Hidden Gems of the HCHS Collections

brewer_manuel_cover_smallOver the past few years, one of the principal duties of the HCHS Manuscript Curator has been to survey our collections and inventory them into an automated (in other words, computerized) catalogue. Considering the fact that we have been collecting materials for over 115 years, and that materials of great worth are still donated to us on an ongoing basis, it is safe to assume that this process will take quite a long time. It may sound somewhat tedious, and it sometimes is, but every once in a while I have the pleasure of running across something that can only described as “really neat”.

One such item is a printed pamphlet from Philadelphia in 1796 entitled “Every Man His Own Brewer”. This fascinating little treatise offers an economic argument as to how everyone can make excellent beer at home for self-consumption and to have a little left over to sell, making it a profitable exercise. I am not sure how the government today would feel about people making beer at home and selling it, but I do know that home-brewing, after many years of being in a proverbial dark ages, has once again reached a high level of popularity in this country.

From personal experimentation (purely scientific in nature, of course), I am quite aware of both the quantity and quality of craft beers in America’s market place today. Some of the more popular craft brewers feature products that have been developed from historical recipes. This pamphlet not only explains the financial possibilities of brewing, but gives instructions and recipes as well. I know at least one of my home-brew friends is very eager to look this over. He may be unpleasantly surprised, however, to learn that he has to convert things like “drams” and “gills” into modern measurements. His wife may also be unpleasantly surprised when she finds that, at least according to the author in 1796, she is expected to do most of the work!

– Don Cornelius, HCHS Curator of Manuscripts