This article was last modified on December 31, 2013.


Waukesha’s Fox Head Brewing: A Mob-Infiltrated Business?

Fox Head Brewing in Waukesha was long rumored to have ties to organized crime, particularly certain members of the Chicago Outfit. How much influence did they have? To answer that, we should look at the company as a whole, which had a history of ups and downs.

The firm was established in 1893 as the Waukesha Imperial Spring Brewing Company.

On November 24, 1934, Fox Head announced a $100,000 addition to its buildings that would increase production to 200,000 barrels of beer annually. The business was booming following the repeal of Prohibition.

in 1940, Fox Head employed 150 people

Vice president and general manager Albert R. Kirschstein was found dead on December 28, 1942 — he had shot himself in the head with a .32 revolver at his home (2611 East Kenwood Boulevard, Milwaukee). He was discovered by Basil Quartullo, 33, his Italian-born chauffeur.

Charles Kapps was named president in 1943

On November 24, 1948, Fox Head hired Jacob L. Harris, former production chemist for Schenley Distillers. He was to act as an assistant to the president and supervise the new bottle house construction, which was believed capable of doubling the brewery’s output.

President Charles Kapps resigned on April 17, 1955 due to ill health and left Wisconsin. Until a replacement was found, Jacob Harris and Roy Bernier were made acting general managers.

In July 1955, Peter Fox Brewing of Chicago took over control of Fox Head Brewing. (The use of the word “fox” in both companies is just a coincidence.) In December, the production of Fox De Luxe brand beer was moved from Chicago to Waukesha.

On January 5, 1956, two old buildings were dismantled to make room for a new one that was projected to allow for production of 300,000 barrels of beer per year. The new building, at a cost of $200,000, would hold 18 glass-lined fermentation tanks.

In early 1956, Chicago mobster Jack Cerone spoke with Dominic Volpe, president of Premium Beer Sales, and expressed interest in the beer business. Volpe contacted Fox Head around March 1956 and had Cerone hired on as a Chicago representative of the company, earning a reported $40,000 per year. Volpe and Cerone then toured the Waukesha brewery in April. While in Waukesha on April 14, Cerone met officials and discussed hiring on Tony Accardo. As the company thought he was too notorious, Accardo instead was hired on to work for Premium Beer Sales.

On June 12, 1957, stockholders for Fox De Luxe Beer Sales, Inc in Chicago voted to spin off the Fox Head Brewing Company and have it again be independent. (At the same meeting, they acquired Kingsford Chemical Company and changed their name from Fox De Luxe to Kingsford.) Fox Head president Frank Huber was given permission to make Fox Head 400 and also Fox De Luxe, although the latter beer would require hi mto pay a royalty to Kingsford for the name.

While not exactly connected to his work with Fox Head, Jack Cerone was in Waukesha in October 1958 to visit Mohr’s Mud Baths. With him were mobsters Sam Battaglia, Rocco DeStefano, Marshall Caifano and Tony Accardo.

In November 1958, Fox Head merged with the Weber Waukesha Brewing Company. This merger resulted in the resignation of director Joseph Antonow, a Chicago attorney.

Fox Head terminated its contract with Premium Beer Sales in March 1959 after the company was reorganized. This also lead to the loss of Jack Cerone as a salesman.

In early September 1960, during Chicago mob boss Tony Accardo’s tax trial, Joseph Antonow testified that he had once approved paying Accardo $65,000 per year — despite never having met Accardo. Antonow testified that he thought Accardo could boost the beer’s sales through his association with Premium Beer Sales, a distribution firm. In fact, said Antonow, sales did substantially increase.

On September 28, former president Frank Huber (who had been paid $15,000 annually) testified that he knew nothing of the payments to Accardo. He said he was instructed by the board of directors to send $5000 each month to Premium Beer Sales, but did not know this firm was connected to Accardo. He was aware of Jack Cerone’s being a salesman and recalled a specific time where Arthur J. Feicht told him, “We’ve got a terrific salesman in this new man. He sells five cases here, fifty cases there.” Feicht told Huber to raise Cerone’s pay from $425 to $975 per month.

On October 5, 1960, president Howard Hartman announced that Fox Head was now run by a 10-man board of directors that consisted of him, other Wisconsin businessmen and Waukesha judge Scott Lowry. The firm had come under suspicion of some level of Mafia control, and Hartman wished to stress under the new local management that such a thing would be impossible.

On November 9, 1961, Fox Head purchased the Marrakesh, Jamaica’s largest hotel with 208 rooms, for $4,000,000.

On January 29, 1962, Fox Head changed its name to Noramco (North American Consolidated) to better express its diversification — its investment in such things as a hotel, a bakery and a felt company.

On June 29, 1962, Fox Head Brewing came to an end. The G. Heileman Company of LaCrosse announced they had taken over the company and were shutting down the facilities in Waukesha. Heileman promised to continue brewing Fox Head brands at their facilities in LaCrosse and Sheboygan. Fox Head had been in decline — although capable of producing 400,000 barrels per year, they had only made 159,000 in 1961. Most of the 125 employees were to be fired, though key personnel would stay on and the advertising staff would keep their offices in Waukesha.

Noramco, which kept the non-brewing parts of the business, moved to New York. By February 1967, they were forced to declare bankruptcy.

Epilogue

Joseph P. Antonow, the man who allowed Accardo into the business, died on November 18, 1990 at age 74. He had been a Chicago attorney for fifty years amd senior partner in Antonow & Fink; he served in 1972 as co-chairman of the Illinois McGovern for President Committee; he was a member of the executive committee of the Study of Democratic Institutions and was on President Richard Nixon’s so-called “enemies list”, which became public in 1973; since 1975, he was on the board of the Chicago International Film Festival; he also was on the board of the Modern Poetry Association, which publishes Poetry Magazine.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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