April 12, 1930: Brewery owner announces that all his men are quitting

On this day in Duluth in 1930, Carl Meeske, president of the Rex Company, called the Fitger Company announcing that “all his men are quitting this evening” and asked Fitger’s to take over the company the next day. The Rex Company had been called Duluth Brewing & Malt prior to Prohibition. After the death of Charles Meeske, who had founded the brewery with Reiner Hoch in 1896, his son Carl had taken over operation of the brewery, which manufactured soda pop and near beer. But two years after the stock market crashed, he couldn’t keep the business brewing. Just weeks before he had offered everything but the brewing complex itself to Fitgers: “all kegs, cases, bottles, trucks, fixtures, labels, crowns, trade marks, good will, etc. for $6,500 plus actual cost on cartons of extracts, etc.” The Fitger Company paid $7,000, or roughly $104,000 in 2018. They were scheduled to take over on April 15. Moral must have been pretty low at Duluth Brewing & Malt, because they couldn’t even make it to the closing date. The morning after that phone call Meeske and Fitger’s officials met at 10 a.m. The purchase meant that Fitger’s would add fifteen to twenty more names to its payroll, most of them former Rex Co. employees. Fitger’s also got something Meeske would one day regret including: the rights to his brewery’s former flagship beer brands, Rex and Moose.

This story comes from our book Naturally Brewed, Naturally Better: The Historic Breweries of Duluth in Superior due out September 2018. In the meantime, you can read an overview of Duluth’s beer brewing history here.

A label for the Rex Company’s Royal Extract of Malt & Hops, manufactured during Prohibition until the Rex Company—originally Duluth Brewing & Malt—closed and sold its product lines to the Fitger Co. in April, 1930 (Image: Zenith City Press)