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EARLY TAVERNS - THEIR RELATION TO TRAVEL AND PUBLIC
AFFAIRS - RATES FIXED BY LAW CONSTABLES
HERE was one feature of primitive travel in
America which, though not in itself a method of locomotion, was nevertheless so intimately related to the movements of travellers and to all public affairs as to require attention in a study of early conditions. That phase of the subject was the little tavern, or inn, destined at last to develop into a palace beneath whose roof the exacting demands of a thousand guests are supplied by an army of servants. The evolution of the public house has kept pace for nearly three hundred years with the changing system whereby the pilgrim has reached its doors, and in size, methods and conveniences it has consistently reflected the manner in which the traveller has pursued his actual journey.
By the middle of the eighteenth century the tavern had reached a position of consequence in the national life,
and from that period until about the year 1830 its importance steadily increased both as a factor in the affairs of the people and as an essential element to be considered in the making of any journey. Conditions coming into being at that time gradually altered the status of the tavern in its relation to the public, and afterward, though increasing in bulk and magnificence, the inn lost much of its former influence. It has now come to be taken as a matter-of-fact incident; as an institution whose chief characteristics can be anticipated and depended on by those who have need of it. The modern hotel has been standardized and reduced to an automatic machine of entertainment. This was not true in the early times, for then the inn possessed nothing of system but revealed, instead, the character of its proprietor. If the host possessed a marked individuality, either congenial or unpleasant, so also did his hostelry. To-day there is no host, in the old sense; only a staff of trained experts in each of a dozen departments, who by invisible methods minister to the population that drifts through a maze of endless corridors
and lofty halls. The early tavern has become a big dei partment store for the sale of sleep, food and drink.
Public inns came into existence almost as soon as the English speaking race secured a permanent foothold in the northern colonies. The earliest known establishment of the kind was licensed by the General Court of Massachusetts in 1634, and from that time they multiplied amazingly. By the year 1675 Cotton Mather declared that every other house in Boston was a tavern, though his assertion was of course an exaggeration. He objected to the smoking and drinking that prevailed in the houses of public entertainment.
1 Drake's "Old Boston Taverns": p. 19.
All places of the sort were from the first regulated by strict laws passed for the purpose. Even the prices they might charge were named by the authorities. In 1634 the cost of a meal at a Boston inn was fixed at sixpence, and the Court declared that a patron must pay no more than one penny for a quart of beer. Should an innkeeper demand more than the legal rate for food and drink he
FRAUNCE'S TAVEAN.Cor of SROAD & PEARL STREETS. 55.-Fraunce's Tavern, a popular pre-Revolutionary inn of New York City. In
the assembly room, occupying the second story, Washington took farewell of his generals. The building still remains. This and the following eight illustrations suggest the accommodations available to early travellers in the East.
was to be arrested and fined. Another Massachusetts law also provided that no private individual might take a stranger into his home without giving surety for the good conduct of the newcomer. The particular statute in ques
Similar regulations passed by the New York Common Council in 1675 fixed the price of tavern lodging at threepence, and the charge for a meal at eightpence.
A usual price for tavern accommodations throughout the colonies from 1700 until about the time of the Revolution was three shillings a day. For this sum the traveller got his lodgings, a fire, if necessary, three meals and beer between-times.
tion was passed in order that all travellers might be forced to sojourn at public taverns, where their actions could be kept more easily under the close gaze of town officials. A bailiff always watched the guests of an ordinary,' and if a stranger behaved in a way considered by the representative of the law to be unseemly, he was admonished. The constable even regulated the amount of liquor which the traveller might consume. If he thought the guest was passing proper bounds he would appear at the stranger's elbow and carefully pour out the libation himself.
Drinking, however, was not frowned upon.” Ale, beer and spiced cider were the principal potions, and almost every one consumed those beverages in quantities. A landlord was subject to penalty if he did not permit his guest to drink all that could legally be consumed on the premises, provided the man appeared able to take the amount without unpleasant consequences, and the bailiff had no objection. Excessive drinking was prevented or penalized by methods common to all times and countries, and by a few expedients peculiar to America only.
Vastly different was the attitude of the authorities toward the use of tobacco, either in taverns or anywhere else. According to early New England laws smoking in public was an offense of grave character, and was forbidden. One of the first Massachusetts pronouncements against smoking in taverns read: “Nor shall any take
1 A public house was also called an ordinary. It was even customary for the people to drink as a part of the celebration attending
the building of a church or the ordination of a clergyman.
• According to a law of 1676, whenever an Indian was found drunk in New York the tavern keeper responsible for his condition was fined. But if it could not be discovered in what house he drank his liquor, then every white man on the whole street was subject to fine.
+ "Men are now living who have been asked to plead 'guilty' or 'not guilty' at the bar of a police court for smoking in the streets of Boston."- Drake's "Old Boston Taverns,"