John Zugschwert and the North Star Brewery

North Star Brewery, Saint Paul MN; taken between 1896 and 1900; photo credit Kathie Dee

One of the earliest breweries in Saint Paul was the North Star Brewery. It opened in 1855 where Phalen Creek met the Mississippi River, at what is now the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. The brewery passed from owner to owner, but reached popularity in the 1880s once Jacob Schmidt was hired as brewmaster. Jacob Schmidt was brought on as a partner and then became full owner in 1884. After a fire destroyed much of the North Star Brewery in 1900, Jacob Schmidt moved and expanded his brewery operations into what is now the Schmidt Brewery complex along West Seventh on the other side of downtown.

When I started my research on the North Star Brewery and Jacob Schmidt, I was frustrated to learn that there were few photos of either. Jacob Schmidt (1845-1911), who was responsible for founding a brewery that lasted more than 100 years and employed so many. One thing I have learned recently is that all sorts of great historical photos are being shared on the Old Saint Paul, Minnesota Facebook page. After exhausting all the traditional online resources (MNHS photo archives, newspapers, etc) I was overjoyed to find the photo posted above. Jacob Schmidt is the man sitting to the far right. This matches a mural of Jacob Schmidt at the Rathskeller at the Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh, also the man in the far right.

Schmidt Brewing Company Sign, circa 1900 (Photo credit MNHS)

The poster of the photo at the top of this blog was a relative of John Zugschwert (1868-1921). He is the man sitting to the right of the keg. He immigrated from Germany in 1884-5, married his wife Katherine Tschida in 1892. He worked for North Star Brewery from 1896 to 1903 and lived in rented houses adjacent to the brewery at 254 & 270 Commercial Street. In July of 1899, a North Star Brewery cart ran over his six year old son. In October of the same year, John Zugschwert sued his employer, Jacob Schmidt. Thu, Oct 26, 1899 – 4 · The Saint Paul Globe (Saint Paul, Minnesota) · Credit to Jim Sazevich for finding and sharing this information on the FB post.

I was unable to determine what if any monetary damages John Zugschwert collected from his employer, but the city directory shows that the Zugschwert family relocated to the West Seventh neighborhood (415 Warsaw Street nka Osceola) near the new Schmidt Brewery. John Zugschwert continued to work for Schmidt until 1903, when he went to work for Hamm’s Brewery, making the commute from the West Seventh neighborhood, through downtown, to the East Side where Hamm’s Brewery perched on the bluff of Phalen Creek, just north of where the North Star Brewery once stood.

What happened to the younger John Zugschwert, who at the age of 6 was run over? His 1917 draft card claims he has all limbs. He married and worked for the post office. They lived at 368 Osceola, just down the street from the Zugschwert family’s home.

2 thoughts on “John Zugschwert and the North Star Brewery

  1. Thank for sharing, John Zugschwert was my Great Grandfather. Been to the site in the Bruce Vento sanctuary to see the caves where they stored the beer. Please correct spelling to Zugschwert. Tom Zugschwert


    1. Wonderful to hear from the great grandson of a historical figure in my drawing!
      Thanks for the correct spelling of the last name. I had seen it spelled both ways in my research, but correction made!


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