The Lincoln–Moerlein Debate

A comparison of two great men, drawn from two great biographies.

Recently, a new biography of Cincinnati’s preeminent 19th century brewmaster, Christian Moerlein, arrived—Christian Moerlein: The Man and His Brewery, by Don Heinrich Tolzmann, Little Miami Publishing Co. It put us in mind of the other noteworthy biographical subject of the moment, Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks).

Goin’ to Town

Moerlein: Arrives in Cincinnati April 1, 1842. Comes from Bavaria, after a stay in West Virginia.

Lincoln: Spent one of the worst weeks of his life (before the Civil War) here in 1855, getting cold dissed by lawyers he was supposed to be working with. “I never expect to be in Cincinnati again.”

Character-building Moment

Lincoln: Lost his first love, Ann Rutledge, to typhoid in 1835.

Moerlein: First wife, Sophia Adams, died in the great cholera epidemic of 1849.


Lincoln: A tinkerer, he is the only president to hold a U.S. patent—for a device that lifts boats over rocky shoals.

Moerlein: Liked to talk up the benefits of cremation, and donated money to the Cincinnati Cremation Society.


Moerlein: Son George Moerlein was known to ride horseback into assorted Vine Street taverns, tip a brew back, and then gallop out again.

Lincoln: Eerily, son Robert Todd Lincoln was present at the assassination of presidents Garfield and McKinley!

Fashion Innovation

Lincoln: Stovepipe hat

Moerlein: Beer goggles

Money Quote

Lincoln: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union.”

Moerlein: “Exhilarating, wholesome, stimulating, delicious, rejuvenating, & pure.”


Moerlein: By the end of the Civil War, Cincinnati is drinking more beer per capita than any other city in the country.

Lincoln: Kept the country together.

Didja Know?

Moerlein: His refrigerated brewery was once used to store cadavers for the University of Cincinnati medical school.

Lincoln: Never slept in the Lincoln bedroom.

Unintended Consequence

Lincoln: Linkin Park

Moerlein: Bengals fans


Originally published in the April 2013 issue.

Illustration by Tim Tomkinson

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