Best known for creating the first national brand of beer (Budweiser), there’s a lot to this man’s remarkable story. As you’ll see, he wasn’t only a brilliant businessman, he was also a tremendous philanthropist.
Adolphus was born in Germany and was the 21st out of 22 children. Yes, you didn’t misread it, they had 22 kids. He came from a wealthy family who provided wholesale supplies for breweries and wineries thus one of the reasons he was so good at what he did later in life. Education was extremely important to their family so Adolphus was sent to an elite learning academy in Brussels called the Collegiate Institute of Belgium.
He was 18 when he graduated and his father convinced Adolphus and three of his older brothers to move to St. Louis, Missouri and become U.S. citizens. St. Louis was a popular place for German immigrants at the time.
Because of his background he decided he’d work towards a career in the beer industry. St. Louis was a great place to brew beer because of its vast water supply and it had a lot of underground caves where beer could be stored and kept cool.
The brothers all got work at different places and began to get their feet on the ground. Adolphus started off as a clerk with a wholesale company but was drafted to fight for the Union Army. When he returned home, he learned that his father had died and had left him a portion of the inheritance.
Adolphus used the money to start a brewery supply company. He was extremely successful and began serving 36 different breweries in and around St. Louis. One of his brothers got into the hops business but eventually moved back to Germany. Another started a small brewery outside of St. Louis; he was perfectly happy running his own company. His third brother married the sister of the woman Adolphus ended up marrying and they moved to Chicago.
One of the owners of a brewery he did business with was Eberhard Anheuser. They became good friends and Adolphus fell in love with his daughter Lily. They got married and Adolphus bought out Eberhard’s business partner and the brewery’s name was then changed to the famous Anheuser-Busch Brewery Company. One year later Lily’s father died, and Adolphus became the company’s president.
Once again, he became very successful because he was a visionary. He believed they should come up with a national brand with universal appeal which became Budweiser. He created a department that focused on innovation for every facet of their operation (i.e. brewing, distribution, sourcing supplies, etc.). Sales and Marketing became significant contributors to the company’s success something other companies didn’t invest much money in.
Adolphus aggressively pursued relationships with beer distributors around the country that were servicing large populations (i.e. Chicago, Dallas, New York, etc.), so he could grow the Budweiser brand.
They were the first company to adopt pasteurization in 1878, so their beer kept longer which was very important to distributors who often had to throw product out of their warehouses because it went out of date. Besides this process they designed railcars that held beer and ice. Extending the life of their beer made them a hot commodity with beer distributors.
Adolphus was the first businessman to pursue vertical integration in order to increase efficiencies and enhance profits. He bought bottling companies and became the first beer company to offer bottled beer. He bought ice manufacturing plants. He bought farms so they could grow their own hops. He bought coal mines so they could save energy costs. He even bought some railways. Business strategy wise, he was about 100 years ahead of his time.
He was one of the wealthiest men in the country and he wasn’t selfish about it as he was always contributing to various causes and non-profit organizations. In today’s dollars he gave around $3 million to help San Francisco rebuild after the devastating earthquake of 1906. Germany had a terrible flood that killed a lot of people and he sent money to help the families rebuild.
Adolphus and Lily had 13 children. Adolphus Busch II and August Anheuser Busch along with their children became instrumental in running the company up until the family sold it around 95 years later. His great, great, grandson (August Busch IV), ran the company when it was sold.
It had gotten to the point where there was a lot of bickering among family members and most of them were ready to cash out at that point. It’s sad that the business was sold but not unfamiliar to family owned businesses that get a few generations away from the founder.
At one point, Adolphus bought a castle in Germany where the family took vacations. It was during one of these trips that he passed away due to an illness. He was placed on a ship back to the U.S. and then moved to St. Louis for his burial. Over 30,000 people showed up for his memorial because he was such an amazing man.