Today is #InternationalCoffeeDay, a global celebration of coffee heritage.
Manhattan was home to the city's coffee roasting industry below Canal Street, with the first great coffee centers being along Washington Street. New York's very first coffee roaster, selling wholesale beans to taverns and hotels, opened on Pearl Street in 1793.
This manuscript here, part of the Museum’s permanent collection, is the “Tontine Coffee House Constitution” dated to 1796, and it’s a bound document that includes a record of the Tontine’s constitution and nominations of the subscribers to the Tontine Coffee House. Located at the northwest corner of Wall and Water Streets, the Tontine Coffee House was set up like a private club with a bell system, an inside bath, and a spyglass to watch merchant ships arriving in the harbor. It was famous in the city as a place to conduct business and debate ideas. Serving as a commodities exchange, all kinds of goods were traded including ships, horses, real estate, and rum. However, the Tontine Coffee House was also a place where slave owners and traders conducted their business.
Image: “Tontine Coffee House Constitution,” 1796. Paper and ink, with modern leather book cover. South Street Seaport Museum, 1979.319
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