Kurt Vonnegut’s great-grandfather created ocean of beer

Charles J. Shields in Writing Kurt Vonnegut:

ScreenHunter_04 Oct. 09 14.50 Kurt Vonnegut was the inheritor of two legacies— one through Clemens Vonnegut, the social reformer, and the other through a beer baron named Peter Leiber.

The Vonnegut side, as I wrote in an April post about Clemens Vonnegut, championed civic responsibility and personal and social improvement. His descendants built schools and transformed the skyline of Indianapolis through architecture.

The Lieber side, on the other hand, was hell-bent on making money as fast and as profitably as possible. Wealth elevated them quickly into the German-American aristocracy of Indianapolis, which Kurt indicated to me, and also in his writings, he was proud to be descended from.

The Liebers realized their dream of riches not by building with bricks, stones and progressive ideas, but by creating an ocean of beer.

Peter Lieber, Kurt’s maternal great-grandfather, arrived in 1848 the same year as Clemens Vonnegut, though his reasons for emigrating are unknown. Leaving his family in Düsseldorf, Germany meant abandoning a future of almost assured affluence. The Liebers were a clan of upper middle class lawyers, judges, administrative officers of government, bankers and merchants, one notch below hereditary aristocrats.

More here.