The 10 Tavern Commandments

This is a fascinating piece of history. It’s a lithograph from 1873 entitled “The 10 tavern commandments, as every landlord should show them to his guests” and it’s also printed in a second language, German, and called “Die 10 Wirthshaus-Gebote, wie sie jeder Wirth seinen Gästen auf’s fleissigste vorhalten soll.” The lithographer was Theodore Kahlmann, and it was published by C. Brothers in New York.


It’s a little hard to read them without blowing up the image, so here are the English language version of The 10 Tavern Commandments, though I confess not all of them make complete sense.

  1. Thou shallst have no host but me!
    Of all good hosts consider me the very best,
    In my Inn alone be pleased, frequent not the rest.
  2. Thou shallst not use in vain the name thy host!
    Call not on me in vain,
    But for drinks, whereby I gain,
    Or, when you wish to pay,
    Then call on me you may.
  3. Thou shallst not chain the Tiger, for he is most ferocious!
    Leave not they pocket book at home,
    For ’tis bad when borrowing you come,
    You will relish better, what you drink and eat,
    When you promptly pay as ’tis need.
  4. Thou shallst honor thine host and hostess, that thou mayest prosper and live long on earth!
    Often in foul speech or name
    Never thy host or his dame,
    To find fault with the drink would become you ill,
    But you should praise it when and wherever you will.
  5. Thou shallst not slay bottles and glasses but shallots refrain from all such touching exercise!
    The life of bottles and glasses thou must not take,
    For ’tis mean these things in wrathful mood to break,
    Moreover you’ll get in trouble, if you raise hell,
    For then the Peelers come and take you to a prison cell.
  6. Thou shallst in night’s dark hours not mistake my wife for thine!
    Let the evil spirit never prompt thee,
    To bow in courtship to my wife thy knee,
    For then I’d throw thee out of a window or of door,
    And if t’were from the fourth or yet a higher floor.
  7. Thou shallst not find and take with thee what n’er was lost!
    My chalk thou must not take,
    I need it thy bill to make,
    Or else I’ll get; for thy punishment
    Such as will chalk down double, each and every cent.
  8. Thou shallst not bear false witness to thine host!
    Tell me always when I ask; in truthfulness
    What thou owes for drinks, rather more than less,
    Give never a false statement,
    For honesty is thy best ornament.
  9. Thou shallst not covet what is loss to thy host!
    Ask not that I should give
    Large pieces and full measures,
    For ’tis by my profit that I live,
    Dear customers remember his leisure.
  10. Thou shallst not covet to carress my cook and water girls!
    ’Tis best they desires to curb and bridle,
    For it makes the girls stupid and idle
    When love is talked behind the kitchen door,
    And then it might grow on thee and become a bore.

In the illustration in the center, the tavern owner (presumably) is holding up two tables with the 10 Commandments on them as his guests and staff appear to be ignoring him, just as you’d expect when someone is trying to law down the law.


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