Public Houses, Inns, Taverns

Churches and taverns had a complicated relationship in Colonial America. As early as 1656, it was a finable offense in Puritan Massachusetts for a town not to have an ordinary.

As you can see by their definitions, the words for a drinking-eating-lodging establishment are mostly interchangeable. (Ordinary became the regional word for a tavern throughout New England.) However, only places called “inns” were reliably somewhere to stay while switching horses or waiting for one’s horse to rest for the next length of travel.

Then, what is a bar?

Where society & alcohol mixed in Colonial America

It is exactly what it sounds like. A bar at the counter prevented customers from gaining access to drinks without paying. The term became popular in America after Prohibition.


Mail was delivered to taverns arriving on packet ships from other colonies or England. Taverns, from the start, were used as meeting places for assemblies and courts, as well as groups like the Sons of Liberty, Masons, and committees of correspondence. Men from across the economic spectrum came together in these spaces to share ideas leading to debates, eventually spawning a revolution.


Who was barred from patronizing taverns?

It depended on the establishment. If it was trying to be respectable, then women, slaves, apprentices, and Native Americans. In lower class sections of cities, all races and genders drank, sang, danced, and laughed together at all hours.


An 18th Century recipe for Flip

More information on 18th century public houses, taverns, and inns:

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Published by Hallie Alexander

Hallie Alexander writes steamy, American historical romances. She is a Northerner living in the South with her husband, three children, and two Doodles of Mayhem™, Bruno and Willow.

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