Glory Days: Americans Used to Booze All Day
National Archives takes a look at our history with alcohol
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 15, 2015 7:31 AM CDT
Cotton Mather? He's probably a little buzzed here. Also, judging you.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – The Puritans who were among those who first colonized America weren't exactly known as a bunch of wild and crazy guys (crazy, maybe; wild, no), but they weren't exactly Puritanical about their booze, either. Our former colonial overlords over at the BBC take a look at America's complicated past with the sauce, vis a vis a new exhibit at the National Archives, and find that we were actually a much boozier bunch back in the day. "The initial ship that came over from England to Massachusetts Bay actually carried more beer than water," says the senior curator of Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History. The Founding Fathers were no exception: Samuel Adams, who has a beer named for him, was partner in his dad's malt house, and Thomas Jefferson was really into his European wines.

Americans in the late 1700s boozed from breakfast til bedtime, with what the BBC calls a "healthful dram for breakfast," a bit of whiskey with lunch, ale with dinner, and a nightcap to end the day. It was an era when many were doing fieldwork and not rocket science, thus a near-constant low-level buzz wasn't considered particularly damaging. But being Americans, we took things too far, going from an annual average consumption of 5.8 gallons of pure alcohol per person in 1790 to 7.1 gallons in 1830 (consider that modern Americans tipple 2.3 gallons a year), which eventually triggered Prohibition. The exhibit also features a section on alcohol and the presidency, notes DCist, from FDR's penchant for taking a break from running the nation with a decidedly strong cocktail to Betty Ford's struggles with alcoholism. (See also: We will not be deterred from drinking by a silly hangover.)
 

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