How and why did saloons develop in America? Simply put, hungry men needed food and thirsty men needed drinks.
Men chose saloons for what was offered in addition to alcohol. They could find local newspapers with the news of the day. The local gossip was always available. Politics and politicians were also discussed and cussed.
Some saloons served some free or nearly free meals. Fancy saloons served gourmet buffets with savory meatballs, fancy imported cheeses, hickory-cured ham, and other delicious food. The meals were served on long tables with white tablecloths, plates and flatware. Plainer saloons served cold cuts, yellow cheeses, beans, celery stalks, and salted foods like pretzels, rye bread, smoked herring, peanuts, potato chips and dill pickles. The salt created thirsty men which meant more beer sales.
German saloon owners might serve blood sausage and other types of German sausages to tempt patrons. Italian barkeepers might serve calzones and pepperoni. Some bars had daily specials like hot dogs on Monday, roast beef on Saturday, or baked fish on Friday. Some tavern owners would up the ante by advertising: “A fried oyster, a clam, or hard-boiled egg with every drink”.
In many places, patrons had to buy a drink for 15 cents (one bit) or two drinks for 25 cents (two bits) before they could partake of the “free lunch”. The foods available might have been cold roast beef, corned beef, sardines, oysters, sandwiches, clams, clam juice and bouillon. In the cheapest of places, a patron could buy a glass of beer for 5 cents. The food offerings in such places included pretzels, crackers, bits of cheese and sausage, a salt pickle or radish.
Most saloons had no bar stools, tables or chairs, so the patrons had to stand while drinking or eating. Most of the saloons of the early era had brass or ceramic spittoons since many of the men chewed tobacco. This caused many of the floors and bars to be stained with tobacco juice. There were usually foot rails at the bottom of the front bar to stand more comfortably. Some saloons had elaborate back bars to match.
Many of the elaborate ones were by Brunswick, Rothchild, and Charles Passow and Son. The Black Cat Saloon in Effingham had one such model on West Fayette Avenue. The backbars came in single arch and triple arch versions. The companies made them in oak, mahogany and walnut varieties. Some were even lighted. It was definitely a man’s domain where respectable women were not allowed or dared not enter. Whiskey, beer, gambling, cigars, pool, profanity and spittoons were the man’s world.
The vice activities and sometimes violence of some saloons became so notorious that the Anti-Saloon League was formed in Ohio in 1893. There was a chapter in Effingham. Other groups like the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and many others battled the saloon owners nationwide. Prohibition came to America with the ratification of the 18th amendment in 1920 outlawing the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcoholic beverage in the United States until 1932.
After researching other topics for my Effingham Daily News’ museum page articles, I noticed many ads in the old city directories for liquor merchants in Effingham. They were listed under “saloons” and “liquor dealers”. They were mainly located in the downtown area. Some had the merchants' names, while other had catchy names for their saloons. The saloons were in business before 1895 until the passage of Prohibition.
Some of the liquor merchants/saloon keepers during the early part of Effingham’s history included Otto, Adolph, and Mr. and Mrs. E. Reutlinger, Jacob Reutber, Martin Quigley, Robert Clark, William Behrning, Ed and Adolph Druen, T.R. Eaton, Joe Lowary, John Feldhake, Michaelree and McCoy, John Barlage, Ed H. Jacobs, Charles Pett, L. Barnett, J. Rhodes, Pit Brahmstadt, Adelbert Gravenhorst, H. Arendt, William Schnabelius, Joseph Partridge, George Stephan, H. and Anna Vogt, Rickelman and Langhorst, W.B. Cooper, Althoff Brothers, Anton Gaertner, and Henry Vogt.
Otto, Adolph, and Mr. and Mrs. E. Reutlinger owned a saloon on the south side of the square near where Anderson’s Jewelry is today. It was called the Silver Moon Saloon. One ad in the 1895 city directory said “Otto Reutlinger, Proprietor SILVER MOON Saloon and Sample Room 105 E. Jefferson Street. A choice line of Domestic and Imported Wines, Liquors, and Cigars constantly on hand. Call and see me”. In another of his ads it said “Highland Brewing Company., Highland ILL. Half Barrels, Kegs, and Half Kegs. Always on hand. Schott’s Celebrated Edelweis for family use. Delivered Free to any Part of the City. Otto Reutlinger, agent, Effingham, ILL”. By 1912, the saloon became the Silver Moon Restaurant operated by Mrs. A.R. Woidt. She advertised “Best Meals and Short Orders in Town - Ice Cream, Candy and Cigars.” Thus, the Reutlinger families were large volume liquor merchants in Effingham. They owned another saloon named the Eldorado Saloon.
Ada Kepley was the first female law school graduate in the United States in 1870. Her husband, Henry, encouraged her study of the law 1869-1870 at the Old University of Chicago Law department. That school eventually became Northwestern University. Because of Illinois state laws, women lawyers couldn’t practice law until 1881.
Ada and her husband, Henry, were then land speculators in county properties. They lived on South Banker Street where the Washington Savings and Loan parking lot is now. Kepley earned a Ph.D. in theology from Austin College in Effingham. She was also an ordained minister in the Unitarian Church. Ada knew Frances Willard of the WCTU, which had an office in Effingham. She also knew Susan B. Anthony of the National Woman Suffrage Association. Her idol was Carrie Amelia Nation, who was known to enter bars and clear off the liquor bottles on the backbar with a hatchet. She described herself as “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.” She was also involved with the WCTU in Texas.
Kepley became interested in social causes like temperance, equal rights for women, and women’s suffrage (voting rights). She established the Band of Hope for children who pledged never to drink that demon alcohol. Ada also published a monthly newspaper called The Friend of Home. In it, she openly attacked saloons and their patrons in her articles. She saw alcohol as a social issue because of the money men spent on liquor instead of their families. Ada would sit outside the saloons and record who their patrons were. She would then report them in her newspaper. This angered saloon keepers (and wives) enough that the son of one of them broke into their home and attempted to shoot her. He missed and hit one of the dogs in the foot.
Ada and Henry bought an old church on South Fifth Street and named it The Temple. There she would hold temperance meetings, rallies, marches, etc. against the liquor establishments in Effingham and Teutopolis. As a result of her anti-alcohol views and activities, she and the Otto Reutlinger families clashed with words and actions. Otto accosted her on a public street slapping and shaking her several times over a comment she had made about his mother in her newspaper. Ada moved from Effingham to Wildcat Hollow south of town after Henry died in 1906. There she wrote her book "A Farm Philosopher, A Love Story" in 1912.
Here are the names and information about some of the other early liquor dealers in Effingham.
• Henry Vogt was a dealer in wines, liquors and cigars, as well as the leading brands of beer, ale and champagne. His store was located at 111 South Banker Street.
• W.B. Cooper handled beer for the Anheuser Brewing Association of St. Louis, Missouri. The association advertised, “The highest award given it at the World’s Columbian Exposition has now been confirmed by the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., thus placing our brands of beer above those of our competitors.” W.B. Cooper was the resident manager in the Effingham office.
• Fred Brahmstadt was a dealer in fine imported and domestic wines and liquors. He handled the leading brands of champagne, beer, tobacco and cigars. His shop was located at the corners of Railroad and Center Streets.
• Michaelree & McCoy were wholesale liquor dealers at the Health Office Saloon. They were the exclusive dealers of Rudolph Stecher beers, both draft and in bottles. They also sold malt cream, which was absolutely non-intoxicating and required no government license to sell it. His ad read, “We carry all the leading brands of whiskey, wines and liquors. Mail orders were promptly filled, but the money must come with the order from 'dry territories.'” Their telephone was 309.
• The Pacific House Annex Bar was operated by Thomas Smith at 423 South Banker Street. A vintage ad said his business provided polite attention and good service. The ad further said, “Marquette rye and all the finest kinds of wine for family use in the sick room. Also, a fine line of wines and liquors always on hand.”
• Adelbert Gravenhorst operated his saloon at 101 N. Fourth Street. Gravenhorst was an entrepreneur who was in the banking business, butcher block business, founded the Effingham Volksblatt German newspaper, served on the Effingham City Council and was Effingham fire chief. In 1892, the Conrad Boos family sold the Gravenhorst family John Boos and Company, which is still in business today.
• Adolph Druen owned a store at 113 S. Banker Street. He sold fine wines and liquors, including Anheuser Busch, Central, Pabst Blue Ribbon and Falstaff beers. Adolph also sold cigars and tobacco. His ad read, “The right place for a pleasant smile”. Adolph’s phone number was No. 375.
• The Farmers Home Saloon was operated by Jacob Reuther. It was located at 600 Center Street with a phone number of 67 R. He advertised that Highland Beer was on tap and standard brands of liquors. He also sold cigars, tobacco and lunch.
• Joe Lowary operated Joe’s Place at 112 South Banker Street. He was a dealer in fine wines, liquors and cigars. The phone number was No. 321.
• Clark’s Place was operated by Robert Clark. He sold wines, liquors and cigars. His ad read “The Best Place in Town to get the finest drinks known.” His saloon was located west of the Illinois Central Railroad tracks at the depot. His phone number was 311-1.
• T.R. Eaton operated Eaton’s Saloon at 305 West Jefferson Street. He sold fine whiskies, wines and cigars. Anheuser-Busch beer was sold by the bottle and draft. His phone number was 77.
• The Last Chance Saloon was operated by William Behrning at the corner of National Avenue and Banker Street. His phone number was 57.
• John Barlage operated the Dew Drop Inn at 202 W. Jefferson Avenue. His ad read “Anheuser-Bush on tap. He also sold wines, liquors, cigars and tobacco.”
• Jacob’s Buffet was owned by Edward H. Jacobs at 114 West Jefferson Ave. He sold all the best standard brands of liquors and cigars. His motto was “The Place for a pleasant smile and something good.” His phone number was 107.
• Rickelman & Langhorst owned a saloon featuring fine wines and the best brand liquors always on hand. The saloon sold the celebrated Heim Beer, a specialty.
Thus, Effingham has a long history of saloons/bars operating in the city. The nature of the businesses remain the same — to sell alcohol. Only the accompanying entertainment and food offerings have changed in the modern era.
Resources: Effingham County Illinois City and County Directories 1912
Effingham Illinois City Directories 1895-1900
Saloon Fare: Back in My Time: A Writer’s Guide to the 19th Century
Saloons, Bars, and Cigar Stores: Historical Interior Photographs.