The History of Frank Jones

In the late 1800s the Frank Jones Brewing Company put Portsmouth on the map

You've probably never heard of Frank Jones, but he was brewing beer in Portsmouth (and making piles of money at it) way before it was the cool thing to do. Way, way, way before, that is.

For Jones, beer was the path to success and the American Dream in the late 1800s. Jones, the fifth of seven children, moved out of his family's home in Barrington at the age of 16 in 1848. Settling in Portsmouth with just about nothing to his name, Jones apprenticed at his brother's stove store - by 1854 he took it over entirely. The stove store was just the first acquisition in what would become an incredibly long list of businesses and occupations that included a shoe store, a button factory, wool factory, publishing company, director of various banks, mills and even a steamship company. But it was the Frank Jones Brewing Company that made all his later pursuits possible. 

in 1858 Jones partnered with the man who originally started the brewery - John Swindell. Within a few months Jones bought him out, eventually owning all of the property, the business and even Swindell's ale recipe. He renamed it the Frank Jones Brewing Company and quickly set out to modernize and grow the brewery.

The Frank Jones Brewing Company was, in its time, almost unparalleled. By 1882, it was the largest ale producer in the country, brewing 150,000 barrels of ale by that year. The brand's popularity continued to climb and soon Frank Jones Brewing Company employed over 500 workers and saw its annual production skyrocket and peak at 250,000 barrels. The demand for the famous ale became so great that the company opened a Boston satellite location in 1886.

As his brewing business expanded, so did Jones's status in New Hampshire. The don of the New Hampshire beer industry first dabbled in politics as a two-term Mayor of Portsmouth in 1867. Then in 1875, his influence among the beer-crazed public earned him a two-year seat in Congress. His political stint ended with a lost campaign for governor, but that didn't stop the mogul from monopolizing prestigious assets from racehorses to railroads, insurance companies to lavish hotels. In true Frank Jones fashion, no asset was too excessive. At the time of his death in 1902, he was buried beneath the largest tombstone in Portsmouth.

Want to know more about the history of brewing in Portsmouth? The exhibit "Tapping Portsmouth: How the Brewing Industry Shaped the City" is open through the end of October at Strawbery Banke Museum.

In 1888 the massive clock tower was finished at the brewery in Portsmouth. It was 144 feet high and the clock face was 11 feet across. By this time the brewery employed 500 people and yet another expansion was on the horizon - the Boston branch was opened in 1889 and a large bottling shop was added in 1890.

By Kathleen Callahan

Today just a few of the Frank Jones Brewing Company buildings remain in downtown Portsmouth.


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