Alcohol in the 19th century


At the home where one of my characters ends up staying after she has been thrust back to the eighteen hundreds, the other young women in the household are encouraged to drink wine with meals and champagne during celebrations - if you were part of the middle or upper classes this was considered acceptable and was, of course, surprising to Abby. But it was important to never drink too much as a young lady, or to appear under alcohol's influence by slurred speech, sloppy physical movements or uninhibited reactions. Drinking more than a small amount was considered the behaviour of a vulgar, lower class young woman.


Beer quickly became the drink of choice as immigrants arrived from Europe, most notably from Germany. They came with tested recipes for the making of lager beer, and it became hugely popular.

Taverns in the 1800s were everywhere, and licenses to sell alcoholic beverages were easy to obtain. Anyone could easily open a tavern and sell alcohol to the public. Whiskey was cheap and readily available, even in stores that sold groceries and the like. Many stores in Canada kept a pail of whiskey in the back of the store for their customers - HELP YOURSELF!


Even though taxes on liquor sales in Canada added great funds to the budgets of towns and cities in Ontario, by 1870 control of these funds switched to the provincial government.

You may have heard of the Temperance Movement. Believing that drinking was the downfall of many, a campaign for the prohibition of alcohol grew.


Temperance and prohibition meant the forced cessation of drinking alcohol. The first temperance societies in Canada appeared around 1827. They tolerated the drinking of beer and wine, but this would change by the end of the 19th century as the movement gained power. In the year 1900 for example, Prince Edward Island outlawed the retail sale of alcohol throughout the entire province. The other provinces soon followed. National prohibition occurred in Canada from 1918 to 1920.

I know that we're stepping into the 20th century now, but I'm sure you want to know what happened. Well, in the 1920s most provincial legislation prohibiting alcohol was repealed (removed), allowing governments to make their own decision regarding the sale of alcohol.