The Mystery of the Vintage Brown Beer Bottle Marked “WAGNER SIDNEY O” – Solved!

The Mystery of the Vintage Brown Beer Bottle Marked “WAGNER SIDNEY O” – Solved!

A short while back, someone in one of the many cast iron Facebook groups to which I belong posted a photo of a brown beer bottle, with raised lettering marked “Wagner” and “Sidney, O.” The person asked whether the bottle was related to the Wagner Manufacturing Company of Sidney, Ohio.

brown beer bottle sidney ohio wagner's always the same old antique vintage
Bottle from the Wagner Brewery, Sidney Ohio. Collection of Larry and Marg O’Neil, Tacoma WA.

The answer? Yes, in a sense. At least the heads of both companies were related – they were brothers. John was the brother of Mathias Wagner, who was the founder of the Wagner Manufacturing Company in Sidney, Ohio.

4 variations of the Wagner Bros. beer bottle. Photo courtesy Bruce Mobley.

The Wagner family is credited with much of the original development of the town of Sidney, Ohio.1. John Wagner (b. 1834) had an interest in brewing beer. He began the company in around 1859 by renting a brewery owned by his brother Joseph. 2. He thereafter purchased an interest in it and eventually bought out his brother in 1876. He set about expanding the business, and managed the brewery until his death in 1881.3.

Bottle opener from the Wagner Bros. Brewery, Sidney Ohio. Collection of Larry and Marg O’Neil, Tacoma WA.

The brewery was always family-run. Mary Wagner – spouse of John Wagner – served as president. Their three sons Henry, Edward, and Louis managed the business. The five daughters of John and Mary served as directors.4. The business was incorporated in 1896.5.

The brewery sat upon an acre of land. It had a storage capacity of 28,000 barrels, and the annual output was greater than 24,000 barrels of Golden Pilsener Lager and bottled Pale American Export beer.6. The produce was known as “Wagner’s Golden Lager.” 7

wagner brewery sidney ohio mathias joseph beer cast iron hollow ware brother
Sanborn Map Company, Sidney Ohio, 1892.

The brewery had its ups and downs. The buildings were damaged by the great flood of 1913, and again by a fire in 1931. The passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution and resulting prohibition which occurred from 1920 until its repeal in 1933, greatly impacted the business. During that period the company changed its name to the Wagner Beverage Company and began producing soft drinks and “near beer.”8. Despite these efforts, the brewery went into receivership; shutting its doors in around 1938. 9.

  1. Hitchcock, History of Shelby County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens (1913) (Kindle ed.) (hereinafter “Hitchcock”), loc. 5206.
  2. R. Sutton & Co., History of Shelby County, Ohio (1883), p. 398.
  3. Hitchcock, loc. 5215.
  4. Hitchcock, loc. 5206.
  5. Id.
  6. Hitchcock, loc. 5211-12.
  7. R. Sutton & Co., History of Shelby County, Ohio (1883), p. 398.
  8. Wallace, John Wagner Sons’ Brewing Company, Traveling Through Time, Shelby County Historical Society (hereinafter “Wallace”) (1998).
  9. Id.


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