• Weird History

9 Historical Events That Took Place At The Bar

A night out at the local dive with your friends is usually pretty predictable. You might get hit on by a creepy guy old guy that reminds you of your father; or make a fool of yourself by dancing on (and then falling off) the bar. One of your friends might even have a little too much to drink and lose their dinner out the window of an Uber.

But while your Friday nights may not be world-changing, there have been many important historical events that took place in bars all over the world, from public executions to the birth of liberation movements. Perhaps it's not surprising that, as a place where drunken crowds gather, bars have been the site of riots and brawls - but they've also served as sober meeting places for political and military figures of all types. So next time you hit the town, take a brief selfie break and look around to see if any history is being made.

  • The Stonewall Riots

    Photo: Diana Davies, New York Public Library / via Wikimedia Commons

    In the late 1960s, homosexual sex was illegal in almost every state in the US, even in private homes. New York had one of the largest gay populations, but also had some of the strictest anti-sodomy laws. The state even formed squads of police that would raid gay bars as well as use undercover officers to solicit sex from gay individuals and then arrest them if they consented.

    On June 28, 1969, the police were again harassing the patrons of a gay bar in Greenwich called the Stonewall Inn. However, on this night, the patrons got fed up and began resisting the officers. A riot quickly broke out and word spread throughout the city. Other men and women in the city rushed to the Stonewall Inn to aid in the resistance against the officers. Police reinforcements arrived sometime later and dispersed the crowd. But the following night, over 1,000 men and women returned to the Stonewall Inn and protested for hours until a riot squad was called in to break things up.

    The incident at the Stonewall Inn led to discussions about the rights for members of the LGBT community in America and led to the formation of the first LGBT advocacy groups in the country. Within a few years of the riots, gay rights groups had been formed in many major cities across the US.

  • Planning The Boston Tea Party

    Photo: Sarony & Major / via Wikimedia Commons

    Located on Union Street in Boston’s North End, the Green Dragon Tavern was nicknamed “The Headquarters of the Revolution” by American statesmen Daniel Webster. Many of the Founding Fathers and other key figures from the American Revolution met here to discuss current events and create plans of action. The Boston Caucus, the Boston Committee of Correspondence, and the Sons of Liberty were among the groups of men that assembled here. In fact, the Green Dragon was the site where one of America’s most famous historical events was planned.

    In 1773, the Sons of Liberty met at the Green Dragon to hash out the details of a plan to protest British Parliament’s Tea Act. The plan involved members of the Sons of Liberty dressing up as Mohawk Indians and sneaking onto the tea ships in Boston Harbor, where they would throw the chests of tea overboard. On December 16, 1773, they put their plan into action, dumping 342 chests of tea overboard into the harbor in an event that would later come to be known as the Boston Tea Party.

  • The Birth Of The United States Marine Corps

    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    In 1775, the Continental Congress drafted a resolution to assemble two battalions of soldiers that would fight on both land and sea. On November 10th, the resolution was approved and Samuel Nicholas, a prominent Philadelphian and tavern owner, was commissioned as the captain of the newly formed Continental Marines.

    Among his first recruits was a man by the name of Robert Mullan. Together, the two men went to the tavern and lured in potential recruits with the offering of free beer.  However, there is some debate regarding which tavern the men actually went to in order to carry out recruitment. Military lore maintains that the men did their recruiting at Tun Tavern. Tun Tavern was the first brew house built in Philadelphia and was owned by Robert Mullan. However, many historians argue that it most likely took place at a tavern called the Conestoga Wagon, which was owned by Nicholas. Regardless, the men raised two battalions of men that would become the first official United States Marines.

  • The St. Scholastica's Day Riot

    Photo: Photoglob Zürich / via Wikimedia Commons

    The English city of Oxford had a history of violence between townspeople and university scholars. Violent incidents occurred between the “town” and the “gown” all throughout the 1200s, with the crown often siding with the academics. This led to an increase in the power held by the university’s chancellor and left the town’s mayor with little authority.

    In 1335, some scholars voiced their unease in Oxford, which led to them gaining even more privileges from the king. Additionally, members of the University felt that the prices of food and drink were much too high, which often led to arguments between students and merchants. 

    One such argument took place on February 10, 1355. Students were drinking at Swyndlestock Tavern and they started complaining about the quality of the wine. A verbal battle between the students and the innkeeper ensued, until one of the students threw some wine at the innkeeper. A fight broke out and the townsmen rang the university church bell as a plea for support. Nearly 2,000 men came in from the country to help the townspeople. The townspeople and their supporters broke into the school and killed scholars in their quarters. Roughly 63 gownsmen and 30 townspeople were killed in the mayhem.

    The mayor rode to Woodstock to seek support from the king, but he again sided with the university and gave them the power to regulate the drink prices. The mayor and his accompaniment were forced to go to the university's church every St. Scholastica’s day and swear an oath that they would observe the university’s privilege in addition to paying a fine of 63 pence.