Alcohol and Drinking History in America: A Chronology

The Colonial Period

Eighteenth Century: 1700-1730.

Cir. 1720-Cir. 1750. The prohibition of spirits was attempted in the colony of Georgia, but failed in the Oglethorpe Experiment of 1733-1742.3

1709. Pennsylvania prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages to Native Americans.4

1709. New Hampshire prohibited the sale of alcohol to drunkards and required that their names be posted in public houses (drinking establishments).5

1733.

1734. Mary Lisle, the first known commercial "brewster" in the New World took over over her late father’s brewhouse in Philadelphia, which she operated until 1751.9

1738. “Major William Horton builds the first brewery in the deep south at Jekyll Island, Georgia.”10

1748. Wine production began as early as 1748 in South Carolina.11

1750.

1752. Nathaniel Ames wrote in his Almanack that “Strong Waters were formerly used by Direction of Physicians; but now Mechanicks and low-li’d Labourers drink Rum like Fountain-Water, and they can infinitely better endure it than the idle, unactive and sedentary Part of Mankind, but DEATH is in the botom of the cup of every one.”15

1753. A traveler compiled a list of all the 48 beverages he encountered while going through the Delaware Valley. Only three contained no alcohol.16

1757. George Washington wrote a recipe for beer in his diary, reflecting his interest in the subject17

1758. When George Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses, his election expenses included 35 pounds for liquor.18

1764. The Sugar Act (“American Revenue Act of 1764”) modified the Molasses Act of 1733 that was about to expire.  The new act reduced the tax on molasses while added taxes to sugar, certain wines, coffee and other products. It was strictly enforced, causing an almost immediate decline in the rum industry in the colonies.19

1765.

1767. London’s Royal Society of the Arts recognized two wineries from New Jersey for producing the first quality wine derived from colonial agriculture.22

1769. Wine cultivation was introduced into California from Mexico and wine making became its oldest industry.23

1770s. During the 1770s, “The Wilderness Road, the northern route over the Alleghenies from Virginia, had whiskey for sale at strategic points along its length when it was little more than a path through the forest” and “...stills were the largest, more complex, and most valuable man-made objects to be carried over the mountains.”24   

1772. A new style of beer called Porter (a mixture of dark to light malts) was developed in England and exported to the Colonies. However, it failed to gain popularity.25

1773. John Wesley condemned distilling as a sin and called for its prohibition.26

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Resources

  • 1. Cohen, Nancy. The Comeback of a Colonial Beverage. The Allegheny Front/National Public Radio. 10 November, 2010.alleghenyfront.org/story/comeback-colonial-beverage#transcript.
  • 2.   Blocker, Jack S. Kaleidoscope in Motion. Drinking in the United States, 1400-2000. In:Holt. Mack P., (ed.) Alcohol: A Social and Cultural History. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2006. Pp. 225-240. P. 227.
  • 3. Austin, Gregory A. Perspectives on the History of Psychoactive Substance Use. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1979.
  • 4. Cherrington, Ernest H. The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1920, p. 32.
  • 5. Cherrington, Ernest H. The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1920, p. 33.
  • 6. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 527.
  • 7. Kobler, John. Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. NY: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973, p. 35.
  • 8. Molasses Act. Encyclopaedia Britannica website. britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/387927/Molasses-Act
  • 9. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 10. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 11. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 529.
  • 12. Rum History. TheRum Shop website. rumshop.net/rumhistory.html
  • 13. White, William L. Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. Bloomington, IL: Chestnut Health/Lighthouse Institute, 1998.
  • 14. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 528.
  • 15. Lee, H. How Dry We Were: Prohibition Revisited, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963,  p. 22.
  • 16. Grimes, William. Straight Up or On the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993, pp. 44-45.
  • 17. Nachel, Marty. Beer for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG Books worldwide, 1996, p. 301.
  • 18. Krout, John A. The Origins of Prohibition. New York: Knopf, 1925, pp. 39-40.
  • 19. The Sugar Act. U.S. History Organization website. ushistory.org/declaration/related/sugaract.htm
  • 20. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 21. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 22. Stevenson, Tom. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 3rd ed., 2005, p. 520.
  • 23. Ford, Gene. Wines, Brews, & Spirits. 4th ed. Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA: Gene Ford Publications and the Wine Appreciation Guild, 1996, p. 17.
  • 24. Gately, Iain. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 216, p. 17.
  • 25. History of American Beer. Beer Advocate website. com/beer/101/history_american_beer
  • 26. Cherrington, Ernest H. The Evolution of Prohibition In The United States of America. Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1920, pp. 37-38.

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