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Collection on John Orth Family

Identifier: M/A 0259

Description of Contents

Biography of John Orth, photographs of his family and family tree information. Materials are from 1857-2004. The biography of John Orth was originally written in 1992 by St. Cloud State University graduate student Mike Worcester. It covers Orth's founding of his brewery, his nationality (he first claimed he was French and later German after the Prussians took Alsace after 1870), his politics and his family.

Photos in folder 2 are from the scrapbook of Maude Katherine (Orth) Robb, 1878-1960. There are 19 photos in the collection, including photos the John Orth residence at 1207 Marshall St. NE and the Edward P. Orth residence at 2320 Colfax Ave. S. The oldest photos in the collection are from 1857. John Orth and his oldest son, John W. Orth are in one photo from 1857. The other 1857 photo is of Mary Weinell Orth and son Edward Frederick and daughter Sophia Mathilda.

Most of the other photos in the collection reflect the above subjects, John and Mary Orth and their children. Other subjects include, daughter Virginia Ann Orth and Mathias J. Bofferding (their wedding photo, 1880); John Orth, son of Alfred Orth, 1897; Margaret Loftus Orth, wife of John W. Orth; son Edward P. Orth and his wife Katherine Loftus on their wedding day, May 4, 1877; Mary Demuth Orth 1861-1890, first wife of Alfred H. Orth; John Alpha Orth and his wife Minnie (grandson of John and Mary, son of John W.); Alfred H. Orth, May 1896 and a photo of the scrapbook’s owner, Maude Katherine (Orth) Robb at age 12 in 1890. Maude was the daughter of Edward P. and Katherine Orth.

The family group sheets in folder 3 give genealogical information about John and Mary Orth and their 6 children: John William, Charles P., Sophia Matilda, Edward Frederick, Virgina Ann, Alfred H., and their descendants.


  • Creation: 1857 - 2004


The collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours.


John Orth was the first brewer in the Minneapolis/St. Anthony area. His brewery merged with three other brewers in July 1890 to become the Minneapolis Brewing and Malting Company (later Minneapolis Brewing Company and Grain Belt Breweries Inc.).

John Orth was born in Rott, Alsace, in France on May 20, 1821. He learned beermaking in Europe before emigrating to Erie, Pennsylvania, in 1849. Orth met Prussian-born Mary C. Weinell in Erie and they married on August 6, 1849. Shortly after their marriage, the Orths moved to Galena, Illinois, and then on to St. Anthony, Minnesota, in July 1850.

John Orth constructed a brewery shortly after he arrived in St. Anthony. The Orth Brewery was located at 1228 Marshall Street NE, near where the Grain Belt Brewery was later built. By 1860, Orth Brewing capacity was 1,000 barrels, increasing to 7,000 by the late 1870s. Cold storage was first a beer cave on Nicollet Island and later Orth was one of the first to use ice cellars for lagering beer.

Besides brewing, Orth was also involved in politics. He was elected to the St. Anthony city council in 1855. His election caused concern with local temperance activists. Orth later served on the Minneapolis city council from 1872 to 1875. Although a committed abolitionist and early member of the Republican party, Orth later became a Democrat as the Minnesota Republicans became increasingly prohibitionist in their outlook.

John and Mary Orth had six children: John W., Charles, Sophia, Edward, Virginia, and Alfred. All of the children except Charles lived to adulthood. All of the sons worked at the brewery in some capacity for some duration. The 1884-1885 census reflected the family run business: John Orth--President, J.W. Orth--Vice President, E.F. Orth--Secretary and Alfred Orth--Treasurer.

In the last years of John's life, his sons got more involved in the business as he stepped away, traveling with Mary to Europe and Africa. While in Africa in 1887, John became ill. He died en route to Minneapolis.

The John Orth Brewery continued as an independent brewer for three years after its founder’s death. In 1890, the Orths, Germania, F.D. Noerenberg and Heinreich brewing merged to become Minneapolis Brewing and Malting. The Orth brothers left the business in 1893 to focus on real estate. The Orth Brothers were a well known name in real estate for many years and later ran the City Ice Company.

Minneapolis Brewing grew more successful into the 20th century, especially with its Grain Belt brand of beers. It survived prohibition and remained independent until the brewery was sold to G. Heileman in December 1975.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Donor Information

The biography of John Orth was donated by Mike Worcester in December of 2004. Worcester also wrote, Been a long time a-brewing: A history of the Minneapolis Brewing Company, SCMC HD9359.G72W67 1993.

The photos are copies from a scrapbook created by Maude Katherine (Orth) Robb, 1878-1960. As of June 2010, the scrapbook is now in the possession of Maude's grandson John Barrette Robb. John Barrett Robb gave permission to Keith Lawrence to make copies and donate them to Special Collections.

Keith Lawrence also donated the Family Group Sheets in folder 3 about the Orth family, mostly John Orth, his children, and grandchildren.

Related Materals in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

Hoverson, Doug. Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota.Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, c2007. TP573.U5 H68 2007

Minneapolis Brewing Company : Grain Belt Brewery history sourcebook. [Minneapolis, Minn.] : Minneapolis Public Library, 2003. HD9359.G72 M56 2003

Lonto, Jeff R. Legend of the brewery : a brief history of the Minneapolis brewing heritage. Minneapolis, Minn. : Studio Z-7 Pub., c1998. HD9359.G72 L66 1998

Worcester, Michael R. Been a long time a-brewing : a history of the Minneapolis Brewing Company, 1890-1975. 1993. HD9359.G72W67 1993

Collection on John Orth Family
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Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.