History of the Oktoberfest

Today, the Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with an international flavor characteristic of the 21th century: some 6 million visitors from all around the world converge on the Oktoberfest each year. And since the Oktoberfest is still held on the Theresienwiese, the locals still refer to the event simply as the Wiesn
Oktoberfest History

Oktoberfest History

The history of the Oktoberfest from 1810 to today


First Munich Oktoberfest

The first Munich Oktoberfest was part of the supporting program for the wedding of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig (1786-1868) and Princess Therese of Saxe- Hildburghausen (1792-1854). The wedding took place on October 12, 1810, the ecclesiastical Maximilian’s day named after after King Max I. Joseph. For this reason, the festival was known as Maximilian Week. While the royal name soon gave way to the name Oktoberfest, the festival grounds were named to honor the new Princess; Theresienwiese (Teresa’s meadow), or in the shortened version, Wies’n,   is still in use today.

The National Guard cavalryman Franz Baumgartner wanted to propose a horse race on the occasion of the royal wedding revive the late medieval tradition of the scarlet race.the concept was presented to King Maximilian I. by Baumgartner’s commanding officer, cavalry major and banker Andreas von Dall’Armi. The race itself was run in the tradition of the medieval “scarlet races”, with the winning jockey being awarded a valuable piece of scarlet cloth. His name: Franz Baumgartner.

Bavarian Royality, King Ludwig I, Maximilian I
Ersten Mal (First Time), Geschichte (History), Traditionellen (Tradition), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Central Agricultural Festival

The Agricultural Association in Bavaria took over the invitation to the Oktoberfest from 1811 to 1818 and organized a horse race and a livestock market, the so-called Central Agricultural Festival (ZLF). There were 23 stallions, 29 broodmares, 22 bulls, 31 cows, 27 rams and three pigs. King Maximilian I personally handed over the prizes for the winners. After a break from 1914 to 1925, the Agricultural Festival was revived by the Landesbauernkammer in 1927 and 1933. Since 1949, the Bavarian Farmers’ Association (BBV) initially directed the ZLF to attend every two years, because of the decreasing importance of agriculture in Bavaria. Since 1975 it was held every three years and since 1996 every four years.

Agriculture, Bavarian Royality, Maximilian I
Ersten Mal (First Time), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Oktoberfest Cancelled due to war

In 1813, the celebration was cancelled due to the war against Napoleon. The war was entering the Sixth Coalition stage (1812–1814), when seeing an opportunity in Napoleon’s historic defeat, Prussia, Sweden, Austria, and several German states including Bavaria re-entered the war.

Storniert (Cancelled)

Carnival booths make an appearance

The first carnival booths were set up by the ‘Oktoberfest Society’ who set up a ‘Happiness Port – For the Good of the Poor’.  These ‘Happiness Port’ or ‘Haven of Fortune’ booths allowed surplus goods to be used for charitable purpose for the poor. This form of goods lottery was based on a simple but clever idea: for a small price you have the chance to win an item of much higher value. The main prizes were silver, porcelain or jewellery, while stockings, whistle heads or small effigies of the king were thought to be consolation prizes.

Ersten Mal (First Time)

Food booths & amusement rides

Food booths were first introduced to the festival, and with it came the introduction of beer, forever changing the course of the event. The Fischbraterei opened and offered fried herring and fresh harvest foods. Anton Gruber, the landlord of the Praterinsel, at the same time receivee a concession to operate special audience amusements for five years. However, his beer stall and his amusements were not directly on the Theresienwiese, but, as prescribed at the time, on the Theresienhöhe. Gruber also runs a Carousel, a German swing, a Russian swing, which is probably a forerunner of today’s Ferris wheel, and a Dove disk, with a suspended wooden dove target. Other attractions at the festival included several bowling alleys.

Anton Gruber, Fischbraterei
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Speisen (Food)

Munich town fathers take over festival

1819, the city of Munich took over the management of the horse race, the supervision of the shooting and the host activities. The agricultural association remained responsible for the organization of agricultural areas. The town fathers of Munich decided that the Oktoberfest should be celebrated every year without exception.

City of Munich
Geschichte (History)

Daring airship Flight

Madame Wilhelmine Reichard, from Dresden, dressed in an old-fashioned dirndl and a flag with the Munich coat of arms, climbs into the sky with her balloon made of twisted canvas. While hovering over the crowd, the she throws down thousands of flyers on which King Maximilian I and the Bavarian people are glorified in poetry: “And come back from the clouds / On Baiern’s mother-earth / So I find people, faithful and good.” After a flight where the balloon amazingly reached an altitude of 1600 meters, Madame Reichard landed safely on in a clear forest spot near Zorneding.


Veranstaltungen (Event)

First Oktoberfest procession

In 1835, the Oktoberfest celebrated the 25th anniversary of Ludwig I, and Therese’s wedding and the Oktoberfest’s 25th anniversary. King Ludwig I  did not wish a separate, public celebration of his silver wedding; however, he did not object to a wedding anniversary celebration and the Oktoberfest. The ‘first’ festive Oktoberfest procession, which passed through the royal tent on the Theresienwiese on October 4, 1835, became the most pompous pageant the capital had ever seen.

Anniversary, Bavarian Royality, King Ludwig I
Ersten Mal (First Time), Festzug (Pageant), Geschichte (History), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Parade of the 35 Bridal Couples

The wedding of Crown Prince Maximilian (later King Maximilian II), to the Prussian Princess Marie Friedrike was planned to take place on the wedding anniversary of his parents. This alone made the Oktoberfest of 1842 more than a normal dynastic festival. The wedding itself took place on October 12th in the Allerheiligen-Hofkirche of the Munich Residenz. As part of the celebration, on October 16th, 35 bridal couples, who come from the eight administrative districts of the Kingdom of Bavaria, were married in the Catholic St. Michael or the Protestant-evangelical church of St. Matthew. After a joint lunch, the festive procession continued. The bridal couples – 24 Catholic and 11 Protestant bridal couples, dressed in Bavarian costume, proceeded to the Theresienwiese passing the royal tent at the Oktoberfest.

Bavarian Royality, Maximilian II
Festzug (Pageant), Veranstaltungen (Event)

patron of Bavaria

The Bavaria, a 20 meter high bronze statue of the patron saint of Bavaria, was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Millerand and was unveiled in 1850 and since has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticized and Germanized the design. The patron of Bavaria, holds a wreath of oak leaves in her left hand and a sword in her right. A bear pelt is sewn into her robe and she is accompanied by a lion. Historians still debate what these attributes are supposed to mean.

City of Munich
Geschichte (History), Veranstaltungen (Event)
The great pageant of the trades and artist of Munich, then the suburbs Au and Haidhausen at the unveiling of the Bavaria statue

Traditional Costume Parade

1850 was the first year that the traditional costume parade became an annual event. Eight thousand people dressed in traditional Bavarian garb, or Tracht, led by the Münchner Kindl, walked from Maximilian Street through the center of Munich to the Theresienwiese, thus paying homage to a similar parade that was staged at the wedding of Ludwig and Therese. Nowadays this parade takes place on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest and is still considered a core element of the festival.

Festzug (Pageant), Tracht (Costume), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame)

After 10 years of construction under the direction of the neo-classical architect Leo von Klenze  the three-winged portico, the Ruhmeshalle (Hall of Fame) serves as the pantheon for noted Bavarians who made outstanding contributions to their country, the sciences, and the arts. Their busts were on display there in tribute. due to destruction of the busts during World War II, many older busts have been replaced by plaques.This tradition was resumed starting in 1966.

City of Munich
Veranstaltungen (Event)

Cholera Cancels Oktoberfest

In 1854, organizers were forced to cancel the Oktoberfest festival in the face of cholera outbreaks that killed over 3,000 residents in Munich and ravaged other cities across Europe.


Storniert (Cancelled)

War Cancels Oktoberfest

Bavaria fights in the Prussian-Austrian war on the side of the Danube monarchy. There is no Oktoberfest, although both sides have already concluded peace in August of the year.

Storniert (Cancelled)

Schottenhamel Festhalle Opens

Michael Schottenhamel with his new wife opens his Oktoberfest-tent, which had space for 50 people, as a little wooden barn behind the Königszelt. The family, now in its fifth generation, still occupies the same spot and is the oldest and most traditional Oktoberfest tent.

Festzelt (Marque), Speisen (Food)

Auf geht’s beim Schichtl

The Original Magic Specialties Theater, also known Auf geht’s beim Schichtl (after its founder Michael August Schichtl) opens its doors for the first time and has since been in attendance every year delighting crowds with magic, illusions and the legendary execution of a Living person with the guillotine.

Attraktion (Attraction), Ersten Mal (First Time), Schausteller (Showman)

War Cancels Oktoberfest

The Franco-Prussian War, in which Bavaria again fights against the French Empire on the side of Prussia, prevents a festive gathering at the Oktoberfest again.

Storniert (Cancelled)

Oktoberfest Promoted to Folk Festival

The Oktoberfest is promoted to a folk festival and is brought forward for the first time to the last days in September because of the beautiful warm Indian summer. Only the last Oktoberfest weekend, which has since fallen on the first weekend in October, gives the name Oktoberfest its entitlement.

City of Munich
Geschichte (History)

First Völkerschau Exhibit

The first, Völkerschau or Peoples Show, even though a very modest one, was organized by Carl Hagenbeck and appeared at the Oktoberfest in 1876. The Lapland Exhibition showed the Laplanders (Könkämävuoma Sámi) from northern Sweden that consisted of 2 males and 2 females, with their reindeer, and herding dogs, and put them into the context of their native living conditions by adding original tents, sleds and many pieces equipment in order to make the exhibition as authentic as possible. This Völkerschau would become the model for all those that followed.

Also the Schützenfestzelt makes its Oktoberfest premiere and now counts as the second oldest festive hall at the Oktoberfest.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Völkerschau Nubian Caravan

Show entrepreneur Carl Hagenbeck presented his  Nubian caravan with about 30 people at Oktoberfest. The Bedouins were presented in local costumes on the meadow in front of Bavaria and the Hall of Fame for the astonished Munich bourgeois audience. There was much to talk about the show in the city, and the Munich women simply closed their eyes in the sight of the (though splendid) male figures, wrote one editor.

Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Hans Steyrer - Bavarian Herkules

Hans Steyrer, a Bavarian butcher and innkeeper, opened his Bräubude (brewing stall), which he continued to host until 1903. He became known as a strongman, called the Bavarian Hercules and was praised for his incredible bodily strength, which he demonstrated every year. During breaks in serving he entertained the crowd with feats of strength. He lifted a barrel filled with 30–40 liters of beer with only two fingers placed on the edge of the barrel and lifted it from the floor onto the table. His most prominent feat was the living stretching, where he had his son perform gymnastic exercises on his outstretched arm.

Hans Steyr
Schausteller (Showman)

Riesenrad Premiere

The Oktoberfest receives a new attraction: a Riesenrad or ferris wheel with a height of 12 meters that charms the young to the old. With the introduction of electric lighting, 1880 marked the first Oktoberfest to take place in the evening thanks to illumination afforded by incandescent lamps for the 401 stalls and tents.


Fahrgeschäfte (Rides)

Ochsenbraterei Founded

The Ochsenbraterei (the ox roasting) was founded by the butcher, Johann Rössler, which is today one of the most popular marquees on the Theresienwiese. Rössler designed a machine to roast a whole ox,  a small steam-powered grill—the original steam rotisserie. Also the city council authorized the first bratwurst stand, and the the first Hendlbraterei (Oktoberfest chicken) first is opened and the now traditional Wiesnhendl (fried chicken) is sold to the hungry visitors

Ersten Mal (First Time), Speisen (Food)

Electric Lamps

On behalf of the city council, the J. Einstein & Cie., Electrical engineering factory in Munich, opened the first sixteen arc lamps on the fairground in 1885. They had a luminosity of 1000 to 1200 normal candles each. The power supply was provided by a stationary steam engine of 35 hp on the Adlzreiterstraße, via a 6500 meter long overhead line. Eight lamps are left to burn all night.

City of Munich, Electric
Geschichte (History)

devastating fire

At about 7.30pm a fire broke out on the Theresienwiese through a fallen kerosene lamp in the Pfälzischen Weinbude (Palatine wine hut) of Julius Frey, who unfortunately died in the catastrophe. In a very short time it became a very dangerous large fire engulfing five more stalls. The alarm was attempted to be raised by a bell from the church tower of the Old Parish Church of St. Margaret, which in this case did not. The 6th Company of the Sendlinger fire brigade, in spite of the alarm bell failure, managed to send 41 men at the same time along with the 1st Company. By the time the fire was extinguished, eighteen stalls had been destroyed.

Geschichte (History)

Wiesnwirte (Oktoberfest hosts)

The traditional entry of the landlords was invented by Hans Steyrer, when in 1887 on the opening day of the festival he rode in a four-in-hand horse and carriage that was loaded with beer barrels, his family, the barmen, the waitresses, and the cooks, with brass band music, followed on seven decorated two-man horse and carriages. The procession set off from Giesing towards Theresienwiese, but in the valley the police stop the column. The magistrate later sentenced Hans Streyer to a fine of 100 gold marks for gross mischief and disturbing public order and security, but did not prevent him from repeating the ride in the following years. This in turn starts the Wiesnwirte (Oktoberfest Hosts) entry procession tradition.

Hans Steyr, Procession, Wiesnwirte
Festzug (Pageant), Schausteller (Showman), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Introduction of the Glass Maß

The earlier customary clay mugs (also known as “Keferloher”) were replaced by the mugs (Maß)—Ein Mass translates in English as A measure—and officially starting another new Oktoberfest tradition. The first Bavarian Maßkrugs (beer mugs) or just Maß held 1.069 liters of beer, whereas today’s Maß is exactly 1 liter (33.8 oz). In 1978 the first Jahreskrug (Pitcher of the year), commonly known as the Oktoberfest Commemorative Mug was released. Made of stoneware, the collector’s mug is released annually with that year’s poster motif.


Ersten Mal (First Time), Geschichte (History)

Hexenschaukel Premier

Carl Gabriel’s Hexenschaukel (witches swing) also known as the illusionary swing or revolving house, is one of the oldest carnival illusions and was introduced in 1894 after an American idea. In this extraordinary example of sensory deception, the sense of balance is disturbed as the room rotates around the axis of the swing. Nowadays the attraction is particularly old and therefore requires great care, it no longer travels from carnival to carnival but remains in Munich where it is set-up only for the Oktoberfest.

Carl Gabriel, Hexenschaukel
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Schausteller (Showman)

Winzerer Fähndl

In 1895 the crossbowman Guild, Winzerer Fähndl, accepted an invitation from city authorities to open their own tent at the Oktoberfest– to carry out championships and to entertain the crossbow shooters and visitors. The Thomasbräu brewery (which merged with Paulaner in 1928) subsidized the beer tent, supplying beer from this point on. Winzerer Fähndl, the beer tent built in the style of a medieval knight’s castle, drew much attention through its impressive 26 meter high tower. The Ambrustschützen beer tent, is related to this story as well, because in 1950 the crossbowman tent, Winzerer Fähndl, expanded into a second one. Today each beer tent maintains its own character

Winzerer Fähndl
Ersten Mal (First Time), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Era of the Beer tent architecture

Michael Schottenhamel I, takes over the Schützen-Wirth (later known as Festhalle Schottenhamel) and based upon the magnificent design of the Munich-based star architect Gabriel von Seidl builds the first large beer hall, the prototype of the festival dominating tents of today. Offering  1,500 seats the tent is also the first tenet located off the Wirtsbudenring.

Festzelt (Marque)

Völkerschauen (People’s Show)

Carl Gabriel presents for the first time one of his famous Gabriel Völkerschauen (People’s Show) at the Oktoberfest with the Beduinen-Lager. On a 7,500 square meter caravan square, he builds a Bedouin village and offers his visitors in addition to special performances from a supporting program also insights into the everyday life of this alien tribe.

Carl Gabriel
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Carl Gabriel opens the Hippodrom

The host Carl Gabriel opens the Hippodrome (according to its Greek name an equestrian arena) and caters for the amusement of his guests with a 60-meter long Pferdereitbahnan, a 25 horse riding school, in which everyone can test their riding skills.  The ride takes 5 minutes and costs 50 pfennigs. The Hippodrome it was more elegant than in other marquees, for example tablecloths covered the tables.

Carl Gabriel, Hippodrom
Festzelt (Marque), Schausteller (Showman)

Tunis in Munich

The leading Oktoberfest attraction of the1904 Oktoberfest was entrepreneur Carl Gabriel’s the Tunis in Munich. The advertisement boasted of Bedouins, Moors, Berbers, and Negroes, and featured displays of North African riders and Sudanese villagers in a Bedouin Encampment consisting of an imposing set of temporary buildings with a large minaret, covered souks, a Tunisian Cafe, and a wide range of ethnic performers.

Carl Gabriel
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Toboggan Ride

In 1906, Franz Anton Bausch from Baden built the probably first German toboggan on the Parisian model, an originally American toboggan run. Toboggan comes from the language of the Canadian Algonquian Indians, and means a light snow sledge. It is copied, and in 1908, they were three toboggan rides at Oktoberfest. In 1921 it increased to 12!  The toboggan of today dates back to the year 1920. Since 1933 the toboggan has been a family run business appearing every year at Oktoberfest.

Bausch, Toboggan
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides)

Polar Bear Exhibit

Time and again, new, partly exotic attractions attracted visitors to the Munich Oktoberfest. In 1907, the circus of Carl Hagenbeck caused a sensation, as its 70 polar bears showed a variety of demonstrations, including the Eisbärenrutsche (Polar Bear Slide) shown in the picture.

Animals, Hagenbeck
Attraktion (Attraction), Schausteller (Showman), Veranstaltungen (Event)

First Transportable Roller Coaster

The first roller coaster imported from the USA was set up by the showman Carl Gabriel for the Munich Exhibition in 1908 held on the Theresienwiese. However, it was not designed for dismantling and assembly, so it could not be used for other events. The first transportable roller coaster the Original American Figure 8 Bahn, designed by the American Erwin Vettel of Sandusky Ohio, was introduced by the Munich-based actor Max Stenbeck who opened the transportable figure 8 bahn at the 1909 Oktoberfest. In December the same year, Hugo Haase bought the roller coaster from Max Stehbeck.

Carl Gabriel, Roller Coaster
Bier (Beer), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Schausteller (Showman)

Oktoberfest 100th Anniversary


100th Annviersary

Oktoberfest celebrated its Centennial birthday with much hoopla and a fond look backwards in time. The horse races were brought back and a Schützenfest (sharp shooters’ contest) and balloon races kept the crowds entertained — when they weren’t drinking beer (120,000 liters of beer were poured,) that is. A 100th Anniversary commemorative beer stein was issued which immediately became a collector’s prize.

Anniversary, Glassware, Pferderennen (Horse Race)
Bier (Beer), Geschichte (History), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Samoa in Munich

The third Völkerschau (Peoples Show), an exhibit from Samoa, was the main attraction at the Jubilee Oktoberfest .Under the guidance of the showman Carl Gabriel, Prince Regent Luitpold visited the exhibition. Prince Ludwig presented the Samoan chief Tamsese with a valuable ring as a gift, for which the prince expressed his thanks to the prince in writing in the Samoan language .

Carl Gabriel, Prince Regent Luitpold
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Gustav Hagenbeck's India Volkerschau

Gustav Hagenbeck’s largest Indian people’s show in the world was presented at the Oktoberfest. Apart from the performances in the Arena, visitors could buy Indian  products – made by the participants of the human zoo – at the Indian Market.

Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Conjoined Siamese Twins

On show at the Oktoberfest this year were show abnormalities or Freaks that featured the Blažek sisters, Josefa, Rosa, the Siamese conjoined twins and ‘their child‘ Franzi. The were born in Skrejšov, Bohemia on January 20, 1878. The two were pygopagus – joined at the posterior. They shared tissue and cartilage but were also joined at a thoracic vertebra. It was that delicate fusion that negated any possibility of separation.

Attraktion (Attraction), Menschen (People), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Carl Gabriel's Tripoli

Carl Gabriel, the then most famous and successful Munich showman, together with Carl Marquardt exhibited a völkerschau featuring a group of Bedouins. The event was titled Tripolis or Bedui nenkarawane (Bedouins Caravan). The 71 Bedouins and Arabs had already been exhibited in the Zoological Gardens in Hamburg, Cologne Frankfurt, Wrocław and Leipzig. Besides the humans on display, there were 18 horses, 4 dromedaries, Donkeys, goats, Bedouin dogs and sheep.

Animals, Carl Gabriel
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Oktoberfest's Largest Beer Tent - Bräurosl

In 1913, Pschorr-Bräurosl set up the largest Oktoberfest beer hall under the direction of festival host August Sexauer. With its 5,500 square meters it could accommodate 12,000 people. The huge Bräurosl tent had a ridge height of 15 meters, and had an almost 28 meters wide span that was free of pillars.
 The Bräurosl tent is smaller now: it holds about 6,000 guests. The largest tent today is the Hofbrau-Festzelt tent which seats 10,000.



Braurosl, Pschorr
Festzelt (Marque), Rekorde (Records)
1914 to 1918

The Great War Cancels Oktoberfest

Because of the First World War, between 1914 and 1918 there was no Oktoberfest. At the end of the war, the German Empire collapsed and in consequence all the monarchies of the empire.

Storniert (Cancelled)
1919 & 1920

autumn Festival or Herbstfests

After the war, the democratic restart in the Weimar Republic was hampered by economic crises, inflation and unemployment, and the celebrations were limited to a small autumn Festival or Herbstfest, both in 1919 and 1920. The only highlights of the festival was the firing competitions of the shooting clubs. Foreign visitors stayed away , and the people of Munich had to be satisfied with thin beer.


Veranstaltungen (Event)

Michael Großmann's Krinoline

The Krinoline, a type of merry-go-round and its forerunners date back to the end of the 19th century. Michael Großmann’s Krinoline or Carousel was built in 1924, and was driven by muscle power when it first delighted Oktoberfest visitors in 1925. The Krinoline came from Berlin’s Spree River to the Isar and was all the rage for the first few years.

Abnormalities, Großmann, Krinoline
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Schausteller (Showman)

Heinrich's Flying Chairs

Franz Xaver Heinrich built one of the largest Kettenfliegers (carousel flying chairs) of the time with a maximum height of 12 meters. Also the Kettenflieger was powered by an electric motor. Today, now known as (Chair-o-Plane) several attractions that always present on the Oktoberfest, the highest is the flyer star where the seats are suspended up to 50 meters from the ground.

Haase, kettenflieger
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Schausteller (Showman)

Carl Gabriel's Indien in München

Carl Gabriel and John Hagenbeck present the völkerschau ‘Indien in München’. To promote the show Hagenbeck and Gabriel, along with a variety of photographers and a large crowd, arrived at Munich Central Station to welcome the group of Indians who would performing at the Oktoberfest. The Munich newspaper reported on this move: The train arrived […] The first impression was overwhelming. Especially because you saw that these Indians were real.

Carl Gabriel
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Hasse Introduces Bumper Cars

Heinrich Haase, who was considered the first major German amusement park operator, brought the newest innovative festival attraction, Bumper Cars, to Germany in 1926. The first bumper cars were imports from America and Britain, but German manufacturers began making their own versions in 1926/27. Before the end of the decade, Munich sideshow operator Willi Lindner acquired the sleek speedsters from Haase and incorporated them in the Oktoberfest, an ammusement that still continues today.

Bumper Cars, Haase
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Geschichte (History), Schausteller (Showman)

Die Drei dicksten Mädchen

Carl Gabriel presented what he marketed as the seventh wonder of the world, the Die Drei dicksten Mädchen (the three thickest girls). Bertha, Elsa, and Elvira, with the weight taken together, weighed approximately 1200 pounds. Elsa weighed 380 pounds, Elvira 420 lbs. and Bertha 450 lbs.


Abnormalities, Carl Gabriel
Attraktion (Attraction), Menschen (People), Schausteller (Showman), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Die Steile Wand

In 1928, the Munich showman Josef Ruprecht commissioned a Berlin-based company to build a transportable steep wall. With Carl Gabriel the ‘Die Steile Wand’ or  ‘Todeswand’ thrilled visitors to the Oktoberfest. The most widely used motorcycles in Walls of Death and still used today are the first generation Indian Scout models (pre-1928) with 37 cu. in. displacement. Ruprecht’s Todeswand was later operated in the 1950s, under the name Die Auto-Steilwand and, since 1984, has been known as Motodrom.

Carl Gabriel, Steile Wand, Todeswand
Attraktion (Attraction), Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Schausteller (Showman)

Giant Orang-Utan Show

Carl Gabriel’s und L. Ruhe’s Riesen Orang-Utan-Schau aus den Urwäldern Sumatras (giant orang-utan show from the jungles of Sumatra).  
For the show in the spring of 1928, 85 specimens of this extremely rare ape species were found on the island Sumatra and brought to Europe.  Of those that survived, some of the precious orangutans were sold at Zoological Gardens, the rest were on public exhibition in a heated cage.  Also at the Oktoberfest Carl Gabriel’s and Ehrlich’s Giant Peoples where exhibited approximately 200 men, women, and children, consisting of Africans, Chinese, Japanese, and Circassians (from Caucasus).

Animals, Carl Gabriel
Attraktion (Attraction), Schausteller (Showman), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Motor-Seeboot-driving & Alligators

Carl Gabriel built four of the large exhibitions at the 1929 Oktoberfest. Two of the attractions were considered sensational. The Aus den Flüssen (from the rivers) of Florida,  Gabriel presented a thousand living alligators. The second and apparently the most sensation the Wies’ n ever had seen, was the Motor-Seeboot-driving. In a huge pool made from tent canvas’ visitors could drive laps in a boat powered by petrol engines. Halfway around the track was a covered canvas tunnel, in which the inside was magical lit.

Animals, Carl Gabriel
Attraktion (Attraction), Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Sterben Lippennegerinnen

Carl Gabriel presented his largest ever Völkerschau with four hundred colored people from Africa. Gabriel’s show, the Völkerschau der Lippen-Negerinnen. ‘Eine Schönheit’. (Peoples Show of the lip black women. ‘A beauty’). Particularly admired, the Sterben Lippennegerinnen (Dying Lips-Negroes) 
tribe of Sara-Kaba, Central Africa, of which the ethnology museum recorded some of their songs.

Carl Gabriel
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)
Carl Gabriel's Volkerschau Kannibalen von der Sudsee

Kanaken der Südsee

John Hagenbeck (1866- 1940), the half-brother of Carl Hagenbeck, and Friedrich Wilhelm Siebold presents Kanaken der Südsee (The Kanaks of the South Seas) at the Munich Oktoberfest which was the last human exhibition before the Second World War. The same year saw the death of Carl Gabriel (1857–1931) who had organized ‘Völkerschauen’ in Munich for decades.

Carl Gabriel, Hagenbeck
Schausteller (Showman), Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

Pitts Todeswand

The original Pitt’s Todeswand (Wall of Death) steep wall was built in 1928 and was purchased by “Pitt” Löffelhardt and his former boxing colleague Ludwig Seeger  in 1932. Since then it has been owned and operated by the Munich family Löffelhardt / Wissinger. The wall itself is a rarity, a historical attraction: In 1934 it was rebuilt under consideration of the “golden section” and with 8 m boiler height and 12 m boiler diameter to the largest motorsport show in Germany.

Steile Wand, Todeswand
Attraktion (Attraction), Ersten Mal (First Time), Rekorde (Records), Schausteller (Showman)

Giesterbahn Appearance

The first Giesterbahn (ghost train) in Germany was set up in 1931 by Carl Böhm at the Hamburg Cathedral. The enthusiasm with which this novel amusement was received by the audience can be seen from the fact that the Oktoberfest of 1932 had four ghost trains present at the 1932 festival.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides)

Oktoberfest’s 125th anniversary

The Oktoberfest’s 125-year anniversary, which was celebrated extensively in the year 1935, was clearly dominated by National Socialist ideology. The National Socialist rulers put on the festivities under the motto Proud City – Cheerful Country and tried to reinterpret the history of the festival in their favor. Ideological speeches attested to the fraternization of farmer and city dweller, and the festival procession consisted not only of local costume groups and marksmen, but also contained substantial delegations wearing NS-uniforms. Also for the first time the German Crossbow championships are held in the crossbow-gunner’s tent, which continue their tradition to this day.

Anniversary, Nazi Germany, Winzerer Fähndl
Geschichte (History), Traditionellen (Tradition), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Käthe 'Kitty' Müller

The legendary Käthe “Kitty” Müller began riding her motorcycle in the Pitt’s Todeswand steep wall, a feat she continued to perform for many years. She perfected her skills in the show and, together with Peter ‘Pitt’ Löffelhardt, drove acrobatics in the cauldron on two machines. In the spectacular show, she rode a 1928 Indian scout motorcycle.

Steile Wand, Todeswand
Attraktion (Attraction), Geschichte (History), Menschen (People), Schausteller (Showman)

Colors of Bavaria and Munich prohibited

One year later, in 1936, the colors of Bavaria and Munich the Blue/white colors of Bavaria and Munich were prohibited, in favor of the official colors of Nazi Germany (Schwarz/Weiss/Rot – Black/White/Red). The Nazis knew how to use the enthusiasm of the masses and took the Oktoberfest for their propaganda.

Nazi Germany
Geschichte (History), Veranstaltungen (Event)

electric powered krinoline

The Krinoline has been present at the Oktoberfest since 1924 and is one of the oldest rides at the fair. In the early days the ride had previously operated using the strength of four men, until patent owner Michael Großmann created and patented an electromechanical drive that would operate the ride starting in 1938 — and had been in use ever since. This was the last Oktoberfest held before WWII and was renamed Großdeutsches Volksfest (Greater German Folk Festival). Proud City, Cheerful Country, was used as a slogan to signify the supposed unification of the social classes under National Socialism.

Electric, Großmann, Krinoline
Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Schausteller (Showman)
1939 to 1945

Oktoberfest Canceled during WWII

During the Second World War years, from 1939–1945 Oktoberfest did not take place – initially due to of the fear of allied air raids.

Storniert (Cancelled)
1946 to 1948

Herbstfests (autumn festivals)

From 1946 to 1948, as in the years following the first world war, smaller Herbstfests (autumn festivals) were celebrated where visitors could exchange their food stamps for small (‘thin’) lighter beer, as the traditional Oktoberfest, or Märzen, beer (about 2% higher gravity than traditional German lager) was not allowed to be served due to post-war rationing. From 1948–with the exception of the 150th Oktoberfest– no more horse races take place.

Veranstaltungen (Event)

Mathes family Floh Circus

The Floh (flea) Circus of the Mathes family, an old Nuremberg showman dynasty that has run a flea circus for about 150 years, pitched its tents for the first time at the Oktoberfest.

Floh Circus
Attraktion (Attraction), Geschichte (History), Schausteller (Showman)

Full Oktoberfest Resumes

The first full Oktoberfest after the war, opened with the presence of three host festival halls: the Augustinian and Hacker brewery as well as the Schottenhamel-Festhalle. Firsts for this Oktoberfest included the giant lion sitting in the cage on the façade of the Löwenbräufesthalle. From the lion a voice yells the well-known ‘Löööwenbrooii (lion’s brew). Children usually await the 4.50 meter-long lion to start drinking from the mug in his right paw while his left paw strokes his belly.

Augustiner, Hacker, Löwenbräu, Schottenhamel, rotor
Ersten Mal (First Time), Festzelt (Marque), Geschichte (History)

Hoffmeister's hollow rotary cylinder

In 1948 the engineer W. Ernst Hoffmeister registered his Hollow rotary cylinder at the German Patent Office (Patent No. 819520.) The Hollow rotary cylinder started its premiere in 1949 at the Oktoberfest and became a well-known amusement attraction, The Rotor.The Rotor, an open-topped cylinder that by making fast turns whereby the people in the cylinder are held on the inner wall by centrifugal force



Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides)

O’zapft is!

Oktoberfest opening ceremonies begin with a 12-gun salute followed by the ceremonial tapping of the first keg.  Munich mayor Thomas Wimmer was the first Bürgermeister to tap the wooden 200-liter beer keg at noon on opening day and thus introduces the traditional and now world-famous O’zapft is! (It’s tapped!) tradition. The first liter of beer is then poured and given to the minister-president of Bavaria (similar to the governor in the U.S.)
.  Strangely enough, although the ceremony took place at the Schottenhammel marquee, which normally serves Spaten brews, the keg the mayor tapped contained Hofbräu beer. Unable to agree with Spaten on the price of its beers, the Schottenhammel family decided to serve Hofbräu München – both in 1950 and the following year.

Mayor, O’zapft is!, Schottenhamel
Bier (Beer), Ersten Mal (First Time), Traditionellen (Tradition), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Official Poster

For the first time there is an official Wiesnplakats (Wiesn poster) for the Munich Oktoberfest. Every year since, the city of Munich has been holding a design competition to find the year’s official festival design. These designs end up on the official event posters as well as the souvenir beer mugs.


City of Munich
Ersten Mal (First Time), Traditionellen (Tradition)


The first time, Hofbräu beer was served at served at the 1950 Oktoberfest, in the Schottenhamel-Festhalle. This was only due to a dispute, in which the Schottenhamels didn’t agree on a beer price with Spaten. Since 1952, Hofbräu has its own tent at the Oktoberfest, although the brewery has been around since 1589.


Hofbräu, Schottenhamel
Ersten Mal (First Time), Festzelt (Marque), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Celebration of mass

The introduction of the celebration of mass during the Oktoberfest dates back to 1956, when the first mass was celebrated by Father Heinz Peter Schönig. This was intended for the showman and the merchants only and was introduced by the Catholic Circus and the Exhibitors Union (der Katholischen Circus- und Schausteller sorge), because of their desire to testify to their affinity to God. Today as previously, this tradition takes place in the Hippodrom and it is now impossible to imagine the Oktoberfest without it. The themes during the celebration of the mass are not just the difficult work of the carnies and the merchants, but the deceased members of the families, relatives, friends and colleagues are also remembered.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Schausteller (Showman), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Munich's last Völkerschau

Rudolf Feldl, decided to bring a peoples show (Völkerschau) to the Wies’n, which turned out it be the last of its kind held at an Oktoberfest. Feldľs choice of topics for his view of the people was probably influenced by the current world events when Hawaii became the United State’s fiftieth federal state after a referendum. The official name of the attraction is unclear. In an advertisement it lists the exhibit as The Festival of Costumes of the Shining South Seas, the Wies’n press guide refers to the Völkerschau  as the Hawaii-Dorf (Hawaii village), while above the entrance of the exhibit it clearly shows the title Feldl ‘s Völkerschau Hawaii.


Völkerschauen (Peoples Show)

150th Anniversary

The Munich celebrates the 150th Anniversary with a horse race based on the very first Oktoberfest. It is also believed to be the first year Lederhosen and Dirndl were claimed to be the official garment of Oktoberfest.

Anniversary, Pferderennen (Horse Race)
Festzug (Pageant), Geschichte (History), Tracht (Costume), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Rosa Wiesn-Oktoberfest

Gay Days at the Oktoberfest, known in Germany as Rosa Wiesn-Oktoberfest, traces their origins to the early 1970’s when the Munich Lowenclub (Lions Club), a gay society whose members are confusingly known as bears, booked the balcony in the Bräurosl tent. The owners expected a football club, and were taken aback when a group of gay men turned up. But the beer drinkers proved to be big-spending revellers, and, according to the waitresses, were more pleasant to deal with than other festival-goers. Over the last forty years, Gay Days have become a tradition held in the Bräurosl tent on the first Sunday of the festival, and is now the second biggest gay event in Munich after the Christopher Street Day parade, with as many as 8,000 mostly gay men and some women fill the tent, although straight people are also welcome.


Ersten Mal (First Time), Menschen (People), Traditionellen (Tradition)

Munich Delicatessen House

The Munich Delicatessen House the Käfer’s Wies’nschänke (Beetle’s Oktoberfest Tavern) opens for guests for the first time in its Oktoberfest-tavern. Initially only equipped with 40 seats, today can accommodate a total of 3,000 guests: 1,164 in the Käfer Wiesn-Schänke, 200 in the covered patio and up to 1,900 in the garden.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Speisen (Food)

offizielle Oktoberfestkrüge

The official Wiesn beer stein, mug, or Oktoberfestkrüge is a clay (stoneware) stein that has a content of 1.0 liter (standard pitcher size), made its first appearance. Since then, the Festkrüge has been released annually, with a different motif for each Oktoberfest, by the city of Munich (the official organizer of Oktoberfest). In production, the Festkrüge with its typical roll shape is burnt twice. Emphasis is placed on craftsmanship, the decorating, handles, edges and lids are all handmade. Moreover, everything is Made in Germany. The stein is produced with or without with an embossed pewter lid.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Traditionellen (Tradition)

deadly act of terrorism

Oktoberfest was the victim of a deadly act of terrorism in 1980. On September 26th, Gundolf Köhler from Donaueschingen, detonated a bomb packed with nails located in a wastepaper bin by the main entrance, killing 13 revelers and wounding more than 200 in one of the deadliest attacks on German soil since World War II. A small memorial was placed on the site in 2008.

Geschichte (History), Menschen (People), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Oktoberfest 175th anniversary

The 1985 Oktoberfest is the 175th anniversary of the first Oktoberfest in 1810. Although it is actually only the 151st Fest, due to 24 October celebrations having been cancelled.  The anniversary is reason enough for the 7.1 million birthday guests to set a new attendance record.

Geschichte (History), Rekorde (Records), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Olympia looping

Owned by Rudolph Barth, Olympia Looping, also known as Five looping or München Looping, made its inaugural run at the Oktoberfest. The roller coaster with the 1,250 meters length was a real sensation at the time, the first  roller coaster with five loops. The Olympia looping is still one of the main visitor attractions and is considered to be the world’s largest mobile roller coaster, and the only one with 5 vertical loops.

Roller Coaster
Ersten Mal (First Time), Fahrgeschäfte (Rides), Rekorde (Records)

Mayor Christian Ude O'zapft is!

In his second appearance at Oktoberfest, Munich Mayor Christian Ude made a small faux pas: he taps the barrel ten seconds before 12.00 pm – The Munich crowd forgive his carelessness and cheer him shortly after his exclamation O’zapft is!

Mayor, O’zapft is!
Bier (Beer), Veranstaltungen (Event)

family-friendly festival

In hopes to keep the festival family-friendly, curb the ever-growing party mentality and preserve the traditions set in place for the last two centuries, officials changed the rules and introduced Quiet Oktoberfest. Beer tents were no longer allowed to play music louder than 85 decibels before 6pm.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Veranstaltungen (Event)

festival extended

The day of German Unity falls on a Tuesday, the City of Munich decides to use this economically advantageous opportunity and extends the feast by two days to Tuesday, October 3.

City of Munich
Veranstaltungen (Event)

Smoking Verboten

After years of foot-dragging, the last of Germany’s 16 states banned smoking in bars, restaurants, discos, and also beer tents. Starting on January 1, 2008, there is no smoking allowed in adjoining, separated rooms and in party tents. (However, an exception was made to allow smoking in the tents of the 2008 Oktoberfest, but by 2009, the Oktoberfest was supposed to be smoke-free. At this years festival – the women that normally walk around the tents selling cigarettes from trays would be no longer be present. Two years later, officials tried again and changed the rules so that no beer could be sold to anyone caught smoking in the beer tents.

Ersten Mal (First Time), Veranstaltungen (Event)

2010 The 100th Anniversary

Even though the Oktoberfest tradition is 200 years old this year, the festival is only being held for the 177th time because it was cancelled on 24 occasions in times of war and during two cholera outbreaks in the 19th century.


200th Annviersary, Oide Wies'n

The Historische Wiesn (Historic Oktoberfest) set-up in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest, was so loved it became a permanent Oktoberfest institution, ironically named Oide Wiesn (Old Oktoberfest). The Oide Wiesn takes place every year in parallel to the normal Oktoberfest except in the years in which the Central Agricultural Festival (ZLF) is held.  The 200th Anniversary Oktoberfest opened one day earlier and featured a return of the original 1810 horse races, nostalgic rides and games such as boat swing, children’s carousel and chain flyers alongside historic throwing and shooting booths, a museum tent organized and run by the Historical Society of Bavarian Showmen that exhibited historical exhibits, a puppet theater, and a daily changing music program with Bavarian dance music and smaller bands. Additionally the six usual rival Oktoberfest breweries (Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Spaten) collaborated to craft a special historic strong brown beer, called Jubiläumswiesnbier, (Oktoberfest Jubilee Beer), from an early 19th century recipe.

Agriculture, Anniversary, Oide Wiesn, Pferderennen (Horse Race)
Geschichte (History), Veranstaltungen (Event)

Served Drink Record

A new record is set, with an all-time high of 7.5 million liters of beer being served during the festival. With 6.9mn visitors flocking to the Wiesn, attendance was almost as high as in 1985, the 175th anniversary year, when a record 7.1mn attended. Oktoberfest sees more visitors each year than the population of Norway, even though Norway is 55 million times larger than the area of Oktoberfest!


Augustiner, Braurosl, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Pschorr, Schottenhamel
Bier (Beer), Rekorde (Records)

New Security Measures Added

The organizing committee of the Oktoberfest announced new security measures for the beer festival. Following the July shooting at the OEZ shopping mall, the axe attack on a train in Wurzburg and the Ansbach bombing, Oktoberfest organizers have revised the security arrangements. The new security measures include a ban on backpacks and larger bags, (bags with a volume of more than 3 litres), a mobile fence will be erected in the last unfenced part of the Theresienwiese festival grounds to ensure no one can avoid the security checks, and additionally, visitors won’t be able to reach the Theresienwiese directly from the U-Bahn station.

Ersten Mal (First Time)