Visiting a saloon in Phoenix in 1879
You really don't hear the word "saloon" anymore these days, unless you're watching a Western movie, or time-traveling with me back to Phoenix in 1879. And based on the ad at the top of this post, I really can't tell how upscale, or downscale, this place was. And I really don't even know where the Post Office was in 1879. But Phoenix had only been there for nine years, so it couldn't have been difficult to find. The whole town stretched from what is now called 7th Avenue to 7th Street, and from Van Buren to the north to where the railroad tracks are now to the south. Small town!
But although the word saloon is no longer in vogue, these businesses have always operated in Phoenix. Nowadays they're inclined to be called "Sports Lounges", which can be anything from a fancy-shmancy place to a dive bar. And today I'm imagining that this saloon, in 1879, was kinda humble, and maybe what we could call a dive bar, or a neighborhood bar. Let's go in and take a peek.
Now first of all, since this saloon is upscale enough to pay for advertising in the newspaper, I'm figuring that it would be a fairly respectable joint. And by that I mean while you could get wines, liquors and cigars, there was no opium, or cocaine. Both of these drugs were legal at the time, but they were definitely frowned on. You could get those elsewhere.
So in this imaginary visit to a saloon, we'll be walking into something that looks a whole lot like the typical saloons you see in Western movies. And although laws would change in later years, we could be refused service if we didn't fit in with what the owner of the place wanted as a customer. I won't go into detail here, but I think you know what I mean - no equal opportunity in 1879!
Although history books would try to make you believe otherwise, there's no sharp dividing line between the old and new. Generations change, laws change, customs change. Nowadays it's illegal to smoke a cigar in a bar, but that would have sounded preposterous to anyone in a saloon in 1879! Nowadays people who smoke have to go sit outside. And while modern saloon-keepers follow the law, knowing full well that they risk a nasty lawsuit if they refuse service, they still can make people feel unwelcomed if they don't fit into the crowd. I just read some reviews of the local, ahem, dive bar, nearby the McDonalds where I have my coffee in the morning, and you can tell that if you're not a regular there, you aren't given very good service. Of course regulars just love the place, and are treated well!
Thank you for visiting a saloon in old-time Phoenix with me!
If you liked this article, and would like to see more in the future, please consider becoming a patron of History Adventuring on Patreon. If you're already a patron, thank you! Your pledge makes this happen!
Click here to become a Patron!
Posted by Brad Hall