hbe0820Growing up I read my share of novels. Many of these included fantasy stories where taverns often play a major role as meeting place, rest stop, and center of information. Then there were the stories of the “wild west” where gun fights and town business seem to always center around shady activities and entertainment found in the nearest saloon. Though I knew from history, taverns and inns have often, if not always, played a major role as a community meeting place, as well as a way point for travelers, little did I think about the role of such in early America. Yet, according to Stage-Coach and Tavern Days, by Alice Morse Earle, these facilities were critical to the early colonies. Some colonial governments even made it law that each town have an operating “ordinary” or “a common victuallying house” or pay penalties.

This book offers an interesting view into the “enormous role of taverns and modes of travel in colonial culture.” The book speaks of America’s famous Revolutionaries plotting for Independence within tavern walls. Economic growth and decisions were shaped by alcohol and its sale in taverns. Even turnpikes popped up along old “Indian paths” when a tavern stood along the route.

The first chapter offers insight into Puritan life in a way many don’t consider when thinking of these early settlers for who religion dominated much of their lifestyle. Yet, for most towns, the ordinary was second in importance only to the church. Here people gathered, took and shared the news, filled their social needs and found entertainment.

Through 19 chapters, “both light-hearted and serious,” the author explores in detail the role of taverns and early transportation in the colonies. These facilities date back to even the earliest periods. This book offers more than 150 illustrations; plus, an index of names, subjects, and places (including names of taverns). Learn of the role entertainment and enticements, bans and approval for games both of chance and challenge, and the ever present spirits. Stories and personal quotes add to Alice Earle’s narrative; truly, making the book both informative as well as fun to read.

 

Contents

  1. The Puritan Ordinary
  2. Old-time Taverns
  3. The Tavern Landlord
  4. Tavern Fate and Tavern Ways
  5. Kill-devil and its Affines
  6. Small Drink
  7. Signs and Symbols
  8. The Tavern in War
  9. The Tavern Panorama
  10. From Path to Turnpike
  11. Packhorse and Conestoga Wagon
  12. Early Stage-coaches and Other Vehicles
  13. Two Stage Veterans of Massachusetts
  14. A Staging Centre
  15. The Stage-driver
  16. The Romance of the Road
  17. The Pains of Stage-coach Travel
  18. Knights of the Road
  19. Tavern Ghosts

 

Pick up a copy of Stage-Coach and Tavern Days from Family Roots Publishing; Price: $35.77.