In 1884, John Welde, a German immigrant, established a brewery in Philadelphia on the corner of Broad and Christian Streets. A year later, he formed a partnership with John Thomas, a Philadelphia native, who had been a partner in another brewery. Together they created Welde and Thomas, a brewing firm that was later reorganized into the Welde and Thomas Brewing Company. They moved to a new location and modernized the facility with innovative equipment, growing the brewing capacity of the plant to 50,000 barrels per year. In March 1897, Welde and Thomas, along with five other breweries were consolidated under the title of the Consumer’s Brewing Company. The combined breweries were able to produce approximately 300,000 barrels a year.
John Welde was married and had at least one son, Frederick, both of whom predeceased him. John died in Philadelphia in 1901 and is buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Beer and brewing have held an important place in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia history. The first brewery in the City was erected in 1683. William Penn constructed a brew house on his Pennsbury Manor estate in Bucks County. In the 18th century, the drink of preference in most taverns was beer or ale. By 1793, Philadelphia was producing more beer than all the other seaports in the country. The first steam engine was installed in Francis Perot’s brewery in 1819. This was the height of technology and the first time an engine was used to produce beer. Lager beer was first introduced in 1840 by Philadelphia brewer John Wagner. At the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876, the United States Brewers’ Association constructed the Brewers’ Building to showcase all aspects of brewing. At one time, there were more than 100 breweries operating in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas. Even the well-known quote: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, one of Philly’s most popular historic figures.
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