Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake
Author: Sarah H. Meacham
Publisher: JHU Press
In this original examination of alcohol production in early America, Sarah Hand Meacham uncovers the crucial role women played in cidering and distilling in the colonial Chesapeake. Her fascinating story is one defined by gender, class, technology, and changing patterns of production. Alcohol was essential to colonial life; the region’s water was foul, milk was generally unavailable, and tea and coffee were far too expensive for all but the very wealthy. Colonists used alcohol to drink, in cooking, as a cleaning agent, in beauty products, and as medicine. Meacham finds that the distillation and brewing of alcohol for these purposes traditionally fell to women. Advice and recipes in such guidebooks as The Accomplisht Ladys Delight demonstrate that women were the main producers of alcohol until the middle of the 18th century. Men, mostly small planters, then supplanted women, using new and cheaper technologies to make the region’s cider, ale, and whiskey. Meacham compares alcohol production in the Chesapeake with that in New England, the middle colonies, and Europe, finding the Chesapeake to be far more isolated than even the other American colonies. She explains how home brewers used new technologies, such as small alembic stills and inexpensive cider pressing machines, in their alcoholic enterprises. She links the importation of coffee and tea in America to the temperance movement, showing how the wealthy became concerned with alcohol consumption only after they found something less inebriating to drink. Taking a few pages from contemporary guidebooks, Every Home a Distillery includes samples of historic recipes and instructions on how to make alcoholic beverages. American historians will find this study both enlightening and surprising.
This history begins with the earliest brewers in the colony—women—revealing details of the Old Line State’s brewing families and their methods. Stories never before told trace the effects of war, competition, the Industrial Revolution, Prohibition and changing political philosophies on the brewing industry. Some brewers persevered through crime, scandal and intrigue to play key roles in building their communities. Today’s craft brewers face a number of very different challenges, from monopolistic macro breweries and trademark quandaries to hop shortages, while attempting to establish their own legacies.
Examines the critical role of urban taverns in the social and political life of colonial and revolutionary America From exclusive “city taverns” to seedy “disorderly houses,” urban taverns were wholly engrained in the diverse web of British American life. By the mid-eighteenth century, urban taverns emerged as the most popular, numerous, and accessible public spaces in British America. These shared spaces, which hosted individuals from a broad swath of socioeconomic backgrounds, eliminated the notion of “civilized” and “wild” individuals, and dismayed the elite colonists who hoped to impose a British-style social order upon their local community. More importantly, urban taverns served as critical arenas through which diverse colonists engaged in an ongoing act of societal negotiation. Inn Civility exhibits how colonists’ struggles to emulate their British homeland ultimately impelled the creation of an American republic. This unique insight demonstrates the messy, often contradictory nature of British American society building. In striving to create a monarchical society based upon tenets of civility, order, and liberty, colonists inadvertently created a political society that the founders would rely upon for their visions of a republican America. The elitist colonists’ futile efforts at realizing a civil society are crucial for understanding America’s controversial beginnings and the fitful development of American republicanism.
Whether as wine, beer, or spirits, alcohol has had a constant and often controversial role in social life. In his innovative book on the attitudes toward and consumption of alcohol, Rod Phillips surveys a 9,000-year cultural and economic history, uncovering the tensions between alcoholic drinks as healthy staples of daily diets and as objects of social, political, and religious anxiety. In the urban centers of Europe and America, where it was seen as healthier than untreated water, alcohol gained a foothold as the drink of choice, but it has been more regulated by governmental and religious authorities more than any other commodity. As a potential source of social disruption, alcohol created volatile boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable consumption and broke through barriers of class, race, and gender. Phillips follows the ever-changing cultural meanings of these potent potables and makes the surprising argument that some societies have entered "post-alcohol" phases. His is the first book to examine and explain the meanings and effects of alcohol in such depth, from global and long-term perspectives.
It was the day before Independence Day, 1831. As his bride, Lucie, was about to be "sold down the river" to the slave markets of New Orleans, young Thornton Blackburn planned a daring—and successful—daylight escape from Louisville. But they were discovered by slave catchers in Michigan and slated to return to Kentucky in chains, until the black community rallied to their cause. The Blackburn Riot of 1833 was the first racial uprising in Detroit history. The couple was spirited across the river to Canada, but their safety proved illusory. In June 1833, Michigan's governor demanded their extradition. The Blackburn case was the first serious legal dispute between Canada and the United States regarding the Underground Railroad. The impassioned defense of the Blackburns by Canada's lieutenant governor set precedents for all future fugitive-slave cases. The Blackburns settled in Toronto and founded the city's first taxi business. But they never forgot the millions who still suffered in slavery. Working with prominent abolitionists, Thornton and Lucie made their home a haven for runaways. The Blackburns died in the 1890s, and their fascinating tale was lost to history. Lost, that is, until a chance archaeological discovery in a downtown Toronto school yard brought the story of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn again to light.