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The Spirit of the Times

July 12, 2011

“If I had to live my life over, I’d live over a saloon.” ~ W. C. Fields

The world of the 1890s was a very different place from our modern era, in some ways worse and in some ways better. You can’t help knowing when looking at the rough customers below that they were  a very different breed of man than the office dwellers of today. You can be sure that if someone was looking for an *Ass it would have been at the stable not behind the bar, unless of course he had a bone to pick with the bartender.


The bar pictured was part of a long gone hotel my family owned and this is the only photo remaining of the place. From the look of things, the drink menu was likely to be very short. However, despite the probable lack of cocktails, they did have (if you look very, very closely) an upcoming John Philip Sousa concert. Liquor and a concert. Some things don’t change at all.

John Phillip Sousa Poster

For a sense of the times, I suggest reading the story of Jerry Thomas, “the Jupiter Olympus of the bar” as told in a brief New York Times profile. Quite well-known in his day, Jerry was a barman of the mid-to-late 19th century who worked his trade across the country before finally arriving in Manhattan. He was a showman and trailblazer of the spirits world, devising new drinks and actually taking the time to write them down in his book “The Bon-Vivant’s Companion”.  Today that would be the title of a romance novel.


1 oz Absolut® vodka
1 splash DeKuyper® Sour Apple Pucker schnapps


Linking to:

Common Ground

Serenity Now

14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2011 6:18 am

    Hey, my hubby won the John Phillips Sousa award in band in high school! It was the highest band member award they could give. 🙂 He’s a VERY talented musician with two different endorsement deals from music companies…he makes me proud. 🙂
    I didn’t know your family once owned an old hotel…how cool! What else don’t I know about you…I need a LONG letter telling me all about everything I don’t already know. 🙂 hee hee hee
    Love you much my sweet friend!

  2. July 13, 2011 7:02 am

    That bar may have had a rough crowd but my, what a beautiful bar they had to “belly up” to. And that pot bellied stove! It must have kept the patrons warm on cold nights. I just love looking at old photos.

  3. July 13, 2011 7:15 am

    I think the same thing at times here in this house. It was built in 1890. I think the house is small for us, but back then the addition wasn’t on and there were about 9 in the family. I don’t know how they did it. When we tore up the carpeting in the smaller room we found marks on the floor, more than likely for beds. 4 beds were in that room and my son complains that the room is too small for him. If only walls could talk….

  4. July 13, 2011 7:49 am

    Love these old photos. I’ve wondered about going back to those days when, at least in my mind, things seemed simpler. Then I realize while I could do without a lot of comforts of modern times, I do love my airconditioning etc. I am spoiled!

  5. July 13, 2011 8:52 am

    We all want to know more! Like, who is in the painting to the right of the bar? Thank you for sharing. xoxo michele

  6. July 13, 2011 11:34 am

    I like your kinfolk. 🙂

    I’ll be showing the Jerry Thomas article to Mr. Decor who among other things took a course in bartending in college while living in Japan. He thought it was a career he could “always fall back on”. 🙂

    In the meantime I am still cleaning up the dust, sand and dead plants the haboob left. At least it is fun to say Haboob.

  7. ain't for city gals permalink
    July 13, 2011 7:03 pm

    Sometimes I think in my other life I was a bar girl (or whatever they called her)….lol…and I lived above a bar. Honestly, that life just appeals to me for some reason….

  8. July 13, 2011 8:36 pm

    How cool that your family used to run and own a hotel!

  9. July 14, 2011 7:12 am

    Wow. Great picture and such a wonderful rich history to it as well!

    Loved this piece you wrote T.

  10. July 14, 2011 4:20 pm

    I love looking at old photos…and how cool that this bar was in your families hotel.

  11. July 16, 2011 11:49 am

    I didn’t realize Thomas was writing too 🙂 Just noticed. Very cool family history. I love the idea of how language changes over time – unfortunately, in some ways it has been “cheapened” though! Love the end – it made me laugh. 🙂

  12. July 19, 2011 9:40 pm

    well, this was fun! great images, looks like the gang was all there! Thanks for linking up the vintage inspiration!

  13. July 29, 2011 10:43 pm

    Hi Deborah,
    I love the old photo of the hotel bar. I don’t know how you ever read the print on the poster.
    I love finding out things about my ancestors – don’t think we had a hotel in the family.

    Al and I go to the Springer Opera House in Columbus GA several times a year. Last time we went we had some time to spare and we enjoyed looking at their very small museum of memorabilia.
    John Philip Sousa had a small display of items and information. Sending a link to SOH – interesting place, indeed.

    Oh, and yes, I do sell the belt buckles. I have several made and I am working on a custom one using the lady’s own vintage jewelry. I love that idea.
    Have a great weekend.

  14. August 4, 2011 3:20 pm

    Look at how amazing that bar is. What I give to put it in my house! (Yes…my house. I’d figure a way to make it work. 🙂

    Mike’s (man of the shorehouse) dad — and his grandfather before that — owned an old restaurant in downtown NYC called the Greenwich Tavern. We have some great pictures from the 30s to 50s, and a copy of an old menu (I think it’s dated 1936) hanging on our wall. In fact, we also have a Greenwich Street street sign. Apparently when the World Trade Center was being built, the workers were frequenters of the Tavern and gave Mike’s dad the street sign when they took it down for construction. Yesterday would have been his dad’s 95th birthday, so we celebrated last night with Old Fashioneds and old stories. Thanks for sharing yours! xo

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