The Victor Brewing Company, located in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, was in operation from 1908 to 1941. It was then sold to Fort Pitt Brewery until 1955 when the complex was sold to the Papercraft Corporation. The plant was vacated in the mid-1970’s.


History

Frank Maddas, who had earlier worked for C.R. Kingsley constructing a railroad branch line for the Grpsey Grove Coal Company at Dunmore, then as a miner, the owner of a saloon and as a foreman for the Cambria Steel Company, found success in mercantiles in Masontown.3 Maddas left his mercantile enterprise in 1904 and founded the Masontown Brewing Company, which had a capital of $150,000, and was elected president and manager. Maddas served in that capacity before resigning and leaving for Jeannette in 1907.

In Jeannette, Maddas organized the Victor Brewing Company with a capital of $400,000 3 and served as both president and manager of the plant that was completed in 1908. Maddas went on to form the Republic Brewing Company in Republic in 1909 3 4 and acquired the interests of the Greensburg Brewing Company in 1916.

Victor’s brewery operations were terminated by prohibition on January 17, 1920, and the company rebranded as the Jeannette Beverage Company. It was issued permit number L-167, allowing for the manufacture of de-alcoholized beer.1 Upon the repeal of prohibition in 1933, Victor Brewing Company was reestablished and issued permit PA-U-337,1 8 allowing for the production of 3.2% beer,7 9 and the first bottles were released on May 11.9 At its peak post-prohibition, more than 100,000 barrels of beer per year were produced under the Old Shay and Steinhouse labels.2

On July 18, 1940, Maddas was ordered by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to pay the federal government $585,192 and 50% of “fraud penalities” plus interest on an estimated $2 million on income that stemmed from the sale of alcohol during  early prohibition.12 13 The decision upheld the earlier assessments of the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and other investigations. Maddas had admitted the wrong income but contended it belonged to the brewery, and that the money was used to bribe federal prohibition agents to “protect” his brewery and to aid his customers through furnishing bonds and paying fines. Records and testimony from Carl Sunder, Victor’s former secretary and treasurer, testified that “high powered” beer sold for $35 per barrel and only $12 for de-alcoholized beer. The difference, the government charged, was pocketed by Maddas, who gained $673,000 in 1920, $100,000 in 1921 and $420,000 in 1922.

On January 13, 1941, Federal Judge Schoenmaker was asked to remove Maddas, then demoted to a clerk, from the company’s roster.11 Victor was placed into receivership and declared bankrupt on January 31.10 Fort Pitt Brewing Company offered to acquire the Jeannette facility for $333,000,11 and the bankruptcy court ordered the sale of the facility on February 17, and the transaction was completed on March 11.17

Maddas was then named defendant in a federal lawsuit to collect $1,256,693 in back income taxes on February 2, 1953.5 The federal government charged that Maddas owed the back taxes plus interest for 1920-22, and $7,420 for 1936. According to the suit, Maddas failed to report income on about $2 million derived from the sale of illegal beer during prohibition, which sold for $33 per barrel instead of $9.29, the price for de-alcoholized beer. Maddas was twice tried on bootlegging but never convicted.

Maddas’ residence, a 13-room, three-story brick house with a three-car brick garage at 206 North 1st Street, was auctioned on March 16.18 19 As the highest bid received was $46,000, the government acquired it for $50,000 to settle debts, but allowed Maddas and his family to stay in the residence. Maddas passed away in the mansion on September 17, 1955 after a lengthy illness 4 and on October 5, his widow moved out of the home to a nursing facility in New Brighton. The government then made a move to dispose of the property.18

Fort Pitt shuttered the Victor operations on October 25 and relocated 60 employees to its Sharpsburg plant 6 and the property was sold in November after a vote.14 23 In 1958, Fort Pitt’s parent company opted to exit the brewing business and focus on jukeboxes.15

The brewery complex was sold to Papercraft Corporation on June 30, 1957 23 that brought with it 300 employees. Papercraft manufactured artificial trees, gift wrap and ribbons. The sale included six acres with 15 structures, including a three-story bottling building, a six-story brewery, garage, warehouse, paint repair shop and a seven truck loading dock.

In June 1966, new equipment costing $100,000 was installed and an extra 200 employees were hired.22 Additionally, land was purchased in O’Hara Township for a 780,000 square-foot plant that was completed in early 1967, and about 75% of its equipment and inventory from its Jeannette plant was relocated to the new facility.21 22 The Jeannette plant was shuttered in the mid-1970s.20

The city of Jeannette applied for a $200,000 state Challenge grant in 1986 to aid a buyer in redeveloping the brewery site.20

[stag_toggle style=”normal” title=”Sources” state=”closed”]
  1. “Victor Brewing Co.” Tavern Trove. N.p., 2013. Web. 11 July 2013. Article.
  2. Perich, Terry, and John Howard. “Industry.” Jeannette. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004. 30. Print.
  3. “Frank Antonio Maddas.” Old and New Westmoreland. Ed. Fenwick Y. Hedley. Vol. 4. New York: American Historical Society, 1918. 1296. Print.
  4. “Frank A. Maddas.” Monessen Daily Independent 19 Sept. 1955: 2. Print.
  5. “Jeannette Man Named in Big Income Tax Suit.” Monessen Daily Independent 3 Feb. 1953: 1. Print.
  6. “Fort Pitt Brewing Ordered to Rehire 60 Sharpsburg Men.” Daily Courier [Connelsville] 28 Feb. 1956: 10. Print.
  7. “8 Breweries Eligible.” Huntingdon Daily News 28 Mar. 1933: 10. Print.
  8. “Many Breweries Seeking Permits.” Uniontown Morning Herald 24 Apr. 1933: 2. Print.
  9. “New Brewery.” Monessen Daily Independent 10 May 1933: 1. Print.
  10. “Brewing Company Bankrupt.” Titusville Herald 1 Feb. 1941: 1. Print.
  11. “Would Oust Frank Maddas.” Connelsville Daily Courier 13 Jan. 1941: 1. Print.
  12. “Jeannette Brewer Is Ordered to Pay Million Dollars in Back Income Taxes.” Bradford Era 19 July 1940: 1. Print.
  13. “Maddas to Pay 1,000,000 Tax.” Indiana Evening Gazette 18 July 1940: 2. Print.
  14. “Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.” Pittsburgh Brewers. N.p., 13 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 July 2013. Article.
  15. “Fort Pitt… That’s It!” N.p., 2013. Web. 15 July 2013. Article.
  16. Leonard, Kim. “Duquesne Brewing to revive Fort Pitt beer brand in August.” Tribune 19 Feb. 2013: n.p. Web. 15 July 2013. Article.
  17. United Press. “Victor Brewing Property Transferred to Fort Pitt.” Pittsburgh Press 11 Mar. 1941: . Print.
  18. “Jeannette Landmark Up For Public Sale Next Month.” News-Dispatch [Jeannette] 30 Oct. 1956: 2. Print.
  19. “Maddas Property In Jeannette To Be Vacated And Sold.” News-Dispatch [Jeannette] 4 Oct. 1956: 1. Print.
  20. “Jeannette seeks grant to redevelop 2 factories.” Post-Gazette [Pittsburgh] 22 Feb. 1986: 5W. Print.
  21. “Papercraft Move Nearly Complete.” News-Dispatch [Jeannette] 17 Feb. 1967: 1. Print.
  22. “Expanding Business Brings Renovation.” News-Dispatch [Jeannette] 2 June 1966: 1. Print.
  23. Russell, W.L. “Papercraft Buying Fort Pitt Brewing Plant at Jeannette.” Pittsburgh Press 5 June 1957: 47. Print.
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