|The saloon has been called the
“workingman’s club” because it provided an alternative social outlet
for the working classes. It could also have been called the
“workingwoman’s club” since women were both the owners and clientele of
the saloons. In reality, the saloon was far more than just a drinking
club as it provided a large portion of the social services for new
immigrants, the poor and the working classes in the cities from the
mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century. If this club was so
popular (it was), and so fundamental (it was), why was so much effort
expended to close it? Saloon culture began as an integral part of
the emerging cities and became an urban pariah that was finally
vanquished in 1919. This paper examines the rise and fall of the saloon
culture in Toledo, Ohio.
Shortly after the settlement of North American colonial seaports came the establishment of taverns, saloons or ordinaries that functioned as common meeting places and hotels for travelers, merchants, and new settlers. The first tavern in the colonies opened on 4 March 1634 in Boston (Bridenbaugh 108). In Toledo, the saloon predated the official founding of the city in 1833 by almost two decades. The earliest drinking establishment in Toledo was the Old Oliver Warehouse built in 1817 and until 1832 it was the only place for entertainment in the city (Waggoner 818). The original proprietor, Marquis Baldwin, operated the warehouse near Swan Creek, and the Maumee River as a hotel for prospectors and incoming settlers and as a location for public gatherings and social events.(VanTassel 1539). Baldwin’s son, Captain John T. Baldwin established the first saloon in 1828 located in the old Port Lawrence warehouse advertised as “Tavern, by John Baldwin” (VanTassel 1539). In 1834, Ira C. Smith opened the Eagle Tavern located “on the side of Summit Street next to the river, between Elm and Lagrange Streets” (Waggoner 517-518).
Prior to 1860, hotels and saloons were listed jointly in the Toledo city directory but from 1868 to 1879, five different types of saloons were listed separately; billiard, bowling, boarding, lager beer and general saloons, indicating some of the specialized services provided. Toledo’s first saloons were centered on the city’s early transportation center boarded by the banks of the Maumee River, Swan Creek, and the canals. In 1880 there were 294 saloons in Toledo or one for every 168 inhabitants. By 1918 there were 361saloons, or one for every 771 inhabitants (Scott’s Toledo City Directory 1918). Many saloons were located on the first floor of residences and operated in conjunction with other businesses, generally boarding houses, groceries, cigar stores or pharmacies. The photograph of the Fuchs saloon dates to around 1891 and shows the family quarters located above the saloon.
Some saloons offered adjoining meeting halls, such as Rensch’s Hall, in connection with his wholesale wine and grocery store. Henry and John Textor operated Textor’s Hall in connection with the family saloons in East Toledo.
From the 1860s women operated saloons, most frequently, boarding saloons. Female saloonkeepers were often widows who operated a saloon to support the family after the husband’s death or married women who supplemented the family income as a subsidiary of her daily household functions. Single women also became saloon keepers as Matilda Gaetschenberger’s Bush Street saloon operated from 1868 to 1874. Many women remained briefly in the saloon business until remarried, while others remained in business for many years. Some, like Wurzinger’s boarding house and saloon, were a family affair.
Louisa Stahl’s saloon on Monroe Street operated from 1868 to 1885 and Anna Mary Textor’s Miami Street saloon in East Toledo operated from 1884 until 1917. Between 1880 and 1890, the majority of female operated saloons were centered in the urban core, close to the transportation and industrial centers (Polk’s Toledo City Directories 1880-1890). After 1880, a greater percentage of these saloons operated in the tenderloin and were havens of vice, gambling and prostitution. One of the most infamous and enduring saloons was operated by Martin and Kate Evoy. Martin, an Irish immigrant, opened the saloon in 1868 at the corner of St. Clair and Lafayette Street.
By 1872 both Evoys appeared regularly in the Toledo City Jail records charged with operating a brothel (City Police Department Jail Registers, 1872-1882). After Martin’s death, Kate took over the saloon and eventually expanded her operation to include four saloons. In 1905, at the age of seventy, Kate finally closed her saloons. Today the shadow of Toledo’s Fifth Third baseball field falls on the door of Martin and Kate Evoy’s 1868 saloon.
African Americans were also saloonkeepers. Of the five African American families in Toledo identified in 1860, John B. Tilton becomes the first black saloonkeeper in 1868. In order to remain in business, his clientele must have incorporated all races. By 1869 there were four African American saloons, amounting to four percent of Toledo’s 116 saloons. Of the four, William Carter and B. W. Mayo operated boarding saloons, John H. Douglas -- a billiard saloon, and C. Thompson -- a general saloon. From 1880 to 1899, the number of black operated saloons decreased (or were no longer identified in the city directory) and relocated. This geographical shift reflected the resettlement of poor white, black, and ethnic neighborhoods out of the urban core and by 1919 Canton Street was popularly referred to as the badlands and had the highest concentration of African Americans in the city (Toledo Blade 8 January 1915). Mr. Pearl L. Barber operated a high profile saloon with a bad reputation and political connections
In an early morning raid in 1904 on Barber’s “Negro gambling joint and resort,” police found thirteen men at various gambling tables. The men were charged with being in a saloon after midnight and fined $10 plus court costs while Barber was charged with keeping his saloon open after midnight and permitting gambling in a saloon. In return for his guilty plea he was given a twenty-day sentence and a $30 fine plus costs. Brand Whitlock (Mayor of Toledo, 1906-1913) appeared in Barber’s defense to request imposition of a fine instead of a workhouse sentence (Toledo Blade 6 August 1904). The mayor’s appeal was unsuccessful and Barber served his full sentence. In a previous conviction and workhouse sentence, Barber had enough influence to obtain a release on parole (Toledo News Bee 8 August 1904).
Barber, an African American married to a white woman, died in a 1930 traffic accident, a wealthy and respected member of the city. Josephine Lawson was Toledo’s first female African American saloonkeeper. She was never as successful as either Barber or Kate Evoy. She had a saloon in 1882 in partnership with John Graden, who had been arrested nine times in the previous year for operating a brothel. By 1883, Lawson ended her partnership with Graden and relocated (Polk’s City Directories 1881-1883). John Graden’s saloons located in the red light district, were the source of many disturbances and police visits. Graden was not the most facile thinker. When a customer, Edward Larow, filed a complaint alleging that he had lost $20 in Graden’s saloon and the police raided the saloon and arrested several people, Graden swore out a warrant against Larow for visiting a house of ill fame, thus identifying his other illegal operation. This resulted in his arrest and conviction (Toledo Daily Blade 18 June 1880).
Saloonkeepers were charged with causing disturbances, keeping a house of ill fame (brothel), assault and battery, keeping a disorderly house, larceny, being drunk and disorderly, abusing their families or carrying a concealed weapon. By 1882 new charges were added such as violating municipal and liquor ordinances, fire, street railway and health ordinances, the Hay ordinance, remaining open on Election Day, selling unsanitary liquor and selling liquor to minors. Surprisingly, the majority of these arrests occurred on Wednesdays or Thursdays while the fewest occurred on Sunday. Oliver H. “Fatty” Squires opened his saloon described in the local newspaper as one of the most tastefully furnished “sample rooms” in Toledo. “While his patrons pay close attention in sampling the quality of his goods, not a little comment is excited by his gallery of cartoons, furnished by Thompson, the eminent artist” (Edwards 283). In 1878 he relocated to accommodate his increased clientele as “Oliver H. ‘Fatty’ Squire’s Cartoon Saloon.” At a date prior to 7 December 1881, Squires was arrested and charged with having possession of fifteen obscene pictures, namely his highly publicized cartoons. In consideration of the tender feelings of the Grand Jury, the prosecutor would only describe two of these pictures Toledo Daily Blade 7 December 1881). On 23 December 1881, Squires pleaded guilty and was fined the minimum of $50 on the understanding that the obscene pictures would be destroyed (Toledo Daily Blade 23 December 1881). In May 1882 he was arrested and jailed for safekeeping, a charge used to place children and drunks in protective custody. Repeated arrests and alcohol took their toll on Squires who by the end of 1883 was out of the saloon business.
Early saloons added entertainment such as music, dancing, billiards or other illicit past times for their patrons. Dance and concert halls were often associated with saloons and vice. Charles N. Dixon’s operated a saloon from 1885 to 1905 and in its final years it had expanded to several buildings housing a saloon, vaudeville, and restaurant.
According to the local paper “Almost any saloon room will do for a concert hall. Its size makes little difference, just so it is large enough for a hole-in-the-wall stage and a few tables where drinks may be served. The bar is generally in the same room. In some of them an admission fee is charged while in others it is not”(Toledo Daily Blade 4 August 1904). Women in the concert halls were expected to entice patrons into buying drinks while “cappers” would pick the pockets of the customers or steal their possessions after they lost consciousness. The slang term capper refers to a shill in a card game who pretends to make money or acts as a decoy for gamblers. “Wine room” was the slang term for saloons with attached rooms where prostitutes conducted business.
With the arrival of the street railways, saloons began incorporating transportation into their names and by 1907 saloons advertised their association with the streetcar, interurban and street railway systems. The Interurban Café was located on the street railway line; McCormick’s Winter Garden noted it was next door to the interurban station; the Exchange Saloon and the Transfer Café opened in 1909 and in 1915 the Chief Café advertised that its rear entrance was located near the interurban station (The Official Yearbook of the Central Labor Union of Toledo and Vicinity, 1915). In 1916 the Idle Hour Café told its patrons to take the Long Belt car to the saloon (Ibid. 53). It was not uncommon for a saloon to have two separate entrances, one from the transportation terminal and one from the street to attract commuters and pedestrians. Suburban commuters made use of the saloons conveniently situated at the terminal points of the railway or interurban lines thereby removing the need to have a saloon in the neighborhoods. Zielinski’s saloon at the corner of Junction and Vance shows the change in clientele that came with the “transit saloon” in 1913.
The ability of transit riders to drink at the saloons adjacent to transportation made it possible for the prohibition forces to argue against having saloons in more rural areas. The argument that saloons should not be allowed in residential areas found favor with the local option movement and eventually led to the passage of the Volstead Act and national prohibition.This supported the aims of the local option movement to vote in dry counties and districts which eventually led to the passage of the Volstead Act.
Saloons also served as meeting places and hiring halls. Labor unions were often viewed as subversive associations and these fears escalated after the violence of the Great Railroad strike of 1877. Unions were refused the right to meet in the public rooms of schools and churches and the cost of renting a regular meeting hall was too high. The saloon provided unions with a convenient and inexpensive alternative. There was no charge for the meeting room but it was understood that each man had to contribute his nickel for the purchase of a schooner (glass) of beer. Unionized or not, workers were the beneficiaries of the saloon culture. Saloons operated as hiring halls for those who sought employment and saloons such as The Corn Exchange (1865), Thayer’s Exchange, Oil Exchange (1896), Horseshoe Exchange, and the Exchange Saloon advertised their dual roles as saloon and hiring hall to prospective clientele. Saloons used their names to advertise ethnicity (The Germania), clientele (Merchant’s Hotel Bar), or accessibility to mass transportation (The Interurban Café).
Saloons served a political function as ward clubs where clientele could exchange their vote for the price of a drink or for cash, thereby making the saloonkeeper and his customers the focal point of ward politics. The homogeneity of the clientele allowed for a cohesive block of voters. In the mid-nineteenth century, an area known as The Hill contained a number of cheap boarding houses and rough saloons that catered to the Irish canal workers, stevedores and longshoremen working in Toledo who could be encouraged to vote as a bloc (Zieren 53). The saloonkeeper had the latest political and sporting news and people gravitated to the saloon for information.
Free lunches and a “growler” (a slang term for a tin pail used to purchase and transport beer) for work or home provided those who worked 10 to 12 hour shifts with sustenance and a place to relax. Women could send a child to the saloon for a growler to enjoy at home. Saloons opened as early as 5:00 a.m. to accommodate those working the early morning shift. The availability of alcohol and the increasing consumption on the job by employees raised concerns with employers and the clergy. “Blue Mondays” referred to chronic absences by employees because of overconsumption of alcohol on weekends reduced profitability and increased accidents on the job site. By the beginning of the twentieth century both the temperance and social reformers were focused on trying to find acceptable substitutes for the saloons. The Pastors Union of Toledo suggested opening dry saloons or places of alternative dry entertainment across the street from the saloons (New York Daily Tribune 26 April 1899). Early temperance workers had forced the saloons to serve food as a means to reduce drunkenness. The success of the “free lunch” that was served to anyone paying a nickel for a beer, caused their tactics to change. To reduce the lure of the saloon, the free lunch was banned and only limited snacks were to be provided. That is why today we are left with the ubiquitous popcorn, pretzels ,and peanuts to accompany our drink.
Technical innovations created alternative social outlets not focused on alcohol and two of these were the automobile and the nickelodeon. The automobile further facilitated the rise of suburbs and by 1890 the migration to the suburbs of Maumee and Perrysburg had begun. Along with automobiles, expanded telephone service, improved bottling techniques and new caps on bottled beer came delivery service that took the consumer out of the saloon. In 1915 Huebner Beer advertised home delivery of a case of beer using six “auto trucks” available for same day deliveries at a cost of $1.50 for twenty-four large or thirty-six small bottles of beer.(CLU Yearbook 1915, 28). Krantz Old Dutch bottled beer advertised a similar delivery service for $2.00 for thirty-six small bottles of beer, but because of competition they reduced the cost to $1.75 in the following year (CLU Yearbook 1916, 22). The burgeoning middle class no longer had to enter the workingman’s club.
The nickelodeon provided entertainment that could be enjoyed by the whole family for a nickel, the price of a glass of beer. As the earliest films were silent, they could be enjoyed by everyone, including non-English speaking immigrants. The nickelodeons were located in storefronts and other locations in neighborhoods where the saloons had once been located. Some saloonkeepers added movies as entertainment for their customers. With the increasing popularity of the nickelodeons, many people decided that they could get more entertainment for their nickel than just a glass of beer. A 1910 Chicago survey noted that the largest occupational group other than salesmen or clerks to enter the theater business was the saloonkeepers (Woodard 361).
The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 aided the prohibition forces by closing public places of entertainment through quarantine legislation. By 26 October 1919, there were 116 influenza related deaths in Toledo along with 63 deaths from pneumonia. Henry Miller was arrested for keeping his saloon open in defiance of the mayor’s quarantine order (Toledo Daily Blade 26 October 1918). However the most effective weapon in the war on alcohol was another war, World War One. Food rationing and anti-German sentiment rapidly accomplished what years of temperance campaigns could not. The result of this anti-German sentiment was the decline in patronage of German businesses. Many of Toledo’s saloonkeepers were ethnic Germans and after 1910 in an attempt to remove the German stigma saloon names were Anglicized. The Elite Wintergarten was rechristened the Elite Wintergarden to remove the German spelling and the following year it reopened as McCormick’s Winter Garden with an obviously non-German ownership (Polk’s Toledo City Directories 1909-1911).
With prohibition set to take effect on 27 May 1919, brewery owned saloons sought new ways to bring patrons back to the dry saloons now called soft drink parlors or social centers. Brewers hoped that the government would permit production of “near beer” with an alcohol content of 2.75 percent or less. Huebner Toledo Brewing Company developed a near beer called Ledo and the City Brewing Company produced one called Preferred Stock. All of the breweries intended to maintain their saloon leases in the hope that prohibition legislation could be overturned. Their hopes were not to become reality.
On that final Saturday night, 24 May 1919, celebrations in the restaurants and saloons of Toledo were relatively restrained. Most drinking places were filled to capacity by 9:00 p.m. in anticipation of the introduction of prohibition at the stroke of midnight. Between May 24 and 26 there were one hundred arrests for being drunk and disorderly, and many were soldiers and revelers from Michigan and Pennsylvania. Michigan had already gone dry and came to celebrate the end of John Barleycorn in Toledo (Toledo Blade 19 June 1919). On Sunday, May 25, members of the Toledo branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union held a mock burial service for John Barleycorn at St. Paul’s Church. The speaker, Mary Harris Armour (nicknamed the Georgia Cyclone) told her audience that saloonkeepers did not go to heaven. She further linked the influenza epidemic to alcohol and warned that had prohibition not been voted in there would have been an epidemic of mental illness, as science had proven that liquor caused insanity. She further stated that alcohol lowered the moral tone of society and led to Bolshevism. She predicted that German brewers would take the liquor traffic to the Orient and convince the Asian hordes to spread anti-American propaganda (Toledo News Bee 26 May 1919).
Closed saloons put signs in their front windows with messages such as “Gone but not forgotten,” “Back soon,” “We’re not kicking and there are no kicks in our soft drinks,” and “Voters didn’t think and now they can’t drink”(Toledo News Bee 26 May 1919). The lights in the saloons were finally extinguished, but the drinking continued in Toledo. After prohibition was repealed, drinking establishments reopened but the workingmen’s clubs were forever changed and the word saloon disappears from common use. Today’s drinking establishments can never approach the social impact of the early saloons. Almost every facet of daily life revolved around the saloon; employment, political action, news, mail, banking, social interaction and, yes, vice. The sale and consumption of alcohol had become big business by the beginning of the twentieth century and the small independent saloonkeeper became obsolete. Saloons today are sanitized and legislated for your protection.
Bridenbaugh, Carl. Cities in the Wilderness: Urban Life in America, 1625-1742. New York: Capricorn Books, 1964.
City Police Department Jail Registers. Toledo: Police Department, 1872-1882.
Edwards, Richard, ed. Toledo Historical and Descriptive, the Business and Business Men in 1876. Toledo: Toledo Commercial Company, 1876.
Polk’s Toledo (Lucas County, Ohio) City Directory. Taylor, MI: R. L Polk
Polk’s Toledo City Directory, Scott Division. Taylor, MI: R. L. Polk
The Official Yearbook of the Central Labor Union of Toledo and Vicinity. Toledo: Toledo Legal Printing Co., 1915, 1917, 1919.
Toledo Daily Blade
Toledo News Bee
New York Daily Tribune
VanTassel, Charles Sumner. Story of the Maumee Valley, Toledo and the Sandusky Region, Vol. 2. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1929.
Waggoner, Clark. History of the City of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio. New York: Munsell & Co., 1888.
Woodard, Adele F. “The motion-picture theater as a saloon substitute,” in Raymond
Calkins, Substitutes for the Saloons: An Investigation Originally Made for the Committee of Fifty, 2nd Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1919.
Zieren, Gregory R. “The Propertied Worker: Working Class Formation in Toledo, Ohio 1879-1900.” PhD Dissertation, University of Delaware, 1981.
(c)Arnette Hawkins 2010