Originally published April 16, 2013

The Grohmann Museum, 1000 N. Broadway, will offer special events during Milwaukee’s Gallery Night and Day event. The museum will extend its hours on Friday, April 19 from 5 to 9 p.m. and offer free admission. Patrons are invited to view three floors of galleries featuring the Man at Work art collection, as well as a special exhibit of David Plowden’s photographs: Bridges: The Spans of North America.

The museum also will be offering free admission on Saturday, April 20 from noon to 6 p.m. At 2 p.m. there will be a presentation on the history of the cooperage (barrel making) trade by historians and coopers Gary and Jim Hess, grandsons of Frank J. Hess. This presentation is presented in conjunction with the Milwaukee County Historical Society.

Frank J. Hess learned the cooperage trade in the late 1880s at the Pilsner Brewery in Pilsen, Bohemia. A cooper is a barrel maker. In 1890 he immigrated to the United States. He worked as a cooper manufacturing white oak beer kegs in Chicago and Pairie du Chien. He moved to Madison in 1904 to start an independent cooperage business. The Frank J. Hess and Sons Cooperage factory was Wisconsin’s largest independent cooperage. They manufactured and repaired beer kegs for the Fauerbach, Hausmann, Breckheimer, Baraboo, ****** Dam, Brunkow and Mueller, Cassville, Chippewa Falls, Columbus, Duluth, Fort Atkinson, Green Bay, Janesville, Jefferson, Kenosha, La Crosse, Mineral Point, Monroe, Oconto, Portage, Port Washington, Potosi, Prairie du Chien, Reedsburg, Rhinelander, Sauk City, Slinger, Superior, Watertown and Wausau breweries in Wisconsin, and the Hamm’s Brewery in Maryland, Star Brewery in Iowa and the West End Brewery in New York. They also manufactured and repaired wine and whiskey barrels. The factory closed in 1966 and was the last cooperage factory in the United States that manufactured white oak beer kegs.

Gary and Jim Hess will give a presentation about the history of their grandfather’s business and the cooperage trade. They also will display white oak barrels and cooper tools.

The Grohmann Museum is home to the Man at Work collection, which comprises more than 900 paintings and sculptures dating from 1580 to the present. They reflect a variety of artistic styles and subjects that document the evolution of organized work: from farming and mining to trades such as glassblowing and seaweed gathering. The Grohmann Museum welcomes visitors to three floors of galleries where a core collection is displayed as well as themed exhibitions. The museum is owned by MSOE, an independent university with about 2,500 students. MSOE offers 20 bachelor’s degrees and nine master’s degrees in the engineering, business, mathematics and nursing fields.