On March 8, 1930, many people in Allentown were not necessarily surprised to hear of Benedict Nuding’s death. The 93-year-old brewer and Civil War veteran had been sick since February 26 when he was, as the press said, “confined to his bed from that time until his death.” But still, the outpouring of grief was real.
For everyone who stopped at his Germania Hotel and brewery on South 7th Street in Allentown, there were many others who had not, but who had been touched by his generosity. He contributed to local charity through his church, St. John’s Reformed in Allentown.
“Mr. Nuding was a man of generous impulses,” said his Morning Call obituary, “liberal and unselfish, as many will readily testify. His success had ever been measured in terms of opportunities it gave to aid his friends and all worthy causes and Allentown today is a greater city for having had him as its citizen. He had a genial and loving personality and was held in highest regard by all who knew him.”
When Nuding was born on January 20, 1838 in the Kingdom of Wurrtemberg, it was one of the major states of the German Confederation, the heir to the Holy Roman Empire, that had fallen apart following the wars with Napoleon.
Nuding was born a subject of King William of Wurrtemberg who ruled from 1816 to 1864. Under his rule, Wurttemberg was rapidly developing technologically with the introduction of railroads and reforms in agriculture. But when Nuding was 10 years old, a series of political revolts known collectively as the Revolution of 1848 swept Europe and focused on the German states.
Although not quite as violent as those in some places, Wurrtemberg’s turmoil focused around a more liberal constitution which was too liberal for some and not liberal enough for others.
How much if any of this had any effect on a boy like Nuding is not known. But one thing seems to have been clear, by the time he was 19 years old, he felt, like a lot of young men in what is now Germany, there was no real future for them there. Their eyes turned toward America.
Between 1800 and 1919, more than 7 million Germans immigrated to the United States. They would eventually outnumber all the other nationalities of the New World.
Nuding, as far as is known, never gave the reasons exactly why he left. He apparently never married. His obituary mentioned a sister who was then 91 and living in Germany and a niece, Rosie Pieringer, who resided in Coxsackie, New York.
An oppressive feudal system, restrictions on marriage and systems of rules and laws established by guilds and the aristocratic governments are all given as reasons by a variety of sources for the large number of immigrants from the German states.
Whatever it was, in Nuding’s case, his emigration took place in 1857 when he joined 800 hundred other immigrants on a sailing ship for America. The voyage took 30 days, which was about average for sailing ships at the time when some were known to have been at sea for as long as 90 days.
Nuding recalled later they might as well have been cattle from the way they were treated. Each of them was given a chaff-bag to use as a pillow. They all had to bring their own food and prepare it themselves. Whatever sanitation facilities were provided, the smells can be imagined.
As for the actual voyage, Nuding recalled it as very rough. Several times he was convinced the ship would sink. When they arrived at Castle Garden, the former fortress converted to an immigrant stop at the tip of Manhattan, Nuding recalled the first thing he wanted to do was find a place to live and look for a job. But that year, a financial panic had occurred, bringing on a depression, making hiring for unskilled labor like Nuding difficult.
Fortunately, Nuding arrived in Bethlehem where John A. Schilling, a bartender, had opened the first brewery in Bethlehem since the Moravian days of John Sebastian Goundie. The story has it that Schilling began his brewery in 1856 at the request of artist Gustave Grunewald who had it located in the field next to his house. This was so Grunewald and his friends did not have to walk so far to get beer.
An arbor was established nearby. Soon word spread that there was beer to be had and Schilling was turning out 1,500 barrels of beer, much more than Grunewald and his friends could consume. Because beer at the time was made only in the coldest months and was “lagered” ( a form of the maturation process) in vaults refrigerated with ice, Nuding was working only in the winter months.
How much Nuding might have known about brewing before he left Wurttemberg is unknown. But he apparently did learn. His wage as a laborer started at 37 and a half cents a day, out of which he struggled to save the necessary $1.50 to buy his citizenship papers.
In 1861, Nuding joined the Union Army as a part of Battery D, 1st Battalion Artillery, a New York City based unit. In 1863, it was renamed the 32nd New York Independent Volunteer Artillery.
They took part with the Army of the Potomac in the battles of the Peninsular campaign of 1862. They was also present at Antietam, Fredericksburg (where the unit lost 2 men mortally wounded and one slightly wounded), Marye’s Heights, Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry.
In the fall of 1864 at the expiration of their term of enlistment, the original members were mustered out, Nuding among them. On returning to the Lehigh Valley that November, he cast his first vote for president as a Democrat for “the organizer and commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George B. McClellan.”
With the war’s end, Nuding returned to work at Schilling’s where he was receiving six dollars a month in the winter. In 1870, Schilling’s became Uhl’s brewery and Schilling went back to running a bar. It is not known how long Nuding stayed at Uhl’s, but in 1874, he decided to go out on his own, renting out the old Lieberman-Eagle Brewery at 6th and Union Streets in Allentown.
Four years later in 1878, Nuding opened on South 7th Street the Germania Hotel. Behind it was the Germania Brewery, dispensing his own beer. Surviving pictures show a three-story structure, the kind of place that was popular with farmers and others coming to the county seat to do business and traveling salesmen. Despite the business slowdown following the Panic of 1873, Nuding survived and prospered.
It was in 1891 that Nuding took on a business partner named Louis Neuweiler, also a native of Wurttemberg and an expert brewer. As the years passed, Nuding turned over more and more the running of the business to his bright, ambitious partner.
One of his ventures in 1896 found him a partner in a newspaper as a result of business reverses by a previous owner. He, along with his two much younger other partners, were left in charge.
They got along well but at last Nuding told one of them he had no interest in running a newspaper. He wanted them to buy him out. His partner said he didn’t have the money to do that, but if Nuding would transfer to him his share in the paper for some time, without expecting interest on it, he would make the money to pay Nuding for the shares.
Without hesitation, Nuding offered the deal for five years. His partner said no, three years would do it. “It’s a bargain,” Nuding quickly replied. That partner, Morning Call founder, David A. Miller, never forgot Nuding’s generosity.
Finally in 1901, suffering a severe attack of rheumatism, Nuding sold his share of the brewery business to Neuweiler and left for a health cure at the baths of his native land at Bad Wildbad. He returned after 2 months, rested and revived.
In the years that followed, he was a member of the board of Merchants National Bank and the Penn Allen Cement Company and remained active in business until 1925. On the day it announced Nuding’s death, his newspaper’s obituary closed with these words: “Mr. Nuding possessed a happy personality and a kindly and sympathetic nature. His business relations were marked by the strictest honesty.”