In 1829, David Gottlieb Yuengling established a brewery on North Centre Street in Pottsville. Almost 185 years later, the small operation has blossomed into a billion-dollar company that continues to spread around the United States.
The improbable journey got a visual retelling in the new book, "D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc.," released by Arcadia Publishing. The book is part of the publisher's Images of America series, which uses archival photographs to show the history of towns and cities around the United States.
"Arcadia Publishing specializes in connecting people to their pasts by showing the histories of one American community at a time. As the nation's oldest brewery, Yuengling is part of our cultural landscape and is also an important piece of the region's history. We felt it was important to tell the Yuengling story and are very grateful to the Yuengling family for their cooperation in turning out such a wonderful product," said Chanler Jeffers, sales and marketing specialist, North and Mid-Atlantic.
The pictures used to tell Yuengling's history begin with drawings of the original brewery in the 1840s and take readers all the way to a promotion shot of this year's lineup of bottle beers.
The author, Robert A. Musson, has dedicated a lot of his time to the brewing industry. In 1976, he began collecting memorabilia from brewers around the country, including big names like Anheuser-Busch. At its peak, Musson's collection had as many as 8,000 cans.
His passion for the brewing industry led to a trip to Pottsville during a family vacation in 1979. The original goal of the trip was to see Philadelphia, while making a brief stop at the Yuengling brewery; however, a national gas shortage cut the journey short.
"It turned out this was the primary destination for the trip," said Musson, a native of Ohio who was 16 at the time of the trip.
Although the family vacation was limited, Musson's passion grew from an unexpected source. Richard Yuengling Sr., owner and president, met the family and led an hour-long tour of the brewery. The first picture in the book shows Irvin and Frances Musson talking to Yuengling outside the brewery.
Musson, a medical doctor who specializes in disorders of the venous system, still lives in Ohio with his wife and three children and made frequent visits to Pennsylvania for his career. This allowed for more trips to the Yuengling brewery. During one of his tours of the brewery, Musson was struck by an idea.
"I thought to myself this was a book waiting to happen," he said.
In 2010, he self-published "Brewing Beer Since 1829: A Pictorial Saga of the D.G. Yuengling & Son Brewing Company in Pottsville, Pennsylvania." Most of the images in the 41-page spiral-bound book came from his own personal collection, according to Republican-Herald archives.
The new Images of America book is Musson's third collaboration with Arcadia Publishing about the brewing industry, following "Brewing in Cleveland" and "Brewing in Greater Pittsburgh."
After completion of "Brewing in Greater Pittsburgh," Arcadia suggested a book on the Yuengling brewery to Musson.
"This topic has interest far outside of the Pennsylvania region. Yuengling's limited geographical distribution has certainly helped it achieve a sense of mystery and excitement to those who are unable to purchase it for themselves locally, and we have seen this sense of interest carry over into the book," Jeffers said.
Musson said the task of putting together a book about the brewery was made easy by Yuengling's devotion to telling its history. He said the brewery's gift shop basically acts as a museum, with memorabilia dating back to the beginning.
"I have to thank Yuengling for doing such a great job of saving their history and making that available to anyone who wants to see them," Musson said.
Since Musson and Yuengling first connected in the 1970s, the brewery has expanded to a billion-dollar company which distributes around the northeastern region of the United States. He recalls the excitement when Yuengling beer was introduced in his town of Medina.
"It was released in Ohio in October 2011 and it was like a holiday," he said.
He added, "It is just as popular here as it is everywhere, if not more."
About four years ago, Musson sold most of his beer collection but held on to the Yuengling merchandise. He said the brewery is special because of its history and loyalty to Pottsville. It is a trait not seen too much in the business world.
"You don't see that in corporate America. That's how Yuengling operates and I appreciate that," Musson said.
Musson plans to return to Pottsville in the near future. In the meantime, he hopes the book introduces people to the brewery and sparks the same interest in others that hit him more than 30 years ago.
"Even if you are not into beer it's a great place to feel what it was like 100 years ago," Musson said.
"D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc." is available at local retailers, online bookstores or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or 888-313-2665 for $21.99.
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