Monday, September 20, 2010

The Tavern

Among the Germans the tavern is a community club house. After church, the whole family, before returning to the farm, is likely to enter to drink beer, while sitting around a table talking with friends and neighbors. These taverns are different in atmosphere from the crowded bar familiar to other communities. They have the attributes of family sociability rather than commercial activity.
-Fred L. Holmes, "Freiheit Ist Meine" Old World Wisconsin (1944)
More from the Wiki:
In Germania (the German-American districts of cities) a beer culture flourished in 19th-century America in taverns, saloons, and especially beer-gardens which operated on Sundays and attracted entire families. Germans operated nearly all the nations brewries, and demand was high until prohibition arrived in 1920. German immigrants acquired a reputation rivaling the Irish for heavy drinking and alcohol-associated violence. By the late 19th century family-oriented beer gardens provided all day recreation on Sundays. German newspapers promoted temperance but not abstinence. From the German perspective the issue was less the ill effects of alcohol than its benefits in promoting social life. For American Germans, the pub stood alongside the church as one of the two pillars of German social and spiritual life.
Rural Italy maintains such a family tavern culture, or least they did 30 years ago when I spent some time there.  Ironically the Italians don't call taverns "taverns"--they call them bars--il bar--a word and custom which I always thought strange but never bothered to fathom.


  1. The old traditional English neighborhood pubs (many of which are well over a hundred years old) retain the same character.

  2. Thanks LL. There's a chapter in "Old World Wisconsin" on the Cornish Brits who came to southwestern WI in the early 19th century to mine lead. They gave the state its nickname.