An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Seventy-Seven

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Seventy-Six

Andrew Stevens, December 1914

“Andy, what does Mister Slayden have to say?” asks the Colonel.

Andy stands up to pass the Congressman’s letter across the desk to the Colonel.

“No, no. Read it to me.”

“Yes, sir.” Things have changed a lot in this office. Andy is trying to adjust to the differences in style. He misses the conversations the men used to have. He even misses his brother John, who drops by less frequently. The trio was like a three-legged stool supporting the brewery operations. With Mr. K gone, everything is off-balance, wobbly with only two legs remaining. Mrs. Koehler comes to the brewery frequently, but she’s not slipping easily into the role of that third leg.  

“‘House of Representatives, Committee on the Library. Washington, D.C., December 17, 1914.’”

“No, no. Not that part. Get to the meat of the letter.”

“‘Dear Otto: I have just sent you a rather long day telegram advising you that in my opinion the most satisfactory way in which to defeat the proposed Hobson constitutional amendment is to defeat the special rule for its consideration which has been proposed by Bob Henry’s committee. Without that rule the measure could not be considered in this Congress. If we can beat the rule, it will be recognized as a defeat for the prohibition movement….’”

“What happens if they can’t?” The Colonel seems impatient.

“Hmmm. Let us suppose that the rule will be adopted by more than a majority vote and then we defeat the constitutional amendment which require a two-thirds vote….’ Hmmm. ‘The prohibitionists will go to the country and say that a majority of Congress favored their position….’”

“So, what does he want?”

“‘I was amazed to learn today that many anti-prohibition members representing great brewing centers, like Chicago, Philadelphia, Newark, New York and Boston, expected to vote for the rule and then vote against the amendment itself. That is why I took the liberty of wiring you as I did. Such a vote would be a grave mistake….’ Ummm. He emphasizes ‘that it would be unwise for the enemy to get possession of even our outer lines of defense.’”

“So, what does he want me to do?”

“He writes ‘that if strong telegrams are immediately sent from distillery and brewing associations to the various centers named in my telegram, and they in turn will communicate with their members, we can defeat the rule.’”

“So, nip it in the bud. A good idea. First, though. I need to follow up on something James Slayden requested when Otto first returned from Germany. Take this down, Andy.”

“Address it to Hugh Fox at the United States Brewers’ Association.”

“‘Dear Sir: On the….’ Hmm. You’ll have to look this up, Andy. It was sometime in September I think. ‘Dear Sir: On some date in September of this year, I.’ I meant Otto. ‘The late Otto Koehler sent you a telegram, confirmed by letter.’ Andy, enclose a copy of that letter from the files. Where was I?”

“You left off with, ‘Otto Koehler sent you a telegram, confirmed by letter.’”

“‘…by letter and I will state that he received no acknowledgment of either.’ New paragraph. ‘My good friend, Mister Slayden.’ Or should it be The Honorable James Slayden? Or Congressman James Slayden? Oh, you know what is appropriate, Andy. Whatever Otto used.”

“Yes, sir. I’ll fix it.”

“Where was I?”

“’My good friend, Congressman James Slayden…’”

“Oh, yes. ‘Mister Slayden informs me that your representative never called and I am at a loss to understand this, for had he done so, he would have had the pleasure of meeting  not only a very fine gentleman, but as good a friend and as strong a supporter as our affairs have in the House.’ Did I repeat good friend too much?”

“No, sir. It provides emphasis.”

“Well, fix it if it needs it. ‘I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the Honorable James L. Slayden.’ Maybe that is what we should use. ‘That Mister Slayden has as much to do with confining the additional tax to fifty cents per barrel, if not more so, than any member of Congress. Otto regretted…’ No. This should come from me. ‘I surely regret that he was not accorded the courtesy suggested. Yours truly.’ You have that, Andy?”

“Yes, sir.”

That was harder than necessary.

“Type up a letter for August Busch as well. ‘My friend Mister Slayden, Member of Congress, wires me as follows….’ Just summarize what the Congressman wrote to me about defeating the Hobson resolution. A short version about how he doesn’t want the Antis to make a tactical blunder. End with, ‘Will you kindly take the matter up with the Washington correspondent of United States Brewers’ Association?’”

Much easier than the full dictation.

“And then, ‘Friend Slayden: I really should have acknowledged receipt of your day telegram yesterday, but I was not feeling very well and got mixed up with my masseur.’”

Andy’s eyebrows arch up above his glasses over this one.

“What, Andy? Do you think that is too much information? No, it’s fine. James Slayden truly is a close personal friend. Anyway, proceed to tell him I agree with him and that I sent correspondence to August Busch urging action from him and the Brewers’ Association. ‘If the rule was adopted, it would give the Pros just that much prestige, and we must strike at the rest of the evil so to speak. I certainly feel grateful to you. Very truly yours.’”

The winter solstice brings the shortest days of the year, but they certainly feel long.


Otto Koehler and Otto Wahrmund were in the thick of state and national maneuvering to try to prevent prohibitionists from gaining any ground. This chapter is based on letters to and from the Colonel in October and December 1914. They were entered as evidence (Exhibit Nos. 1116 and 1118-1120) included in Volume I, 1919, of Brewing and Liquor Interests and German Propaganda: Hearings before a Subcommittee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Sixty-Fifth Congress, Second Session.

The Colonel probably was much more adept at dictation than this dialogue indicates, but the Author wanted these letters entered in this tome as evidence that some of the brewers’ activities might have skirted the law.

Continue to Chapter Seventy-Eight

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