History ETDs


Adam Blahut

Publication Date



This dissertation explores the history of public drinking extending a rich historiography of U.S. drinking establishments into the twentieth century by examining the creation of the heterosocial bar. It has only been socially acceptable for respectable men and women to drink alcohol together in public since approximately the 1930s. The transition from the saloon to the bar, from a single, undivided space that emphasized large groups, physical mobility, and homosociability to a compartmentalized space emphasizing small groups, privacy, and heterosociability, shows how public drinking and the places where it occurred were microcosms of society that reflected and constituted that society over the course of the twentieth century. The history of the bar helps us understand the historiographies of public drinking, male and female gender identity, and consumer culture. The bar emerged from the saloon as a result of changes in consumption and gender identity during the twentieth century. Public drinking was one of the customs by which men and women constructed and reinforced their identities, and a reciprocal relationship existed between how they viewed themselves and how they created and recreated the establishments where they drank. Drinkers influenced the formation of the new public drinking culture of the bar by using the space of public drinking establishments to perform their gender identities. Men tried to use the saloon and then the bar to struggle against changes that threatened their status and self-conception as males. Meanwhile, middle-class women increasingly emerged into public, changing the norms of female gender identity by claiming access to alcohol in public settings in a way that both reflected and reinforced their new status. Prohibition and the conflicts surrounding the heterosocialization of public drinking influenced the new model for drinking establishments and fostered a less gendered, more private drinking culture. The saloon-to-bar transformation also depoliticized these businesses, which contributed to the deradicalization of the working class. The saloon-to-bar transition represented not only the creation of a new public drinking culture but also the emergence of new standards for gender and consumption.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Ball, Larry

Second Committee Member

Hutton, Paul

Third Committee Member

Wood, Sharon



Document Type