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Cleveland Kegger With Zwiebel's Brigade

An evocative 19th-century photograph showing a group of 19 well-dressed men posing on the steps of a house while drinking beer and smoking cigars. Nineteen impeccably dressed men share a moment of camaraderie, beer, and cigars on house steps, epitomizing the affluence and community spirit of the era. On the right, a bearded man pours beer, likely drawing from a barrel that echoes the microbreweries of that period. 

The caption title beneath the image reads Zwiebel Brigade, a name likely connected in some way with the German community in Cleveland. German immigrants contributed to Cleveland's early brewing industry from early in the 19th century. Initially, the German beer industry in Cleveland consisted of small breweries, supplying the brewer's own tavern. By the late 19th-century the region supported a large local brewing industry.

Photographer Sweeny, Son of Irish Immigrants

This rare large-format photograph was made by Thomas T. Sweeny (1831-1891), who worked in the Cleveland area for several decades. Census records record that he was born in New Jersey to Irish-born parents.  He and his Irish-born wife, Mary Wilson, would eventually have ten children. Sweeny worked in partnership with Edgar Decker (1833-1905) at 249 Superior Street, Cleveland. A Civil War veteran, Sweeny served as 1st Lieutenant in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

A rare glimpse into the leisurely pursuits of Cleveland's prosperous German beer enthusiasts in the 19th century.


Such carefully staged large-format photographs of prosperous beer-drinkers in 19th-century Cleveland are most certainly a rarity in the market.

Condition Description
Original albumen photograph print, 14 x 9 1/2 inches, on card mount, 18 x 13 1/2 inches. Staining to mount (especially on verso). Upper right corner of mount repaired. Vertical toning or shadowing to image on left side. General sunning or age-toning to the image. Otherwise quite good. Photographer's blindstamp on mount: "Sweeny, Cleveland, O."