|Wilhelm, the other 3 percent, was seized under the Alien
Property Custodian Act. Heading up the Office of Alien
Property were Custodian Leo Crowley, a former Navy
admiral, and Assistant Custodian James Markham, a Lowell
lawyer whose brothers worked at the brewery.
When Von Opel was released, he fought an extended
legal battle to regain his assets from the government. At the
heart of the legal cases was $3,700,000 worth of stocks
which Von Opel unsuccessfully sought at the Federal District
Court and Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. In 195 1,
Von Opel won a review to the United States Supreme Court.
In a unanimous decision, the justices again refused the return
of Fritz's stock holdings stating that Wilhelm Von Opel's three
percent interest was "paramount and controlling" while his son's
was "wholly subordinate."
The government held the brewery for several
through the 1950's, long after the threat of Nazi Germany had
passed. By 1956, sales of Harvard beer had declined
considerably and political pressure on President Dwight
Eisenhower's administration led the government to finally release
the brewery. After competitive bids were taken, Washington
sold off Harvard for $800,000 to a Miami, Florida real estate
concern called the Fort Knox Construction Company. The Harris
brothers of Fort Knox appeared to be more interested in
obtaining a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and in
profiteering on the real estate value of the Harvard site than in
In December of 1956, the Fort Knox Company
Harvard Brewery to Peter Doelger, Inc. of New York for the
sum of $2 million. The Doelger concern, realizing the poor
financial situation of Harvard, shut down the Lowell brewery
and moved production of Harvard beer to their own Hampden
Brewing Company in Willimanset, Massachusetts. Doelger, Inc.
stripped the brewery of all its stores, machinery and equipment
and sold it off to companies as far away as South America.
Although the corporation had promised to set up a major
distribution center in Lowell and keep all former Harvard workers
employed, only a few people were kept on the payroll and offered
permanent positions out in Willimanset.