Our American ancestors seemed to like to drink… a lot. According to an article by Jim Vorel in PasteMagazine.com:
“By 1700, the colonists drank fermented peach juice, hard apple cider, and rum, which they imported from the West Indies or distilled from West Indian molasses. Drinking was an important part of the culture, and people passed around jugs or bowls of liquor at barbecues, on market days, and at elections. Candidates gave away free drinks. A stingy candidate had no chance of winning. Practically everyone drank. Even restrained New Englanders consumed great quantities of liquor. The Puritans called alcohol the ‘Good Creature of God,’ a holy substance to be taken proudly yet cautiously.”
He goes on to note: “By 1770, Americans consumed alcohol routinely with every meal. Many people began the day with an ‘eye opener’ and closed it with a nightcap. People of all ages drank, including toddlers, who finished off the heavily sugared portion at the bottom of a parent’s mug of rum toddy. Each person consumed about three and a half gallons of alcohol per year.”
When Rorabaugh writes “three and a half gallons of alcohol,” he’s talking about 3.5 gallons of pure ethanol, rather than gallons of a specific spirit. To convert that into a more graspable figure, that’s 8.75 gallons of standard, 80-proof liquor per year for the average person by the time of the American revolution. That’s already 45 percent higher than current consumption levels, but hold onto your seats, because the number gets much higher by the 1800s.
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of Jim Vorel’s numbers but his claims do not surprise me. Numerous other authors have made similar claims. Author Daniel Okrent, in his book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, states:
“Washington kept a still on his farm, John Adams began each day with a tankard of hard cider, and Thomas Jefferson’s fondness for drink extended beyond his renowned collection of wines to encompass rye whiskey made from his own crops. James Madison consumed a pint of whiskey daily. Soldiers in the U.S. Army had been receiving four ounces of whiskey as part of their daily ration since 1782; George Washington himself said ‘the benefits arising from moderate use of strong liquor have been experienced in all armies, and are not to be disputed.’”
You can read about these interesting historical lifestyles at http://alturl.com/5vyfz and at https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/alcohol-in-the-19th-century/