The tradition that began centuries ago. In his 18th-century history book The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbons wrote about toasting, describing a feast among the Huns at which their leader, Attila, led no less than three rounds of toasts for each course of an elaborate dinner.  In The Odyssey, Ulysses drank to the health of Achilles.  The Romans built upon this Greek custom of drinking to others’ health and well-being: They added toasted bread crumbs to their goblets, reducing the acidity of the often-bitter wine. Thus came the appellation “to toast.”   In Rome, drinking to another’s health became so important, the Senate decreed that all diners must drink to Augustus — the first Roman emperor — at every meal. Fabius Maximus declared that no man should eat or drink before he had prayed and drank to his health. 

The toasting custom spread throughout Europe and England, where for the first time the clinking of glasses accompanied the ritual. Whether its intent was to mix the content of each other’s glasses so everyone drank the same grog, lessening the likelihood of being poisoned, or to add sound to the experience of taste, touch, smell and sight, no one is sure.  In the 17th and 18 Centuries, toasting became so popular that the position of “toastmaster” emerged. In England, the toastmaster presided over events, delivering and soliciting appropriate toasts. The duties of the toastmaster tended to be ensuring that all toasters a fair chance to make their contribution.

“A Toast or Sentiment very frequently excites good humor, and revives languid conversation; often does it, when properly applied, cool the heat of resentment, and blunt the edge of animosity. A well-applied Toast is acknowledged, universally, to soothe the flame of acrimony, when season and reason oft used their efforts to no purpose.”

The Royal Toastmaster by J. Roach, published in London in 1791.

At this year’s Cannonball Tavern, we will host our first official Toastmaster’s Competition – with prizes being awarded to the best toast in terms of originality, delivery, humor, wit, and the effect the toast has on the crowd.  Do you think you are able to “excite good humor”, “revive languid conversation”, “cool resentment”, and “blunt animosity” or does your toast fall into the category of “efforts to no purpose?”  Come show your mettle and prove your prowess as a great orator. 

We are limiting entry into this esteemed competition to the 10 bravest, most erudite, and perhaps most in need of a free beer. 

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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