The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Bergner, Charles William
BERGNER, Charles William, president of the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company of Philadelphia, and Belgian consul, b. in Philadelphia, Pa., 20 Dec., 1854; d. at his country home, Ambler, Pa., 4 May, 1903, son of Gustavus William (1832-83) and Catharine Christine (Wehn) Bergner. The Bergners came into prominence in mediæval Europe as early as the First Crusade, and the subsequent history of the family can be traced through a line of distinguished ancestors, dating from that time. The first member of the family to come to America was Charles William Bergner, grandfather of the subject of this review. He was a woolen goods manufacturer, the owner of extensive dye factories, and the Burgomeister (mayor) of Crimmitzschau, Saxony, Germany, where he lived. In 1849 he visited America. While in Philadelphia he loaned a sum of money to a brewing establishment, and the firm becoming insolvent soon afterward, he found himself, as chief creditor, obliged to assume control of the business. Thrust by accident into a vocation about which he knew nothing and being in a strange country, this man, who possessed the loftiest ideals and who, by inheritance and training, was of the highest type, — could not adapt himself to the vastly changed conditions of his life, and soon succumbed under the strain and died. He had succeeded, however, in laying the foundation of the house of Bergner and Engel. Gustavus William Bergner, son of Charles William and Johanne Fredericka (Richter) Bergner, was ambitious for a mercantile career, and at the age of sixteen entered a chinaware firm in Philadelphia, and on account of his exceptional ability was soon afterward offered a partnership in the business. The death of his father, however, prevented his acceptance of this opportunity and made him the head of the brewing enterprise. Under his successful management it became one of the large establishments of its kind. His son, Charles William Bergner, and the second of the name to assume the management of the business, received his early education in the private schools of Philadelphia, and was prepared at Lawrenceville, N. J., to enter Princeton College, but completed his studies in Germany, after which he entered the celebrated brewing schools of Munich and Augsburg, in order to perfect his knowledge of the practical part of the industry. He returned to America in 1873. He, however, had little predilection for an industrial career and wished to adopt a profession, preferring that of the law. Soon after his father's health failed and the son, prompted by motives of filial duty and affection, took his place in the firm of Bergner and Engel in a modest capacity. Naturally an able business man, he did not long remain in this subordinate position, but was soon promoted to a clerkship and later made head bookkeeper. On the death of his father, 6 May, 1883, and later that of Charles Engel and his son, Theodore, Charles William Bergner (2d) assumed the entire management of the business. In 1890, upon the formation of a stock company, he was elected president of the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company, an office which he filled with unvarying success until his death. Because of his unusual knowledge of every branch of the business, his untiring energy and active interest in all matters pertaining to the brewing industry, and the high-minded persistence with which he carried out the splendid moral standards and business traditions of his ancestors, Mr. Bergner came to be regarded as one of the foremost figures in his line of industry in the United States. For five successive years he was elected president of the Philadelphia Brewers' Association, and in 1896 was made president of the United States Brewers' Association, of which organization he had served as president of the board of trustees for many years. He was actively associated with various other industrial and commercial enterprises, and was a director of the National Bank of Northern Liberties and the Delaware Insurance Company. He was also interested in a number of charitable and educational institutions. In 1895 he was appointed Belgian consul in Philadelphia; and as a mark of appreciation for his services at the International Exposition, held in Brussels in 1896, King Leopold of Belgium bestowed upon him “The Order of Leopold.” He was a man of great culture and was passionately fond of music and all the fine arts. He was a bibliophile, and possessed a very fine library and also had a large and valuable collection of rare engravings and etchings. He was a member of the Grolier Society, the Fine Arts Club, the Historical Society, and the Union League Club of Philadelphia. Charles William Bergner was married to Ella Annear, daughter of John and Anne (Wotton) Annear, in Philadelphia, 9 March, 1874. Of this marriage there were four children: Gustavus William Bergner, who is now president of the Bergner and Engel Brewing Company; Catharine Christine, deceased, who married Charles K. Bispham; Anita Ella, and Otto William, both deceased.