Anthony & Theodora Schreiber
Anthony was born in 1864 in the area of Poland known as old German Poland which, at that time, was part of the German Empire. Anthony’s parents were farmers. Upon achieving a high school education, he immigrated to the U.S. (New York City) in 1881 at the age of 17 years and, at first, settled in Brooklyn. He soon found work at various jobs, before finding employment with a large chemical firm in Manhattan that manufactured glycerine and other products (Marx & Rawolle). He commenced his career at Marx & Rowelle as an office boy at a wage of $1 per day. He rose by a rapid series of promotions to shipping clerk, city salesman, New England traveling salesman and later general sales manager for all the U.S. and Canada. While still living in Brooklyn, he had met Theodora Roczykiewicz, who had also been born in Poland. They were married in September 1888.
Following his very successful career of 16 years at Marx & Rawolle, Anthony’s entrepreneurial spirit blossomed. His analysis of business opportunities identified Buffalo as an excellent choice to start a brewery. At the time, Buffalo was one of America’s major commercial centers. It was not only a major brewing center, but also a major center of beer consumption, and had a large Polish population. As such, he moved to Buffalo in 1899 to start the A. Schreiber Brewing Company. He received financial backing from his previous employer, Mr. Rawolle, who became the majority shareholder in the new brewery.
When it was built, Schreiber’s brewery was not only the most modern in Buffalo, but was also considered one of the model breweries in the U.S. Electricity was used for lighting and machinery, and all the equipment was installed in duplicate, so that in the case of an accident, work could continue uninterrupted. Schreiber’s brewery was located at 662 Fillmore Avenue on Buffalo’s Polish east side. Competition within the Buffalo brewing industry was fierce. Nevertheless, Schreiber’s brewery grew rapidly and achieved significant success, appearing destined to become one of Buffalo’s biggest breweries. A significant contributing factor to Anthony’s success in developing business was his very active participation in Polish communities in Buffalo, Western New York and Western Pennsylvania. Clearly, Anthony Schreiber was one of Polonia’s major ‘movers and shakers’.
The advent of prohibition in 1919 took a tremendous toll on Buffalo’s brewing industry. Of the 20 breweries in Buffalo before Prohibition, only 7 re-opened upon repeal – with Schreiber Brewing being one of the survivors.
Upon the commencement of Prohibition, Anthony reorganized the A. Schreiber Brewing Co. into the Schreiber Products Corporation, converting the brewery to coffee production (roasting and blending) along with manufacture of malt syrups and powders. The coffee and malt business provided work for the company and its employees during prohibition but achieved only limited success, incurring operating losses during most of the period 1919-1933. During this coffee period (i.e. Prohibition), Schreiber sold 45 pieces of property which had been used as brewery retail outlets – with the proceeds used to fund operating losses of the malt and coffee business.
Upon repeal of prohibition, the business was converted back to a brewery in 1933 as Schreiber Brewing Co. Inc. Substantial capital expenditures were needed to upgrade the plant and equipment to re-establish the brewing business. Considerable financing had to be arranged to complete this upgrade. It was about this time that Anthony took over majority financial control of the business.
As with much of the U. S. brewing industry, the Schreiber brewery experienced a large business expansion following repeal of prohibition. Business and profits boomed, peaking in 1936 but then starting a steady decline. Schreiber had expanded its sales to the Pittsburg, PA area, selling some 80,000 cases of beer there in 1936, but that market was reduced to only around 18,000 cases by 1938. The brewery had an annual capacity of 150,000 barrels, but sold only some 81,000 barrels overall in 1938. By this time, the large national brewers had moved into Buffalo, selling beer at prices lower than the cost of production for local breweries, ushering in the decline of the Buffalo brewing industry.
Schreiber’s brewery produced several beers and ales, including Manru, Kloster and Nilo. However, the main brand was Manru lager, and the marketing slogan was “Make Mine Manru”. When switching from beer production to coffee production, Anthony showed his business and marketing brilliance by continuing to use the Manru name for his main coffee blend. Manru coffee advertisements were common during prohibition, which allowed Schreiber to keep the Manru brand-name in the public eye, benefiting his beer business when prohibition ended. Incidentally, there is an interesting story behind Schreiber selecting Manru as the name for his beer. Manru was the name of an opera composed by the brilliant Polish pianist, composer and statesman, Ignacy Paderewski. The opera (a lyrical drama in 3 acts) had its world premiere in Berlin (Dresden?) in 1901, and its American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in February 1902. Manru remains the only Polish opera by a Polish composer ever presented at The Met. Paderewski made many appearances in Buffalo from the 1890s to the early 1930s, performing at the Music Hall, Convention Hall and others – in fact, there is a street in Buffalo named after him. Schreiber and Paderewski were both strong supporters of Poland, and both were very active in fund raising and recruiting for Poland during World War I.
One of the primary reasons Schreiber’s business ventures were so successful was due to his very active involvement in running the businesses. Records indicate that he closely supervised every aspect of the brewery’s operations and made all decisions, although all the while never grooming an able successor. He essentially operated the businesses as sole-proprietorships, even into his latter years. As such, his absence from the business in 1938, first due to several months of serious illness, and then death, deprived the brewery of its sole leadership. In addition to the fierce competition from the national brewers, this absence of planned succession of capable management helped to lead to the brewery’s decline. Successor management built a new bottling plant in early 1948 at the cost of some $300 thousand (equivalent to almost $3 million in 2013). Although the building was deemed to be needed, this investment saddled the business with significant debt, which would prove to be a considerable problem for the business. All told, the brewery continued for another 10+ years after Anthony’s death, at which time it was sold. Until that sale, ownership of the business had always rested only in the Schreiber and Rawolle families.
A group of executives from the William Simon Brewery Company, led by Guy Lovelace, purchased Schreiber Brewing in the spring of 1949, just short of its 60th anniversary. Unfortunately, the new ownership was not able to turn the brewery’s fortunes around, and filed for bankruptcy in August 1950. In connection with the bankruptcy filing, newspaper reports noted that “the Schreiber concern is one of the most modern brewery companies in this part of the country”. The entire brewery plant was sold later that year for some $310 thousand ($90 thousand plus outstanding bank debt) - the purchase a joint effort by two investment groups, one group buying the plant and equipment and the other group buying the land. The brewery consisted of 2 buildings – the landmark 4 story brewhouse and a smaller 2 story building used as the office and bottling plant. Demolition of the 52 year old 4 story brewhouse began in the spring of 1951. The smaller building still survives at its Fillmore Avenue location in Buffalo.
Anthony served as Censor of the Polish National Alliance for 8 years (this nationwide organization was founded in 1880 by a group of Polish émigrés committed to humanitarian assistance to the Polish people, assimilation of Polish immigrants into American society, preservation of Polish culture and language, and restoration and preservation of Polish independence). The unique post of Censor combined the duties of a supreme judge with those of a chaplain – essentially, this position was the head of the Alliance.
One of Anthony’s proudest achievements during his tenure as Censor was establishment of the Polish National Alliance College in Cambridge Springs, PA – this college subsequently became a 4 year co-educational institution and, by the 1960s, had peak enrollment of more than 600 students. He was also a major contributor and organizer of St. Francis College in Athol Springs, NY.
Another major achievement was erecting the Monument to General Thaddeus Kosciuszko on the north-east corner of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. That project was memorialized in a 650 page book issued by the Polish National Alliance in 1911.
He was one of the founders, and the first president, of the Association of Polish Businessmen of Buffalo (now known as the Professional & Businessmen’s Association). Anthony was also a major force in the formation of Dom Polski in Buffalo, organized in 1905 to assist Polish immigrants in adapting to their new country (US).
When a call was made in 1917 for volunteers in the U.S. to serve in Polish armies, Anthony was one of the first to volunteer and help recruit soldiers. The Alliance formed the Polish Central Relief Committee, which was instrumental in collecting money and material goods to benefit Polish victims of that devastating war. This effort also involved the great Polish pianist-patriot Paderewski.
Anthony Schreiber was one of the many Polish patriots who had worked tirelessly over many years to restore Poland’s independence. Their dream finally became reality following World War I when, after over 120 years of not having nationhood (not existing as a separate nation), Poland was reconstituted as an independent sovereign nation (Point 13 of Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points). Ignacy Paderewski became Prime Minister and H. E. Titus Filipowicz was appointed as Poland’s first-ever Ambassador to the U.S. We can only imagine how immensely proud Anthony, and his many Polish patriot associates, must have been in early May 1930 when Ambassador Filipowicz, was a guest in Buffalo for 2 days, during which he was feted at grand dinners and other events.
Anthony was also involved in many other business and community related activities, including several fraternal organizations and clubs (including Buffalo Lodge, Order of Elks, East Aurora Country Club, Buffalo Automobile Club, Royal Arcanum), the presidency of the Brewers Exchange, Chamber of Commerce, service on the Buffalo Municipal Civil Service Commission (appointed by Mayor J. N. Adam) and others. His bio is included in a number of books on Western New York history, such as – Memorial and Family History of Erie County, NY (Volume 1) and Municipality of Buffalo, N.Y.–A History 1720-1923 (Volume 3).
Anthony, Theodora and their daughters initially lived on Main Street in Buffalo. In 1917, Anthony and Theodora (along with the younger daughter, the elder one having married) decided to leave Buffalo for the country and settled on East Aurora. They purchased The Lilacs which, at the time, consisted of some 20 ½ acres. Shortly after moving in, Anthony added two more small parcels of land, bringing the total estate to some 22 acres. He purchased the cottage, which had been built by Sylvester Griggs as a tenant house and subsequently separated from the Lilacs’ property when Rhoda Griggs sold The Lilacs. The cottage was thus re-united with The Lilacs, and was moved from its location by Big Tree Road to its present location which, at that time, was next to the complex of barns located behind the grand house. Anthony’s chauffeur (and family) reportedly lived in the cottage for a time – an apparent ideal arrangement as the car was parked in the barn. Anthony also purchased approximately 1 acre of land on the north-western border of The Lilacs. During the early 1920s, Anthony also built a large and expensive chicken coop facility - legend has it that Theodora had considered raising chickens to occupy her time as Anthony was always busy with his business. During the early 1960s the chicken coop was converted to a one family residence and separated from the main Lilacs property.
Life in East Aurora was good for Anthony and Theodora. They appeared to enjoy the fruits of his success. Their eldest daughter and granddaughter moved to East Aurora and lived with them for many years. Anthony’s main interest outside of his business was outdoor life, especially gardening, followed by music (he played the violin), books and stamp collecting. He loved The Lilacs and was able to indulge his passion for gardening. During his ownership of The Lilacs, he completed substantial landscaping improvements to the property, which were recognized well beyond East Aurora. The property was featured in the book “Buffalo, The City Beautiful, Its Homes, Gardens and Environs” published by The Buffalo Truth Publishing Company in 1931, as well as other home and gardening periodicals.
Anthony died at The Lilacs in November 1938 at the age of 74, following an illness of several months. A memorial was held for him in April 1939 at Dom Polski in Buffalo, attended by over 1,000 people. The program was sponsored by soldiers of the Polish army in France during World War I, and included the unveiling of an oil painting of Anthony done by Augustine Korda (a well known Buffalo artist). Many prominent people from Buffalo and beyond came to pay their respects, and speak of his charitable works, calling him a great philanthropist.
Anthony Schreiber’s personality was well summed up in the Memorial and Family History, Erie County, NY which stated “his modesty, courtesy and sterling qualities of mind and heart have won him many friends, and his career is an admirable illustration of what may be accomplished by zeal, honesty and ability”.
His wife, Theodora, predeceased him, having passed away in 1935.
From his humble beginnings as a Polish farm boy, Anthony achieved enormous success in life – as a businessman, philanthropist and public minded citizen – and left behind an admirable legacy. This from someone who, as a 17 year old lad travelling alone, with only a high school education and all his belongings in his luggage, had stepped ashore at the Port of Brooklyn pier, wiped the dust of the Old World off his feet and went on to live the American Dream.
Following Anthony’s death, the daughter and granddaughter moved to Buffalo. The Lilacs remained vacant for four years, partly due to the difficulty of selling high-end properties during the war years. The Lilacs was finally sold by his estate in 1943 for a mere $13,000. Anthony’s death signaled the end of a long line of grand owners of this remarkable property. Unfortunately, his death also signaled the start of a long journey of deterioration for The Lilacs, a decline which would not be arrested and turned around for almost five decades.