Posts Tagged ‘taverns in New York City’

New York in 1872: A city filled with drunks

July 18, 2011

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:

A Prohibition-era ode to the lost corner bar

November 19, 2010

When Prohibition began in 1920, writer Benjamin De Casseres noticed something subtle: how the death of the corner bar altered day-to-day life:

“The corner saloon was the eye, ear, mouth of the old man.

“It was here that he saw double, listened to wisdom, spoke with boasting and Rabelaisian tongue and tickled his olfactories with the perfumes of Milwaukee and Kentucky,” he wrote in a June 1921 New York Times piece.

De Casseres noted that a rite of spring was no longer: the day when a bar owner put up the swinging “summer doors” at corner saloons.

A familiar summer scene was also gone: no more dogs putting their heads under the doors, sniffing the ground and excitedly barking at customers.

And then there were the displaced men who had no place to gather:

“On dozens of corners that I have examined I have noticed the same men standing—leaning against the wall, against the electric light pole or fire hydrant—day after day.

“There they loll, hoping for the impossible miracle . . . . They stand there dully, soberly, a little better dressed, a little worse facially for sobriety, looking blankly at the passers-by with a terrible J’accuse! on their parched lips.”

[Above left photo of Kelly Brothers Saloon at 125th Street and 8th Avenue in 1915, from the Byron Collection of the Museum of the City of New York. Above right, Manny’s on Suffolk Street, from the New York Public Library digital collection]