What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Chicago thumbed its nose at Prohibition from the beginning.  Not only was Chicago born in earnest during the days of Prohibition, but right from the start it celebrated alcohol, political corruption, and thwarting the authorities that tried to snuff out the good times.

Have you ever had a drink on Diversey?  The busy street was named for Chicago businessman, Michael Diversey who bought a share of the Haas-Sulzer brewery from Chicago’s first mayor, William Ogden, and called it creatively enough, “The Chicago Brewery”.  The Brewery thrived until destroyed by the Chicago fire of 1871.  But Diversey remained a legend, and now anyone looking at a map of Chicago will know his name, if not his contribution. And Sulzer?  He has the honor of having a namesake library in Lincoln Square.

Heard of Chicago’s Wacker Drive?  Of course, you have.  But did you know that Charles Wacker was also brew-master in Chicago?  Sadly, Wacker died before he lived long enough to see the end of Prohibition in Chicago.

The irony of Chicago’s Prohibition is unrivaled.  It was 1833 when Chicago somehow managed to both found the Chicago chapter of the American Temperance Society and establish its first breweries.  Both Diversey and Wacker were of German decent and historians generally agree that there was a strong anti-immigrant philosophy at the root of the Prohibition movement.  In an effort to curtail the fun had by the German and Irish immigrants, early mayors of Chicago attempted to ban liquor sales in taverns on Sundays, increased the fee for a liquor license, and tripled the city’s police force to enforce the bullshit Sunday drinking ban.  In what might have been Chicago’s first protest, German immigrants protested opposite the Chicago police in what is now known as “Lager Beer Riot.” Who won?  Can you find a drink on Diversey or Wacker right now?  The politically motivated German and Irish constituency rallied to reverse the law in 1874, still forty years before Prohibition once again invaded their civil liberties.

If you know nothing else about Chicago, you probably know about the city’s storied political corruption over the ages.  The politics also deeply overlapped with Prohibition, with the city’s first mayor, William Ogden, was the owner that immediately preceded Diversey in the Haas-Sulzer, a/k/a Chicago Brewery business.  It’s tradition!  And so is naming something after the more, shall we say, alcohol-progressive members of Chicago society.  Rumor has it there’s a beer being sold in Chicago right now known only as “Massive Political Corruption Amber Ale.”

Despite the trend of naming things in Chicago after alcohol, there does not appear to be a Capone City, street, or library anywhere in the area.  Prove us wrong, though, if you find one.  At the very least, pour one out for poor ole’ Mr. Wacker sometime who worked hard to make beer available to the masses but died before the end of Prohibition.

Written By Amy Williams

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