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Sigmund Luscher

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Sigmund Luscher was born in Switzerland in 1833 and emigrated to Memphis, Tennessee in the early 1860s. He built his first brewery there, but it, along with Luscher’s home and vegetable garden, was burned down by Sherman’s troops during the Civil War.[1] Luscher briefly fought with union troops before he was captured and sent to the Andersonville, Georgia prison camp. After being released from prison camp, he returned to Switzerland until the war ended, at which time he moved back to the southern United States.

Post-Civil War[edit]

He moved to Frankfort, Kentucky and used the reparations he received from the burned-down Memphis brewery to start his second brewery in Frankfort in 1866. Luscher’s wife attempted to make the voyage from Switzerland to the U.S. with him, but it is believed that she died at sea. Luscher took over the Capital Brewing Company, a community project started in 1805 when leaders in Frankfort decided they needed a brewery. According to research by Franfort-based attorney William E. Johnson, the man-made caves for storing the beer took 6 years to build and operated for 12 years. Business prospered, so it was decided to expand the operation as the Capital Brewery and sell to the surrounding community. The brewmeister, according to research, kept a barrel with a cup hanging on it outside the door for samples.[2]

The Capital Brewery operated until the Civil War came to Kentucky. In an effort to stay neutral, Kentucky organized a militia into a Home Guard. In the summer of 1862 with the Confederate Army out of Frankfort and Federal troops reportedly on their way, Lt. John Roberts and his men took a beer keg from the brewery, knocked out the end of it and set it up on Fort Hill in the hope that the enemy would think it artillery. The ruse appeared to work as the Confederates did not attack. It was reported the Monroe’s Raiders used the brewery to store supplies.[3]

Luscher took over Capital Brewing Company after the Civil War and renamed it the Sig Luscher Capital Brewery. For unknown reasons, “Capital” was sometimes changed to “Capitol” in documents, articles, and the brewery's own branding. Luscher opened a brewery in Frankfort on the east side of Ann Street in the late 1860s, where he formed a close partnership with E.H. Taylor - the father of the modern bourbon industry. Luscher sold his yeast to Taylor, along with most of the other earliest bourbon distilleries originating in Frankfort.[4]

In June of 1880s Sig Luscher started an ice manufacturing company at his brewery using Colonel T. L. Rankin’s $10,000 ice machine. With a capacity of producing 20,000 pounds of ice a day, it was one of the greatest inventions at that time. The Kentucky Yeoman newspaper wrote of Luscher’s enterprise: “A few such men as Luscher are worth more to a community than millions of money in idle hands. The ice is in solid clear blocks, from six to eight inches thick and will als much longer than natural ice.”[5]

Sigmund Luscher died in 1891 and is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.

The Luscher home[edit]

The house Luscher built in 1869 originally stood at the north end of Ann Street near his brewery. With the anticipated construction of the Kentucky Department of Transportation headquarters along Mero Street, his home was moved to Clinton Street in 2001. At one time you could have bought this building for just $1, but there was a catch. The new owner would have to pay for the cost of moving the building, over $300,000! No one made any offers, so state officials accepted a project bid of $330,000 from Edwards Moving of Simpsonville. With the use of hydraulics and 128 wheels, they moved the house, rerouting traffic several hours in mid-October, 2001.[6]

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a wonderful example of Italianate architecture. In the early 1980s during renovation work, a former owner determined the brick walls to be of triple thickness. At the time he purchased the house, trees were growing through the roof and water damage had destroyed most of the original plasterwork.[7]

Expert testimony on how many beers a man needs to be considered drunk[edit]

In a case pending, a witness had testified that although he had drunk 14 glasses of beer during the day, he was thoroughly at himself (i.e., sober) at the time he witnessed the transaction concerning which he testified. Several physicians had testified as experts that the witness, in their judgment, could not have been free from intoxication, but, on the contrary, must have been in a confused state of mind (i.e., drunk). The attorney, desiring to sustain his witness, called Luscher to the stand, who testified that he had drunk beer daily from his earliest recollection, had for several years worked in a brewery, and for 10 years had been engaged in the manufacture of beer, that during all this time he had seen a large number of men drink beer, and that he knew he could state with certainty the amount of beer necessary to intoxicate.[8]

The court ruled the witness competent, whereupon, the question was asked:

“Now, Mr. Luscher, from your experienced as detailed, please tell the jury whether 14 glasses of beer drunk at intervals during the day, would seriously, or otherwise, affect the body or mind of the individual who drank it?” “Vell,” replied the witness, “ven I gets up mit te morning I trink haf tuzzen pottles pefore preakfast. Den I sits down at te table and trink six pottles, and at supper I trinks six more pottles, and it does not make me trunk, or even affect my mind a leetle pit. I tells you, shentlemen, no man will git trunk on peer unless he makes a tampt hog of himself.”[9]

Reparations received in Sigmund Luscher vs. United States for William Tecumseh Sherman's troops burning down his home, vegetable garden, and brewery[edit]

The following is an excerpted from "Sigmund Luscher vs. United States, dated October 24, 1862":

This day personally appeared before me H.W. Sharp, Commissioner of the U.S. for the Western District of Tennessee, Sigmund Luscher who after being by me duly sworn upon his oath says:

I am a loyal citizen of the United States and have taken the oath of allegiance in this city - I was the owner of the following described property situated in Fort Pickering (Memphis) inside of the Fortifications, to wit: One house on Webster Street on lot No. 340 said house was a two story house with a large Hall for dancing, bar room, and five other rooms, also on same lot and on lot adjoining No. 341 a brewing establishment said house was about 35 feet square, also on lot No. 340 was a ton pin alley about 15 feet wide and ninety feet long, also on lot No. 341 other dwelling house with two rooms and a kitchen house one story high, that said buildings were worth in cash the sum of Two Thousand Dollars. That in consequence of having the property taken from me my losses have been heavy and ruinous to me. I further state that I had a valuable garden filled with corn, potatoes and such other articles of vegetables as are commonly raised in a garden for hotels, tavern and the like, that said garden was worth in cash One Hundred and fifty Dollars. I further state that I have not planned a value on the above named property above its real cash value, but below that amount and that I have not received any compensation for service or any part thereof, that the property above described was taken. Deposition of Henry Rour taken before me this 24th day of October 1862.[10]

Henry Rour having been by me duly upon his oath says:

I know Sigmund Luscher. I also know the property which he had in Fort Pickering. I live close to it. I believe his house and the improvements on his lot are worth the full sum of Two Thousand Dollars in cash at any time. I know that he has loaded much by reason of having his property taken from him. I know that he had a fine garden of choice vegetables and that his property was all taken by the United States soldiers under the command of Major General W. S. Sherman for use of the government. The document is signed by Henry Rour on "This 24th day of October 1862". It is then signed by U.S. Commander, B.W. Sharp and A.L. Wolff of the United States Consulate of America on March 27, 1864 who certified that the document was "a true copy of the original."[11]

Sigmund Luscher vs. Jasper Sower on the Presidential election of 1884[edit]

The following excerpts are from the Frankfort Roundabout:

Before the election, Mister Jas. Sower and Sig. Luscher entered into an agreement that if Cleveland was elected Mr. Sower was to wheel Mr. Luscher in a wheelbarrow from the Brewery, on Ann St to Sower & Ahler’s on Main Street, and if Blaine was elected Mr. Luscher was to perform the same service for Mr. Sower. As Grover Cleveland was the lucky man, Mr. Sower has to do the wheeling, and if the weather permits, at 8 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon next, he will fulfill his contract by giving Mr. Luscher his wheelbarrow ride for the distance named. The procession will be headed by the Frankfort Cornet Band, and will move from the Brewery promptly at the hour named. You want to be on hand to see the fun.[12]

After the event it was reported that:

In accordance with a wager made on the Presidential election, Mr. Jas. Sower wheeled Mr. Sig. Luscher in a wheelbow from the Brewery on Ann St to Sower & Ahler’s on Main St, Thursday afternoon at 3 o’clock. The Frankfort Brass Band assembled at Sower & Ahler’s and marched in front of Mr. Sower and his wheelbarrow to the Brewery, where Mr. Luscher got in and the procession proceeded up Ann Street to Broadway to St. Clair, up St. Clair to Main, in Main to Sower & Ahler’s. The wheelbarrow was provided with a seat having a large tin rooster at the back and a flag on each side. The streets were filled with people along the entire line of march, who enjoyed the novel sight very much. Mr. Sower stood the racket in fine style and was fatigued by very little when the fun was over.[13]

Sig Luscher Brewery in Modern Times[edit]

In June of 2018, a group of entrepreneurs including Timothy Luscher (the great-great-great grandson of Sigmund Luscher), Nathan Cryder (CEO), and several partners announced that they would be reviving the Sig Luscher Brewery as a Kentucky-based Public Benefit Corporation (B-Corp).[14] They plan to launch in Decemer of 2018 with a flagship Pilsner based on the style Sigmund Luscher was known to have made.[15] The new taproom, brewhouse, and biergarten will be remodeled in a Swiss chalet style and are located at 221 Mero St. across the street from the original brewery and lager caves.[16] In addition to making "Historically Good Beer", the mission of the company is to revitalize a historically-significant area of downtown Frankfort and to demonstrate how beer companies can operate in environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways.


  1. "Our Story". Sig Luscher Brewery. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  2. Frankfort History Center original documents
  3. Frankfort History Center original documents
  4. Frankfort History Center original documents
  5. Frankfort History Center original documents
  6. State Journal
  7. State Journal
  8. Stories and Speeches of William O. Bradley, by Maurice Thatcher
  9. Stories and Speeches of William O. Bradley, by Maurice Thatcher
  10. Luscher family archives
  11. Luscher family archives
  12. Frankfort Roundabout, November 22, 1884
  13. Frankfort Roundabout, November 29, 1884
  14. "Entrepreneurs look to revive Frankfort brewery". 2018-05-05.
  15. "New brewery coming to Frankfort will draw on a long history in Bourbon Country". 2018-05-21.
  16. "Our Story".

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