Colonial American Taverns: Globalization in Food, Drink, and Material Culture, with Vaughn Scribner

Program Description

A Zoom presentation, followed by lively discussion, moderated by CHNY President, Cathy Kaufman.

The tavern was central to eighteenth-century colonial life in America–a place to eat and drink (booze, coffee and mineral waters), swap news, and conduct business, all while offering a respite for travelers. Questions of gender, class, race, and ethnicity all were played out in the different taverns found in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, with British colonists in particular seeking to demonstrate status as part of a global empire, with products brought in on British ships from every corner of the empire; the taxes on these colonial necessities (tea, paper, porcelain, among other things), as we all know, ultimately led to the American Revolution.

Dr. Scribner, of the University of Central Arkansas, painted a vivid portrait of the tavern in its global context, specifically striving to understand how early modern Britons sought to define (and redefine) their positions in the empire. Whether considering the medicinal and cultural discourses surrounding the harm or benefits of the various drinks, emerging temperance movements, he presented an engaging romp through the main points of his first book, Inn Civility: Urban Taverns and Early American Civil Society (NYU Press, 2019), which analyzed early Americans’ mercurial attempts at realizing a “civil society” through the lens of the urban tavern.