In 1893, a business was begun known as the Consumers'
Brewing Company.  Incorporated in West Virginia to take
advantage of the limited regulations in that state, Consumers' 
set up shop in Lowell, Massachusetts.  The men who organized 
the company were from around the region.  Lowellian John H.
Coffey, one of the primary organizers, owned a provisions
shop in the city's Acre neighborhood with his two brothers. 
Another important organizer was John J. Joyce of Lawrence 
who ran an important bottling establishment in that city with 
Maurice J. Curran.  The stockholders of the brewery hailed 
from all parts of New England and New York and elected 
Joyce as company president and Coffey as secretary and 
general manager. 

     The site chosen for brewing operations was well suited 
for the company's needs.  A 12 acre parcel was purchased 
from the estate of Sylvanus Bartlett along Plain and Payton 
Streets in the Ayer's City section of Lowell.  The land was not 
only adjacent to the main line of the New York, New Haven 
and Hartford Railroad, it was also, more importantly, the 
location of an excellent fresh water well field.  The brewing 
plant included a lager production and storage house, a similar 
ale house, a bottling department, an office building, a boiler 
house, horse stables, a cooper shop and other structures. 

     Over $250,000 was expended to build the plant including 
the purchase of the best brewing equipment available.  The 
company also paid high salaries to recruit top brewery experts. 
Consumers' first brewmaster was Louis Wentzler who
previously worked for the Pabst Company of Milwaukee, 
Wisconsin, at that time the second largest brewery in the nation. 
The first batch of Consumers' brew was made in April of 1894 
and, after aging, was ready for the market in June.  When 
Consumers' was finally prepared to start business, the 
company's employees and stockholders held a formal opening 
with entertainment provided by Hibbard's Orchestra, lots of 
German and American food and, of course, complimentary lager beer. 
Although the brewery sent out 3,500 invitations, over 
8,000 people showed up to Payton Street on the hot day of the 
event.  One spectator to the opening related that, "Something 
like 100 kegs of lager were consumed during the afternoon.  In 
the early part of the afternoon the respectable invitees could 
get up to the drinks but despite the efforts of the police under 
Sergeant Webster the bum element crept in and secured 
prime positions up front where they drank till they couldn't 
stand up.  In the brewery are iron stairs.  These soon got 
slippery and all gents with unsteady legs went down various 
flights with their legs in the air.  After a while the bums became 
so obnoxious and jaggy that the police made a final effort and 
cleared them out quite effectively about 5 o'clock.  When the 
bums were kicked out they lined Ayer City highways in all 
directions, straggled across fields, sang, fought and blessed the 

     During the brewery's early years, a majority of the workers 
were German immigrants who created a small but thriving 
community in Ayer's City.  The Germans, carrying over 
European traditions, organized in 1896 and formed the United 
Brewery Workmen of the U.S.A.  The union was one of the 
first in the nation to win an eight hour workday and helped 
maintain excellent working conditions and benefits for its 
members.  Some time later, the German workers built their 
own community meeting place, Der Deutsche Halle (the 
German Hall), in Plain Street across from the brewery, which 
was used for union gatherings, cultural activities and company 

In January of 1898, a stockholders meeting was held where 
New York interests who recently gained control of a 
majority in shares were represented.  One of the decisions 
made at the meeting was to change the brewery's name to the 
Harvard Brewing Company in order to distinguish the concern 
from other Consumers' Brewing Companies in Chicopee, 
Massachusetts and in New York state.  Another change was in
personnel, with the addition to the office leadership of 
Ward B. Holloway who previously worked for the 
Rochester Brewing Company.  Later in the year, Holloway 
took over the position of secretary and general manager from 
John Coffey while within a few years, John Joyce was 
dropped down to vice president. 

     While Consumers' had focused on the local market, the 
new management's efforts were geared toward making 
Harvard a regional "heavy-hitter."  An expanded product line 
up was introduced with ten labels including $1000 Pure Beer 
Crimson Label, Dark Special, Brown Autumn Ale, Old Stock 
Porter, Sparkling Pale Ale and Present Use Porter. 
Manufacturing capacity was increased from 200,00 barrels 
per year to 300,000 and, to finance the expansion, the 
brewery's capital stock was increased from $300,000 to 

Harvard Brewing Company

  Harvard's pre-prohibition years were marked by a building 
boom as the company continually modernized the plant.
 Although the brewery was struck by a major fire at the lager
house in 1900 which caused a $75,000 loss, production and
improvements barely skipped a beat.  An 1,100 foot tunnel was
dug in 1901 connecting the lager and ale houses with a walkway 
and pipes for direct beer storage at the bottling department.  A 
new wagon shed and a larger warehouse were constructed in 
1907 with a new boiler house, condenser building and grain 
storage tank built in 1910.  An extensive addition was also made 
to the bottling house in 1914 creating one of the largest breweries 
in New England.

     In order to further its business status during this era, the
Harvard Brewery became profoundly involved in Lowell's
governmental scene.  While this involvement helped the company 
to smoothly navigate the increasing regulations imposed on large 
businesses it also established itself as a major target for political 
criticism.  Alderman George H. Brown won the mayoralty 
election of 1908 on a platform mainly based on breaking up "the 
brewery's complete control of the politics of Lowell."  Allegations 
that Harvard dominated the licensing of liquor dealers in Spindle 
City came to a head when Holloway, Joyce and other managers 
were arrested with members of the license commission on charges 
of conspiracy.  Despite the submission of much incriminating 
evidence, the death of a key witness led to charges being dropped 
against the brewery officials.

Survival of local political critics did not help the company
stave off a more serious threat to its existence - the temperance 
movement.  The passage of the Eighteenth Amendment
in 1919, declaring the sale of alcoholic drinks to be illegal, sent
the brewery scurrying to recast itself as a viable business.  With
the expertise of the new brewmaster, Doctor Richard H. P.
Juerst, and a name change to the Harvard Company, the
brewery began offering non-intoxicating beverages such as
root beer, ginger ale, grape juice and "near-beer."  Initially
sales were reasonable but when the federal government imposed 
embargoes on freight shipped around the region, Harvard soon 
found it difficult to obtain adequate supplies as well as market 
their non-alcoholic labels.  An attempt at diversification was the 
leasing of unused operations space for storage and warehousing 
but this amounted to little revenue. 

     In order to offset the dire financial situation, company 
executives, including Director Frederick Quinn and Treasurer
Bartholomew Scannell, decided to have Harvard make their
"near-beer" a little nearer than federal law permitted. 
Although profits naturally jumped, the illegal endeavor was
short lived when a truck filled with 100 barrels of Harvard 
beer was hijacked in Lowell during August of 1925.  As the
hijackers were transferring the kegs of brew to their own
private cars, their movements were noticed by most of the

     An article in the Lowell Courier-Citizen reported that
"As soon as it became known in the locality what was going
on, hundreds appeared and surrounded the truck.  They all 
clamored for a chance to secure a barrel of the beer.  Men 
came to blows and bedlam reigned.  Besides the men involved, 
it is known that several women even procured barrels and
rolled them along the sidewalks or in the streets to homes 
thereabouts."  Naturally, the police became aware of the 
disturbance and upon showing up to the scene, the mob 
dispersed in all directions.  When the liquor squad inspected the
back of the truck, they discovered only two dozen kegs still 
remaining.  Tracing the truck to the Harvard Company, the 
Lowell police called in federal agents from Boston.

     When the agents tried to gain entrance to the brewery,
Scannell refused them admittance for lack of a search warrant. 
Upon hearing workers smashing barrels inside, the officers 
forced a door at the side of the building and found their shoes 
immersed in four to five inches of spilled beer. It was reported 
that laborers were casting full kegs of the Harvard product into 
nearby River Meadow Brook so as to escape their seizure. 
The raid was the largest in New England's prohibition history 
with  over 100,000 gallons of full strength brew confiscated by the 
government.  An extended trial led to the charges being dropped 
against most of the company officials.  However, Director Quinn 
and two of the owners were given fines ranging from $150 to $500. 
By this time, the brewery was unable to pay its mortgage and was 
auctioned off by Lowell real estate specialist Walter Guyette and 
sold back to the bank. 

Harvard Ginger Ale

The federal elections of 1932 produced a slate of winners, 
including Franklin D. Roosevelt, who were seriously dedicated 
to repealing prohibition.  As the political climate looked very 
promising towards the resumption of legal brewing, a group of 
New York investors began searching for a brewery to purchase 
and reopen.  The investors were led by Erwin Lange, who had previous experience managing breweries, and Walter Blumenthal, 
a senior partner in a New York City banking firm. The syndicate's 
search brought them to Lowell, where Walter Guyette convinced 
Lange and Blumenthal to buy the dormant Harvard plant in 
December of 1932.  The Harvard Brewing Company was reborn 
with Lange as president, Blumenthal as treasurer and Guyette 
named as a director. 

     When word spread that the brewery was to resume operations, 
over 500 men showed up to Payton Street looking for work. 
Although the job seekers could not be employed immediately, 
President Lange instructed the watchman to take everyone's 
name promising that former Harvard workers would be rehired 
when the refurbishing of the brewery started. From March through 
September of 1933 the Harvard plant underwent a complete 
modernization at a cost well over $200,000.  Besides providing 
jobs to brewery workers, the return of Harvard created a small 
economic boom for local businesses who received the building 
contracts and for the city which collected substantial taxes and 
licensing fees.

    The company's large investment provided Harvard with the most 
advanced brewing machinery available including a complete 
bottling production line which mechanically washed the bottles, 
filled them with brew, capped them off, pasteurized the product 
and labeled the containers automatically.  When, in September of 
1933, Harvard officially opened the bottling house, the brewery's 
capacity reached 1,000 barrels of beer a day.  The return of Doctor 
Juerst as brewmaster ensured that the product was of the same 
consistency and flavor as before prohibition and contributed to the 
success of sales.

     Harvard's only brand at first was the Green Label lager 
which was widely advertised and distributed throughout the region. 
The summer and fall of 1933 saw a backlog of orders 
for the Green Label beer being built up, keeping the brewery 
at maximum production.  To meet the large demand for Harvard's 
product other labels such as Harvard Full Stock Ale, 
Export Beer and Porter were marketed.  As a sign of loyalty 
and good business sense, Harvard maintained a policy of 
filling orders for Lowell clubs and distributors before others. Although sales were excellent for several years after 
prohibition, by 1937 the Harvard Brewing Company was 
headed for bankruptcy.  Another change in ownership, with 
Fritz Von Opel as the primary investor, led to a change in the 
company's leadership when, in 1938, Walter Guyette assumed 
the position of general manager.  Through the efforts of Guyette, 
Doctor Juerst and Treasurer Henry Protzmann and with  the 
continual hard work put forth by the brewery laborers, the 
company returned to its former position as a prosperous 
concern by the time the United States entered the Second 
World War in 1941.

The harvard brewing Company

In the midst of Harvard's prosperity, the federal government 
stepped in again to take control of the company.  In February 
of 1942, Von Opel was arrested in Palm Beach, Florida and 
interned as a "potentially dangerous alien" despite being a citizen 
of the neutral European nation of Liechten-stein.  The brewery, 
which Von Opel owned 97 percent of the shares and his father, Wilhelm, the other 3 percent, was seized under the Alien 
Property Custodian Act.  Heading up the Office of Alien 
Property were Custodian Leo Crowley, a former Navy 
admiral, and Assistant Custodian James Markham, a Lowell 
lawyer whose brothers worked at the brewery.

     When Von Opel was released, he fought an extended 
legal battle to regain his assets from the government.  At the 
heart of the legal cases was $3,700,000 worth of stocks 
which Von Opel unsuccessfully sought at the Federal District 
Court and Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. In 195 1, 
Von Opel won a review to the United States Supreme Court. 
In a unanimous decision, the justices again refused the return 
of Fritz's stock holdings stating that Wilhelm Von Opel's three 
percent interest was "paramount and controlling" while his son's 
was "wholly subordinate." 

     The government held the brewery for several more years 
through the 1950's, long after the threat of Nazi Germany had 
passed.  By 1956, sales of Harvard beer had declined 
considerably and political pressure on President Dwight 
Eisenhower's administration led the government to finally release 
the brewery.  After competitive bids were taken, Washington 
sold off Harvard for $800,000 to a Miami, Florida real estate 
concern called the Fort Knox Construction Company.  The Harris 
brothers of Fort Knox appeared to be more interested in
obtaining a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and in
profiteering on the real estate value of the Harvard site than in 
brewing beer.

     In December of 1956, the Fort Knox Company sold the 
Harvard Brewery to Peter Doelger, Inc. of New York for the 
sum of $2 million.  The Doelger concern, realizing the poor 
financial situation of Harvard, shut down the Lowell brewery 
and moved production of Harvard beer to their own Hampden 
Brewing Company in Willimanset, Massachusetts.  Doelger, Inc. 
stripped the brewery of all its stores, machinery and equipment 
and sold it off to companies as far away as South America. 
Although the corporation had promised to set up a major 
distribution center in Lowell and keep all former Harvard workers 
employed, only a few people were kept on the payroll and offered 
permanent positions out in Willimanset.
As for the buildings, the lager house was heavily damaged in a 
fire during 1957 and razed in 1961 with most of the other 
structures to make room for the Sears shopping center built 
during the early 1960's.

     One contemporary critic noted the major culprit in the closing 
of the Harvard Brewery; "The real difficulties came in the period 
after December, 1941, when the property was seized by the 
government.  Thereafter, in considerable degree, it became a 
plaything in the hands of alert politicians. They used it 
considerably as a patronage outlet, either in the assignment of 
unnecessary positions, or in the purchase of goods that were 
not needed.  Thus the brewery was stripped of much of its 
stability as a going business."  Although the government effectively 
ruined a great brewery, the memory of Harvard continues in the 
company's paperwork and photographs, in the collections of 
bottles, cans and advertising, and in the stories of the workers 

The Harvard Brewing Company Logo

Peter Alexis
Pierre Beaumier
Celeste Bernardo
Mark Bograd
Eva-Marie Chase
James Cryan
Michael Dabransky
Linda DeCiccio
Janet Dinsmore
Ella Donohoe
Ellen Donohoe
John Donohoe
Thomas Dubois 
Violet Dubois
David Elias
Robert Fawcett 
George Lane
Richard Leach
Guy LeFebvre
Cliff Martin
Ron Masse
Martha Mayo
Charles McCabe
George McNulty
Juliet Mofford
George Poirier
Agatha Riley
Pedro Rodriguez
Barbara Roth
Kim Sar
Manuel Silva
Janet Smith
Tina Smith
Sokunthy Thim
Somaly Touch
Mike Wurm


 "The Harvard Club"

Mehmed Ali, Douglas Crose, Linda DiCiccio, Paul Fanning,
Patrick Golden, Elsa Pombeiro, Gerry Roth, Peter Screpetis.

Pierre Beaumier

Mehmed Ali