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America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops Hardcover – June 21, 2011
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A Boston Globe "Best Nonfiction Book" of 2011
"A robust homage to the history and proliferation of bars and their vast and often overlooked cultural significance." --Kirkus Reviews
"Breezy, anecdotal, and pun-laden yet complete with a selective bibliography of print sources, Sismondo's book surveys a myriad of American drinking establishments, accenting their importance in social, political, and cultural history and discerning subtle differences over the centuries." --Library Journal
"Displays both detailed research and wit..." --David Wondrich, The Wall Street Journal
"Many of the author's anecdotes offer interesting glimpses into the history of the Americas and the important role drinking establishments have played in the development of our society." --Wine Enthusiast
" A wide-ranging, often hilarious, always sharp and thoughtful look at the way our nation's drinking establishments have shaped and reflected our history."
--Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
"America Walks Into a Bar isn't a paean to drinking or a love letter to alcohol. It is an insightful, well-told look inside the unique thing that is the American tavern, and how the tavern has helped change American history. It is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone who appreciates the nuances of American history and an occasional visit to the local watering hole." --Dan Murphy, Buffalo News
"I found the history to be interesting... the level of detail spectacular, and the information on the changing bar formats and their ever-changing reputation fascinating. If you are interested in American history and bar history, this is your new favorite book." --Camper English, Alcademics
"'America, as we know it, was born in a bar.' This is the thesis of a fascinating, informative, well-researched and well-written new book called America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops."
--Ted Scheffler, City Weekly
"The book is a revelation." -- American Interest
About the Author
Christine Sismondo is a writer and lecturer in Humanities at York University in Toronto. She has written numerous articles about film, literature, drinking, and vice, as well as the book Mondo Cocktail, a narrative history of cocktails.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
"America, as we know it, was born in a bar." This is the thesis of a fascinating, informative, well-researched and well-written new book called America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops, by Christine Sismondo. It's not just that America was born in a bar, however; it also grew up in a bar, as we discover from reading Sismondo's book.
From the get-go, bars and taverns have been crucial gathering places for Americans. Sismondo documents the importance of bars to the earliest colonists, writing, "Taverns were absolutely critical for the new settlers' survival. Establishing a tavern was the first priority--not just the first choice--of every colony." In Boston, for example, the first official government building wasn't built until 1658. Until then, "all legal and government proceedings took place in taverns and meeting houses." Since the earliest days of this country, bars, taverns, saloons, grog shops--whatever you want to call them--have served as centers of political, social and cultural expression, ideas, opinion and organization.
In passages about early American urban centers, Sismondo reminds us that most people lived in small, cramped quarters--tenements, in particular. There was no place to recreate or socialize--no place, really, to think. Thus, bars became a logical neighborhood locale for simply finding a little bit of space. And Sismondo does a great job of detailing the importance of bars, from the mundane to the monumental: John Wilkes Booth plotted his infamous assassination with accomplices in the Surratt Tavern in Clinton, Md. Andrew Jackson met Jean Lafitte in a New Orleans grog shop to plan their defense against the British.Read more ›
This only intensified in the next stage of American drinking, commonly known as the saloon. The saloon, the author shows, continued to carry out many of the same functions that the tavern had, but got a bad press is a place where immigrants and others might get rowdy. Even the saloons of the Wild West, commonly shown as lawless, were often places where legally constituted trials were held. In one case, a judge at his regular court in a saloon. Why am I not surprised that this was in Texas?
Forces in favor of prohibition began to agitate from the 19th century. I never was a big fan of prohibition, since it gave us bad beer and the mob and not much else. But I didn't realize just how unsavory prohibition really was. A special focus of prohibitionist activity centered around African-American saloons, which served as a means to create an African-American middle class. The Ku Klux Klan was a major supporter of prohibition. The section on the rise of prohibition makes clear that fear of immigrants, as well as African-Americans, was crucial to its appeal.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very informative. Makes sense after history of it is pointed out. Too bad they don't teach this stuff on schools.Published 6 months ago by R. Bunting
I read it.I learned some things. But it wasn't very entertaining (i'm not sure it was supposed to be). i need more time to think about it.Published 6 months ago by Bill S.
It OK, I had to buy it for research into placing a LGBT bar on the National Register. I read the chapter on gay bars which was interesting but still think that The Big Oyster is... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Judith Johnson
This is a writer you want to take out for a drink. Her sense of history is informed by her knowledge of the culture of bars and drinking. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Lynn Hoffman, author:Radiation Days: A Comedy
Reads like a history text book in the early chapters, but that was good for me as there was so much I hadn't put into historical context. Read morePublished 11 months ago by businesspro
This is REAL American history! Not the watered down version we teach in schools. I hung on every word. Loved it!Published on November 14, 2013 by Brian
Great book. Interesting history of the saloons importance in the foundation of our nation. For anyone who has enjoyed the extemporaneous conversations the American style Bar offers... Read morePublished on January 15, 2013 by Jeffrey P Maguire