Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
Douglas County
Produced by Liz Lee.

Part 1      Part 3

City of Omaha

Note: Please refer back to the Omaha first page, or to the Chapter Table of Contents for the complete listing.

SECTION 1:  The Early DaysSECTION 2:  More Early Days
SECTION 3:  Omaha in 1870SECTION 4:  Present Day (1882)
SECTION 5:  CrimesSECTION 6:  Fires and Public Works
SECTION 7:  Health, Parks, MailSECTION 8:  The Press in Omaha
SECTION 9:  Press ContinuedSECTION 10:  Religious
SECTION 11:  Religious (cont.)SECTION 12:  Cemetery and Schools
SECTION 13:  Legal and MedicalSECTION 14:  Opera House-Hotels-Business
SECTION 15:  SocietiesSECTION 16:  Societies (Cont.)
SECTION 17:  Business
The Manufacturing Interests of Omaha
SECTION 19:  Manufacturing (cont.)      

20 - 46:

   ** Omaha Biographical Sketches **
| WOODARD~ZEHRUNG | West Omaha Precinct | Douglas Precinct |

List of Illustrations in Douglas County Chapter

City of Omaha 18


The history of the manufacturing industry of Omaha, is contemporaneous with the history of the city itself. The initiatory of this interest took place in 1854, in the establishing of a lumber and flouring mill by Bayliss & Davis, at what is now the corner of Tenth and Jones streets.

In the year following, another saw and grist mill was built by the firm of Smith & Salisbury.

From these two institutions, however small and incomplete they may have been, dates the first manufacturing in the city of Omaha. But these have long since died out, with the primitive conditions which they originated, and no traces of them remain, except fragmentary portions of the buildings.

Other manufactories were established from time to time, and the interest has continued to advance steadily with the growth of the city. And even at so early a day of her existence, Omaha assumes a place among the leading manufacturing cities of the West.

She numbers among her manufactories some of the most important industries, representing large investments of capital, turning out goods, aggregating vast amounts in value and giving employment to large numbers of hands.

Immediately following is found a detailed history of the most important of these establishments from their beginning to the present time.

The Metz Brewery. This brewery is the oldest in the State, having been established in the city of Omaha in 1856, and may be numbered among the earliest manufactories in the city. It first belonged to a man by the name of McCumbe, its original founder, until, in 1861, when it was sold to Joseph Baumann and John Green. After having passed through several hands, it, at last, in 1864, came into the possession of the Metz Brothers, who are still the owners, at a cost of $6,500. The brewing capacity at that time was about twenty-two barrels per day. Improvements and extensions were made as business demanded, until 1858, when the brewing capacity was increased to fifty barrels per day. Since then, the capacity has been doubled and at present the establishment turns out 100 barrels per day. Last year the manufacture was 12,450 barrels. To produce this amount, it required 30,000 bushels of malt, or 35,000 bushels of barley, costing over $30,000.

Twenty men are regularly employed about the brewery, to whom is paid out monthly, for wages, an average of $1,200, aggregating an annual outlay, for wages, of $14,400.

The sales for the past year amounted to $96,000.

The entire establishment is valued at $125,000. The building, an elegant structure of the kind, is neatly and thoroughly fitted out with every convenience and improvement required to make it a first-class brewing establishment. There are three cooling vaults, two of which are twenty feet wide by seventy-five feet long, and one smaller, being twenty feet wide by thirty in length. The ice rooms immediately above are of the same dimensions.

The mash tub and brewing kettle used in the manufacture, have each a capacity for holding one hundred barrels.

For neatness and completeness in everything pertaining to this brewery, it has no equal in the country. Every precaution is taken to preserve the article manufactured from filth, so common in most breweries, and every effort is made to manufacture beer of the most superior and wholesome qualities.

Omaha Brewery. The Omaha Brewing Company began operations in Omaha in 1859, under the proprietorship of Frederick Krug.

The building first used as a brewery, was a small frame on Farnam street, between Tenth and Eleventh streets.

The producing capacity, at that time, was small, amounting to only from 300 to 500 barrels of beer per annum.

The pressing demands upon the establishment soon compelled an enlargement, and in 1866 the brewery was moved to its present location, at the corner of Jackson and South Eleventh streets.

The buildings were frame, but in 1878 a large brick was erected, the dimensions of the main building being 44 by 132 feet, in which are now large ice rooms twenty-two feet wide by seventy-five feet in length; immediately beneath these ice rooms are beer vaults of the same dimensions and used as coolers. A large malt house forty-four feet wide and eighty-five feet long, three stories high, is attached to the main structure.

The brewery has a producing capacity of 25,000 barrels of beer annually. The last year's product was 15,000 barrels, of which the sales amounted to 14,000 barrels or $112,000.

For brewing purposes, a large kettle and mash tub are used, each of which are thirteen feet in diameter and have a capacity for holding 150 barrels of beer. There are also seventy-five brewing casks, holding forty-five barrels each.

The establishment keeps in constant employment an average force of twenty-five men and four teams. The amount of capital invested in this enterprise aggregates the sum of $100,000. Over $10,000 was paid out in wages during the last year.

There is also an extensive bottling department connected with the brewery, devoted exclusively to bottling beer for shipment. The amount of beer bottled in a year is 1,000 barrels. The bottling department consists of a two-story frame building about thirty feet square.

A large building, in which are an elegant office and beer hall, was erected recently at a cost of about $8,000. This is the largest brewery in the State, and is the most extensive and complete establishment in the West.

The Columbia Brewery. Of the three breweries in the city of Omaha, the Columbia, owned by Mrs. J. Baumann, is by far the smallest. This brewery was started about seventeen years ago, and has in this time grown to its present moderate size.

During the last year, the production of beer was 6,751 barrels, of which the sales were 5,968 barrels, less than half that sold by the two other large breweries. In the same time, almost 1,600 bushels of malt were made.

Improvements were made during the year 1880 amounting to $5,000, a new brick engine house being built at a cost of $4,400 and additions made to the malt house, to the value of $600.

The sales of beer made by this brewery amounted to about $52,000 and the estimated amount of capital invested is about $50,000.

The revenue tax on the beer sold amounted to $5,968.


Willow Springs Distillery.--This mammoth distillery first began its existence in Omaha, in 1866, as a little one-horse concern that had been brought here from Iowa, by J. C. McCoy, and in his hands it remained until 1869, when, owing to default in payment of the revenue tax, it was seized by the government authorities, and in the same year, was sold by the government; James G. McGrath and P. Iler becoming the purchasers. Two years afterward, in 1871, it was incorporated under its present name. The capacity of the distillery at this time was about 300 bushels of grain per day, or a daily production of about 1,200 gallons of spirits. For the last year the production was 1,250,000 gallons, or a daily product of between 6,000 and 7,000 gallons, in which the annual consumption of grain was 300,000 bushels. Of this amount, about 225,000 bushels was corn, and the balance of 75,000 bushels was made up of other grains. The value of the grain consumed amounted to $120,000. The total sales for the past year amounted to $1,110,000 on which the revenue tax was $826,000. One thousand and six hundred head of cattle are now being fattened from the refuse from the distillery. About eighty men are regularly employed in all the departments, and the pay roll shows a monthly outlay of over $5,000 for wages. The entire value of the works is estimated at $250,000. Of this amount $125,000 is invested in buildings, lots, machinery, etc.; $60,000 is manufactured goods on hand; $30,000 in grain in store; $10,000 in cooperage stock, and the remaining $25,000 is invested in various other appliances connected with the business. The entire establishment covers about six acres of ground, including all the necessary buildings belonging to it. Their products are alcohol, spirits, gins, pure rye and bourbon whiskeys, sour and sweet mash, which have a wide reputation for their excellent and superior qualities. The manufactory turns out none except finished goods, and with their new and thoroughly complete improvements, are enabled to make as fine a grade of spirits as can be produced anywhere in the United States. There were exported during the year 1881, 177,214 gallons of spirits.

Planing Mill. A planing mill was started about twelve years ago, at the corner of Fifteenth and Marcy streets, in the city of Omaha. After running for about six months the operation of the mill was closed for some cause and remained idle until nearly three years ago. In the spring of 1879 it came into the hands of A. Rosenberry, who refitted it with new and improved machinery at a cost of $4,000 and began its operation, which he has since very successfully continued. At that time the operation of the mill employed twelve men, but the present state of the business requires a force of from fifteen to thirty men, or an average force of about twenty-five men.

The mill proper is a three story structure forty by sixty feet. An addition was recently built measuring twenty by sixty feet.

Additional machinery was put in during the past year, to the value of $600, among which were a sand-papering machine, morticer, saws, etc.

The mill is used in the manufacture of sash, doors, blinds, mouldings, all kinds of stair work, and all kinds of house finishing goods, and carpenters' work.

The establishment does a yearly business amounting to about $70,000 and represents a capital invested estimated at about $15,000.

The mill is kept in constant operation to its full capacity, and finds a ready disposal of all articles manufactured.

Omaha Planing Mill. A sash, door, and planing mill, was started in Omaha, under the proprietorship of A. Moyer, in 1874. At the first, the outfit of machinery consisted of a sticker, a morticer, gig and other saws, and a turning lathe, the whole, including lots and building, representing a cash capital of $1,000 and requiring the employment of five men.

Owing to the superiority of the work and pressing demands of business, Mr. Moyer was compelled to make constant additions to his establishment, until, at present, his mill is thoroughly equipped with a full set of machinery, consisting of twenty-two pieces, of the value of $8,000, and the work about the mill keeps in regular employment a force of twenty men.

Even with these facilities, Mr. Moyer is unable to satisfy his orders and is compelled to make further enlargements in both machinery and building. The building now occupied by the mill is a story and a half frame, forty feet wide by fifty long, and the value of the whole concern is estimated at about $15,000.

During the past year not less than 75,000 feet of finishing lumber was consumed, and the value of the work turned out amounted to nearly $30,000.

The exclusive operation of the mill is for the manufacture of all kinds of carpenters' house finishing goods, and the workmanship is after the most approved designs and of the finest quality.

Omaha Foundry and Machine Company.--In 1875, T. W. T. Richards established a small machine shop in the north part of the city, known as the Omaha Iron Works. The shop was a frame structure, about eighteen feet wide by thirty feet in length, and the amount of capital invested was about $2,500.

Here Mr. Richards continued to carry on his business, doing job work almost exclusively and employing about five men. The product of his first year's work amounted to $18,000.

In December of 1879, the works were destroyed by fire. Mr. Richards, undaunted by this misfortune, undertook to recruit his now somewhat shattered fortune. A partnership was formed between him and Chester B. Davis, for the purpose of establishing more extensive works; and in March of 1880, they began the erection of shops at the present location, along the Union Pacific railroad, between Seventeenth and Eighteenth streets, and by May these were opened and ready for operation. The building is two stories high and substantially built of brick, in which are a machine shop, pattern shop, foundry and blacksmith shop.

The operation of the works required, at first, the employment of twenty-two men, but the business has since largely increased, and now required the employment of from fifty to sixty men. The annual payroll amounts to over $30,000.

The shops are thoroughly equipped with the most improved machinery, and the whole institution is a model of completeness. The capital stock invested in these works is about $35,000.

The company is extensively engaged in the manufacture of hoisting engines, mining machinery, elevators and mill machinery, hand and power elevators, store fronts, and also a large amount of bridge and railroad work. They also manufacture largely the Omaha steam engine, a pattern of their own designing.

The works are under the superintendence of Alfred R. Davis, who is a thoroughly educated and skillful mechanical engineer.

During the last year, the work done by the company amounted to the sum of $60,000, and orders continue to multiply upon their hands.

Missouri Valley Boiler and Sheet Iron Works.--M. W. Hartigan began the manufacture of boilers in Omaha, in 1876. The building then occupied was comparatively small, being fifty feet long by eighteen feet wide, and the value of his entire works was about $1,800, and gave employment to only two men. He now occupies two shops, one for boiler making, forty feet long by fifty wide, and one for the sheet iron works, twenty-four by forty feet in length. The value of the manufactory is now computed at ten times the original, or nearly $18,000, and turns out $8,000 worth of work every year, requiring the labor of eighteen workmen.

The principal articles manufactured are, steam boilers of all kinds, lard tanks, coolers, kettles, pans, bank vaults, iron jails, window shutters and all kinds of sheet iron work.

Excelsior Machine Works.--This work, located on the corner of Fourteenth and Harney streets, was started in 1872 by the Van Dorn Brothers, and after running under their ownership for about six years, was sold to J. F. Hammond in 1878, who is the present owner and operator. At the time the works came into the hand of Mr. Hammond, they were yet small, giving employment to only three men and turning out about $5,000 worth of work per year. Since then Mr. Hammond has made large extensions and improvements, and the amount of work discharged annually exceeds $25,000 in value, and is constantly on the increase; the amount of work for the year just ending, is estimated at not less than $30,000, an increase over previous years of $5,000.

The establishment secures employment to an average force of eighteen men Sometimes reaching as high as thirty-two, and then again falling as low as ten. The average monthly expenditure for wages is from $8,000 to $10,000.

The capital invested is about $10,000, of which about $7,000 is in machinery. Additional machinery was put in during the past year to the value of $1,000 among which was a planer costing $700, drill press and bolt cutter The different departments of the works are the foundry, machine, blacksmith and pattern shop.

The principal articles of manufacture are engines, pulleys, shafting, mill work of every description, and self feeders for nail mills. The present demand upon the work of this establishment, compels an enlargement, which is soon to be made.

Smelting Works.--Omaha contains by far the largest refining and smelting works in America. The works are used principally in smelting and refining base bullion shipped to them from various other works in the mining country.

This bullion contains gold, silver and lead, which are here separated and refined, and is sold on account for the parties owning the bullion; the company being paid, for this, a certain rate according to the amount refined of each of the minerals. The company also makes large purchases of the unrefined bullion upon their own account, and also deal extensively in the mineral quartz as it is taken from the mine; this being shipped to them in small bags and is here crushed, smelted and refined. They receive, on all accounts, from 100 to 200 car loads of base bullion every month. Each car load of this bullion contains 2,500 ounces of silver, five ounces of gold and the balance is about 5,175 ounces in lead.

During 1880 there were received in all, 23,190,000 pounds of base bullion. There were shipped during the same year 3,000,000 ounces of refined silver, 7,000 ounces of gold and 11,000 tons or 22,000,000 pounds of lead. The refined silver sells for $1.12 5-8 per ounce, amounting to $3,377,750, and gold sell at $20.67 per ounce, amounting to $3,522,440.

These works turn out one-fifth of all the refined pig lead consumed in the United States.

The company also engaged in the manufacture of blue stone to a large extent. The business done annually in connection with these works, amounts to over $5,000,000.

They employ from 300 to 400 hands, to whom is paid out monthly for wages from $10,000 to $13,000, and aggregating $138,000 per annum for wages.

The capital invested by the company in buildings, machinery, and grounds is estimated at $175,000.

The works comprise several large and solidly constructed brick buildings covering a wide area of ground.

In 1880 there was expended $10,000 in improvements in buildings, etc. Among the latter was a large foundry, built at a cost of $3,000.

During the freshet of last spring, the ground upon which the works are located was entirely overflowed with water, and the whole establishment was submerged in water to a depth of eight feet, causing great damage to the works and resulting in heavy losses to the company.

It is an incorporated company of which the present officials are: Charles W. Mead, of Omaha, Pres.; H. W. Mead of Quincy, Ill, V. Pres.; E. W. Nash of Omaha, Sec. and Treas.; Charles Balbach, of Omaha, Supt.

Western Cornice Works. On the 21st day of August, 1880, Christian Spect, from Cincinnati, Ohio, set up works in the city of Omaha for the manufacture of cornices, etc. He located his shop on the corner of Fifteenth and Davenport streets, but finding this place inconvenient for his wants he removed his place of business to Dodge street.

Not long following this removal, his entire establishment burnt to the ground and a second removal became necessary. The burning occurred in September of 1881, and directly after this date he took up quarters at his present place, at 1213 Harney street.

The rapidity with which the business of this manufactory has increased, is astonishing as may be readily observed.

Although in operation not quite a year and a half yet the business done the past year footed up to almost $100,000. At first only three men were employed, but now with a force of forty men, Mr. Spect is unable to meet the orders for his work. All the men employed are skilled workmen, most of whom were procured at Cincinnati.

The machinery and tools used, of which there is a complete outfit, worth about $2,000, are of the very best made and of the latest improved patterns.

The amount of capital invested is about $12,000.

The articles manufactured are galvanized iron cornices, dormer windows, finials, window-caps, tin and iron roofing, and also, a patent metallic sky-light, an invention of Mr. Spect's own designing.

The secret of the unparalleled success of this enterprise is explained in the superiority of the workmanship and the tasteful and unique designs of the articles made.

Besides doing work extensively in all the larger cities and towns in the State of Nebraska, he has also made large shipments of his goods to cities in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

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