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Interpreting the Evidence

Painting of a Tavern Scene by Jan Steen, c. 1670

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Colonial America (1630s - 1760)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Colonial America

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Painting of a Tavern Scene by Jan Steen, c. 1670 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Painting of a Tavern Scene by Jan Steen, c. 1670
Historical Context
The taverns were a center of social life in both the Netherlands and New Netherland. The Dutch colonial tavern was an important place for people to find entertainment and conduct business. People drank, smoked, gambled, and completed business transactions within the tavern walls. Colonists also ordered their drinking and medicinal wine from the tavern keeper. Drinking was a key component of business transactions in Dutch life. A business agreement usually would not be considered complete without the two parties having a drink to make the deal official.
            Individuals from all social classes frequented the tavern. For example, the tavern keepers of New Netherland not only did business with the colonists but also with the local Indians. The government of the colony regulated the taverns and the amounts of alcohol that could be sold to local Indians. The government also tried to limit the amount of gambling that took place at the tavern.     
Essential Question
How were taverns both a positive and negative influence on the colony?
Check for Understanding
Explain the importance of taverns in the Dutch colony.