Saturday, December 8, 2012

Selig Manilla (1845-1909)

    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.

                              From the American Brewer's Review, Vol. 24, published in 1910.


  1. Andy - Selig's wife's name was Sarah and his daughter was Amelia. Amelia went on to marry Borrow Bennett ( not Barrow) and she had two boys, Irving and Alfred. Irving Bennett was my grandma's dad and therefore my great grandfather. We never heard about Selig until we started doing research on and could not believe what a high profile citizen he was as nobody ever talked about him.

    1. Hello!

      Thank you for your comment and for the additional information on Selig Manilla's wife, who lacked a name despite my attempts to find one! The portrait of him above was found in the 1897 work "The New England States, their constitutional, judicial, educational, commercial, professional and industrial history, Volume 4", which can be found on The bio featured for him there was the main source of information for his profile here, and a link to it is provided below. Strangely, this book fails to mention Manilla's wife or daughter......odd.

      That being said, if you have anymore questions or would like something to be added to his profile here, please don be afraid to comment/visit and like our Facebook page, which can be reached through the large Facebook box at the top of the site. Once again, glad to see a new comment and thank you for visiting!


  2. Yes, I will "like" your page on Facebook. Thank you so much for posting Selig's picture....we never had a face to match the records of the man we found out we were related to and now we do! Our family thanks you and please let us know if you ever find out any more information on Selig and his history or any of his relatives. I am excited to learn my ancestors were so successful.

    Kristen Light

  3. Small correction: Manilla did not establish a new brewery in Dobbs Ferry, NY, he bought into an existing one (named the "Anchor Brewery", subsequently the "Manilla Anchor Brewery". Some background on it here at the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society website: