The establishment of taverns was a vital tradition among early colonists, who brought with them to the new country the practice of drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages. Not only did the early taverns provide food, liquor and lodging for travelers, but they frequently served as de facto town meeting houses and courthouses. Drinking alcoholic beverages was commonly seen as not only acceptable, but beneficial. But drunkenness was considered undesirable and various local laws such as those regulating the establishment of closing times, limitation on the volume of liquor served, and fines for the excessive drinker and/or the server were not uncommon.
Prior to 1820, taverns dominated as drinking establishments, but their replacement by hotels with their “hotel bars” offered an alternative, and by 1850 saloons were prominent. On the urban East coast, these generally took the form of politically-oriented saloons, while on the American frontier saloons were commonly characterized as having swinging doors, a long bar, spittoons, and tables for playing cards, but the variety of saloons was in fact immense. By 1900, there were an estimated 300,000 U.S. saloons, three times the number in 1870.