The receipt seen below is a rare survivor. Dated June 10, 1865, it records a sale of ale to the “Soldiers Reception Committee”. Peter Ballantine and Sons was only 25 years old at the time.
The company was founded in 1840 in Newark, New Jersey. Peter Ballantine (1791-1883), who emigrated from Scotland, founded the brewery with Erastus Patterson. Incorporated as the Patterson & Ballantine Brewing Company, they rented a circa 1805 brewery located at 514 High Street . Ballantine and Patterson both had residences on Broad Street in close proximity to their brewery. In approximately 1850, Ballantine bought out his partner. He bought land near the Passaic River to build a brewery to make his ale. His three sons joined the business and in 1857 it was renamed Peter Ballantine and Sons.
By 1871, Ballantine had built a second ale brewery and was prospering. Toward the end of the decade, Peter Ballantine, by then in his eighties, convinced his sons that it was time to get into the beer business. He lived to see the brewery completed in 1882.
Following the death of the last son of Peter Ballantine the company was taken over by George Griswold Frelinghuysen, the company’s vice-president, who was married to Ballantine’s granddaughter.
Frelinghuysen was the son of Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen and Matilda Elizabeth Griswold. He graduated from Rutgers College in 1870, received his Bachelor of Law from Columbia University Law School in 1872, and was admitted to the New Jersey and New York bars in 1872 and 1876 respectively.
The 18th Amendment was passed in 1920 beginning the prohibition. The company was forced to consolidate, and they manufactured malt syrup to stay in business. The Ballantine family continued to own the brewing company all throughout the prohibition. But by the time the 21st amendment was passed in 1933, the family was ready to sell the company.
In 1933, after the prohibition was lifted, the Ballantine company was acquired by two brothers, Carl and Otto Badenhausen. The Badenhausens grew the brand through its most successful period of the 1940s and 1950s, primarily through clever advertising. Ballantine Beer was the first television sponsor of the New York Yankees. It was during this period that the brand was elevated to the number three beer in the U.S. It was also during this period that the company grew into one of the largest privately held corporations in the United States. Ballantine Beer enjoyed a high level of success in to the early 1960s, however, by the mid-sixties, the brand began losing popularity. In 1965 Carl Badenhausen sold the company but remained at the helm until his retirement in 1969.
Purity, Body and Flavor – the three ring symbol of the P. Ballantine & Sons Brewery in Newark – was once emblazoned on every building in the vast manufacturing complex on the bank of the Passaic River in the city’s Ironbound section.
During the heyday of the 40-acre industrial city within a city, 4,500 employees working around the clock could produce 4 million barrels of ale and beer a year.
Then, in 1972, after 132 years, the one time third largest brewery in the United States shut down for good and the 2,300 remaining workers lost their jobs.
Those were dark days for Newark, as company after company either went out of business or left town. The loss of Ballantine was particularly difficult, as a city that once boasted forty breweries , lost it’s last local brewery. The impact on the Ironbound section was nothing short of catastrophic. To imagine anything similar, think what would happen to the downtown if The Prudential Insurance Company shut down and left town.
Investors Funding bought the Ballantine label in 1969 and tried to keep the brewery open. But after losing millions of dollars in a couple of years, it sold the label to the Falstaff Brewing Company. Investors Funding decided to convert the sprawling site into an industrial park. They began by tearing down the older brewery buildings, including the old Feigenspan Brewery building with its iconic clock tower. They also tore out the the two story high copper beer vats and anything that could be sold as scrap. Today , there are still a number of buildings that are being used for other purposes and if you look carefully you can still see the three rings on the former bottling building.