Saloon Etiquette

The men of the West

These private men of the West were also accustomed to inquiring of another man’s first name only. With their varied and often shady backgrounds, curiosity was considered impolite. Both men’s and women’s pasts were respected and were not inquired about. If and when it was, it could be very unhealthy for the inquirer, who might end up dead in the street in front of the saloon. For instance, one would never ask a rancher the size of his herd, which would be tantamount to asking a man to see their income tax return today.

Another custom was the expected offer to treat the man standing next to you to a drink. If a stranger arrived and didn’t make the offer, he would often be asked why he hadn’t done so. Even worse, was refusing a drink, which was considered a terrible insult, regardless of the vile liquor that might be served. On one such occasion at a Tucson, Arizona saloon, a man who refused the offer was taken from bar to bar at gunpoint until “he learned some manners.”

However, if a man came in and confessed that he was broke and needed a drink, few men would refuse him. On the other hand, if he ordered a drink, knowing that he couldn’t pay for it, he might find himself beaten up or worse.

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