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Faces Along the Bar Lore and Order in the Workingman's Saloon, 1870-1920 cover
  • ISBN: 9780226677682
  • ISBN10: 0226677680

Faces Along the Bar Lore and Order in the Workingman's Saloon, 1870-1920

by Madelon Powers

  • List Price: $37.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 06/01/1998
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In this lively, witty, and engaging history, Madelon Powers recreates the daily life of the barroom, exploring what it was like to be a "regular" in the old-time saloon of preprohibition industrial America. Powers concentrates on the turbulent years from 1870 to 1920 when the industrial revolution wrenched and reshaped American society and its working-class institutions. During its heyday, the urban barroom was widely acknowledged as the workingman's "club". Yet it had no written rules for membership, no formal hierarchy, and no fixed agenda. What, then, Powers asks, was the exact nature of this so-called club?

Powers examines the lives of saloon-goers across America, including those in major cities such as New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco as well as smaller cities such as Sioux City, Shoshone, and Oakland. Her investigation offers a fascinating look at the rich lore of the barroom -- its many games, stories, songs, free lunch customs, and especially its elaborate system of drinking rituals that have been passed on for decades. She shows how urban workers used saloons as a place to promote their political, social, and economic objectives; saloons were where union leaders first organized their members, machine politicians cultivated the workingman's vote, and immigrants sought the assistance of their countrymen. Powers also discusses how gender, ethnicity, and class played significant roles in determining club membership.

Powers concludes that an underlying code of reciprocity and peer group honor in saloon life unified the regulars and transformed them into a voluntary association. Thus, amid the fumes of beer and cigars, the regulars were able to cultivate the dualbenefits of communal companionship and marketplace clout. making the old-time saloon one of the most versatile, ubiquitous, and controversial institutions in American history.

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