New York in 1872: A city filled with drunks

It’s tough to say whether the New York of 2011 is any more or less a drunken city than the New York of the post-Civil War years.

But the author of the 1872 guidebook Lights and Shadows of New York Life makes the case that 19th century city residents imbibed at incredible levels.

Among the venues for more respectable men were the large saloons and “better-class bar-rooms.”

The down and dirty places to get wasted: “Broadway rum palaces,” “gin mills” of the Bowery,  and the lowest of the low, the “bucket shops of the Five Points.”

And it’s the copious amounts of drinking done by female New Yorkers at what he deems “ladies restaurants” that really seems to shock the book’s author:

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6 Responses to “New York in 1872: A city filled with drunks”

  1. New York in 1872: A city filled with drunks « Ephemeral New York | New York Blogs Says:

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  2. Manh Yipster Says:

    It seems more then not the writer of this book was part of the temperance movement, which was gaining popularity around this time. I wouldn’t take these comments to be so factual as they are more political. The line “This who know its effects will shudder at this.” is a sort of give away that this is a political statement more than a historical account.

    • wildnewyork Says:

      Thanks MY. Yes, I figured that too–the whole bit about women sneaking booze and absinthe seems to be designed to appeal to readers’ sense that even the fairer sex are falling victim to demon alcohol.

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Female drunks were everywhere around Madison Square Park when I used to sit there and drink. Some for sex and some were just there to get another drink and I’d be too inebriated to do anything else. That was always my destination when I wanted a little female company.

  4. Bill B Says:

    When the water supply was suspect, alcohol was at least a reliable disinfectant, but then human nature takes over and things go to excess.

  5. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I should add, see my ‘Christmas Whore’ for a much deep view of being a drunken whore in the 70s, a novella, as part of “100 Whores” available at St Marks Bookshop in the East Village or see:

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