W. J. Rorabaugh summarizes alcohol consumption between 1770–1830, showing how it rose over time.

Academic / Technical Report
W. J. Rorabaugh

W. J. Rorabaugh, "Alcohol in America," OAH Magazine of History 6, no. 2 (Fall 1991): 17

OAH Magazine of History
W. J. Rorabaugh
Reading Public

By 1770 Americans consumed alcohol, mostly in the form of rum and cider, 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. This is about double the present rate of consumption.

The American Revolution drastically changed drinking habits. When the British blockaded the seacoast and thereby cut off molasses and rum imports, Americans looked for a substitute. Scot-Irish immigrants who had settled on the western frontier provided whiskey.

After the revolution whiskey replaced rum, since the British refused to supply it and the new federal government began to tax it in the 1790s. Whiskey also thrived because it was cheap. The settlement of the corn belt in Kentucky and Ohio created a corn glut. Western farmers could make no profit shipping corn overland to eastern markets, so they distilled corn into "liquid assets." By the 1820s whiskey sold for twenty-five cents a gallon, making it cheaper than beer, wine, coffee, tea, or milk. In many places whiskey was also less dangerous than water, which was frequently contaminated.

By 1830 consumption of alcohol, mostly in the form of whiskey, had reached more than seven gallons a year for every person over age fifteen or three times the current rate.

Citations in Mormonr Qnas
Copyright © B. H. Roberts Foundation
The B. H. Roberts Foundation is not owned by, operated by, or affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.