to Dayton where he worked in a brewery. In 1885, he and a John Aleschleger established a partnership, which was known as the Dayton Ale Brewery. This partnership was short-lived, and, two years later, Mr. Aleschleger’s position was assumed by a Henry Kramer. Eventually in July, 1885, he bought out this partner and became the sole owner of the brewery. Thus began the Hollencamp Brewing Co.  

The plant was located at the corner of Brown and Hickory. Chiefly, ale and porter were produced, and the annual production was about 5,000 barrels, consumed mostly in Dayton. 

An early article on Theodore Hollencamp Sr. described the family as “members of Emmanuel Catholic Church and standing well in the esteem of the community”. The article went further in describing Theodore Sr. as “having achieved a creditable success in business, having begun his life in Cincinnati without a dollar, and being now one of the solid capitalists of Dayton. He is broad-minded and open hearted, ever ready to give assistance to the needy and to aid all enterprises for the public good.” He was known as a staunch Democrat, but he never ran for public office.  

On June 21, 1901 he passed away at the age of 66. All six of his children were living at the time of his death. Anna Tepe Hollencamp, his wife, lived until January 21, 1907 and was 64 at the time of her death.  

His son, Theodore Jr., who we have lovingly called our “Co-Founder” when writing about this reunion, assumed the presidency of The Hollencamp Brewing Co. upon the death of his father in 1901. He was only 19. 

Almost exactly two years previously, on June 20, 1899, he was one of a graduating class of eleven from St. Mary’s Institute in Dayton.  

Later, he was assisted in the business by his younger brother, Ben, who graduated from St. Mary’s in 1905. Ben suffered from poor health and died unexpectedly from pneumonia in 1916 at the age of 30.  

The brewery business in Dayton has many interesting facets. The industry lasted almost exactly 100 years, from 1852 until 1952. One of the first breweries was the Wayne Street Brewery. This was owned by John and Michael Schiml. It was in this brewery that the first lager beer was made in Dayton. The necessary yeast stock was brought in from Boston. We have some Schimls in our family. Louise Bucher Hollenkamp’s grandfather was Michael Schiml, but whether this is the same individual who founded the Wayne Street Brewery is unknown.  

Just before the turn of the century, a mug of beer cost a nickel, and they gave a free lunch besides. At the Phillips House Hotel on Saturday night, one got a large piece of roast beef and all the trimmings with a nickel beer. A pony of beer (almost four gallons), cost only a dollar.  

In those early days nearly ninety percent of the taverns in Dayton were brewery-owned. They only sold the beer of the owning brewery. Their real estate holdings in the form of the buildings, which housed these taverns, were immense. They sold the malt left over from the brewing process to the various dairies, which used it to feed their cows. This is probably why the milk-drinking children of Dayton had rosy cheeks and pleasant dispositions.  

In the 1890s, there was fierce competition in the brewery business, chiefly among five families--Schwind, Schantz, Wehner, Hollencamp, and Thomas. The competition was too intense and, in 1904, six of the breweries, under the leadership of Adam Schantz Jr., formed a loose merger. The collective firm was known as the Dayton Brewing Co. They still retained their individual brewing facilities, but all of the bottling was done at the Jacob Stickle plant at 713 S. Warren Street.

In 1910, Theodore took time out from his many business interests and married Louise Bucher. One of the newspaper articles describing the approaching wedding read, “Many Dayton friends will be interested in the approaching nuptials of Miss Louise Bucher, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Bucher of 329 South Brown Street, and Theodore Hollencamp, who with his brother, is in business at Brown and Hickory Streets. Their wedding will take place early next month at Holy Trinity Church, and they will reside on Adams Street in their own newly completed home. Miss Bucher is a very charming girl, talented as a musician, and both she and the groom-elect are being showered with hearty congratulations by their many friends.” Thus, our two Co-Founders started life together.

The 1915 Dayton City Directory listed under “Breweries” the following:

Interestingly enough, there was listed a Geo. Wiedemann at the rear of 134 W. Fifth Street. A beer of this name was later brewed for many years in Cincinnati.

The cooperative effort of the Dayton Brewing Co. lasted until that dismal day in January, 1920 when the U.S. Government enacted Prohibition. Breweries were forbidden to sell beer so they turned to near beer, a weakened concoction having only 1% alcoholic content. Regular beer was brewed, and then the alcohol was boiled out until only 1% remained. Most breweries, in an effort to stay in business, turned to other products such as soft drinks and ice. If one knew the brewery owner or his brewmaster, it was possible to get some of the “real stuff” before it was boiled down.

 In 1920, The Dayton Brewing Co. sold its bottling plant at Brown and Warren Streets to the Hollencamp Products Co.  Incidentally, the spelling of Hollenkamp varies from “c” to “k” in this brief history, and this is deliberate. I have used the same spelling as the historical source. Almost all of the early news accounts used “c”. The building on Brown Street had the name stuccoed on the side with a “c” as did the label that was molded into the side of the beer battles. It was not until the depression that the spelling with a “k” started to appear. Dick Hollenkamp relates that, about 1930, a new sign was put on the building. It was green with gold lettering, and the spelling was with a “k”. This is the true name despite earlier newspaper accounts.

The newspaper article describing the acquisition of the above bottling plant said the building was for many years the plant of the old Joseph Stickle brewery and later became the bottling plant of the Dayton Brewing Co., as noted earlier. The article further stated, “The Hollencamp Products Co., of which Theodore Hollencamp is president, for many years maintained a brewery on Brown Street, and about two years ago began the manufacture of soft drinks. The Company is distributor also of Whistle. The Hollencamp Co. will utilize both plants for the manufacture and bottling of cereal beverages and soft drinks, and for the manufacture of ice. The consideration involved was not divulged Saturday afternoon.” We can see the depression hit very close to home, and our thriving family brewery business was forced to make major economic adjustments.  

Of the five original brewery families, the Hollenkamps, as original owners, lasted the longest. In 1933, the Thomas family sold to a Cleveland group, which renamed the firm The Miami Valley Brewing Co. The Olt brewery ceased operations in 1935.  

Theodore Hollenkamp died unexpectedly from pneumonia on Tuesday, December 31, 1935 at the age of only 53. He was survived by his wife, Louise, and seven children, Mary Lou, Elizabeth, Theodore, Joseph, Bernard, Frank and Julia. Theodore and Louise had celebrated their silver wedding anniversary just a few months previously in April, 1935. 

The Hollenkamp brewing interests ended in 1942, seven years after the death of its president, when a local politician, Charles A. Pfeiffer, purchased it. He served as both County Treasurer and County Recorder during a long, colorful, and often stormy political career.  

He actually owned the Hollenkamp brewing equipment on two different occasions. The first was in 1942 when he purchased it at a receiver’s sale and renamed the plant the Ol-Fashun Brewing Co. With a name like that, who could expect success? He then sold it in 1946 for about $150,000 to Arthur Beerman, later of Elder-Beerman fame.  

Beerman in turn handed the brewery over to four disabled WWII veterans through his Arthur Beerman Foundation, which was formed after the war to assist men crippled in combat. The four made a profit for a while selling “Victory Brew,” but the competition was increasing from the Cincinnati breweries.

Pfeiffer repurchased the brewery for the second time in 1949, again at a receiver’s sale, for $40,000 and renamed it the Dayton Brewing Co. By 1952, production was down to only 10,000 barrels a year when he ceased brewing operations and turned to the beer distribution business. This was the final chapter on the brewery business in Dayton.  

The Circus: The following is a bit of oral history gathered from Theodore’s son, Dick, who used to work at the brewery when he was a teenager:  

“Oh, the circus ... now there’s a great story. All you young people should know about the Ringling Brothers’ Circus. They used to visit Dayton on a yearly basis, and about three days before the circus would arrive in town, they had an advance man.  

“And the advance man was named ‘Blinkie’ because he had one eye which had been gouged out…probably in one of the circus fights, you see. And he would arrange for all of the beer and pop and ice for the circus. Well, we got to know this Blinkie pretty well, and one time he said, ‘I would like to bring some of the side show people over if you'd like to see them.’ We said, ‘Fine.’ Well, the first time he showed up with the snake lady.

She had all the snakes around her neck. Also the giant came. Now this giant has a ring, which would fit over three of my fingers. He was a big guy.  

“Well, they were nice, but they didn’t really go over very big, so next year he brought the Doll family. Now these were midgets, and the midgets were four people, three girls...Dolly, Gretchen, and Grace, I believe, and Harry who was the man in the group. They stood about 33" down to about 28". These were midgets, perfectly formed except they were just small. Harry loved his beer, so we used to take Harry over to the brewery, and he’d get a copper mug. The copper mug was bigger than Harry’s head. We had some wonderful times with Harry, and they visited our Aunt’s house next to the brewery for probably ten years. They really became almost a part of the family.  

“Now they were known as the Doll family, and they came from Germany. Their family name was Earl, and believe it or not, they had four brothers and sisters who were over six feet tall!  

“Amazingly, the Doll family lived in the same car with the giant, and we would take them back to the train. The giant would be waiting on the step. He would lift them up because they couldn’t get up on those high steps by themselves. He’d pick them up one by one and put them on the steps so they could go into their car. So there’s the circus story.  

“I worked at the brewery…I was the hand labeler. I used to label ‘Blue Goose’ ginger ale. Now this was a premium ginger ale we had. All the labels went on by hand, and by the end of a day, I had more gold stuff on my hands than I could get off. For that, I made the grand sum of $9 per week. This is a six-day week, from 8 o’clock until 7 in the evening. ...And you think you guys got it tough!”  

304 Schenck: I have many fond, personal memories of the 1940s. Of course, by this time, the family had been living for many years in the family homestead home at 304 Schenck Ave. in Oakwood, a suburb of Dayton. It was a large home, still in existence today, and it was located on a corner lot at the intersection with Glendora.  

They actually owned a double lot, and the home immediately east of 304 Schenck today wasn’t built until about the late 1950s. In this empty lot, Louise exercised her foremost passion in life, gardening. I can remember deciding to help her one fine afternoon by picking all of her tomatoes, red or otherwise. Actually, there were more of the otherwise variety. I think she almost had a heart attack when I proudly walked into the kitchen with that huge basket of mostly-green tomatoes.  

Attached to the west side of the house toward Glendora was a small greenhouse. Down near the sidewalk on this same side she had a rock garden, which was always filled with beautiful pansies. It’s funny how one remembers small things. I can recall her watering her flowers and garden, always with her thumb over the end of the hose and never with a fancy nozzle.  

In front on the home there was a huge evergreen, and up until they left for WWII, the boys would string lights on it at Christmas. They had a collie-type dog named “Queenie” which Frank would go find when she got lost in the woods behind the house.  

Everyone watched with great curiosity when these woods were developed into a housing tract after WWII. There were many comments about the “flimsy homes they build today”, and when compared to the brick homestead home, they were probably right. All, however, are still standing.

About a block east of the homestead up Schenck Ave. there was a huge wooded hill with a mansion at the top. The hill was lined with intricate trails, and if you were clever, you could even find the “secret” tree house. The older kid across the street who used to tolerate me claimed the man in the mansion kidnapped little boys. It used to be great sport to climb to the top of the hill and wait for him to come out. Needless to say, we then ran like heck, I faster than he. I think his name was Maharg or something similar.  

If you wanted to go swimming you went to the public pool on Irving Avenue. Sunday nights often found a large number of the family staying unexpectedly for supper, and emergency trips were made to a place called Kramer’s, also on Irving Ave., for extra beer, lunch meats and whatever.  

WWII with its famous Wright Patterson Air Force Base brought a great influx of people into Dayton. This created a severe housing shortage and many people, the Hollenkamps included, rented rooms to service personnel. I recall a Captain and his wife rented a room at the top right of the stairs in the Schenck Ave. home. I wonder how many would do this today under similar circumstances.  

About once a year, my Grandmother Louise would take me to Cincinnati on the train where we would then ride a trolley to the zoo. It was a fun day, at least for me!  

Bernie had a room an the third floor as I recall, and there were shelves of beautiful airplane models. He had an abiding interest in aviation. I remember going to Indiana to see him get his Wings. Shortly thereafter, he and Lucille were married. He then went off to combat in Germany, flying pilot on B17s and was tragically killed in action on his third mission. What a waste.  

Frank was always a favorite with the kids. He seemed more like one of us, and, for this, we loved him. Only later did I see the serious side of this man. We will tell for many years how he became known as the “Blade” when he jokingly said he could dive out of the motel window into the pool. We are thankful his serious side prevailed and he didn’t try. He sometimes exasperated the adults and always charmed the kids. He’s missed.  

Joe was more serious, but always fun to be with, especially if you wanted to play football. I remember his showing me one day how to hold the football so no one could knock it out of my arm... which he promptly did. I wish he were here to tell us about the brewery. I remember spending a fascinating evening in his home in Chicago during which he told tale after tale of how the brewery operated. I feel he would have gone into the brewery business if the right opportunity had presented itself.  

Mary was the quiet one, and her life was not always the happiest. She had an inner courage and did the best she could. I remember her for her kindness and good spirits and for always being interested in what I had to say.  

Christmas Eves: And finally, no history of the Hollenkamp family would be complete without mentioning the wonderful Christmas Eves we had in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Almost all of Grandmother Louise’s children were getting settled after the War and starting to raise families. It was traditional to come home for Christmas to visit the grandparents and family. My mother would host a Christmas party for all the relatives, and these Christmas Eves, in themselves, were mini-family reunions. The adults would trade names and give inexpensive gifts. When the number of children were few, each child received a gift from each Aunt and Uncle. Lest anyone go bankrupt, this was later changed as the number of children increased, and their names were drawn also. I remember one particular Christmas Eve when Grandmother Louise quietly placed several envelopes in the boughs of the Christmas tree. After the usual bountiful dinner (non-meat, of course), it came time to open the gifts. I can still see the look of complete surprise when each of her children (Joe, Betty, etc.) opened their individual envelopes, for inside was a magnificent sum, something like $1,000. For those just starting to raise families and purchase homes, this was indeed a welcome and loving gift.  

Summary: This brief history has concentrated mainly on our Co-Founders, Theodore Jr. and his wife, Louise, and their means of livelihood, the brewery business. I have thrown in a few personal reminiscences in an attempt to give flavor to how it was to be around 304 Schenck Ave. in those days. The children of Theodore and Louise and their spouses can do much more, and volumes of history could be written about them. This unwritten history, being of more recent times, should be recorded by someone in each family branch while memories are fresh.  

If you got this far, thank you. It’s been a lot of fun gathering this together, and as was said in the beginning, we’ve got a tremendously proud heritage upon which to build.  



Other Historical Links

Brewery Pictures

Elizabeth Hollenkamp Schoenberger Remembers the Circus (expect delay until sound file loads)

The Hollenkamps Watch the Wright Brothers Fly

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