Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY HISTORY

How Washington spent thousands on alcohol in a single (crazy) night

America was built on alcohol. Many of the founding fathers distilled or brewed their own booze because the ingredients needed to make it flourished perfectly in the soil of the newly formed United States. Remember, Samuel Adams isn't just some fictional mascot made up to publicize a brewing company and Budweiser's "George Washington recipe" is actually historically accurate.


Also, the terrible road conditions of the time made transporting grains the traditional way, you know, in bread and stuff, a true hardship. It was much easier to just turn whatever you grew into alcohol — which would net an even better profit.

All of this is key to understanding that the founding fathers would more than likely drink any modern military barracks under the table. No single moment best exemplifies this than the time George Washington and his Army buddies celebrated the signing of the Constitution by drinking enough booze to rack up a tab worth roughly $17,253 in today's currency.

It was the night of September 15, 1787, and George Washington had many reasons to celebrate. A few months earlier, in May, he was elected president at the Constitutional Convention. The United States Constitution had just been finalized and debates were finally settling as the momentous document cruised towards its eventual signing, just two days later. This night was also the farewell dinner for Washington before he set off to do bigger and better things.

Washington's friends in the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, along with several other framers of the Constitution, decided to throw a celebration at the City Tavern in Philadelphia.

The tavern still exists and there's still a bar. What could be more American than getting wasted where Washington and his boys drank?

(Photo by Lisa Andres)

The party had roughly 55 guests, which included troops, politicians, friends, and family — along with 16 more people who were working that night, including musicians, servers, and hosts. The details of the night are hazy but the receipt for the night was saved in the First Troop Cavalry archives.

By the end of the night, Washington's party drank: 54 bottle of Madeira wine, 60 bottle of Bordeaux wine, 8 bottles of old stock whiskey, 22 bottles of porter ale, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 jugs of beer, and 7 large bowls of punch. The staff and musicians also drank 16 bottles of Bordeaux wine, 5 bottles of Madeira wine, and seven bowls of punch.

The bill also includes a tab for many broken glasses, which, adjusted for inflation, equals about $300 worth of reimbursements. The final bill came out to £89 and 4 schillings — or roughly $17,253 in 2018 dollars.

All in all, a good night (This painting is actually from a different night at the Fraunces Tavern in New York. Celebrating with his troops was kind of his thing).

The impressive part of this story isn't that they drank it all — or the fact that drinks back then tended to be more potent than their modern counterparts — but the fact that Washington was functional enough just two days later to see the Constitution signed.

So, drink up! Enjoy the Constitution by celebrating its eventual 21st amendment!

H/T to We Are The Mighty reader Eric Carson for his comment that inspired for this article. Thank you very much! You're awesome.