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Taverns of New Ark

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Many tales have been told about the noteworthy role alcohol played in the daily lives of colonial Americans. Whether it be their belief in its health benefits or simply for entertainment, colonists frequently visited local inns and taverns to enjoy a pint of beer, a gill of whiskey, or a mug of cider. Drinking and enjoying alcohol was so ubiquitous that under his pen name, Silence Dogood, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to the The New-England Courant on September 10, 1722 listing nineteen expressions signifying drunkenness. Over the next two decades, roughly two hundred and thirty expressions known as “The Drinker’s Dictionary” were compiled from varying lists in newspapers. One of the expressions, “He’s Swallow’d a Tavern Token” or “Has Swallow’d a Tavern Token,” is indicative of the economy and culture surrounding the drinking establishments that were cornerstones of communities. Frequently, tavens and inns—which will be used interchangeably throughout this exhibition—were more of a necessity than luxury in rural communities in which a high number of travelers passed through. As was typical of small colonial villages, two of the earliest businesses established along the main road in New Ark, New Castle County were a tavern and an inn. With its first proprietor and what is believed to be the location of its original building, the Three Hearts Tavern is depicted on the earliest known map of Newark. Established west of the Three Hearts Tavern, St. Patrick’s Inn is illustrated with its first landowner and the location of its original building on the second earliest known map of the village. Although it underwent various name changes, similar businesses were housed within the walls of these two original buildings. Even today, more than a century after the buildings were torn down, establishments distributing alcohol and promoting entertainment can still be found on those sacred drinking grounds.

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