On July 4th, America celebrates her birthday. We take part in the celebrations by gathering with friends, cooking out, watching fireworks and drinking. Though, the latter is truly America’s real past-time.
Look, America loves to drink. Always has. In fact, our love of drink goes back to the very beginning. Here’s a list of some of the most noteworthy facts is America’s drunk history:
The Original Booze Cruise
There was more beer and wine on the Mayflower than water. Back then water wasn’t safe to drink, so the Pilgrims jammed tons of ale onto their ship. Author Susan Cheever wrote a book called Drinking in America: Our Secret History. She says the Mayflower was basically a booze cruise as each passenger was given one gallon of 6% ABV beer per day. Cheever even says even the kids drank beer and wine on the 3-month journey from the motherland. She also says the main reason the Mayflower landed in Plymouth was because they were running out of beer.
Cheers to that. Notice how they don’t tell you about the beer in school. Instead schoolhouses sell young minds on the Plymouth rock myth.
Of course, America’s love of alcohol didn’t stop in 1620. The men who helped create this country liked to tip back a pint glass or two.
Let’s Be Frank[lin], I Need A Beer
Ben Franklin once remarked, “beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy.” He knew all about that. He drank plenty of it, even coming up with 200 terms for being drunk including the phrase “he sees two Moons.” Franklin published his terms in 1736, calling it ‘The Drinker’s Dictionary.’
Heck, he probably drank himself onto the 100 dollar bill.
The Midnight Rum Ride
Paul Revere is most famous for taking a horseback ride through Boston in 1775 to warn the Massachusetts militia the British soldiers were coming. The midnight ride may have taken place after the silversmith knocked back a couple shots of rum which would bring a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘one if by land, two if by sea.’ Liquid courage or not, the ride is hailed as one of the bravest acts leading up to the American revolution.
Dude, I’m Totally Hancocked
One year later, in 1776, 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence breaking away from England. Among the signers was the President of the Second Continental Congress. A man named John Hancock. He’s now known as the most famous signature in the world. He signed his John Hancock right smack in the middle of the Declaration large enough for King George to see it. However, he probably signed his name that boldly after partaking in a celebratory drink or two. Wouldn’t you if you just committed treason to create your own nation?
Prior to becoming a revolutionary, Hancock is said to have loved beer and drank more than his fair share during his time at Harvard and in the pubs around his Boston home. Hancock also smuggled booze into Boston harbor sneaking it past those taxing Brits.
The Family That Drinks Together
Two other signers, the Adams cousins (second-cousins technically) also liked to imbibe.
One of Sam Adams‘ first jobs was a maltster in his father’s malt business. Father and son would then sell the malt to breweries. Adams wasn’t much of a businessman though. Instead, he liked to spend his time meeting with other would be revolutionaries in pubs around Boston drumming up support to push back against British taxes all while pushing back a few pints of own. Adams once even called for a boycott of British beer, writing in an ad, “It is to be hoped, that the gentlemen of the town will endeavor to bring our own October Beer [strong beer] into fashion again, so that we may no longer be beholden to foreigners for acredible liquor, which may be as successfully manufactured in this country.” No wonder why Jim Koch named his beer after him, as Sam proves his love of craft beer back in the 1700’s. It seems Sam Adams was the original promotor of #drinklocal and the (unofficial) founder of the #nofakebrews revolution.
Sam’s second-cousin John Adams rose all the way up to become the most powerful man in these young United States having been elected as the second President. John Adams started everyday with a tankard of hard cider, later finishing his night with a couple glasses of Madeira wine. Despite his habit, he lived to be 90 when the average life expectancy was under 40.
John Adams’ favorite drink, Madeira, was on board Hancock’s ship, Liberty, in 1768 when it was seized by the British over failure to pay proper import taxes (or so they said). Riots broke out because of this seizure as Bostonians take their drinking very seriously.
We’ve long been told in school taxes were the big reason the colonists chose to break away from England. But let it be said here, drinking was another major factor in the American Revolution as the empire tried to force Americans to only drink British products.
Now it’s clear where we craft beer drinkers get our rebellious spirit.
To Life, Liberty, and Libations
Another founder who loved his drink was the man who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. After becoming the third U.S. President after beating Adams in the election of 1800, Jefferson stocked the White House with wine. He loved wine much he studied it, wrote about it, and drank plenty of it. In the latter part of his life, Jefferson drank 1,200 bottles of wine in just two years (between 1822 and 1824).
Jefferson and Adams also had a bitter rivalry for most of their lives. Bitter as a nice, hoppy IPA. Both wrote each other letters until their dying days exchanging ideas, most likely under the influence of some kind of alcohol.
A Whiskey Revolution
Then there’s the man who preceded them both as the Commander-in-Chief, George Washington. The very first U.S. President. Folklore tells us Washington was so honest he admitted to his father that he chopped down a cherry tree. We know that to be a myth. What’s not a myth is how much Washington, too, liked to drink.
The Revolutionary Army Commander enjoyed beer, wine, punch, rum and whiskey. After retiring as President, Washington went back to his Mount Vernon estate and produced tons of whiskey. He was the largest producer of it in the entire country. During his last year in life, 1799, Washington produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey. While he was serving as President he spent 7% of his income on booze. For his farewell party, the final booze bill was $15,000 in 1787 dollars.
As we celebrate our nation’s birthday and look back at our founding fathers’ drinking habits, it’s worth pointing out it wasn’t just the men in power who drank. The average colonist had 2 or 3 beers before lunch time in the 1700’s, and consumed about 7 gallons of alcohol per year.
So as we look to the sky to watch fireworks and celebrate an American tradition, we reflect on and appreciate the act of drinking as something that goes back to our very American roots.
As always, if you are going to drink, drink responsibility. If you don’t have the Lyft app yet, download it and enter the promo code: THEBREWMANCE for a discount on your first few rides.