In 19th Century New York City there were once 10,000 taverns but now there are just 5 original ones left, McSorley’s among them, and it’s at 15 East 7th St in the East Village. It has a sign outside saying it was built in 1854 but sharp eyed historical research puts it’s start date at 1861, though no one is insisting the proudful sign be altered.
The founder John McSorely made his own ale in light and dark and to this day it is the only alcohol served. If you ask for one drink you will be given 2, served in small mugs with half the space taken up with froth. As you can see from the video the Ale House is filled with pictures, old framed newspapers and much dusty historical memorablia. Of course famous New Yorkers from politicians to artists of every kind to crooks have all been in here at some time: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Boss Tweed, Woody Guthrie and Leroi Jones, the list goes on and on.
Famously it was an all male bar until Civil rights lawyers Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow, acting for the National Organization of Women, entered the bar in 1969 to hoops and hollors from the men present. Once they asked for a drink they were shown the door. They sued and in 1970 Mayor John V Lindsay barred discrimination in public places after a landmark federal ruling in their favor. It is strange to think that it is only 45 years since this raucous male bastion had to open its doors to women, that it was so recent that New York women couldn’t go anywhere they liked.
This is indeed a very historic pub made more so by its traditions such as the sale of the original ale and its whole reason for being seems to like that of a venerable elder in the community, it’s a place that pre-eminently holds events and memories thick within its walls. It is of course deeply Irish in its traditions but its now New York Irish to its bootstraps, the warp and weft of the old country now thoroughly woven into the reality of a New York society that reflects the richness of its total immigrant history not just that of the Irish.