Review: America Walks into a Bar

Book cover     Christine Sismando’s book America walks into a bar : a spirited history of taverns and saloons, speakeasies, and grog shops, looks at our love / hate relationship with alcohol and commercial establishments that serve it. Starting in Colonial America we learn that the Salem Witch Trials were less about black magic and more about profitable real estate to put a tavern she brings the bars history in America right up to date with the backlash against young mothers congregating in neighborhood bars with their infants. I really wanted to like this book, it is entertaining, pleasant to read and seems cover the subject thoroughly. I pleased that Sismondo managed to explain something that I should have already known, the importance of bars and taverns to both the woman’s and the LGBT movements.

 

     Unfortunately I came across her explanation of “the Cincinnati incident”, what we call the 1884 Courthouse Riot, and my confidence in Sismondo’s ability as a historian was shaken. Her research on this was superficial and her interpretations were defective as a result. Still, for a big picture view of the importance of public houses have had in the history of the United States this is worth a read. Just be sure to double check any details you find here.

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