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Tavern Tales: Paying Your Debts

Last week’s #TavernTales post focused on tavern pricing. This post shows a portion of John Wyer’s tavern expenses to Annapolis tavern keeper Edward Smith.

Because of the tobacco-based economy, all tavern keepers had to give each free person a yearly credit of 400 lbs of tobacco. The debtor was supposed to pay their bills in a timely manner. That often did not happen and so the court records are full of tavern keepers taking their patrons to court. These records are great resources when trying to learn more about tavern culture.

In John Wyer’s case, his list of expenses is much longer than what is included in this post. The transactions I wanted to focus on are those from March 31st. As you can see, his drinking that day included at least three other people (Samuel Middleton, Nathanial Harper, and Dorothy Carter). We only know about them because Wyer agreed to pay for their drinks. This record is not unusual at all. The vast majority of patrons were at a tavern drinking with others. We just don’t usually have enough detail like this record to understand who was drinking with who at a particular time.

*Flip is a mixture of beer, rum, and molasses. Sampson is a mixture of warm hard cider and rum.

Painting in the image is: Ale House Door by Henry Singleton, c1790

Plain Text Version of Chart:

John Wyer's Debts

Excerpts from 1715 and 1716

March 31


1 mug beer and 1 pot cider for 0:1:0

1 pot sider with Middleton for 0:0:6

Club in flip with Middleton for 0:0:6

1 pot Sampson with Nathaniel Harper for 0:1:6

1 pot flip with Nathaniel for 0:1:6

1 pot beer with Dorothy Carter for 0:0:6

1 pot beer and 1 pot cyder with Samuel for 0:1:0

April 3

1 pot beer and 1 pot Sampson for 0:2:0

2 mugs of Sampson for 0:3:0

1 mug of Sampson for 0:1:6

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