Joseph M. Schnaider (Part Two) – The Son Also Rises


Joseph M Schnaider

In our last Archives post, we featured Joseph Schnaider and the origins of Schnaider’s Garden in Lafayette Square. Although unsure of the exact timeline, the Garden directly led to the building of the 30-foot limestone block wall you see on the 2100 block of Hickory Street. It was a fortification intended to insulate the well-to-do of Benton Place from the hustle and flow of Schnaider’s below. You might note a cinderblock-filled doorway that servants from Benton Place homes used to access the shops on Hickory and Chouteau.

Schaiders Garden was a swinging affair, in an 1880’s teutonic sort of way. Joseph’s son, Joseph M. Schnaider, assumed the helm at the brewery and beer garden upon the death of his father. He and his mother Elizabeth ran it capably for a number of years.

Joseph noted the rising popularity of baseball, and that patrons would leave the Garden around game time. He worked this to his advantage by making friends with the larger-than-life owner of the St Louis Browns, Chris Von der Ahe, and entertained the teams at the Gardens post-game.

It’s interesting that their ads even nestle close in 1882:

The enterprising Schnaider would try anything, even refighting the Civil War, to fill his Garden:

In 1869, A national Prohibition party was formed, and by 1874, it was joined by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. A large part of the appeal of this movement was to participate in a group based on a shared activity and attempt to recapture the fervor once felt toward the abolition of slavery. The growing temperance movement was doing what it could to outlaw Sunday liquor sales.

Prohibition ran squarely against the German custom of gathering for beer and song on Sunday. Joseph Schnaider bravely waded in. This exchange was covered in a Post Dispatch article from July of 1883:

(to Joe): “Are you in favor of keeping the beer gardens open on Sunday?”
(Joe) “I am.”
“For what reason?’
“Because it affords a great deal of pleasure to all classes of people.”
“What classes of people do you generally find at beer gardens on Sunday?”
“All classes. If you come here to our garden on Sunday afternoon you will see the doctor, the lawyer, the merchant, and the city official as well as the working man and it is customary for people to bring their families. Now, if you want to see temperance people and prohibitionists, just call at Schnaider’s Garden on Sunday evening and see how they enjoy themselves.”

Today we have discussion concerning trade wars, but it’s certainly not a new development: Here’s a little saber-rattling from the manager of Schnaider’s Garden that same summer:

By June of 1887, the movement for prohibition had gotten the better of City Hall, and an ordinance went into effect banning liquor sales on Sunday.

Immediately the brewers of St Louis, who had a lot of revenue in jeopardy, met at Schnaider’s Garden, and formed a coordinated response, in the form of running a test case through the courts, challenging the law. In order to do this, someone needed to break the law first, and Joseph stepped up.

Monday’s paper reported widespread compliance, as well as the arrest of Joseph M. Schnaider.

A law was passed by St Louis County voters in 1857 that allowed for “the sale of refreshments of any kind (distilled liquors excepted) on any day of the week.” Although this law had since been overturned by the State of Missouri, Schnaider’s rather elaborate defense used an earlier case of a successful challenge by a St Louis “bawdy house”, and summarized it like so:

The result was that the judge sided with the defense, that the sale of beer was indeed legal within St Louis City on Sundays. He later argued that the judgment should be immune to appeal from the state. The verdict was met with loud cheers and demonstration, and officers were deployed into the gallery to restore order.

The next day’s Post Dispatch featured this headline:

By extension, this decision also enabled the reopening of Sportsman’s Park and baseball on Sundays. Chris Von der Ahe was pleased:

Sometimes the outcome of things boils down to simple good timing. These were hot days in early July 1887. It’s also true that Von der Ahe’s St Louis Browns were the reigning champions of baseball, having beaten the Chicago White Sox (which later became the Cubs) 4 games to 2 in the 1886 World Series. Charlie Comiskey was player/manager for the Brownies, and would one day become founder and owner of a new American League White Sox. There he won five American League pennants and two World Series, before being sullied by the 1919 Black Sox scandal. It’s said that his harsh and parsimonious treatment of players (like making them wash their own uniforms) led to such dissatisfaction among the team that the players alone conspired to throw that series.

But on a Sunday in mid-July of 1887, patrons could once again hoist a stein at Schnaider’s Garden, then board the trains taking them to Grand and Dodier to cheer the Browns.

There is, however, much more to the story of Joseph M. Schnaider. A story that would even interest the Most Interesting Man In The World. It will take you from St Louis to Guadalajara in the days of Pancho Villa. Stay tuned.

Thanks to research sources, including:

Temperance and Prohibition In America: An Historical Overview; Aaron and Musto.

St Louis Post Dispatch various dates in 1883 and 1887.

For a terrific profile of Chris Von der Ahe, I recommend the excellent write-up in Distilled History, a blog by Cameron Collins.

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