Throwback Thursday: When America’s First Bar Opened in Boston

Boston bars are the original bars.


Photo via Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Photo via Wikimedia/Creative Commons

It’s very likely that America’s love affair with alcohol began prior to 1634. But for the sake of documented history, the first bar in the country opened in Boston 382 years ago on March 4.

Alcohol was served to early settlers of the Shawmut Peninsula thanks to a Puritan man named Samuel Cole. Born in 1597, Cole and his family made the voyage to the colonies with John Winthrop in 1630.

According to historian Samuel Adams Drake in his 1886 book, Old Boston Taverns and Tavern Clubs, Boston’s first recorded licensed establishment of imbibing was Samuel Cole’s Inn, located on Washington Street (today it’d be in Downtown Crossing.) As Winthrop once wrote, it was “the first common house for entertainment,” otherwise known as a public house. Drake asserts the inn was referred to as “Cole’s Inn,” but it might have also been dubbed “The Three Mariners” because of a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow play.

Longfellow incorporated Cole into John Endicott, a play set in the early 1660s. In its script, Cole’s character says:

“But the ‘Three Mariners’ is an orderly,
Most orderly, quiet, and respectable house.”

Though Drake argues Cole never referred to his establishment than any other name but “Cole’s Inn.”

Soon after the opening of Cole’s Inn, other public houses and drinking establishments sprang up in the town of Boston. Years later, in the early 1700s, Cole’s Inn was destroyed in a fire. The spirit of its memory seems to live on in the drinking habits of our city’s fair inhabitants.