Life in the Early Breweries

Brewery workers in the latter half of the 1800s were largely men with only a scattering of women and children.  In fact, many of the men were of German ancestry.

Employment in the brewery industry was demanding, as the days were long, typically 14 hours or more.  The workers often started as early as four o’clock in the morning and continued on until six o’clock in the evening.  Breaks for breakfast and lunch were scheduled at regular times.

Many laborers were required to board in accommodations provided by the brewery on the brewery’s premises.  The workday was long and so, the breweries often enforced curfews for their workers.

Surprisingly enough, beer was freely flowing throughout the day in unlimited supplies for the hardworking laborers.  Perhaps this occurred in an attempt to keep the workers happy.  The days were long and hard, and the workers may have needed an incentive not to complain.  Then again, since the majority of the workers were supposedly of German ancestry and beer was a staple of the Germans, it may have come about in the natural course of events.

Although the financial compensation for brewery workers was supposedly higher than many other industries, the workers did put in extremely long days during those early years.  Eventually, the brewery workers did protest the conditions, placing demands for better working conditions, specifically a decrease in the number of hours that they were expected to labor at their tasks.  Additionally, an increase in pay also came into their demands.

Protests from the workers, as in all labor disputes prior to any real labor organization, led to outbreaks of hostile behavior.  Eventually, strikes began to occur with a tenacity that endured many long weeks.  By the early 1900s, the unions began to take hold in the brewing industry and the worker’s demands were realized.  As a result, the brewery workers enjoyed shorter hours, better pay, and even holidays.