The Stroh Brewery Company Collection

In 2022, the Detroit Historical Society received a large donation of historical artifacts related to the Stroh Brewery Company from John Stroh III. Items from the new Stroh Brewery Company collection are currently being cataloged and digitized to be made available in our online collection.


The Company 

The Stroh Brewery Company was founded in 1850 by German immigrant Bernhard Stroh. By the 1980s, Stroh was the nation’s third largest brewer, operating seven individual breweries, and it owned brands that included Goebel, Schaefer, and Schlitz. Unfortunately, 1985 saw the closure of the company's Detroit brewery on Gratiot due to inefficiency. Increasing competition resulted in the company being sold to the Pabst Brewing Company and the Miller Brewing Company in 1999. In 2016, due to a partnership between Pabst and Brew Detroit, Stroh’s brand was revived and now offers several styles of beer, including the original Bohemian-style pilsner.  


The Collection 

The process of cataloging a collection involves the research, arranging, describing, and storing all its materials so that they are organized in a way that researchers can easily locate items for research or museum curators can find items for exhibitions. The Stroh Brewery Company collection contains thousands of photographs, negatives, and transparencies, as well as hundreds of 3D materials, including pieces from the Rathskeller (the Detroit brewery’s old world German beer hall/executive dining room), beer steins, cans, bottles, and scrapbooks.  

Right now, the photograph collection is the first focus of this process. The collection is currently being organized into series, then further organized into subseries. For example, within the series Stroh’s Advertisements there would be subseries like Displays and Billboards, all related to Stroh. The purpose for this detailed and precise organizing framework is to allow researchers to easily focus their effortsFor instance, if a researcher wanted to see all of the photographs of Stroh billboards, or a curator wanted a single photograph of a Stroh’s billboard for an exhibition, they would not have to comb through hundreds of unrelated photographs to find their target. After the photographs, the 3D items in the collection will undergo a similar treatment.  


On display now

The artifacts in the collection range from the beginning of the company in the 1850s until the mid-1990s. Our goal is to have the photographs catalogued and digitized by the end of summer 2023, and the entire collection completed by summer 2024.

Although that may seem far away, certain 3D pieces of the collection such as Stroh’s beer taps, serving trays, and cans and bottles are already on display in the Detroit Historical Museum exhibition Detroit’s Brewing Heritage. Plan your visit to the museum here.