Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Today in 1796, the first elephant landed in America. He came from India and when he got here, he went on tour. Tavern-owning Johnson Proctor of Salem, Mass., wanted to cash in on the elephant craze and so, painted an elephant on the sign for his tavern. It's unclear whether Proctor had actually seen the elephant before he painted it, since the proportions are off.

As if that weren't enough interesting history for today, if the name John Proctor sounds familiar, it's because he was a descendant of John Proctor, who lost his life to the Salem witch hysteria. The Proctors were all tavern owners and John, Sr. is one of America's first famous proprietors. It's my theory that he was also one of the instigators of America's first recorded tax revolt to take place in a tavern. (First, but not nearly last, as you'll discover in my book, which argues that everything interesting that ever happened in America started in a tavern.) So you should definitely buy America Walks Into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. (OUP - June release but you can pre-order on Amazon.)

BTW, I think the elephant's name was Stampy.