Every Home a Distillery
Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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This project began when I was trying to research an early-eighteenth-century tavern known as Susannah Allen’s in colonial Williamsburg. It has long been rumored that Allen’s tavern was a brothel. While I suspected that there were not enough single women in colonial Virginia to have supported a brothel, I was intrigued. Very few records of Allen’s tavern remain, and I was unable to determine ...
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“Do you know Jack?” begins some Jack Daniel’s distillery websites and brochures. Readers learn that “Mr. Jack” bought his first still at the age of thirteen in 1863 and founded the “nation’s oldest registered distillery” three years later. Readers are told that “Mr. Jack” always dressed in “a formal knee-length frock coat and a broad-brimmed planter’s hat.” Thus America’s largest distilling company suggests ...
1. “It Was Being Too Abstemious That Brought This Sickness upon Me”: Alcoholic Beverage Consumption in the Early Chesapeake
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Consider a day in the life of a small planter in the eighteenth-century Chesapeake. He awoke at daybreak and ate a quick breakfast of corn mush and a couple of mugs of hard cider. After several hot, laborious hours of weeding his tobacco field with his son and his servant, and drinking occasional swigs of cider, he returned to his two-room house. Lunch consisted of some spoon bread, some stew, and another mug of cider. If one of the quarterly meetings of the general court in Williamsburg was in session that day, and if our colonist lived close enough to court ...
2. “They Will be Adjudged by Their Drinke, What Kind of Housewives They Are”: Gender, Technology, and Household Cidering in England and the Chesapeake, 1690 to 1760
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For centuries in England the task of producing alcoholic beverages had belonged to women. Indeed, in 1656 Englishman John Hammond denounced Chesapeake women for making insufficient amounts of alcohol, particularly unhopped corn brews that he called “beer,” for their households. Hammond reported that in Virginia and Maryland “beer is indeed in some places constantly drunken, in other ...
3. “This Drink Cannot Be Kept During the Summer”: Large Planters, Science, and Community Networks in the Early Eighteenth Century
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When small-planter households in the early eighteenth century ran out of cider, they had a unique problem. Unlike people in England, New England, or the Middle Colonies, Chesapeake colonists could not purchase alcohol at local markets or commercial distilleries or breweries. Chesapeake residents did not develop public markets until the late eighteenth century, distilleries until the nineteenth ...
4. “Anne Howard . . . Will Take in Gentlemen”: White Middling Women and the Tavernkeeping Trade in Colonial Virginia
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Taverns mattered in the colonial Chesapeake. Taverns connected colonists spread apart by sprawling tobacco farms. It was in the taverns that colonists learned current crop prices, purchased goods, read newspapers, and discovered business opportunities. Significantly, throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries many, if not most of these, were run by middling-sort women and prominent widows. ...
5. “Ladys Here All Go to Market to Supply Their Pantry”: Alcohol for Sale, 1760 to 1776
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After the middle of the eighteenth century, Chesapeake colonists found an increasing variety of places where they could buy alcoholic beverages. They were no longer limited to producing alcohol at home, buying it from the surplus of large planters, or purchasing it from taverns favored by large planters. Especially after 1760, colonists could purchase all sorts of alcoholic drinks at markets, Scottish ...
6. “Every Man His Own Distiller”: Technology, the American Revolution, and the Masculinization of Alcohol Production in the Late Eighteenth Century
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The majority of Chesapeake men became interested in the traditionally feminine project of making alcoholic beverages during the second half of the eighteenth century. A very small number of men, all of them the largest planters, had already become involved with large-scale alcohol production, but they were the exception in the region. Most men in the Chesapeake lagged behind men in Europe ...
7. “He Is Much Addicted to Strong Drinke”: The Problem of Alcohol
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In 1660, Robert Warren sat drinking in a Northampton County, Virginia, courtroom, his voice growing louder and louder. He began “rudely intruding” on the court proceedings, “interrupting” the judges and “upbraiding” them for their judgments. The judges’ response was to ask the sheriff to remove Warren from the courtroom, and he continued drinking outside. No one appears to have chided ...
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Until the late eighteenth century in the Chesapeake, alcoholic beverages were considered a necessary part of daily life for health and socializing. Men valued women who could make alcoholic beverages and depended on this aspect of women’s cookery for survival and pleasure. By 1782, however, Luicinda Orr, an adolescent in Virginia, could record in her diary that she was “in a peck of troubles ...
A Few Recipes
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Essay on Sources
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Page Count: 208
Illustrations: 9 halftones
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Early America: History, Context, Culture