Ale Through the Ages: Colonial Porter

Brewing A Colonial-Style Porter

A large crowd was on hand for the fifteenth brewing session of Ale Through the Ages at Discovery World on December 8th 2010, when the historic porter brewing traditions of Britain and Northeastern United States in the 18th-19th Centuries was the topic of discussion and recreation.   Once again Northern Brewer generously donated a traditional English Ale for all to enjoy during the brewing session.

This Colonial Porter recipe is derived from several written sources that recount the methods and ingredients for London-style porters that would have been available in New England during the late 1700s.  Therefore the grains, hops and yeast all pay tribute to their English origins with a distinct twist of colonial enterprise using molasses, corn and maple syrup for bottle conditioning.

Origin of London Porter

The invention of porter as a distinct style of ale is often credited to a Mr. Ralph Harwood, when instead of constantly mixing three types (“three threads”) of cask ales together (strong, medium and weak); he formulated a recipe combining all three types in east London in 1722.  Sparging (grain rinsing) was not commonly practiced in the 18th Century; therefore, brown malts were mashed several times and drawn off separately, resulting in “strong”, “common” and “small” ales. By combining the mash running’s into one batch, this new ale became known “Mr. Harwood’s Entire” or “Entire Butt” and soon found favor with the dock workers (porter’s) along the river Thames in London. (A Butt is a British cask/vat containing 126 U.S. gallons, whereas an American Barrel = 31 gallons). A rhyme written by a J. Gutteridge around 1750 recounts Mr. Harwood’s claim to fame:

Harwood my townsman, he invented first Porter to rival wine and quench the thirst. Porter which spreads itself half the world o’er, whose reputation rises more and more.  As long as porter shall preserve its fame, let all with gratitude our Parish name

Whether Harwood was indeed the progenitor of porter remains open to speculation, due to the fact that porter had widespread popularity across Britain by 1720s, meaning it either exploded with popularity within a couple of years, or its antecedents are older.

Take for instance the following description of porter’s popularity in England in 1726.

“…In this country nothing but beer is drunk, and it is made in several qualities. Small beer is what everyone drinks when thirsty; it is used even in the best houses and costs only a penny the pot.  Another kind of beer is called porter, meaning carrier, because the greater quantity of this beer is consumed by the working classes. It is a thick and strong beverage, and the effect it produces, if drunk in excess, is the same as that of wine; this porter costs threepence a pot….” (Cesar de Saussure, October 29th 1726)

Therefore, if porter was so widely enjoyed across Britain less than four years after its supposed invention, then perhaps it was being produced earlier than is commonly accepted.  Nevertheless, these original 18th Century porters were likely not black, rather they were probably mahogany in color, well hopped, with an original gravity between 1.060 – 1.070 (6-8% ABV). However, by the late 19th Century the ABV decreased to 1.040 due to the British excise tax on beer, that taxed beer based on alcohol content.

A particularly useful account of how porters were made in London during the early 1800s comes from a German chemist named Frederick Accum in his book Treatise on the Art of Brewing, which was published in 1820.

“The porter grist used by the London brewers is usually composed of equal parts of brown amber and pale malt. These proportions are not absolutely essential.  An eminent establishment in this metropolis (London), the grist is composed of one-fifth of pale malt, a like quantity of amber coloured and three fifths of brown malt.”

Beyond London Porter

From the earliest days of porter, it was being exported across England, Ireland and eventually to the English Colonies in America. It was being brewed in Edinburgh Scotland in 1760 and by 1773 there were three porter breweries operating in Dublin, Ireland.  Beer brewing in North America can be traced to the earliest days of European settlement (ca. 1580s) in the Virginia Colonies, where corn and molasses were used as supplement fermentables.  William Penn describes how beer was made in the 1680s.

“Our drink has been beer and punch, made of Rum and water. Our Beer was mostly made of Molasses which well boyld, until it makes a very tolerable drink, but note they make Mault, and Mault Drink begins to be common, especially in the Ordinaries and the Houses of the more substantial People. In our great Town there is an able Man (William Frampton), that has set up a large Brew House, in order to furnish the People with good Drink, both there and up and down the River.”

It took nearly one hundred years after Penn established his brewery for porter to be brewed in Pennsylvania.  That credit is given to two London expatriates, Robert Hare Jr. and J. Warren, when they began brewing porter in Philadelphia in 1774. This was likely the first porter ever made in America and soon became favored by George Washington.  He writes the following in 1788 “I beg you will send me a gross of Mr. Hairs best bottled Porter. If the price is not much enhanced by the copious droughts you took of it at the late procession.” Unfortunately, the original brewery was destroyed by a fire in 1790, yet, this brewing lineage lived on and evolved into the John F Betz & Son Inc. which survived until 1939.

George Washington wasn’t the only president with a pension for porter. Thomas Jefferson favored Philadelphia made ales and porters, particularly from the Henry Pepper Brewery (Heinrich Pfeiffer). In order to maintain a steady supply of ale and to generate revenue at his estate in Monticello NY, he enlisted the help of a shipwrecked English brewer, Captain Joseph Miller, to establish a brewery there in 1818.

At the dawn of the 20th century, East Coast breweries continued manufacturing porter, in addition to breweries across the country.  Anheuser-Busch, Coors and at least 22 other breweries regularly produced porter west of the Mississippi by the early 1900s.  Milwaukee’s own  Schlitz Brewing Co. regularly made porter.  So too did Brandon & Beal (Leavenworth, Kansas), Imperial Brewing Co. (Minneapolis, MN), August Buehler Brewing Co. (The Dalles, OR), Seattle Ale & Porter Co. (Seattle WA), Robert Witz Brewery (Sitka, Alaska), among others.

Therefore, as porter’s popularity waned in England during the 20th century, America maintained the tradition, where by the end of the century thanks to the micro brewing revolution of the 1980s, nearly every craft brewery offers at least one version of a porter. Meaning, we can all be thankful this distinct style of ale will be with us for generations to come.

Colonial Porter

In all, 12 gallons of Colonial Porter were brewed.  Tipping a hat to the traditional method of combining the mash runnings, one 6gallon carboy contained the first running, with an original gravity of 1.080 (20 Plato) {recent final gravity of 1.022}.  The second 6 gallon carboy contained 3 gallons of the first running and 3 gallons of a second mash rinsing, to produce a moderate strength porter, with an original gravity of 1.060 (15 Plato).  After adding one ounce of oak chips to the fermenters in the secondary fermentation stage, the resulting oak flavor should come through in the flavor profile as the porter ages in the bottle.  This ought to be a very nice porter indeed and ideally an accurate rendition of the first porters brewed in North America, when the yoke of English colonialism was thrown off!

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Ale Through the Ages: Grätzer Smoked Wheat Ale

The second recipe we brewed during this season’s Ale through the Ages at Discovery World was a traditional Grätzer Ale.  There was great crowd on hand to participate in this brewing session to learn about the origins of this enigmatic smoked wheat ale.  Grätzer is the German name derived from the town of Grätz, formerly in western Prussia.  Today this town is known as Grodzisk, located in the province of Wielkopolski in western Poland. Therefore, this style of smoked wheat ale is known as Grodziskie (Grodzisz) in Polish.

The history of brewing in Western Prussia is quite extensive. For instance, during the 15th Century in the port town of Gdansk on the Baltic Sea, the city’s output of beer was ca. 25 million liters (6.6 million gallons) (ca. 210,000 barrels).  Indeed in the year 1416, 378 breweries were in operation (Unger 2004:121).  The Posnań district of western Poland also has a deep brewing tradition, most notably as the birth place of Grodziskie smoked wheat ale. In 1890s Poznań (Posen) had 158 breweries, 101 of which were ale breweries producing between them 177,038 hl (148,471 Barrels) (4,676,849.2 US Gallons).  The other 57 breweries were lager breweries producing 307,800 hl. (258,134 Barrels) among them.  Hence, lager production accounted for 63% of the total output from Posnań, compared to 37% for ale production (Zeitschrift für das gesammte Brauwesen 1894, p.23).

In the town of Grodzisk (Grätz) alone, there were five breweries in operation in 1900.  While several styles of beer were being produced in Grodzisk, the most distinct was the Grodziskie smoked wheat ale. Sadly, in 1994 the large Grodziskie Brewery closed when it was bought by local rival Lech Brewery, which ostensibly ended the commercial production of this style of beer in Poland.

According to legend, the popularity of this type of beer is associated with the Benedictine monk Bernard of Wąbrzeźno (1575-1603). After blessing a dried well in Grodzik, it eventually refilled, which allowed brewers to produce their famous Grodziskie smoked beer.  Moreover, Jedrzej Kitowicz (1728-1804) wrote in A Description of Manners under Augustus III the following: “Grodzisk was famous and increasingly after the Greater Poland (mid 15th century)…(Grodziskie) is a thin and tasty beer…doctors which prohibit all alcoholic beverages to patients permit drinking Grodziskie beer.”

Traditional Grodziskie is produced by smoking wheat malt with oak or beech wood.  This I had to do myself on a grill, as smoked wheat malt is difficult to obtain. I cut out the base of an aluminum foil tray and stapled metal mesh screen to the bottom, in order to allow the smoke to filter through the grain bed.  After letting the wheat malt soak in water overnight, it was ready to be placed in the smoker.  I used wet oak placed over a low flame to produce a heavy smoke atmosphere in which the wet grain was subjected to for a minimum of three hours.

Once the smoked wheat malt was dry it was time to grind it and get it ready for brewing.  Given the large number of participants in this brewing session, we brewed 10 gallons of Grätzer.  This required 20 lbs of wheat malt, 16 lbs of which was oak-smoked.  The mash stabilized at 150F for 40minunts before the program began.  We sparged the mash with 180F water and brought the wort to a rolling boil.  Polish Marinka hops, Hallertau Mittelfruh and German Spalt hops were added throughout the boil.  Once the wort was cooled one five gallon carboy was fermented with German Ale/Kolsh yeast from White Labs, while the other was fermented with German Wheat yeast from Wyeast.

Traditionally isinglass was used in Northern Europe and Britain to accelerate the clarification (fining) of cask-conditioned ales. Isinglass is a fining that is produced from sturgeon bladders, which causes the live yeast to flocculate into a jelly-like mass that settles to the bottom of the cask. For optimum performance, the beer must be fined at the coldest point in the process (ca. 50 F).  This was done during during secondary fermentation, at which point the carboy was chilled outside (40-55 F).

The results of this traditional Grätzer are quite pleasing.  At 4% ABV this smoked wheat ale slightly hazy with distinct smoky notes and a crisp hop finish.

It would be a shame for this ale to fade into the ether like so many other lost styles.  Fortunately there a revival may be taking place in Grodzisk Poland.  In August of 2010, a home brewing competition was held during the 31st International Breweriana Exchange called, “Almost like Grodzisz.” The goal was to recreate and revive the legendary Grodzisk beer brewing tradition, which was judged by former Grodziskie Brewery workers.  Perhaps this is incentive to maintain the longevity of this very old style of ale for generations to come. Na Zdrowie!


Ale Through The Ages: Brewing the Oldest Known Fermented Beverage in the World

Now in the third season of the Ale Through the Ages brewing series here at Discovery World, the latest brew turned out to be one of the most challenging and unique fermented beverages we’ve attempted thus far. The challenge was to brew as authentic a version as we could of the oldest known fermented beverage in the world, found at the site of Jiahu in the Henan Provence of eastern China, which turned out to be at least 9,000 years old!

Henan Ancient Ale Recipe

The following recipe for a 5 gallon batch of Henan Ancient Ale as I’ve dubbed requires first malting the rice using Aspergillus mold (Koji) much like making Saki, followed by the use of Saki yeast to begin the  initial fermentation, followed by a basic ale yeast to complete the fermentation.  The use of three separate yeast strains was necessary to convert this high gravity ale in only two weeks of fermentation. Not surprisingly Dogfish Head Brewery has also previously recreated a limited batch based on this ancient beverage, which they call Chateau Jiahu.  While they stayed true to the research by using honey, muscat grapes, hawthorn fruit, and Chrysanthemum flower, they deviated by using barley malt as the primary fermentable.  I like to think this recipe without barley is an even more accurate recreation. Nevertheless, there is a great interview about Dogfish Head’s recreation on NPR that aired in July of 2010.


Archaeological Evidence at the Site of Jiahu

The modern world owes a great debt of gratitude to China for their contribution to civilization as we know it.  For instance at the site of Jiahu, in the Henan Province of eastern China (east of Fuliu Mountains in the fertile Huai River basin), some of the earliest playable multi-tone instruments, domesticated rice and oldest known alcoholic beverage have been discovered there.  The site was discovered in the 1960s, but only in the past 15 years have significant excavation activities begun. Jiahu is 55,000 square meters, yet only about 5% of the site has been excavated. Thus far 45 house foundations, 370 cellars, 9 pottery kilns, dozens of burials and thousands of artifacts of bone, pottery, stone and other materials have been found. Radiometric dating proved that the site was occupied between 9000-7500 years ago in a period known as the Chinese Neolithic.

Molecular Archaeological Evidence

Molecular Archaeological Analysis of pottery sherds from domestic contexts was performed by Dr. Patrick McGovern (University of Pennsylvania) among others, using Gas and Liquid Chromatography, Mass Spectrometry, Infrared Spectrometry and Stable Isotope Analysis. Compounds identified include those for hawthorn fruit and/or wild grape, beeswax associated with honey, and rice.  The results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences hit the archaeological community and global media by storm.

Following the Neolithic Period, there is much more evidence of ancient alcohol during the Chinese Bronze Age, specifically during the Shang 商 Dynasty (1600 BCE and ca.1050 BCE).  The reason for this is because preserved alcoholic beverages have been excavated in many burial tombs in the Henan Province such as at Fuhao, Jiazhuang and Changzikou.  These bronze vessels were hermeneutically sealed with lids after thousands of years in the ground. In fact. inside a tomb at Changzikou, 52 bronze lidded vessels were discovered, which still contained the original liquid rice wine.  Subsequent analysis of these beverages showed that wormwood, chrysanthemum, and/or tree resins (e.g., China fir and elemi) had been added, perhaps as preservatives or flavorings.  Surprisingly after 3,000 years they still smelled and tasted very good!!

Du Kang: The Father of Chinese Wine

Du Kang (the father of Chinese alcohol) living during the Xia 夏 Dynasty (2100-1600 BCE) and is credited with first discovering alcohol by accident.  The story relates how Du Kang stored some cooked Chinese sorghum seeds inside a hollow tree stump on a winter day. In the spring of the following year, a fragrant aroma wafted from the tree stump into the nostrils of Du Kang. Afterwards, Du Kang found that it was the fermented sorghum seeds which gave off the alluring fragrance.  It was this node to Du Kang that I decided to use malted sorghum instead of barley malt in this ancient Chinese recreation.

The Results from this Rare Recreation:

The results of this experimental archaeological fermented concoction were surprising indeed.  After vigorously fermenting for two weeks and undergoing four racking episodes to clarify the suspended yeast and rice, the time came for bottling this Henan Ale on October 20th.  The original gravity was 1.084 and final at bottling was 1.014, meaning it was already at 9% ABV before bottle conditioning with 1 cup of wildflower honey.  To all of our astonishment it tasted just like fermented grapefruit wine!  I think the reason for this was the combination of hawthorn berries and the bitter wormwood.  Everyone seemed to enjoy this session and all were rewarded with at least three take home samples apiece, which are sure to age splendidly and continue to render a powerful punch that is perhaps an accurate rendition of the authentic ancient alcoholic beverages brewed in this region of eastern Asia 9,000 years ago!干杯 gan bei “cheers”!

Milwaukee’s Historic Southside Breweries Rediscovered

Legacies of Milwaukee Brewing: South Side Brewing History Tour

Saturday September 25th brought together an enthusiastic group of Milwaukee brewing aficionados to pay homage to the extensive brewing legacies located throughout southern Milwaukee. More than thirty participants boarded the coach bus at 10:00am for this second Legacies of Milwaukee Brewing Heritage Tour, developed through the Distant Mirror Archaeology Program at Discovery World. During this epic tour, we visited a dozen historic sites in a dozen Milwaukee south side neighborhoods, the highlights from which are discussed here.

Our first disembarking off the bus was at Milwaukee’s very first verifiable commercial brewery site, the German Brewery, begun possibly as early as 1839 by Simon Reutelshofer on the southeast corner of S. 3rd St. & Virginia St.  It was here that we cracked open the special batch of Himbeere Hefe-Weizen that I brewed exclusively for this tour.  Sampling this Bavarian raspberry wheat beer at the former German Brewery site was a fitting honor, as we toasted to the origins of  Milwaukee’s heralded brewing tradition.  It was also a perfect way to begin our day with a cordial toast of 6% ale at 10:30am!

The group then strolled a block north to view the architecturally interesting cream city brick buildings built by the Pabst Brewing Company in 1892 and 1898. The original purpose of these buildings is unclear, yet it is likely they were used by the Pabst Brewing Co. as a cooperage (barrel manufacturing facility) or for manufacturing custom Pabst brewania.  While we were unable to obtain access due to open elevator shafts, etc. we were able to peer in the windows and examine the interesting exterior of the buildings.

Moving four blocks west, we pulled into the site the former Menominee Brewery, built in 1850 by Francis Neukrich.    In 1853 this large brewery was owned and operated by Charles T. Melms, who would go on to become Milwaukee’s first true “beer baron”. In 1864, C.T. Melms built an enormous Italianate-style mansion beside the brewery, however his premature death in 1869 caused by a tetanus infection would leave the family business in substantial debt.  This would lead to the transfer of the brewery site to the Philip Best Brewing Company, which was being operated out of the Empire Brewery in downtown Milwaukee. Subsequent ownership went to the Pabst Brewing Co. and it was in 1892 that the abandoned Melms mansion was torn down. Today, all that remains of the original brewery is the bottling house, built by Philip Best 1881.


Following a nice walk around the property with two Melms family historians, Margaret Berres and Tom Ludka, we made our way to the Milwaukee Brewing Company’s 2nd St. Brewery for a catered lunch and a custom tour lead by brewery president and founder, Jim McCabe. Jim gave us some great inside history on the names they chose for several of their celebrated ales.  For instance, the “Flaming Damsel” is named for a theatrical performance that took place in Milwaukee during the early 1900s in which a performing artist made her living by lighting herself on fire and diving from a 40-foot platform to the water below.

After lunch and a great tour of the Milwaukee Brewing Company’s south side brewery, we once again boarded the bus and made our way along National Avenue, to drive by several noteworthy Milwaukee brewing historic sites, including the sites of the former Graf and Madlener Weiss Beer Breweries, and the little known Excelsior Weiss Beer Brewery.  Now a residential structure, this former brewery was established by J.F. Cruscynski in 1884 on the southwest corner of S. 15th and W. Becher St.

By 1:30pm the coach bus arrived at Forest Home Cemetery as we sought out the final resting place of several Milwaukee beer barons, including those involved in the establishment of former brewery’s we had just visited.  Blatz, Schlitz and Pabst are household names, but Bills, Melms, Munzinger, Neukrich and Owens should be added to the list of famous Milwaukee brewery owners.

Our next stop took us to the former site of the Milwaukee Brewery Company (1892-1919) on S. 13th and W. Arthur St.  The plans for this elegant 19th century brewery were drawn by August Martizen of Chicago, sadly it was demolished during prohibition.  Nearby on S. 14th and Cleveland St. we passed the  site of the former Milwaukee Independent Brewing Company (1901-1962).  Today it is a petrol service station, but in its heyday, the brewery was noted for its famous “Braumeister” lager.

By 3pm we were once again getting thirsty, so we paid a visit to the newly established Horny Goat Brewing Company, to meet with Dave the brewmaster and sample a variety of their brews.  While they are yet to brew on the premises (by mid October) they currently contract their production with Point Brewery in Stevens Point, WI.  All were in great spirits as we sampled some nice versions of a Milk Stout, Pale Ale, Belgian Saison, Red Ale, etc.

Continuing down KinnickinnicAve. on the south side Milwaukee historic brewery trail, we passed near the former site of the Munzinger Weiss Beer Brewery (1890-1906) {2428 S. Burrell St.) as well as the contemporary Bay View Brew Haus.  However, due to a wedding in the Brew Haus, we rolled by on our way to our last stop on the tour, the St. Francis Brewery.  Coincidence would have it that this new brewery was celebrating Oktoberfest with live music, lederhosen laden lads and fair frauleins in froks (how about that for alliteration).  This was a great way to finish this second Legacies of Milwaukee Brewing tour amidst the sights, sounds and great tastes of this cities enduring tradition.

After traveling through a dozen Milwaukee south side neighborhoods to visit a dozen  historic brewery sites and three contemporary breweries, we were all feeling a wee bit weary but a whole lot more appreciative of the Milwaukee’s lasting legacy as our nations true brewing capital.  We are only beginning to put these historic breweries back on the map and we hope to launch two additional Legacies of Milwaukee Brewing tours next year, as we explore this cities west side and north side historic and contemporary brewing sites.  Watch for that in Spring 2011!

Listen to an interview about Milwaukee’s brewing history, recorded on 89.7FM Milwaukee Public Radio’s  Lake Effect program.

http://www.wuwm.com/programs/lake_effect/le_sgmt.php?segmentid=6614

Making the History of a Milwaukee Neighborhood Come Alive Like Never Before

Art meets Archaeology in Bay View Wisconsin

In a world of increasing visual media, today’s high school students are having to  become more adept than ever at navigating through this age of hyper-information, while often being exposed to conventional modes of academic learning in the classroom.  These challenges have recently been addressed in a Milwaukee neighborhood by bringing the classroom into the community through a unique public art installation.  This impressive outdoor exhibit installation called the <a href="http://discoveryworld/bayview“>Bay View Observatory is the result of a collaborative effort between Discovery World and Bay View High School students.  The Observatory is the culmination of a semester-long program called “The Art and Archaeology of Me”, where students were exposed to elements of Archaeology, Digital Arts, History, Geography, Genetics and Social Studies, in order to produce a one-of-a-kind public art intervention.

Located on the lawn of the Beulah Brinton house, which is home to the Bay View Historical Society, the Bay View Observatory is a public art installation and educational experience that celebrates the rich history of the Bay View neighborhood.   Over three Saturdays in August, Bay Viewers were invited to the Observatory to participate in the preservation of history through audio interviews, artifact documentation and portrait photography.  These stations were staffed by five Bay View interns who orchestrated this data collection for future generations to learn about the unique history of this Milwaukee neighborhood.

The Observatory is based on the idea of a compass. Four 12-foot tall vertical banners represent both the cardinal points and the visual history of the community.  Meanwhile, thirty individual markers point to historically or archaeologically significant sites in and around the Bay View neighborhood. In the center of the Observatory is a Community Table where a map of the neighborhood indicates where each marker is pointing to.  The Community Table also functions as a platform from which visitors can share their Bay View stories, artifacts, historic photographs and documents.

Three 15-foot tall Personal Archaeology banner columns greet visitors to the Observatory.  These personal banners represent the unique individuality and creativity of several Bay View High School students that participated in the Art and Archaeology of Me program.  Several other banners are currently on display at Bay View High School, as well as on Discovery Worlds’ grounds at the corner of Lincoln Memorial Dr. and Michigan St.

This Observatory is well worth a visit and is a successful model of the kind of innovative educational opportunities high school students can get behind. For more information, log onto the Observatory website www.discoveryworld.org/bayview to learn about the many personalities that make this historic Milwaukee neighborhood unique.  The Observatory is slated for de-installation by Labor Day weekend of this year, so come and see for yourself if you happen to be in Bay View, Wisconsin in the next few weeks.

Diving Deep to Discover the L.R. DOTY

The Discovery of the L.R. DOTY

Last week a group of divers descended over 300 feet into the 40F cold waters of southwestern Lake Michigan becoming the first people to visit the quagga mussel-encrusted grave of the shipwreck L.R. Doty.  Led by renowned Great Lakes maritime historian, Brendon Baillod, a team of technical divers made history when their video footage of the behemoth wreck came to light after 112 years. Until last week, it was the largest wooden ship that had been unaccounted for in Lake Michigan.

In a recent interview with Meg Jones of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Brendon Baillod stated that the Doty “vanished with no real explanation. She was a pretty new ship. We wanted to solve that mystery – why she disappeared in a Lake Michigan storm that she should have been able to handle.” Technical divers breathing a special blend of mixed gas (helium and oxygen) with and with equipment necessary to dive so deep recorded high definition video and photographs of the wreck site, which may provide clues as to how and why the Doty sank in a storm so fierce it damaged part of the Milwaukee break wall and destroyed the boardwalk in Chicago. One of these divers, Jitka Hanakova who captained the dive expedition, descended to the shipwreck which appeared at around 200 feet below the surface. “It just suddenly shows up like a ghost ship and the more murky it is, the spookier it is…it’s very exciting to be on a new wreck that nobody has ever seen – it’s like a diver’s holy grail.” http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/97008779.html

History of the LR Doty


Launched in May of 1893 at West Bay City, Michigan by F.W. Wheeler & Co. for the Cuyahoga Transit Company of Cleveland, Ohio, the L.R. Doty was named after Mr. Lucius Ramsey Doty, the general manager of the Cuyahoga Transit Company. She was and enrolled at the Cleveland, Ohio customs house on June 5, 1893 where she was awarded official number 141272

The Doty was built of white oak with a hull length of 291 ft., a beam of 41 ft. and a depth of 19.8 ft., with a capacity of 2056.34 gross tons. The Doty was built with steel arches embedded in her hull, providing additional stability for a wooden vessel of her size. She had nine deck hatches and was built with a tall fore-mast, on which she could set sail, but also had a large triple expansion coal fired engine for primary steam power. Fortunately, she was one of seven nearly identical sister ships built at this time, which included the: William F. Sauber, C.F. Bielman, Tampa, Iosco and Uganda. http://www.baillod.com/shipwreck/doty

Loaded with 107,000 bushels of corn, the L.R. Doty was pulling the four-masted schooner, the Olive Jeanette when the tow line broke in a gale as the ships passed Milwaukee heading north. As waves reached 30 feet, the Doty‘s captain, Christopher Smith, swung his large ship around to search for large schooner.  Ironically the schooner survived the storm, but the L.R. Doty was never seen again.

Condition of Shipwreck


As the divers illuminated the stern of the enormous wooden vessel, it failed to yield the ships definitive identity due to the entire surface being covered in a thick carpet of invasive mussels introduced to the Great Lakes within the past 20 years, suspected to have proliferated via ballast water offloaded from ocean going ships.

Despite not being able to make out the official name,  the vessels dimensions, unique characteristics, onboard cargo and geographical location (ca. 20miles off of south Milwaukee), pinpoint her as being the grave of none other than the L.R. Doty.  Both deckhouses were gone, likely due to her violent and tragic end in 1898. As the Doty began to sink, the incoming water displacing the air in the cabins would have caused them to blow off as witnessed on many other shipwrecks before and after this nautical tragedy. Moreover, her two masts and smokestack were tipped over, while a wheelbarrow used to move cargo still lays on the deck of the ship, holding nothing now but water and encrusted mussels.

Like all shipwrecks in Wisconsin waters, this wreck belongs to the state and is protected under federal legislation.  This means that no artifacts can be removed from the wreck site without permission of the DNR and State Historical Society.

In Memorandum


The 19 victims of this deadly storm were as follows: Christopher Smith (Captain, from Port Huron, MI), Henry Sharp (First Mate of Detroit), W.J. Bossie (Second Mate of Detroit), Thomas Abernathie (Engineer of Port Huron), C.W. Odette (Second Engineer), George Wadkin, (Oiler), L. Goss (Steward of Bay City, MI), W.J. Scott (Cook), Charles Bornie (Watchman), Peter G. Peterson (Wheelsman), Albert Nelson (Assistant Wheelsman), Joseph Fitzsimmons (Fireman), J. Howe (Deckhand), F. Parmuth (Deckhand), C. Curtis (Deckhand), William Ebert (Deckhand), Pat Ryan ( Deckhand), including the ships two cats Dewy and Watson.

Public Program

All are welcome to participate in an upcoming public presentation on this shipwreck discovery at DISCOVERY WORLD on Sunday July 11th at 4pm.  This public forum will bring the expedition team members together to talk about their personal accounts of the discovery, while viewing a sample of the high definition video footage recorded during the first dive to the shipwreck.  In addition to this exciting public presentation on ships history and loss, guests of honor attending will include several living descendants of the LR Doty, including family members of Captain Christopher Smith.

This event is free and open to the public.

Also, stay tuned for more programs on this and other shipwrecks at Discovery World. http://discoveryworld.org

Rediscovering the Lost Neighborhood of Juneautown

Did you know that Juneau Park located along Lake Michigan in downtown Milwaukee was once home to some of Milwaukee’s founding citizens? As early as the 1850s, several structures once stood in this location and building continued up until the parks construction in the early 20th Century.  Please join us for a unique opportunity to help discover a fascinating chapter of Milwaukee’s history through hands-on research in identifying important 19th century residential houses beneath Juneau Park.

Juneau Park Survey Area

Through Discovery World’s Distant Mirror Archaeology Program and in collaboration with the Juneau Park Friends group, all are welcomed to participate in an exciting program that will bring the rich history of the park back to life.  Through the use of cutting-edge technology such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) you will be able to locate the buried remains of this former residential neighborhood.  Program activities also include an Archive Research Workshop, Lectures, Historic Open House Tours, and more.

Lost Neighborhood Program of Events

Friday May 14th 10am-4pm

Learn how to research who lived in the “lost neighborhood” beneath Juneau Park by examining public records at the Register of Deeds and in the archives at the Milwaukee Public Library.

Archive Research Rate: * Members: $30 ** Non-Members $35 *** Students $ 25

Public Lectures

Saturday May 15th 11am and 2pm

Come to Discovery World to hear exciting free lectures about Milwaukee’s historic parks.

** Free with admission to Discovery World

Juneau Park 1910

Lost Neighborhood Archaeology Survey

Friday May 21st 9:00am-5:00pm

    • Overview of the Project and History of the Lost Neighborhood.
    • Pedestrian survey along the bluff edge, following historic foot paths.
    • Begin to lay in historic streets with pin flags and place original street

Saturday May 22nd 9:00am-5:00pm

    • Juneau Park Friends group on hand to lead historic open house tours and more.
    • Remote sensing archaeology survey using Ground Penetrating Radar
    • Soil coring to identify buried remains.
    • Increase Lapham re-enactor to demonstrate 19th Century surveying while in character.

Sunday May 23rd 10:00am-3pm

    • Continue collecting GPR data within survey area.
    • Use soil probe to “ground truth” significant anomalies.
    • Relocate to Discovery World for data processing and conclusion