I purchased a simple bamboo stick from a local antiques shop. Of interest was the inscription on the stick: “Pabst Brewing Co.,” and below that, “Milwaukee, Wis.” To the left of the inscription was a circle with what appeared to be a hops leaf inside.
I guessed this was an advertising cane, and was interested in discovering when, how many, and for what purpose/event a stick of this sort had been made. I located the Pabst website and sent them an e-mail regarding the information I sought. Although I received no reply to my mail, I learned from the website some very interesting information about the history of the Pabst Brewing Company.
After leaving Germany and settling with his family in Chicago at age 14, Frederick Pabst became a cabin boy on a Great Lake’s steamer. By age 21, he had earned his ship pilot’s license and the title of Captain, which he retained for the rest of his life. At age 26, Captain Pabst married Maria Best, eldest daughter of Phillip Best, president of the Best Brewing Company. Captain Pabst left the wheelhouse for the last time in 1864 and purchased a half interest in his father-in-law’s brewing concern. Over the next 25 years, Pabst turned that half interest in a small brewery into the world’s largest producer of Lager beer. In honor of this achievement, the name of the brewing company was changed from Best to Pabst in March 1889. The 1890’s were the Pabst Decade in Milwaukee. Captain Frederick Pabst was considered by his contemporaries to be Milwaukee’s foremost citizen.
While depositing my sons at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, I discovered the Pabst Mansion was located next to my son’s dorm. I toured the mansion, which is extremely beautiful and well preserved. I inquired of my tour guide whether or not there was a curator or historian who could answer my questions, and he provided me a name. I returned home and contacted “J,” senior historian for the Pabst Mansion. “J” asked for pictures, which I sent. “J” provided the following information: “Your Pabst Brewing Company cane, in my opinion, dates between 1895-1905 and most likely was a gift given to either visitors to the brewing company or was a premium given away at a special event that Captain Pabst might have had. I have never seen this cane before and therefore, I must think that it is rather rare.”
Every cane has a history begging for discovery!
Update: This cane is now back home at the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.