Abraham Lincoln was a great president, one of the greatest, but while the presidency defined his life in our minds, it was only a small part of the sum total of his life. His presidency ran from 1861 to his assassination on April 14, 1865, and subsequent death on April 15, 1865. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln was an amazing president and brought this country out of a dark time in our history.
Lincoln was a self-educated man, and he tried a number of occupations. One of them was bartending. It’s strange to think of President Lincoln as a licensed bartender. It’s not that there is anything wrong with bartending, and in fact, many American historical figures were involved in the alcohol industry. George Washington owned the largest whiskey distillery according to Mount Vernon’s official website, and according to Monticello’s website, Thomas Jefferson was also fascinated with beer brewing. Even Sam Adams, who was not a brewer, was involved in the industry, in that he made malt for the breweries. For his part, Lincoln, who would become the 16th president, opened up a bar called “Berry and Lincoln” with his friend William F Berry in New Salem, Illinois in 1833.
When Lincoln came home from serving in the Black Hawk War, which was the war between the United States and Native Americans, he didn’t really know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He thought about becoming a blacksmith, but then he reconnected with William Berry, who had been in his militia group. The two men hit it off, and eventually decided to open a general store in New Salem, Illinois. The store was called the Berry-Lincoln Grocery, and maybe it would have been better if this was as far as things went. At that time, stores were allowed to sell larger quantities of alcohol for drinking off-site. However, if they wanted their customers to be able to drink inside the sore, they would need to purchase a license. They were granted a tavern license which cost $7 in those days. Berry took charge of getting the license. They sold a variety of brandy flavors, including apple brandy, peach brandy, and even French brandy, among others. They also sold wine, rum, and two kinds of gin.
Lincoln wasn’t much interested in tending bar. He was more focused on serving as postmaster. So, it was decided that Barry would run the bar part of the store and Lincoln would run the store’s post office. For a time, the Berry-Lincoln Grocery did fine, but then things began to change. It turned out Berry was an alcoholic who took advantage of the store’s license to sell drinks. It gave him the ability to drink while working, and sometimes he was too drunk to function. So, Lincoln took more and more responsibility. Unfortunately, the whole situation led to the partners, taking on more debt. Eventually, Lincoln was done with the whole thing, and he sold his interest in the store to Berry in 1833. Just two years later, before Lincoln could be completely freed of the place, Berry died, leaving Lincoln to inherit the business’s debts. It was an awful situation, which was only resolved when Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1847, giving him enough of an income to clear the debts. Having had quite enough of the bartending/store owning industry, Lincoln became a lawyer and eventually a politician, which led to the great president we have all studied about, as well, of course, as his assassination.