Since the placement of the Frederick Lauer statue in City Park, many visitors to Reading have twitted the local folks about erecting a statue to a brewer, chiding us by asking whether Berks County could furnish no other hero.
Unfortunately, for posterity, the inscriptions on the sides of the bronze memorial recount only those achievements which had to do with the brewing industry and make no mention of the public services of the subject of the memorial.
Perhaps it was only natural that things should happen that way. The monument was erected by the National Brewers Association during its convention in Reading in 1885, and the delegates were honoring their first president. The city of Reading granted only the land upon which to place the statue and they did this to honor a public-spirited citizen, rather than merely a brew-master.
Frederick Lauer came to Reading from Womelsdorf as a very young man and engaged in the brewing business in partnership with his brother, George. Doubtlessly the success of his enterprise made it possible for him to become the public benefactor that he was, but his business interests did not, as such, require that he should take a hand in incorporating Reading as a city in 1847 or that he should serve as president of the select council, representing the Fifth Ward of the city; that he should help to organize and serve as president of the Berks County Agricultural Association; in promoting the building of the railroad from Reading to Lancaster and Columbia; serve as one of the trustees of the Keystone State Normal School at Kutztown or give huge charities to the Dispensary and Relief Society of Reading.
In 1860 Lauer represented the Berks district at the National convention of the Democratic Party at Charleston, S.C., and there helped to nominate Breckenridge, a Southern Democrat, to oppose Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, the Northern Democratic choice in the party split. The people of Berks gave Breckenridge an overwhelming majority in the national election which followed.
Backed Northern Cause
When the war came, in 1861, Lauer became an ardent supporter of the Northern cause. In June of that year the Reading brewer personally accompanied a shipment of ale, sent to the Reading boys encamped at Camp Washington, near Arlington, Va. In order to visit the camp it was necessary to obtain a pass. The following is the wording on the pass issued to him:
“Pass Frederick Lauer over the bridges and within the lines. By order of General Mansfield commanding.”
On the reverse side the pass read:
“It is understood that the within named, and subscriber accepts this pass on his word of honor that he is and will be ever loyal to the United States, and if henceforth found in arms against the Union, or in any way aiding her enemies, the penalty will be death.”
(signed) “Fred’k Lauer”
On June 10 the offices of the mechanics Infantry sent a resolution to the Reading Newspapers from Camp Washington thanking their fellow citizen “for the substantial manner in which he has remembered us.”
The Gazette and Democrat adds the following note:
“After the ale was disposed of three hearty cheers and a tiger were given, which would have done Mr. Lauer’s heart good if he could have heard them.”
Frederick Lauer statue in Penn’s Common (City Park), Reading, PA. Prior to the demolition of the prison. Source: http://www.berkshistory.org/multimedia/articles/commons-sold-by-penns-for-440-city-park-annals-part-i/time-changed-penns-common-city-park-annals-part-v/