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America's Drunken History (PHOTOS)

Posted: 08/08/11 09:14 AM ET

Sometimes it seems as if everything that ever happened in America happened in a bar. While that might border on hyperbole, it's stunning to think of the role taverns, saloons and bars played in shaping America, before even the Revolution. In early days, the tavern wasn't just where you went to get a drink, it was where you went to find out the news, decide town matters, vote and even settle judicial business--both in and "out of court." We know why the bar started out as such a powerful institution (it was the only game in town in early colonial days), but the reason it continued to play a central role had a lot to do with the booze. The tavern or saloon is where people got together and bonded over their problems, accelerated by the warming properties of beer, wine and spirits. No wonder it came to play such a prominent role in the American Revolution, Democratic politics, labor reform, gay rights, and even the very structure of the American family. Cheers to it!

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Even before settlers got to America, they were worried about finding beer. Once in the New World, opening a tavern was the first priority, since it would be the unofficial central town hall, courtroom, marketplace and communications center for every colony. Since everyone was always found at the tavern, it all became a self-fulfilling prophecy and, the warmest place in town -- infinitely more inviting than the meeting-house for everything, including sometimes, prayer. Plus, you could find beer there.
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