The Crockery City Brewing Company is a former brewery on Webber Way in East Liverpool, Ohio. Named after the city’s famed pottery industry, the brewery opened in 1900 and closed in 1952.
A group of men, led by Joseph Turnbull and George W. Meredith, organized the Crockery City Brewing Company in April 1899 with a capital stock of $200,000. 1 2 Turnbull and Meredith had already operated the East Liverpool Ice and Coal Company and the new brewery would operate in tandem with their ice plant. 2 The company intended to “engage in the manufacture of spirits that lull that tired feeling.” 1
Meredith served as Crockery City Brewing Company’s president with Turnbull signing on as secretary. 2 Samuel J. Wainright, of the Wainright branch of the Pittsburgh Brewing Company, soon became the brewery’s president.
The new Crockery City brewery opened on September 29, 1900 at a cost of $75,000. 1 2 The five-story brewhouse was the tallest structure in Columbiana County at the time of its completion. The brewery boasted a capacity of 30,000 barrels of lager and ale per year.
The brewhouse was enlarged to seven floors and the ice plant expanded, costing $10,000. 2 After finding it to not be profitable, the ice plant was sold to Willis Gaston and the Andrews Ice Company in 1908. 1
A new ice factory, with a daily capacity of 75 tons, was built in 1915 at a cost of $75,000. 2
The Temperance movement began at the turn of the 20th century. 2 In 1900, the Anti-Saloon League requested that the city limit the operation of saloons. Put forth to a vote, voters chose to keep bars open by a decent margin. The issue was put to vote again in 1903 and 1907 when the city voted to go “dry.” That July, 89 establishments were forced to close. Voters elected to make Columbiana County “dry” in 1908 while also undoing the prohibition on alcohol sales in the city. It was not until 1912 that the county went “wet.”
In 1914, Crockery City leased the Leetonia Brewing Company in the northern part of the county for storage and distribution purposes. 2
All sales of alcohol became illegal in the state of Ohio in May 1919. 2 In response, the company was renamed the Crockery City Ice and Products Company producing just soft drinks and ice. 1 2 In October 1919, Crockery City Ice and Products acquired the Tatgenhorst Brothers dairy, organizing a new subsidiary, City Pure Milk and Ice Cream Company.
At the end of Prohibition on April 7, 1933, the brewery, headed by Ambrose E. Webber and his son, Leonard, reopened. 1 It made available 3.2% beer on April 15 and other selections later in the year. Modern brewing equipment was soon installed, increasing capacity to 65,000 barrels per year.
Crockery City sold its dairy operations in 1939 to the Golden Star Dairy Company, which continued to operate adjacent to the brewery until the 1970’s. 2 The brewery also became a local bottler of Coca-Cola, doing business as the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of East Liverpool. Crockery City also added a farm along US 30 near Lisbon.
Webber’s interests were sold to a group of investors on June 1, 1946 and the brewing division became known as the Webb Corporation. 2 The bottling house was rebuilt, enlarged and modernized over the years. New aging cellars were built in 1948, followed by the addition of automatic refrigeration units in 1950. 1 New steam boilers were added in that year, eliminating all smoke from its smokestack, aiding the smoke abatement program that was underway in East Liverpool. New equipment to handle the Crockery City Brewing’s barley malt was later added.
Capacity of Crockery City had expanded to 80,000 barrels per year. 2 Several new brands of beer and ale were added, and in the spring of 1949, the company added cap-sealed cans made by the Continental Can Company.
Decline and Closure
Financial difficulties forced Webb to declare bankruptcy in September 1951. 2 One plan involved selling 99,000 additional shares of stock at $100 per share, but the move was blocked by the stockholders who feared a loss of value of their existing stock. 1 Meetings were held for the creditors to decide what action would be taken against the brewery in December.
In a panic, the Board of Directors attempted to sell all the existing inventory and settle as many claims as possible. 1 This included scrap metal, tractor trailer, steel kegs and pieces of wood. It did little to settle the accounts and the brewery closed on February 9, 1952. 2 United State Federal Tax Agents arrived at the plant shortly after and poured approximately 700 barrels and 9,000 cases of untaxed beer into the Ohio River. 1
The bankruptcy court accepted an offer of $151,250 by local businessmen for the brewery property and equipment on April 12. 1 The individuals, John Eiferd, Edwin Bayley and Grant Stover, proposed to turn the complex into the Four Star Dairy Company and rent out other space to small businesses. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company continued to operate in the bottling plant but relocated in 1965. 2