Bernard McSherry and Richard Coale Tavern Ledgers, 1784-1791

The Bernard McSherry and Richard Coale Tavern Ledgers collection consists of two tavern ledgers kept by Bernard (Barney) McSherry (1764-1796) and Richard Coale (1760-1834), brothers-in-law who both operated taverns in Libertytown, Frederick County, Maryland. The ledgers document the sale of liquor and alcoholic drinks, as well as the hosting of games, dinners, shows, and other entertainment. Patrons listed in the ledgers include American Revolutionary War officers Ely Dorsey (1744–1803), Lilburn Williams (1748–1794), and William Lamar (circa 1755-1838), as well as members of the local free African American community.

The two ledgers cover largely overlapping time periods and contain similar content: selling alcohol by the glass, along with occasional other merchandise. McSherry's ledger has a cash journal and memoranda pages going back to 1784, with most of the ledger accounts running from April 1787 to June 1788. He sold grog, wine, hot toddy, cider, rum, and at least twice a "ticket to the show" (pages 7 and 12). Coale's ledger is more wide-ranging and divided into two sections. His original business was more like a general store that sold occasional liquor. In addition to rum, punch, and brandy, he also sold textiles, tea, and sugar. A name index in the rear covers only the first section. His entries begin in November 1786 and the first section extends through October 1788. The second section is a tavern ledger and runs from September 1788 to early 1791. In this section, liquor sales to Abraham, an African American man, are recorded on page 7, and another customer is charged for "the hire of negro Peter" on page 24, which likely refers to an enslaved person. Coale's ledger also includes charges for dinners, suppers, "the Ball," and a gaming club. It appears that Coale may have taken over McSherry's tavern in mid 1788.

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