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"During the 1820s, thousands of folks along the Erie Canal corri­dor were ... succumbing to the mind-blasting effects of raw alcohol. America was reeling through the most phenomenal drinking binge in its history. Hordes of citizens were living their lives in the woozy, dislocated haze of permanent inebriation.

"Western farmers who grew barley, corn, and rye found it more profitable to ferment and distill their crops into strong liquor than to ship the grain to market. Whiskey was plentiful and cheap. Each man older than fifteen was drinking on average fourteen gallons of hundred-proof whiskey every year. By the middle of the decade, more than a thousand distillers were operating in New York State. Whis­key was cheaper than wine or beer, more readily available than im­ported luxuries like tea and coffee, safer to drink than water.

"Whiskey was considered 'so conducive to health,' a journalist wrote in 1830, 'that no sex, and scarcely any age, were deemed ex­empt from its application.' Children drank. Adults deemed it more patriotic to drink whiskey than French wine or Dutch gin. Liquor filled the role that coffee would later assume as a morning bracer. A glass of whiskey with breakfast was commonplace.

"A man need not go to a tavern: he could stop for a glass of whiskey at a grocery or candy store. He could down a shot at a barber shop. Theaters served strong drink. Millers provided the refreshment to waiting farmers. Militia musters always ended with heroic drinking. Casual sellers of grog set up bars in their basements.

"Men during this period habitually drank at work. Before the spread of factories, artisans typically operated workshops that em­ployed a dozen or so journeymen and apprentices. The master was expected to provide ale or whiskey for his employees' dinner and breaks. He often drank with them. He tolerated a degree of absen­teeism on what was known as Saint Monday, as workers recovered from Sunday binges.

"Drinking on the job peaked among canal workers. With whiskey cheap and cash in short supply, contractors favored pay in kind -- bed, board, and ample drink. The typical canal worker drank at least a pint, often a quart, of whiskey daily. Whiskey 'was provided bounti­fully and in true western style.' Thirsty from a salty diet and abun­dant sweating, the men drank and drank. ...

"But workers of any nationality, exposed to the harsh conditions of canal labor and the easy availability of alcohol, would have done the same. As one former worker said, 'You wouldn't expect them to work on the canal if they were sober, would you?' When drunk, laborers sometimes passed out and lay exposed for hours to the sun or chill night dew. 'Fever, and death,' a physician noted, 'were but too often the melancholy results.' "

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Salguod Nairb
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Admitting you have a problem is the first step. Good for you Jack.
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I'm old, but not 196 years old ... Smile
Theodore Lawton
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Good article. I saw a show about prohibition on Netflix recently. Many of the things you list here are what lead to the temperance movement and prohibition. It's hard to imagine people being loaded constantly like this. It's a strange part of American history- to me, anyway.
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The other day we watched a documentary on it, which was quite amazing. I can't drink much without feeling ill.
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