America's Drunken History (PHOTOS)

08/08/2011 08:51 am ET | Updated Oct 08, 2011

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!