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Every Home a Distillery

Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake

Sarah Hand Meacham

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In this original examination of alcohol production in early America, Sarah Hand Meacham uncovers the crucial role women played in cidering and distilling in the colonial Chesapeake. Her fascinating story is one defined by gender, class, technology, and changing patterns of production.

Alcohol was essential to colonial life; the region’s water was foul, milk was generally unavailable, and tea and coffee were far too expensive for all but the very wealthy. Colonists used alcohol to drink, in cooking, as a cleaning agent, in beauty products, and as medicine. Meacham finds that the distillation...

In this original examination of alcohol production in early America, Sarah Hand Meacham uncovers the crucial role women played in cidering and distilling in the colonial Chesapeake. Her fascinating story is one defined by gender, class, technology, and changing patterns of production.

Alcohol was essential to colonial life; the region’s water was foul, milk was generally unavailable, and tea and coffee were far too expensive for all but the very wealthy. Colonists used alcohol to drink, in cooking, as a cleaning agent, in beauty products, and as medicine. Meacham finds that the distillation and brewing of alcohol for these purposes traditionally fell to women. Advice and recipes in such guidebooks as The Accomplisht Ladys Delight demonstrate that women were the main producers of alcohol until the middle of the 18th century. Men, mostly small planters, then supplanted women, using new and cheaper technologies to make the region’s cider, ale, and whiskey.

Meacham compares alcohol production in the Chesapeake with that in New England, the middle colonies, and Europe, finding the Chesapeake to be far more isolated than even the other American colonies. She explains how home brewers used new technologies, such as small alembic stills and inexpensive cider pressing machines, in their alcoholic enterprises. She links the importation of coffee and tea in America to the temperance movement, showing how the wealthy became concerned with alcohol consumption only after they found something less inebriating to drink.

Taking a few pages from contemporary guidebooks, Every Home a Distillery includes samples of historic recipes and instructions on how to make alcoholic beverages. American historians will find this study both enlightening and surprising.

Reviews

Reviews

A well-composed, clearly written, highly informative study that significantly contributes to our understanding of how alcohol was brewed, distributed, and consumed in the colonial Chesapeake area.

This exceptionally well-researched book provides important new information about alcohol practices in colonial America.

Meacham’s style is eminently readable, informative, and entertaining. Her detailed ‘Essay on sources’ is particularly useful. This work would appeal to students of early American studies, American history, and women’s history.

Meacham has studied and interrelated a broad variety of primary sources for this book: diaries, letters, account books, probate inventories and wills, cookbooks, court and local government records. The result is an eminently insightful, readable, and usefully annotated history.

This book does a real service in putting free women's work (enslaved women receive far briefer attention) at the center of colonial experience... With its focus on the methods and organization of alcohol production, Every Home a Distillery will appeal to anyone interested in early business history.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
208
ISBN
9781421409634
Illustration Description
9 halftones
Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction
1. "It Was Being Too Abstemious That Brought This Sickness upon Me": Alcoholic Beverage Consumption in the Early Chesapeake
2. "They Will be Adjudged by Their Drinke, What Kind of

Preface
Introduction
1. "It Was Being Too Abstemious That Brought This Sickness upon Me": Alcoholic Beverage Consumption in the Early Chesapeake
2. "They Will be Adjudged by Their Drinke, What Kind of Housewives They Are": Gender, Technology, and Household Cidering inEngland and the Chesapeake, 1690 to 1760
3. "This Drink Cannot Be Kept During the Summer": Large Planters, Science, and Community Networks in the Early Eighteenth Century
4. "Anne Howard... Will Take in Gentlemen": White Middling Women and the Tavernkeeping Trade in Colonial Virginia
5. "Ladys Here All Go to Market to Supply Their Pantry": Alcohol for Sale, 1760 to 1776
6. "Every Man His Own Distiller": Technology, the American Revolution, and the Masculinization of Alcohol Production in the Late Eighteenth Century
7. "He Is Much Addicted to Strong Drinke": The Problem of Alcohol
Conclusion
A Few Recipes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio