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New Museum Exhibit Tracks America's Boozing Habits

in 1830, Americans consumed three times as much alcohol per year as they do today.


There's a new exhibit at the U.S. National Archives that takes a look at America's tumultuous relationship with alcohol. Most people believe booze was banned during Prohibition from 1917 to 1933 because of the country's "puritanical roots," but the BBC's Jane O'Brien says the exhibit shows otherwise. Turns out Puritans drank harder than most Americans do today. Below, the 11 best facts about America's drinking history from the exhibit "Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History."

1) The Puritans — while not exactly "party animals" — did in fact drink.

2) The first ship that came over from England to Massachusetts Bay "carried more beer than water."

3) The Puritans even drank at breakfast. They would also drink whiskey with lunch, ale with supper, and end the day with a nightcap.

4) The Founding Fathers were avid drinkers. Thomas Jefferson imported European wines and Samuel Adams "was a partner in his father's ale house."

5) Americans in 1790 consumed "an average of 5.8 gallons of pure alcohol a year." Modern Americans only consume 2 to 2.3 gallons of pure alcohol each year on average.

6) In 1830, alcohol consumption peaked: Americans were drinking 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol on average. This is when drinking "became a moral issue."

7) The US Navy had a traditional half-pint daily rum ration for sailors. However, in 1862, it was was abolished.

8) The first time someone was arrested for drunk driving was in 1897.

9) The breathalyzer was patented in 1955.

10) President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to host small cocktail parties for his staff. He insisted on making the drinks (which were always strong) using his silver cocktail set.

11) American presidents are responsible for rehabilitating alcohol and making it "respectable again" after prohibition. Presidents Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Reagan, and Obama "can all be seen on film drinking socially and making official toasts."

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