Wheeling Heritage Gets ‘Notorious’ With Podcast Series

Photo provided Henry Schmulbach, 1844-1915, a German immigrant who formed the Schmulbach Brewing Company in Wheeling, is the focus of Wheeling Heritage’s new podcast that launched this month.

WHEELING — Wheeling Heritage is hoping to tell the story of the city’s history through a new medium: Podcasts.

The organization launched its first podcast this month titled “Henry: The Life and Legacy of Wheeling’s Most Notorious Brewer” with hopes of exploring more media projects in the future.

The six-episode series explores the life of Henry Schmulbach, a German brewer who immigrated to Wheeling in the mid-19th century, and its first two episodes are available for listening on iTunes and Spotify.

Schmulbach’s life interacted with important themes in Wheeling’s history, including immigration, politics, industrialization and crime, according to Wheeling Heritage. The podcast is hosted by Hal Gorby, a West Virginia University professor who specializes in immigration and working-class history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“We can reach people who maybe don’t like attending a lecture, reading a dusty old book, going on a walking tour or visiting a historic site,” Gorby said. “As a multi-episode podcast, it allows listeners to hear Henry’s life advance with the city. It’s also just plain fun too, getting to hear about the good and also not-so-good parts of our history.”

Each of the episodes, which are being released weekly each Thursday, focuses on a theme in Schmulbach’s life and how it relates to Wheeling’s history. The first episode, “German Wheeling,” describes Schmulbach’s life as a German immigrant while explaining immigrants’ impacts on Wheeling through today.

In past years, Wheeling Heritage worked to share Wheeling’s history through interpretive signs posted throughout the city, said Alex Weld, director of operations. Recently, though, staff realized that using new mediums could be a way to reach new people, she said.

“We realized that if we want to continue telling stories about Wheeling that we have to use new mediums to do so,” Weld said. “As podcasts grow and people are engaging with audio and listening to podcasts while they’re commuting or doing whatever else, we realized that podcasts are kind of a very interesting way for people to understand history. Audio can really help tell a story in a way that text maybe can’t, so it’s an interesting pairing.”

The podcast was launched as part of Wheeling Heritage Media, a new LLC the larger organization recently formed, with plans to make a second podcast and do more video work in the future, Weld said.

In addition, Dillon Richardson and Johnathon Porter of the Moundsville-based Jan’s House Media produced the series.

Though Gorby had researched Schmulbach’s life extensively in the past, even he learned more about the brewer’s life in preparing for the podcast.

“I was really surprised by how much extra history I learned through the research about Henry’s life, which I thought I knew pretty well already. In particular, the role he played in efforts promoting the German culture in Wheeling,” Gorby said. “I don’t think people realize how German Wheeling truly was in the late 19th century. I hope the podcast gives them a better sense of this cultural heritage and how it was ultimately lost.”

Schmulbach notably formed the Schmulbach Brewing Company in 1882 in South Wheeling and later had the Schmulbach Building constructed downtown, which later became the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building.

“We always try at Wheeling Heritage to bridge the past and the present and think about how they mirror each other and how the past is still relevant to now,” Weld said. “I think Henry Schmulbach’s life was an interesting way to do that.”

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