THE LANGS – From Gamburg to San Francisco
Established in the San Francisco Bay Area since the mid-1800’s, members of
Lang Family are descendants of a long line of innkeepers from the town of
Gamburg, in Baden, Germany.
In 1824 Franz Joseph Lang married Rosina Kramer, daughter of another Gamburg
innkeeper. In 1846, Franz Joseph received title to the Stork Inn from the
town of Gamburg. He and Rosina then operated two inns, the Green Tree Inn
and the Stork Inn next door.
In about 1845, Franz Joseph and Rosina visited the United States for about
two years. They returned to Gamburg enthused by the
opportunities they had seen in the United States, and encouraged their sons
to migrate. Peter Adam, the oldest son, remained in Gamburg to run the inn
and butcher business, but the couple’s two younger sons migrated to the
United States in the mid-1800’s. These two sons, known as Johann and Lorenzo
in Germany, established themselves in San Francisco as George Lang and Louis
Lang, and paved the way for future Langs to come.
In 1854, Peter Adam, the brother remaining in Gamburg, married Juliana
Martin. Over the years, they had six sons who eventually traveled to the San
Francisco Bay Area. Five of the six sons settled there: Otto Johann (born
1855, migrated 1973); Adolf Bernhard (born 1857, migrated 1876); Leonhard
Sebastian (born 1861, migrated 1876); August Josef (born 1865, migrated
1882); Wilhelm Josef (born 1869, migrated 1880).
The two uncles, George and Louis Lang, who had migrated earlier, welcomed
the nephews and helped the youth get started. In 1869 George and Louis
established a foreign wine and liquor import business called Lang & Co.,
located at 8 Morton Street.
By the time the second generation of Langs from Gamburg arrived in San
Francisco, both George and Louis Lang had substantial businesses in which
the young nephews could find employment.
The early 1880’s brought major changes to the young Langs. In 1880, Otto and
Adolph established a business together called Lang Bros., importers of
Philadelphia Beer¹, located at 1406 Polk
They lived next door to their business at 1408½ Polk.
In 1882, they brought brother August Josef to San Francisco. On July 22,
1882, at the age of seventeen, he sailed from Bremen on the "Elbe" and
landed in New York. He arrived in San Francisco on August 7, 1882 to join
August moved in with his brothers on Polk Street, and as his siblings before
him, he started working for his Uncle George. He began as a bottler with
George's, Lang & Co. Then in 1884 he worked for a brief period as a butcher,
but in 1886, August returned to work with Otto and Adolph at Lang Bros.
Leonhard first appears in the San Francisco City Directories in 1883 as a
baker, living with his brothers on Polk Street. Then in 1887 he joined his
brothers August and Otto in their company, Lang Bros., while Adolph left the
family business to form, over the next several years, a series of separate
partnerships in the beer bottling business.
Throughout their history, the Lang family businesses underwent several
splits and mergers: a brother would go independent for a while, then rejoin
the family business.
In 1892 Wilhelm, the youngest brother at the age of twenty-three, was
manager of the Lang Bros. Oakland branch, at 229 Eighth Street, Oakland. In
1898 he also left the family business and became manager of the Oakland
Pioneer Soda Water Company, at 221 Eighth Street.
In 1893², the brothers formed the
Fredericksburg Bottling Company, located at 1510-12
Ellis Street. Otto was president; Adolph, vice-president; Leonhard, the
foreman; and August, the manager. Over the ensuing years, the brothers
rotated titles and responsibilities several times.
In 1899, Adolph split off from his brothers and started a firm called
National Bottling Company. He owned and operated this company in San
Francisco for the remainder of his career. Lang Bros. had moved several
times in the 1880’s, from the Polk Street location to 1318 Scott Street near
O’Farrell Street in 1883, and then in 1890 to 1510-12 Ellis Street near
Fillmore, where it remained until 1906. After the Great Earthquake and Fire
of 1906, August bought out Otto and Leonhard to form August Lang & Co.,
which owned and operated the Fredericksburg Bottling Company. He relocated
operations to 18th and Alabama Streets, with a branch at the corner of Geary
In 1887 August married Mary Decker. He was twenty-two years old, and she was
twenty. Over the years they had five children, all born in San Francisco:
August Jr. (Guss), born May 29, 1890; Rudolph Decker (Rudy Sr.), born
September 30, 1892; William Oscar, (Bill), born February 9, 1896; Richard,
born in March 1888, and died in 1906 at the age of eighteen of a ruptured
appendix; and Myrtle Bertha, born March 19, 1898.
In March of 1900, August obtained a pass port and returned to Gamburg to
visit his doctor, who happened to have never traveled beyond German borders.
The doctor advised August to leave San Francisco and move to Marin, where
the weather was better. In 1902 August and Mary moved the family across the
bay to San Rafael. Then August built a house on Laurel Grove Avenue in Ross.
The family was living on Laurel Grove Avenue at the time of the 1906
Earthquake. August Sr. would commute to San Francisco, first by train, then
by ferry from Sausalito⁴.
Both Guss and Rudy followed their father into the beer industry. In 1911, at
the age of twenty-one, Guss was manager of the Red Lion Ale and Porter
Brewing Company. The next year he joined his father in the August J. Lang
Brewing Association, as did his brother, Rudy. But the young men’s career in
the beer industry did not last long.
August Lang and his sons must have recognized that the beer industry as they
knew it was finished. In 1913 August Sr. started Lang Realty and Company,
and his sons gained employment in the real estate business. Guss joined the
firm of Edwards Brewster &
McCann as a salesman. This firm was located in the 10 Mills Building, 220
Montgomery Street with a branch at 5298 Mission Street. Rudy started work
with another real estate firm, Oscar Heyman & Bros. William worked in a
partnership called Lang & Hecker.
In 1914⁵, Fredericksburg Bottling Company was no longer listed as a business
in the San Francisco City Directory.