Adolphus Busch (1839-1913) had no idea he would become a wealthy beer baron by inventing the bestselling beer in the world. A German immigrant, he married the boss's daughter and turned her father's brewery into one of the major companies in the U.S.
Adolphus Busch was born in Kastel, Germany on July 10, 1839. He was the second youngest in a family of 22 children (some were half brothers and sisters), born to Ulrich Busch and Barbara Pfeiffer Busch. As a young immigrant, Adolphus Busch may have had some concern when he first arrived in the United States in 1857. He had no home, no family, and nowhere to go. But the young Busch had confidence in his abilities and was ready to accept the challenge presented by this huge, new country.
Busch Traveled West
Young Busch traveled west from New York, and found employment as a clerk on the riverfront in St. Louis, Missouri. It was probably the luckiest thing that could have happened to him. The young German was enterprising, industrious, and determined. Not satisfied with the clerking job, he formed a brewery supply company in the city of many breweries. Soon, Busch's company was making a modest profit.
In 1860, and unknown to Busch, a man by the name of Eberhard Anheuser purchased one of the dozens of small, struggling breweries in St. Louis. The two men met when Anheuser came to Busch for supplies for his new business. His brewery, E. Anheuser and Co., was barely hanging on, making no profit. Anheuser and Busch became friends, and the older man introduced Busch to his daughter, Lilly. The two young people fell in love and married in 1864, beginning a long and successful union and also a new job for Busch. He dissolved his supply company and went to work for his new father-in-law as a beer salesman.
A Hard-Working Businessman
Busch was never a timid man. He believed in evaluating a business honestly and working hard to improve it.Busch eventually gained a reputation for being one of the most flamboyant industrialists of the nineteenth century. In place of the traditional calling card used by most businessmen of the day, Busch often presented business associates with a fancy brass pocketknife engraved with the name of his business. A peephole in the handle of the knife revealed a portrait of Busch. If you own one of those unique knives today, you own a valuable antique.
Busch advanced in his father-in-law's company through hard work and long hours, eventually becoming a full partner. As a result of his efforts, he gained a thorough understanding of the brewing business. Busch learned that beer first appeared in 8000 BC, as an accidental but very pleasant discovery. He knew that beer would be popular forever and hoped to develop the best possible product for his growing brewery. Busch traveled to Europe in order to study various brewing techniques. His goal was to create a beer that would sell beyond the limits of St. Louis, a beer that would appeal to tastes across the country.
In 1869, nearing his dream of a beer that would appeal to all, Busch bought half-ownership in the company. As part owner, he could further utilize the brewing secrets he learned in Europe. His best friend, Carl Conrad, agreed with Busch that such a universally popular beer could be created. The two master brewers experimented at the St. Louis brewery, coming closer to the taste they were seeking. Finally, in 1876, they combined traditional brewing methods with a careful blending of the finest barley malt, hops, yeast, rice, and water. When they tasted the latest of their experiments, Busch and Conrad knew that they had finally made a lager beer that would appeal to all. The new beer was beyond even their own expectations.
Budweiser was Born
Busch named the new beer "Budweiser" after a small town in Germany. It soon became the best-selling beer in the world, outselling all other brands. The brewery was renamed "Anheuser-Busch," a name it still bears today. The company grew rapidly, eventually becoming a major international corporation with business and marketing activities throughout the world. Busch was named president of the company in 1880, upon the death of his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser. He continued in this position for 33 years, and is considered by most in the brewing industry to be the founder of the company.
Busch approved the eagle design of the brewery's logo in 1872, but why an eagle was used has been lost in history. Some say it is a mark showing respect for America. Others claim it merely means unlimited vision. The "A" in the logo stood for Anheuser, the original owner and father of Busch's wife.
Twenty years after he assumed the presidency of the company, Busch developed another beer brand he called "Michelob." This creation became the pre-eminent super-premium beer on the market. Busch also pioneered the use of pasteurization to ensure beer's freshness after bottling. He knew that beer does not "age" well and tastes best when it is consumed as soon after brewing as possible. Today, his brewery still marks all beer with the date of bottling, to ensure its freshness.
A Lavish Lifestyle
Busch became one of the most resplendent and extravagant business leaders in the late 1800s. He developed a great zest for life, ostentatious habits, and a regal attitude toward the world. In addition to his lavish home in St. Louis, Busch maintained a great country estate, two homes in Pasadena, California, a property and hop farm at Coopers-town, New York, two villas at Langenschwalbach, Germany, and a private railroad car. All the estates were noted for their fabulous grounds, and Busch furnished his gardens and woods with carvings of the characters from Grimm's fairy tales. Forty to fifty gardeners were needed to maintain the spacious grounds.
When Adolphus and Lilly Busch celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1911, it was as though a king and a queen were being crowned. Busch crowned his wife with a $200,000 diadem. The president of the United States sent a $20 gold piece. Theodore Roosevelt sent a solid gold loving cup and the emperor of Germany sent a similar gift. Presidents, ex-presidents, and emperors paid tribute to the man who made beer.
Anheuser-Busch Continued to Grow
According to brewery officials, Busch's company was ranked 29th among 40 breweries in St. Louis in 1860. Total beer production in 1870 was 18,000 barrels. By 1995, Anheuser-Busch had become the largest brewer in the world, holding more than 45% of the domestic beer market. Nearly one out of every two beers sold in the United States was an Anheuser-Busch product. In 1997, the company had worldwide beer sales of more than 96 million barrels.
Adolphus Busch died in St. Louis on October 10, 1913, but the brewery he created stands as a monument to his vision and hard work.
Further Reading on Adolphus Busch
A-B History, http://www.budweisertours.com/docs/stltourcenter.htm
Beer History, www.beerhistory.com
Anheuser-Busch History, http://www.anheuser-busch.com/history/abhist.htm
Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, 1994
German American Corner, http://www.germanheritage.com/biographies/busch/busch.html