MCSORLEY'S OLE ALE HOUSE
"Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies"
For 112 years, McSorley's Old Ale House, the “oldest continuously operated saloon” in Manhattan, was a "men only" bar. First known as The Old House at Home, the saloon did not admit women until 1970 when the National Organization for Women won a lawsuit against its discriminatory policy toward women. But, it still took 17 long years for McSorley's to finally install a women's bathroom.
Founded by a Quaker Irishman, John McSorley, the bar was modeled after public houses in Ireland. McSorley’s patrons were mostly working class Irishmen, policemen, firemen, local bums and drunks, and a couple of cats who resided there. “Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies” was its motto. The bar’s name was officially changed to McSorley’ Ole Ale House in 1908 after its original sign blew down. During Prohibition, the bar was allowed to stay open due to its great popularity with New York City policemen and politicians.
American artist, John Sloan, introduced the bar to many New Yorkers with his series of paintings of McSorley's from 1912 to 1930. A 1940 Life magazine photo story about the bar and essays published in the New Yorker by Joseph Mitchell (later the book, McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon) brought McSorley's national fame. This legendary watering hole has also been memorialized in the book, Two and Two: McSorley's, My Dad and Me, by Rafe Bartholome, whose father was a bartender there.
Over its long history, visitors to McSorley’s have included many celebrities, artists, and presidents (including Abe Lincoln). Folk singer/composer Woody Guthrie was a regular. McSorley’s golden rule was: “Be Good or Be Gone.” As long as John McSorley and his son ran the bar, the tradition was that the last round of the evening was always on the house.
Some say the sawdust on the floor and the old photos, cartoons, newspaper and magazine clippings hanging on the walls are much more memorable than the beer served there. The bar is located on E. 7th Street between First and Second Avenues.