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With World War I over, Madison and much of the rest of the nation turned its attention to a new battle: the fight over the proliferation of saloons.

“From indications and reports, the chain of saloons on the Market are in very bad condition and doing infinite harm,” the Wisconsin State Journal thundered in an 1905 editorial. “The ruination of boys is a considerable part of the industry, gambling in the basement of one of the saloons being definitely reported by the boys, and various forms of thuggery, vice and fraud being matters of common knowledge.”

The newspaper took an active part in the anti-saloon fight being waged by the Madison Dry League, and as a strong advocate of Prohibition it even refused to carry advertisements for alcoholic beverages.

In 1914, then-editor Richard Lloyd Jones called for electing a mayor who exercised a “strong moral force” and would give battle to the saloons “as would a Christian soldier.”

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HOME BREW A sign for Fauerbach's Brewery in 1884. Madison's first brewery when it opened in 1848 was run by the Sprecher family until it was bought by Peter Fauerbach in 1868.

Jones, however, would not be around to finish the fight. By 1919, he was forced to sell his financially troubled paper to a growing Iowa-based company known as the Lee Newspaper Syndicate.

Originally a group of Iowa papers, it had purchased the La Crosse Tribune in 1907, and its editor, Aaron M. Brayton, was ready for the political challenges offered in Madison.

Overnight, the tone and tenor of the State Journal changed. The crusading quality and the lively prose that was a hallmark of Jones was gone. In its place, a more restrained and objective paper emerged, complemented by a beefed-up sports page.

When the Madison Democrat, a newspaper that had competed with the State Journal for many years, announced it was going out of business in 1921, newspaper readers in Madison were left with just two daily papers: the State Journal and The Capital Times.

A similar fate awaited beer drinkers in Madison. In the 1870s, five breweries were operating in the city: Hausmann (originally Capitol Steam) Brewery at the intersection of Gorham and State streets; the Fauerbach Brewery at the intersection of Blount and Williamson streets; the Breckheimer Brewery on King Street; the Rodermund Brewery near where the Tenney Park lock is today; and Mautz-Hess Brewery at the corner of State and Gilman streets.

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MALT TOWN A wagon is loaded with barrels of beer in front of Hausmann's Capital Brewery at the corner of State and Gorham streets in 1873. In the 1870s, Capital Brewery was the largest of five German-owned Madison breweries.

After Rodermund Brewery burned to the ground in 1873, Hausmann became the city’s largest. The brewery spanned nearly two-thirds of the 300 block of State Street and housed a popular saloon, which offered sausages, cheese and bread at no charge if customers bought a nickel beer. It was particularly popular with UW students existing on meager allowances.

Hausmann flourished despite city- and state-imposed saloon-free dry zones, created to protect the city from the evils of alcohol. It was fortunate to lie just outside one of these zones, a half-mile area around the UW-Madison campus.

When a city referendum banned alcohol sales citywide on April 3, 1917, causing 64 saloons and the ailing Breckheimer Brewery to shut down, the Hausmann saloon resorted to serving nonalcoholic beverages and food in order to continue operating.

Luckily for them, Hausmann and Fauerbach were allowed under a loophole to continue brewing beer; they just couldn’t sell it within city limits. Both breweries set up warehouses in the town of Middleton from which beer could be sold.

But in 1920, Prohibition would force Hausmann to close, and three years later the building would be destroyed by fire.

That left Fauerbach, Madison’s first brewery, the only remaining operation in town. Opened in 1848, the same year Wisconsin gained statehood, the brewery at the corner of Williamson and Blount streets was operated by the Sprecher family until it was purchased by Peter Fauerbach in 1868. It had the advantage of location, being situated on the north end of Lake Monona, along the main transportation supply route into the city.

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LONE SURVIVOR The Fauerbach Brewery, right, as it appeared in 1931. It was the only brewery still in business when Prohibition ended in April 1933.

At its peak, Fauerbach had 21 trucks on the road delivering 75,000 barrels of beer per year. And it was the first Madison company to use an artificial ice machine, which the brewery installed in 1904.

Fauerbach survived several “dry” spells in Madison, as well as 13 years of Prohibition, by switching production to soft drinks as well as running two hotels along with other properties, before closing in 1966.

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Digital Archiving​


Digital Media & Licensing Specialist, Asst. Chief Librarian