Gordon Wood provides overview of alcohol consumption in America between 1790–1820.

Gordon Wood

Gordon Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 339

Oxford University Press
Gordon Wood, Samuel Mitchell
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Certainly the American consumption of distilled spirits was climbing rapidly during this period, rising from two and a half gallons per person per year in 1790 to almost five gallons in 1820—an amount nearly triple today’s consumption and greater than that of every major European nation at that time. If the 1,750,000 slaves, who did not have much access to alcohol, are excluded from these figures of 1820, then the Americans’ per capita consumption was even more remarkable—higher than at any other time in American history.

From the beginning of the Republic American grain farmers, particularly those of Celtic origin in western Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Tennessee, had found it easier and more profitable to distill, ship, and sell whiskey than to try to ship and sell the perishable grain itself. Consequently, distilleries popped up everywhere, their numbers growing rapidly after the 1780s, reaching ten thousand by 1810. In 1815 even the little town of Peacham, Vermont, with a population of about fifteen hundred persons, had thirty distilleries. According to Samuel L. Mitchill in 1812, American stills were producing 23,720,000 gallons of “ardent spirits” a year—an alarming amount, said Mitchill, that was turning freedom into “rudeness and something worse.” He estimated that some workers in the country were consuming up to a quart of hard liquor every day.

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