“On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Hops and Barley!” For beer drinkers of Fort Worth, it must have seemed like Christmas in September.
And Jesse Shelton Zane-Cetti (1844-1922) must have looked like Santa Claus to beer drinkers as he strolled the streets of Fort Worth that month in 1890.
Zane-Cetti was vice president and secretary of the Texas Brewing Company, for whose brewery the construction contract was let on September 3, 1890. The brewery was located . . .
on Jones Street between 9th and 12th streets, where the Intermodal Transportation Center is today. In 1890 Zane-Cetti was one of four entrepreneurs who, declaring the artesian water of Fort Worth to be the finest in the state, built a brewery on the eastern edge of Hell’s Half Acre (thereby assuring an indigenous clientele).
The photo of Rusk (Commerce) Street at East 11th Street in Hell’s Half Acre appeared in 1906 in Purity Journal. It shows a brothel and a row of “cribs,” one-room shacks where “crib girls” (prostitutes) worked. Texas Brewing Company can be seen in the background on Jones Street. (Photo from Dallas Historical Society.)
On the 1898 Sanborn map the brothel and cribs are labeled “FB” (for “female boarding,” a euphemism for “brothel”).
By 1891 the brewery was brewing. On May 16 the Gazette reported that the brewery would begin selling its new beer on May 18—just in time for the German celebration that was then called “Maifest” and was held at Como Park, which was located east of town at the terminus of the Riverside streetcar line.
The May 19 Gazette reported that fifty-six kegs of the indigenous brew were consumed on May 18 at Maifest.
This ad with an etching of the brewery was a common sight in Fort Worth newspapers.
The brewery covered almost five acres, produced its own water and electricity. It made its own barrels, had its own railroad tracks and cars.
The Texas Brewing Company allowed Fort Worth to wet not only its whistle but also its streets. Before streets were paved, they had to be sprinkled in dry weather to control dust. The brewery let the city have some of that fine artesian water. Clip is from the September 17, 1893 Dallas Morning News.
The brewery was Fort Worth’s first big industry and a major employer (two hundred employees) before the Stockyards and packing plants were established. (Photos from Texas Historical Foundation.)
In 1904 the Texas Brewing Company’s Crown beer won a gold medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
By 1907 the brewery claimed to be the biggest in the state, with a capacity of 250,000 barrels a year and 160 tons of ice a day, reducing the local cost of one hundred pounds of ice from a dollar to a quarter.
In 1914 America was not yet at war, but countries that were at war were trading less with the United States. To compensate for the decreased revenues, Congress passed the Emergency War Tax Act. Clip is from the October 27 Star-Telegram.
The Texas Brewing Company had been founded at a time when the temperance movement was growing. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union had formed a local chapter by at least 1883. In 1902 “temperance hotels”—no liquor served—were “getting to be quite the thing” in town, the Fort Worth Telegram wrote. In 1907 the cities of Fort Worth and North Fort Worth held local option elections. The “wets” won, but the clock was ticking toward “last call” for brewers such as the Texas Brewing Company.
To hedge its bets in the growing atmosphere of temperance, Texas Brewing Company marketed Tee-Total, which was a “temperance beer” or low-alcohol near-beer, in areas with local alcohol restrictions, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma. Uno and Ino were other temperance beers. Clips are from the July 29, 1906 Tulsa Daily World and July 14, 1905 Telegram.
Fast-forward to 1913. The clock was ticking faster now. In east Texas “dry” Democrat Morris Sheppard was elected to the U.S. Senate (tick). In 1917 Sheppard introduced the Senate resolution for the Eighteenth Amendment (tock). In 1919 he helped write the enforcing Volstead Act (tick).
In 1918, two years before Prohibition officially began, the Texas Brewing Company rolled out its last barrel and went bottoms up. The next year the brewery property was taken over by Devoe & Reynolds Company, which used the facility to brew a different kind of liquid: paints and varnishes.