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Dens of Vice: A 19th Century Pub Crawl

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The New York 19th Century Society is co-sponsoring its first event, “The 19th Century Pub Crawl,” which will take place on the Lower East Side Saturday night.  Open to anyone interested in participating, historically minded imbibers should meet at 5pm in front of the Merchant’s House Museum, 29 East Fourth Street between Lafayette and Bowery.  Festivities will begin across the street at Swift Hibernian Lounge,34 East 4th Street, before continuing to “several of New York City’s oldest bars and most notorious dens of vice,” according to the group’s website.  Bars on the route include McSorely’s Old Ale House, Pete’s Tavern, Old Town Bar, and should they “still possess the fortitude and
sobriety,” P.J. Clarke’s.

The group’s purpose is to reconstruct and study all aspects of 19th century life and they are concerned with everything from literature to food, fashion to social rituals.  “We wanted to start a re-enactment society that doesn’t focus on war,” says Eva Ulz, co-founder of the New York 19th Century Society.  The group does not avoid war as a theme, but they are more broadly curious about day-to-day life surrounding historic events, any events, so long as they happened between 1800-1899.

Anyone is welcome to join re-enactors or participate in the online community at The New York 19th Century Society.  Ulz (along with fellow founders Ilana Kohn, Sarah Lohman, and Zoh Rothberg) hopes that historians, re-enactors, costumers, and anyone else with a desire for an ongoing conversation about the past will get involved.  Future events include a reading of food depictions from 19th century writers (think
Melville, Dickens, and Poe) paired with authentic preparations of the food described.  Another idea being discussed is a 19th century fashion show, which may include a time-period appropriate strip tease. Several of the members are costumers including Ulz, who has already sewn a 19th century servant’s costume and a ball gown.

What does one wear to a 19th Century pub crawl? According to the group’s Facebook page, “Nineteenth century dress is encouraged, but by no means required.”  As Ulz’s own blog asserts, in the 19th century, no proper lady would have gone to a pub in the first place!


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