Growing up in the 70’s I remember going to the pop shop to get a case of bottled pop for special occasions, my favorite was the red pop. As a kid I never thought much about the name National on the side of the bottle. Now that I am older, but probably not wiser, I know that National started as a brewery in the late 1800’s
National Brewery was started by Peter Raquet (pronounced “Rocky”) in 1885, He and his brother Jacob started the P & J Raquet brewery in 1870 on Lapeer, but they must have decided to split up and Peter started his own Brewery on the Corner of Genesee and Walnut. When building the brewery Peter insisted that everything was done with local businesses labor and had a strong belief in supporting his local community.
Fiver years after starting the brewery Peter Raquet died in 1890 leaving the operations of the brewery to be handled by his three son-in-laws, J L hubinger, William F. Weber, and George J. Wolfarth, the son of John J Wolfarth the prominent baker in Saginaw. Wolfarth and Webber bought out Hubinger’s share, and then Wolfarth died within a year of taking over half of the brewery, leaving many of the citizens of Saginaw saddened over his death at such a young age and a promising future that was never realized. Leaving William F. Weber to run the brewery along with George Wolfart’s wife Emma, who was Peter Raquet’s daughter , Peter’s wife must have inherited the brewery and Mr Weber and Mrs Wolfarth leased the brewery from her.
The brewery grew over the years eventually taking up the block on Walnut between Genesee and 5th, the building on the corner of Walnut and 5th that was recently demolished, was the “sample room” for the brewery. There were laws that prohibited the sale of beer at the brewery so it was common to have a separate building for the sale or tasting of beer. It was also rumored there were tunnels running under the brewery between buildings, when I was researching the Peninsula Brewery in Marquette, I found references to a law that prohibited entry into a brewery after sundown, so that may have been another purpose of the tunnels.
National brewery did exceptionally well in the early 1900’s until prohibition and like many breweries they tried marketing a non- alcoholic beer named ‘Nabo’ but then switched over into bottling soda ( or as we say in Michigan “pop”). It probably was not as lucrative as selling beer, but it did keep the company alive while many other breweries closed trying to sell non alcoholic beer. After the repeal of prohibition the brewery began making beer again in 1933, and then stopped in 1941 switching back to soda. They still had the mindset of supplying beer locally, but the bootleggers have pioneered the transportation of liquor, and when the breweries started up in Detroit they were able to transport there beer throughout the Midwest and the United States.
National had a bottling plant on Perkins for soda, but eventually closed in the 80’s, all the remains of their buildings is the building at 1245 Genesee on the corner of Genesee and Walnut.
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