Little Bits of History

I’ll Drink to That

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 4, 2010

Taverns served as meeting places for the early colonists

March 4, 1634: The first tavern in Boston, Massachusetts is opened by Samuel Cole. Taverns (the word comes from the Latin taberna and the Greek taverna and originally meant shed or workshop) were places of business selling alcoholic beverages, possibly food, but not offering lodging, and had been in existence in England from the 1200s. At that time, they were run by women called ale-wives. By the mid-14th century, there were only three taverns in London. In 1552, legislation was passed allowing for forty taverns in London, eight in York, six in Bristol and many more scattered throughout the countryside.

Inns of the 12th and 13th centuries were common. They provided lodging for travelers and a higher class of foodstuffs than were offered at the local tavern. Many tavern owners were also vintners and used their store to sell their wares. Signs were hung outside the door and branches and leaves would be hung over the door if wine was served.

Before the first true restaurant was opened in Paris in 1765, inns and taverns were the only places most people could go to eat a meal not prepared at home. Starting the bar scene early, taverns were the place to go to enjoy other pastimes as well. Gambling, singing and prostitution were a common part of the tavern life. Both men and women gathered at the tavern to gossip and share homebrewed ale. The occasional bar fight was not unheard of.

We don’t know much about Sam Cole, the name of his tavern is lost to us. But we can be grateful that he set up shop so that socializing was available here in the colonies.

“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern.” – Samuel Johnson

“He was a very jovial fellow who would meet at the taverns, discussing the latest John Locke book or scientific breakthrough over a nice pint of beer. I don’t think you could imagine getting drunk with George Washington, but with Benjamin Franklin? Definitely.” – Chris Mullins

“Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall be no more cakes and ale?” – William Shakespeare

“Filled with mingled cream and amber
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chambers of my brain –
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
Who cares how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.” – Edgar Allen Poe

Also on this day, in 1493 the Niña made it back to Lisbon after her trip to the New World.

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