The next time you wake up with a hangover of historic proportions, consider this: Between 1790 and 1830, Americans drank more alcoholic beverages per capita than ever before or since, according to The Alcoholic Republic by W.J. Rorabaugh (Oxford University Press, 1979). Rorabaugh’s heady volume outlines just how hard-drinking a society America was: Most social and political life revolved around the tavern, working men starting their day with a dram and finishing it off with another (or several). Thomas Jefferson invented the presidential cocktail party, while attorneys and juries alike took a nip at trials. But why did our founding fathers and their brethren hit the sauce so hard? They believed that alcohol was healthful, and it helped them cope with the vicissitudes of daily life in an unstable young nation. If you’re planning a Presidents’ Day celebration, how ’bout a patriotic “lost weekend”? To you, America!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 8, 2005