Source: The Briny Heart
The crew of the I’m Alone, minus one boatswain. Captain Randell on the left in wehite pants.
Passion and Damnation: Rum Running on the East Coast.
People have been drinking alcohol for a very long time – over 10,000 years, if we’re to believe the evidence left behind by stone age jugs. And for a long time, it was what people drank instead of water, which could be unreliably dirty and full of disease. In the middle ages, low-alcohol ale and wine were consumed at the rate of about a gallon a day per person. This consumption may seem shocking to us but it was a big part of the daily caloric intake – and if you are performing physical labor all day, these calories were very important. The fact that the drink was fermented meant it could keep, and it was easy to administer. Down the hatch it goes.
But then in the 1600 and 1700s distilling became popular and the next thing you know, high alcohol content brandy, eau de vie were seen as not only delicious but even medicinal. Not to be content with what the French were producing, the English got gin – also known as Mother’s Ruin. You could buy it just about everywhere and it was far cheaper than brandy or French wines. If you consider that the life of the average person living in a big city like London in the 1700s was pretty much a steaming shower of shit from dawn til dusk, having a readily available supply of very potent alcohol, led to some pretty predictable results.
Over in the Caribbean, by the mid-1600s the sugarcane plantation owners were marketing a little something they distilled called killdevil or rumbuillion, which was eventually shortened to rum. This alcohol, made with sugarcane juice or molasses, became a large part in the culture of the islands where it originated, as well as the east coast of North America, and was a key element in everyting from the American Revolution to a Rum Rebellion in Australia – but most famously, in the rum running on the high seas during American Prohibition in the 1920 and 30s.
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