all original late 19th or early 20th century john gund bottled beer wood crate or carrying case, comprised largely of pine wood with galvanized steel banded edges. the wooden crate retains the original blue paint finish with crisp black lettering. the beer bottle crate was fabricated by the la crosse carpenters' union of the j. gund brewing company. the highly collectible case exhibits typical surface wear consistent with age. in august of 1854, john gund started a brewery in the log cabin he had built at the corner of front and division streets, located in la crosse, w. in 1858, gund sold the log cabin to c. l. colman, who used it for his lumber business. he then entered into partnership with gottlieb heileman and built the “city brewery.” gund sold his share of the business to heileman in 1872 and began building the “empire brewery” on south avenue. the capacity of the brewery was thirty thousand barrels per year, and a staff of twenty-five people was employed at an annual cost of fifteen thousand dollars. although a large part of the beer was exported, three teams of horses were kept constantly at work in delivering beer throughout the city. the john gund brewing company was organized and incorporated on may 1, 1880, with one hundred thousand dollars capital. the amount of business being handled by the john gund brewing company was increasing steadily. additions and improvements were made to the brewery so that by 1897, the brewery covered five acres. in that year sixty thousand barrels of beer were brewed. gund’s beer was shipped all over wisconsin, dakota, iowa, illinois, minnesota, and nebraska. in 1904, the capital stock of the john gund brewing company was increased to two million dollars, and it listed the following officers: john gund, president; henry gund, vice-president and treasurer; carl kurtenacker, secretary and general manager. on may 7, 1910, john gund, after an illness of several months, died of apoplexy at his home, 1910 mormon coulee road. the gund brewing company was the largest brewery in the old northwest, outside of milwaukee. “gund’s peerless” beer was internationally famous. it won the award of medal and diploma at the paris exposition in 1900, and the gold medal at the louisiana purchase exposition in 1904. by 1910, gund’s brewery employed 450 people at an annual payroll of five hundred thousand dollars. rent, taxes, freight, advertising, and traveling expenses amounted to one million dollars, and equipment for saloons owned by the brewery cost over fifty thousand dollars. cases, bottles, and kegs cost one hundred thousand dollars per year. in 1910, over six hundred thousand barrels of beer were brewed. every employee
was given a turkey for thanksgiving and a chicken for christmas. in 1919, prohibition was enacted and the john gund brewing company closed down. but on may 27th of that year, the ruling of a new york judge made possible the manufacture of beer with an alcoholic content between 2.3 percent and 4 percent, called “war beer.” the gund brewery re-opened and began production of this beer. in 1920, the brewery worker’s union in la crosse went on strike to outlaw open shops (businesses in which both union and non-union men could work). being the largest employer, gund’s was the hardest hit. notices were run daily, advertising jobs for men, women, and children. later in 1920, complete prohibition closed the john gund brewing company once again. this, along with the strike, proved to be too much the gund family. they packed up and moved east. the city of la crosse thereby lost one of the most important businesses it ever had. the buildings of the gund brewery stand today just south of lutheran hospital on south avenue. although several changes and alterations have been made, one can still get an idea of the immensity of this operation. the brew house is now being used by the g. heileman brewing company. the bottling house is being used by the nesco sign company and by gateway trucking. the wash house is used for storage, and the cooperage is owned by lutheran hospital.