German immigrant Theodore Weichselbaum left his homeland in 1856 to start his own business in America. He stayed briefly in New York before traveling to Kansas City, Missouri. Less than a year later he headed west again, settling in the new town of Ogden in Riley County, Kansas, where he opened a general merchandise store.
For a short time, Ogden was the county seat and home of the land office. People said Ogden, situated near Fort Riley, was filled with "bull-whackers, mule-skinners, cowboys and soldiers." For a time, the town was the last stop on the Union Pacific Railroad.
Despite moderate success as a mercantile owner (which included government contracts with five different military posts), Weichselbaum's interests switched to beer making. He built a large brewery at Ogden in 1871 and employed four to five German brewers who knew how to make malt. Brewery employees made their own barrels and stored them in the large underground cellars. Because the brewery was partially built into a hillside, the beer kept cool naturally. An icehouse was constructed later.
According to Weichselbaum's daughter, a well in front of the brewery supplied the needed water. A horse was tied to a long wooden tongue and circled the well all day, pumping water up to the surface. A furnace jutted out from the center of the building so it could be refueled without entering the brewery. The furnace cooked the malt and hops in a vat accessible on the second floor. The floor on this level was made of galvanized iron. Using long, wooden rakes men pushed the cooling malt and hops across the floor. To keep the floor clean they wore wooden shoes, or clogs, that were cleaned daily.
While the hops for the Ogden brewery were purchased from St. Louis, the barley was raised locally. Weichselbaum hauled beer around the country and sold it to local saloons. He shipped his beverages as far as Hays. According to his accounts, the brewery yielded about $1,000 a month--minus expenses and salaries.
Despite the threat of large-scale regional and smaller local breweries, the Ogden brewery managed to remain competitive. Anheuser-Busch shipped beer as close as Junction City in 1876. Another brewer, Charles Alten, was forced to close his brewery in Manhattan, citing the larger, better known Ogden producer. Weichselbaum ran his brewery successfully for 10 years until the state of Kansas instituted prohibition on May 1, 1881, and shut him down. He pled his case to the courts but lost. Weichselbaum claimed that he never received any compensation for the loss of his brewery business, which he estimated to be worth $15,000.00.
The historic photograph on this page depicts the Ogden brewery after it was abandoned. When the brewery closed, Weichselbaum used the building to store grain and livestock. Luckily Weichselbaum had diversified interests including land and cattle. He remained in Ogden where he held several public offices and was considered a prominent citizen until his death in 1914.
The Ogden brewery clogs are in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Brewers Clogs
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: January 2004
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.