In this lively and engaging history, Madelon Powers recreates the daily life of the barroom, exploring what it was like to be a "regular" in the old-time saloon of pre-prohibition industrial America. Through an examination of saloongoers across America, her investigation offers a fascinating look at rich lore of the barroom--its many games, stories, songs, free lunch customs, and especially its elaborate system of drinking rituals that have been passed on for decades.
"A free-pouring blend of astonishing facts, folklore and firsthand period observations. . . . It's the rich details that'll inspire the casual reader to drink deep from this tap of knowledge."--Don Waller, "USA Today" recommended reading
"A surprise on every page."--"Publishers Weekly"
"Here we get social history that appreciates the bar talk even while dissecting its marvelous rituals."--"Library Journal," starred review
"Careful scholarship with an anecdotal flair to please even the most sober of readers."--Nina C. Ayoub, "Chronicle of Higher Education"
A fascinating, not to say spirited, study of the play of alcohol in Gilded Age history, focusing on the neighborhood bar. At the outset of her book, Powers (History/Univ. of New Orleans) defends her choice of subject, arguing that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries American saloons were the focal points for local politics, union organizing, and community-building. But, she continues, she is more interested in the way that those who frequented the saloon built a community around drink, a community with its own lore, music, jargon, and customs. The saloon, which began as a somewhat high-toned alternative to the usual tavern, drew in large crowds of workingmen (and some women, and even some children), who found inside the swinging doors a place to escape from daily hardships - and to cash paychecks and find a proverbial free lunch, that powerful and now long bygone enticement to spend one's lunch hour or evening wrapped around a mug and a shot glass. Powers studies the changing drinking habits of Americans through several waves of immigrants, with Anglo-Saxon hard cider giving way to German beer, Italian wine, and upper-crust French cocktails. She unearths wonderful, sometimes improbably sentimental drinking songs. She details the subjects of conversation in the saloon - religion, of course, and politics, and sports. And she examines the people gathered around the bar; the Irish were, of course, notorious for their hard-drinking ways, she writes, but were never so badly demonized as were rural, southern African-Americans, whose escape into drink has not been much studied. At each turn she has much to say about the changing face of American culture in a momentous time, and she says it with uncommon clarity. Social history with a hard edge, highly recommended. (Kirkus Reviews)
Series: Historical Studies of Urban America
Number Of Pages: 332
Published: 1st January 1998
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 27.8 x 15.4
Weight (kg): 0.47
Edition Type: New edition