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There are many ways to find out information about people. To state the obvious, the more "famous" or well-known someone is, the more information you will find. The tips on the Finding Sources tab for using newspapers or contacting archives apply for doing biographical research as well.
As with the research on women detailed on the tab Culture & Society, the best research happens when you "think around" and "think outside." You know the name of the person that you are researching, but also try to think about the possible misspellings and the family names. Know where they were born, lived, and died. Know the dates for all these things, but also life events, career changes, and immigration. Did they speak a different language? Which company did they work for? Did they have affiliations with clubs, a church, or organizations? Did they have any business partners? If you know any one of these in combination with a name it will help you narrow your search!
Megan Ockerman is an historian and the author of the 2017 thesis "'It's the water': A history of the Olympia Brewing Company." Ockerman talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on April 21, 2020 about how she chose Olympia Brewery as the topic for her thesis topic, places she found relevant secondary sources, her work in the Olympia Brewing archives, and tips she has for finding local history sources.
Census Records are amazing, but can be overwhelming. There are many library, genealogy, and museum guides to help your searching.
The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [ICPSR] archives and disseminates census data acquired from the United States Census Bureau as well as files prepared by ICPSR and other principal investigators. Both microdata and aggregate data constitute ICPSR's census holdings.
Sanborn maps can be invaluable in your research into individual breweries and the surrounding business districts.
The Sanborn Map Company was a publisher of detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries. The maps were originally created to allow fire insurance companies to assess their total liability in urbanized areas of the United States. Since they contain detailed information about properties and individual buildings in approximately 12,000 U.S. cities and towns, Sanborn maps are invaluable for documenting changes in the built environment of American cities over many decades.
The Special Collections and Archives Research Center has a set of maps for Oregon: Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Oregon, 1879-1956
Business directories will provide addresses, owner names, advertisements, and even taxes paid.
The Internet Archive helps save information like websites, images of labels, audio and video interviews and brewery tours, podcasts, and tv news segments.
Out of date regional travel books may not be helpful for present day traveling, but they are quite valuable for historical research.
Try Wikipedia. Fans and scholars alike may add interesting details or context that will help you tie something together.
Remember the HathiTrust Digital Library, which houses millions of digitized items from a coalition of academic and research libraries. A search for terms like "brewing," "brewery," or "beer" will return results containing books and journals from the mid-nineteenth century into the late twentieth, most of which are full-text searchable. Among these will be descriptive accounts of contemporary breweries at various historical points, brewery workers' union-published promotional works, and more.
Doing research on a business can be tricky because companies may want to keep business affairs private! There is a lot of information on the Industry Research tab for finding out statistics and tax information.
In general, just like researching people, the more you know the more successful your searching will be. Spend time finding information about the founder(s), important dates (incorporation, changes in ownership, closing, renovations, acquisitions and mergers), and location (town, region).
The Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives guide contains a list of contemporary and historical books, journals and publications about beer and brewing held by OHBA and OSU Libraries. Many of these highlight or were published by and for commercial brewers, and often include statistical and descriptive data on businesses and individuals. Some examples are:
Additionally, OHBA's Olympia Brewing Company Library Collection, 1937-2007 (MSS OBCL) contains the publications collected by the Olympia Brewery (1895-2003) including magazines, journals, and laboratory communications. These business and industry-oriented journals and magazines were collected for use by their staff, but offer historic business and statistical records for researchers.
The three most frequently consulted books for statistics and information about pre-Prohibition breweries are all part of the same series. With full text searching of newspapers (and their advertisements), I have found errors in these books. They are an excellent place to start and give you a good idea of the U.S. as a whole.
You can find business records in many different places: government agencies, historical societies, libraries, and online. And of course there are many types of business records; these include company records and histories, account books, tax records, small business records, corporate records, pension records, corporate histories, defunct businesses, and bankruptcy records.
Doug Hoverson, Minnesota-based beer historian, talked to Tiah Edmunson-Morton on April 10, 2020 via Zoom about how he does his research. In this interview, Hoverson talks about the importance of project planning and doing preliminary work before visiting an archives, adjustment in topic based on sources, tracking and prioritizing sources, using breweriana to learn about the industry, and how his research has changed with more materials online. He also gives tips on tracking people, ingredients, and businesses, as well as some of his top resources for each. Hoverson is the author of the books Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota (2007) and The Drink That Made Wisconsin Famous: Beer and Brewing in the Badger State (2019), as well as the associate editor of American Breweriana Journal and author of articles on beer and beer history. When he's not writing or researching beer, Hoverson is a high school social studies teacher and debate coach.
In a series of articles for the American Breweriana Journal, brewery historian Doug Hoverson articulated the value—and dangers—researchers face when consulting census records. While census records generally retain a high level of accuracy, there are nonetheless occasional discrepancies among names, dates, and occupations between the ten-year iterations. This last point is further complicated by the fact that many pre-prohibition brewers did so alongside a main occupation, which may have been listed in the census instead.
Hoverson notes the diverse array of sources available to researchers, including census records, industry journals, newspapers and advertisements, state and local tax records, and more. When using these historical sources, Hoverson says that it is critical to evaluate and corroborate the accuracy of the information, as well as understand the context of their creation, rather than assuming first data and details uncovered are factual.
He also highlighted the value of other types of censuses to beer history research, although many are less digitally accessible. The U.S. Census of Industry, circulated during the late nineteenth century, collected a wide range of production and employment data, including for breweries, from across the United States; however, there was a production floor to the listings, resulting in the omission of smaller breweries. Also of note are state censuses, whose distribution tended to fall between their federal counterparts.
Doug Hoverson has focused on Eau Claire, Wisconsin as a case study for historical breweries research.