Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

John Lauritz Larson

Committee Member 1

Caroline Janney

Committee Member 2

David Atkinson

Committee Member 3

Kristin Hoganson


This dissertation traces the brewing industry’s development in Chicago and Cincinnati to examine how German immigrant participation, both as producers and consumers, helped their respective communities negotiate the economic and ethnic terms of American citizenship. Between 1840 and 1880, lager beer in the United States became a transnationally-constructed immigrant product with significant ethnocultural implications for German brewers and drinkers. Serving as both a cultural handhold connecting immigrants to their European roots as well as a means of economic engagement within a transitioning American economic landscape, beer became an immediate and distinctive feature of coalescing ethnic neighborhoods in urban centers throughout the antebellum North. Lager beer’s place within German festive culture linked its status and popularity in broader American society to that of German immigrants as a population. Their overwhelming participation hybridized the burgeoning American brewing industry such that beer represented a hyphenation of German and American culture. By examining beer as an arena in which both German immigrants and adversarial nativist and temperance factions pursued their desired cultural, political, and economic ends, this study asserts the utility of beer as a category of analysis for investigating German ethnicity, economic life in the antebellum and postbellum North, and the cultural implications of the market revolution. It further demonstrates the significance of mid-nineteenth century brewing in shaping the industry’s capitalist and cultural development throughout the pre-Prohibition era.