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Bernard McSherry and Richard Coale Tavern Ledgers


Held at: Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division [Contact Us]

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: Manuscripts Division. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections


Bernard McSherry (1764-1796) was a tavern owner based in Libertytown, Frederick County, Maryland. His sister was Catherine McSherry, who married Richard Coale (1760-1834), another tavern owner.


Richard Coale (1760-1834) was a tavern and general store owner based in Libertytown, Frederick County, Maryland. He married Catherine McSherry, the sister of Bernard McSherry, another tavern owner. Their daughter married into the Sappington family.

Consists of two tavern ledgers kept by Bernard (Barney) McSherry (1764-1796) and Richard Coale (1760-1834), brothers-in-law who both operated taverns in Libertytown, Frederick County, Maryland. The ledgers document the sale of liquor and alcoholic drinks, as well as the hosting of games, dinners, shows, and other entertainment. Patrons listed in the ledgers include American Revolutionary War officers Ely Dorsey (1744–1803), Lilburn Williams (1748–1794), and William Lamar (circa 1755-1838), as well as members of the local free African American community.

The two ledgers cover largely overlapping time periods and contain similar content: selling alcohol by the glass, along with occasional other merchandise. McSherry's ledger has a cash journal and memoranda pages going back to 1784, with most of the ledger accounts running from April 1787 to June 1788. He sold grog, wine, hot toddy, cider, rum, and at least twice a "ticket to the show" (pages 7 and 12). Coale's ledger is more wide-ranging and divided into two sections. His original business was more like a general store that sold occasional liquor. In addition to rum, punch, and brandy, he also sold textiles, tea, and sugar. A name index in the rear covers only the first section. His entries begin in November 1786 and the first section extends through October 1788. The second section is a tavern ledger and runs from September 1788 to early 1791. In this section, liquor sales to Abraham, an African American man, are recorded on page 7, and another customer is charged for "the hire of negro Peter" on page 24, which likely refers to an enslaved person. Coale's ledger also includes charges for dinners, suppers, "the Ball," and a gaming club. It appears that Coale may have taken over McSherry's tavern in mid 1788.

Purchased from Swann Auction Galleries in 2021 (AM 2022-056).

This collection was processed by Kelly Bolding in December 2021. Finding aid written by Kelly Bolding in December 2021, incorporating some description provided by the dealer.

No materials were removed from the collection during 2021 processing.

Manuscripts Division
Finding Aid Author
Kelly Bolding
Finding Aid Date
Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Delafield fund.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to Special Collections Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Collection Inventory

Bernard McSherry Tavern Ledger, 1784-1788. 1 item.
Physical Description

1 item

Materials Viewable Online
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Richard Coale Tavern Ledger, 1786-1791. 1 item.
Physical Description

1 item

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