Philadelphia "workshop of the world," a description coined in the early 1900s, celebrates the city's reputation as an industrial manufacturing center. Its fame rests on the skills and versatility of its workers who produce a variety of quality products from toys to locomotives. Second floor, north east gallery.
Brewing has deep roots in Philadelphia.It started in the 1600s; blossomed in the 1700s; boomed in the 1800s—and almost died out in the 1900s. The premier exhibition in the Philadelphia History Museum’s Made in Philadelphia gallery, Craft Brewing: It’s a Beer of Revolution looks at the history of beer and brewing in Philadelphia since the day’s of William Penn through the resurgence of microbreweries in the 20th century.
Located on the Museum’s Second Floor, the newly renovated Made in Philadelphia gallery will feature a range of exhibitions that explore the dizzying array of things made in the city once called the “Workshop of the World.” Changing exhibitions will highlight Philadelphia-made products, from colonial craftwork to the output of today’s creative economy.
Not long after William Penn founded Philadelphia in 1682, locals began to brew beer. A handful of breweries soon grew into dozens. By the 1700s, the city was shipping out more beer than all other American seaports combined. In the 1800s German immigrants a played significant role in building the brewing industry. They brought with them a skill for beer making, and a new style of beer: lager. Lighter and more effervescent than English ales, lager caught on and became a national beverage. The exhibition also looks at how Prohibition devastated the beer industry. Prohibition ended, but the damage was done. In 1879, Philadelphia had 94 breweries. In 1935, it had only 15.
On view are such objects as a drinking cup purchased by Benjamin Franklin in England and brought to Philadelphia in 1775 and rare cans and trays representing Philadelphia’s brewers that reopened after Prohibition. The exhibition also includes a full-size bar with a photo mural of McGillins Old Ale House, Philadelphia’s oldest continuing operating bar, and one of the oldest in the nation.
The 20th century brought new challenges for brewers, including the need for costly modern technologies, rising taxes, and rationing during World War II and the Korean War (making it hard to purchase materials). Massive, national breweries, like Pabst, Schlitz, and Anheuser- Busch, also posed fierce competition. The final four Philadelphia breweries to close were: Gretz (1960), Esslinger’s (1965), Ortlieb’s (1981), and Schmidt’s (1987). For the first time in 300 years, Philadelphia was a production brewery.
Craft Brewing: It’s a Beer of Revolution concludes with the story of the revival of craft brewing in the 20th century. The exhibition features video interviews with the founders and owners of well-known local breweries Dock Street, Philadelphia Brewing Company and Yards, and celebrates their hands-on approach and how they continue Philadelphia's rich heritage of brewing into the 21stcentury. Featured are a beer glossary and actual bottles of virtually every craft beer made in Philadelphia from 1985 to the present.
After viewing the exhibition, consider taking a Historic Philadelphia Tipplers Tours Cheers and Beers. Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m., November 15 - December 27, Embarks from the Historic Philadelphia Center, 6th and Chestnut Streets.