A distinguished businessman and brewer based in both New York and Springfield, Massachusetts, German native Selig Manilla's inclusion on the site here rests on his serving as a Massachusetts delegate to the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Although his political qualifications are comparatively minor when set alongside some of the other persons profiled here, Mr. Manilla is nevertheless an intriguingly named historical figure who has scant information available online in regards to his life!
Selig Manilla was born to Jewish parentage in Germany sometime in 1845 and attended school in his native country. He became employed at the Johann Hoff Brewery in Berlin at a young age, remaining here until age sixteen. Manilla immigrated to the United States shortly after leaving this brewery and eventually settled in New York City.
Soon after his resettlement, Manilla reestablished his roots in the brewing community, becoming employed at the Lion Brewery (then the largest brewery of its kind in the United States.) He remained here until the late 1870s, and later established a business connection with New York malter Matthew White for a short time. In 1885 Manilla became the director of the Abbott Brewery in Brooklyn, helping the business grow "to a remarkably successful degree." Mr. Manilla married at some point while living in New York to a woman named Sarah. The couple is recorded as having at least one daughter, Amelia (birthdate unknown), who is also listed as "Mrs. Borrow Barnett".
Manilla left New York during the late 1880s and removed to Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1890 he founded the Springfield Brewing Company, with which he achieved much success. As the company's president and general manager, Manilla was described as "practically revolutionizing the brewing industry of New England" by the New England States, Volume IV, a biographical series published in 1897. This series remarks that under Manilla's stewardship, the brewery increased its output of 7,000 barrels in 1890 to over 72,000 four years later, "a record unapproached by any five-year-old brewery in the world." Amongst the most popular of the brewery's products was the "Tivoli" lager, described then as "almost a household word", and proved to be so popular with the masses that it was "shipped to every corner of the globe."
While Manilla's business acumen and monetary success won him public acclaim, the American Brewer's Review also notes that he maintained a keen interest in political affairs. Manilla is mentioned as a "trusted and influential member of Tammany Hall" during his time in New York and "was several times sent to conventions by his Democratic Party friends." In the 1896 presidential election year, Manilla was named as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that nominated William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) for the Presidency. A passage from that year's DNC Official Proceedings manual (bearing Manilla's name) is shown below.
After experiencing remarkable success in Springfield, Manilla sold his interest in the company and returned to New York, purchasing another brewery located at Dobbs Ferry. This brewery opened in August 1900 under the name of the Manilla Anchor Brewing Company and is mentioned by a 1900 edition of the Dobbs Ferry Register as celebrating its opening with a giant clambake that was attended by over 1500 people from New York and New England. A print of this massive brewing complex and its surrounding area appeared in the Dobbs Ferry Register (shown below).
The Manilla Anchor Brewery followed the Springfield Brewery as a profitable venture, and in the mid-1900s Selig Manilla began work on another brewing complex, this time located in Bellows Falls, Vermont. The American Brewer's Review notes that this proved to be unsuccessful, and no further elaboration is given as to why it failed. In addition to his business pursuits, Manilla was also a First Deputy Grand Master of the Independent Order of the Sons of Benjamin and a trustee of the Washington Cemetery in New York City.
Selig Manilla is recorded as retiring from public life in 1907 and died at the home of his nephew Benjamin on December 26, 1909, at age 64. Manilla's funeral was held at his place of residence in New York City and an exact burial location for him is unknown at the time of this writing. The rare portrait of him shown atop his article was located in the fourth volume of the New England States, published in 1897.