George Washington’s Outrageous Bar Tab

With the holidays over, there's time to plan the next party.

People like alcohol, that is just a fact of life (unless you are a teetotaler, not that there's anything wrong that). People drink too much today, they drank too much before Prohibition, and they drank too much back at the time of the American founding as well.

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in September 1787, the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry entertained a great number of guests at City Tavern in Philadelphia in George Washington’s honor. The evening consisted of a great deal of drinking; and when I say a great deal, I seriously mean it!

In 1985, Dr. David Kimball, then the lead historian at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, made his document collection available to historian Gordon Lloyd. While combing through documents from the time of the ratifying Convention, he came across a menu and bar tab from September 15, 1787. The bill is simply staggering.

Menu for Gentlemen and Musicians

First Troop Philadelphia City

Cavalry Archives, 1774

City Tavern

George Washington

Entertainment of 15 Sept., 1787

Light Troop of Horse, September the 14th 1787

To Edwd Moyston .. Dr.

To 55 Gentlemans Dinners & Fruit

— Rellishes, Olives etc……………………………………….. 20 12 6

— 54 Bottles of Madera………………………………………. 20 5

— 60 of Claret ditto…………………………………………… 21

— 8 ditto of Old Stock………………………………………… 3 6 8

— 22 Bottles of Porter ditto…………………………………. 2 15

— 8 of Cyder ditto…………………………………………….. 16

— 12 ditto Beer………………………………………………… 12

— 7 Large Bowels of Punch…………………………………. 4 4

— Segars Spermacity candles etc…………………………. 2 5

To Decantors Wine Glass [e]s & Tumblers Broken etc.. 1 2 6

To 16 Servants and Musicians Dinners…………………… 2

— 16 Bottles of Claret………………………………………… 5 12

— 5 ditto Madera………………………………………………. 1 17 6

— 7 Bouls of Punch……………………………………………. 2 16

                                                                      \*£89      4      2\*  

Musich- [?] SSB 3/15/55

The total for part one was £89. Adjusting for currency changes, that’s a total of (as of 2017) £12,816! That’s $17,312 USD in one night for 55 people! That's $314 per person.

The bill for the musicians, part two, was slightly more reasonable at only £7 for nine people.

Bill for Musicians

First Troop Philadelphia City

Cavalry Archives, 1774 City Tavern

George Washington

Entertainment of 15 Sept., 1787

Col. Thomas Proctor to George Christhilf Dr.

To Musical Permormance [sic] at the City Tavern the 15th instant

   \*£    /    d\*  

*George Christhilf…………………………………… 1*

*Mr. Schultz………………………………………….. 1*

*Mr. Treniner………………………………………… 1*

*John Keyser…………………………………………. 15*

*Wm. Hartung……………………………………….. 15*

*Philip Rotti………………………………………….. 15*

*David Kartzrock…………………………………….. 15*

*John Bruner………………………………………… 15*

*Conrad Spangenberg……………………………… 15*

\*£7        10\*  

Dear Sir

Be prepared to Order payment to the above sum of six pounds ten-to the Musicians

Sept 15th, 1787

Mr John Dunlap Your Obd Servant

[Thos Proctor]

[on other side of the bill]

Rec’d Sept 15th 1787 of Samuel Miles Seven pounds Ten shillings in full of the within accot

£ 7.10- George Christhilf

SSB Q 3/17/55

You may have noticed that there are two date notations at the bottom of both bills, presumably from 1955. Both researchers believe that these dates were placed there as part of an effort to commemorate the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence.

That’s quite a bar tab, I would say. But after just ratifying a new Constitution and establishing one of the world’s greatest countries, it’s understandable that they were so inclined.

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