This colorful serving tray was designed to promote the Hussa Brewing Company, once a thriving business in Bangor.
The metal tray is about 17 by 12 inches and likely dates from the early 20th century.
A picture of the Hussa Brewery’s manufacturing complex dominates its center, with an “HB” logo above. On either side are advertisements for two of the brewery’s top sellers — Crystalline, “a pale beer and quality leader,” and Hussa, “a pure malt dark colored beer, unexcelled for purity.”
Joseph Hussa, a Czechoslovakian brewmaster trained in Prague, emigrated to Wisconsin in 1849. He and his family moved to Bangor in 1860.
Hussa began a Bangor brewery in partnership with his brother, John. The original brewery building was wood but was soon replaced by a square stone structure.
Before refrigeration, breweries often cooled and stored their beer in underground caves. Joseph Hussa hired Dominic Cavidini, a master stonemason from Italy, to chisel tunnels and cave rooms underground to preserve his product.
As business grew, the brewery expanded. Joseph Hussa and his family continued to live in the stone brewery until 1881. By 1885, other additions had increased the brewery complex. An office was added in 1904.
Hussa Brewing Company products became known nationally. A 1902 ad in the Anaconda Montana Standard stressed the absolute purity and refined flavor of Hussa’s bottled beer, adding that a case of Hussa beer cost only $5.50, with a $1 refund for empties returned.
Prohibition forced drastic changes for the Hussa Brewery. The Hussa family converted the buildings into a canning and pickle factory. A Nov 9, 1920 article in the La Crosse Tribune announced, “The Hussa Canning and Pickle company, formerly the Hussa Brewing Company of Bangor, has just completed the purchase of one of the largest and best farms in this part of Wisconsin, the Evans farm, sold at public auction for $35,999.”
Despite these efforts, the deaths of company president Oscar Hussa in 1933 and Ernst Hussa in 1934 were heavy blows to the canning/pickle factory. It folded about 1937.
Later, the site became Sprehn Brothers Feed Mill. When that business closed in late 1993, the old stone buildings were abandoned and began to deteriorate. Beyond repair by 2008, the last of the former Hussa Brewery was demolished.
This Hussa Brewing Company tray was donated to La Crosse County Historical Society in 1926 by Valentine Novak. It will be on exhibit at the La Crosse Area Heritage Center at 506 Main St., which will open later this year.
Information on this and other La Crosse County artifacts can be found at the LCHS website www.lchshistory.org under Collections: Things That Matter.
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