Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Price: $27.95

Hardback 320 pp.
19 b/w images, 6.125" x 9.25"



Publication date:
June 2011

Imprint: OUP US

Share on Facebook

Add to Favourites Tell a Friend

America Walks into a Bar

A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

Christine Sismondo

When George Washington bade farewell to his officers, he did so in New York's Fraunces Tavern. When Andrew Jackson planned his defense of New Orleans against the British in 1815, he met Jean Lafitte in a grog shop. And when John Wilkes Booth plotted with his accomplices to carry out a certain assassination, they gathered in Surratt Tavern.

In America Walks into a Bar, Christine Sismondo recounts the rich and fascinating history of an institution often reviled, yet always central to American life. She traces the tavern from England to New England, showing how even the Puritans valued "a good Beere." With fast-paced narration and lively characters, she carries the story through the twentieth century and beyond, from repeated struggles over licensing and Sunday liquor sales, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the temperance movement, from attempts to ban "treating" to Prohibition and repeal. As the cockpit of organized crime, politics, and everyday social life, the bar has remained vital - and controversial - down to the present. In 2006, when the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act was passed, a rider excluded bars from applying for aid or tax breaks on the grounds that they contributed nothing to the community. Sismondo proves otherwise: the bar has contributed everything to the American story.

In this heady cocktail of agile prose and telling anecdotes, Sismondo offers a resounding toast to taprooms, taverns, saloons, speakeasies, and the local hangout where everybody knows your name.

Readership : General/Trade.


  • "A robust homage to the history and proliferation of bars and their vast and often overlooked cultural significance."

    --Kirkus Reviews
  • "Breezy, anecdotal, and pun-laden yet complete with a selective bibliography of print sources, Sismondo's book surveys a myriad of American drinking establishments, accenting their importance in social, political, and cultural history and discerning subtle differences over the centuries."

    --Library Journal

Preface: A Tale of Two Bars
1. A Puritan Walks into a Bar (1600-1700)
2. A Lawyer Walks into a Bar (1700-1750)
3. A Revolutionary Walks into a Bar (1750-1776)
4. A Taxman Walks into a Bar (1777-1830)
5. An Irishman Walks into a Bar (1830-1900)
6. An Industrialist Walks into a Bar (1900-1920)
7. A Flapper Walks into a Speakeasy (1920-1933)
8. America Walks into a Bar (1934-1950)
9. A Cop Walks into a Bar (1949-1970)
Post-Script: A Mother and Her Baby Walk into a Bar

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Christine Sismondo is a writer and lecturer in Humanities at York University in Toronto. She has written numerous books and articles about film, literature, drinking, and vice, including Mondo Cocktail, a narrative history of cocktails.

There are no related titles available at this time.

Special Features

  • The first book to offer the full story of bars and taverns in America.