"Rum Punch & Revolution: Taverngoing and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia"

Peter Thompson
$18.50 paper, 21 illustrations

The taverns of colonial Philadelphia provided more than hard cider and euphemisms for being tipsy. They were also an arena for political and social change.

Peter Thompson reveals in "Rum Punch and Revolution," his new contribution to the Penn Press's "Early American Studies" series edited by History Professor Richard S. Dunn, that because Philadelphia's laws made it easy to establish taverns and set low price ceilings on drinks, public drinking houses were frequented by persons from diverse backgrounds-rich and poor, educated and illiterate, tradesmen and gentry. As a result, ideas such as the vagaries of America's relationship to Great Britain spread rapidly, either to be shouted down or championed amongst a wide spectrum of men. Toward the end of the 18th century, though, taverns catering to particular classes began to appear and the special character of Philadelphia's early drinking establishments began to wane.

Thompson's book also includes tales of Philadelphia's notorious tavern brawls, such as the one about William Penn's son being knocked around in one of the city's taverns after boasting too much about his private school education in Europe.

As the Philadelphia City Paper noted: "It's recreating these obscure tales that illustrate Thompson's skill with historical storytelling. 'Rum Punch' is not only well-researched and often hilarious, it brings Philadelphia's grand drinking days back to life."

-University of Pennsylvania Press

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Originally published on January 14, 1999