America’s Oldest Brewery Offers Governor Kemper a “Delicious Stimulant”

The James River Steam Brewery. There appears to be a beer garden and hops growing in the foreground. Image LVA Special Collections.

An interesting letter was recently uncovered while processing the Executive Papers of Governor James L. Kemper. The letter, dated 28 September 1874, is written by David G. Yuengling, Jr., of the Champagne Ale Brewery in Harlem, New York. In the letter, Yuengling writes that he is sending the governor some bottles of old stout and discusses the progress of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad.

Transcripts of Yuengling Letters to Governor Kemper

David G. Yuengling, Jr., was the son of a German brewer who immigrated to Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and established the Eagle Brewery in 1829. Yuengling partnered with his son in 1873, changing the name of the brewery to the present name of D. G. Yuengling & Son, famous for its Yuengling Lager. It was the junior Yuengling who oversaw the construction of a new brewery in Richmond in 1866. Located at 912 East Main Street, the brewery became known as the James River Steam Brewery and was later sold to the Richmond Cedar Works in 1878. Yuengling’s letter does not originate from Richmond, but instead from Harlem, on Ryerson & Yuengling, Champagne Ale Brewery stationary.

David G. Yuengling, Jr., was sent to Europe to learn brewing techniques and sought to expand his father’s business outside of Pottsville. The move to Richmond was one such venture, as was the establishment of the Champagne Ale Brewery on Fourth Avenue between 128th and 129th Streets in New York City. Yuengling had developed a partnership with W.T. Ryerson in 1871 to build the ale works, along with another lager brewery that manufactured New York Lager in 1875. The ale brewery closed in 1884 to concentrate on Yuengling’s lager production on Tenth Avenue.

Yuengling writes once more on 23 November 1875 on behalf of “Old” Louis Gimme who was removed from office. Gimme served as weighmaster of livestock for Richmond City. Additionally, Yuengling inquires yet again about the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad.

Governor James Kemper’s Executive Papers, 1874-1877, have been organized, described, and are available for research.

-Craig S. Moore, State Records Appraisal Archivist

Posted by in State Records Blog Posts.

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4 Comments

  1. Dale said:
    25 March 2011 at 8:16 am

    Hi Dale:

    Did the brewery in Richmond, VA that is connected with Yuengling Beer, happen to be the maker of the old Richbrau Beer?

    Bernie in Springfield, VA

    • Dale said:
      25 March 2011 at 8:17 am

      Thanks for the question Bernie. Carl Childs, our department director, was able to answer that question. He said that the old Richbrau beer was made by the Home Brewing Company also in Richmond. That brand was purchased and revived by the recently-closed Richbrau Brewery in Shockoe Slip.

  2. Dale said:
    25 March 2011 at 12:00 pm

    THE FOLLOWING IS AN E-MAIL FROM DAVID CASINELLI, COO, FOR YUENGLING BREWERY TO LOCAL RECORDS DEPARTMENT DIRECTOR CARL CHILDS, POSTED HERE WITH PERMISSION.

    Carl,

    Great to hear from you and I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to read your email. I am so appreciative that you thought enough of us to send me a copy of this. I read it with great interest. I shared it with Dick Yuengling as well and I can honestly tell you it made his day. He too was taken back by the information. While we know some of it, when we receive information such as this we tend to find out bits of information that allows us to continue to piece together the Yuengling stories past. There were some new twists in these documents even for Dick. He was so excited he wants to call you personally to thank you for sharing this with us. I will give him your contact information if that is OK.

    I keep telling Dick all the time we need to devote a little more energy to doing some background research on his family’s history. The more we find out the more intriguing it gets. There is still so much we don’t know, even about the James River brewery. You might have more information on file that never crossed our paths and I should make it a point to come and visit and see what I can find out.

    Thanks again as we really appreciate the copies and I hope to speak live with you next week.

    Dave

    David A. Casinelli
    Chief Operating Officer
    Yuengling Brewery

  3. Leslie Payne said:
    1 January 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I very much love you site! I am excited that this cellars/tunnels of this brewery are being considered for being added to the National Registry for Historical Places (http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/1866-beer-cellars-va-nominated-historic-site-21381264), so I started dig some older links on this topic back up. I just noticed that your article places the brewery at 912 East Main Street, which would only be about a block from Capitol Square (on today’s map: https://www.google.com/search?q=912+east+main+street+richmond%2C+va&oq=912+east+main+street+richmond%2C+va&aqs=chrome..69i57.9388j0j7&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8). But your article notes that their site was sold to Richmond Cedar Works, which is closer to Rocketts Landing, and aligns with what was shown on 1876 maps of Richmond (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3884rm.gct00070). Question: If Yuengling had a presence at 912 East Main Street, what purpose did it serve?

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