Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Taverns, Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

America Walks into a Bar is an informative and funny book about how taverns and bars helped to shape American history. It was written by Christine Sismondo, a former bartender, who is now a lecturer at York University in Toronto.

In many newly settled colonies in what was to become the United States, the tavern was often the first building to be built. In small communities that didn’t have many public buildings, the tavern often doubled as a courtroom, post office, community centre – and sometimes the library.

Many events central to the history of the US took place in bars, including some of the Salem witch trials. Plans for the Boston Tea Party were hatched at the Green Dragon, and the Declaration of Independence was ratified at a tavern in New Jersey. For runaway slaves escaping to Canada, it was often tavern owners who provided food and shelter to the refugees. Even the Star Spangled Banner has a connection to a bar; it was written over a few pints at the Fountain Inn to the tune of an old drinking song.

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