From it’s humble origins as an Irish working man’s saloon — cheese and crackers on the house-beer for pennies to its rediscovery by the mainstream in a 1940’s NEW YORKER magazine profile. McSorley’s is steeped in a cultural cacophony of Americana. Presidents, residents, authors and thieves — the lot of humanity have sat and shared, all abiding by McSorley’s golden rule “Be Good or Be Gone”. What follows is a chronological history — some oral, some visual — some fact, some fancy…

McSorley's Bar

  • 1827

    John McSorley is born: Co.Tyrone, Ireland

  • 1847

    Potato Blight begins in the South of Ireland

  • 1850

    Potato crop failure reached the Northern Counties of Ireland

  • 1851

    John McSorley arrives in New York City on the Ship The Colonist from Liverpool

  • 1854

    John McSorley opens up an ale house at 15 East 7th Street in New York City. He calls it “The Old House at Home”

  • 1855

    John McSorley marries Honora Henley

  • 1856

    First child Peter, is born to Honora and John McSorley

  • 1861

    William J. McSorley born, John’s favorite son and the son who will take the helm of McSorley’s Old Ale house.

  • 1864-65

    The building at 15 East 7th Street is improved to become a 5 story tenement. John and family move upstairs over the bar.

  • 1868

    Honora McSorley dies at the age of 35, leaving John to care for 3 children.

  • 1872

    John McSorley marries Catherine Donovan.

  • 1875

    Bill McSorley is apprenticed in the ways of the Ale House. It becomes his first love.

  • 1882

    The play “McSorley’s Inflation” opens at the Theatre Comiqe on Broadway. It features a bar room set, a bar owner named Peter McSorley. It plays over 100 performances.

  • 1888

    John and Catherine purchase the building at 15 East 7th Street. They are now landlords.

  • 1904

    50th Anniversary of The Old House at Home.

  • 1905-06

    A brief experimental period begins; McSorley’s serves hard liquor along with the ale. The experiment ends as suddenly as it begins. McSorley’s is an Ale house only from this point on.

  • 1908

    The sign over the front door falls in a storm. It is replaced by one that reads “McSorley’s Old Time Ale House”. Later the word “Time” is removed.

  • 1910

    John McSorley dies in the second floor flat above the bar. He is 83 years old.

  • 1911

    Bill McSorley takes over the Ale House. He begins to make it a shrine to his departed father.

  • 1913

    John Sloan displays his painting “McSorley’s Bar” at the Armory show. Priced at $500, it does not sell.

  • 1920

    Prohibition begins. Beer, ale, wine, liquor and hard cider are illegal. McSorley’s sells what they refer to as Near Beer.

  • 1925

    Poet e.e. cummings writes the poem “Sitting in McSorley’s”

  • 1928

    John Sloan paints “McSorley’s Saturday Night.” Everyone seems to have a mug in his hands.

  • 1932

    Catherine McSorley, widow of John McSorley dies.

  • 1933

    Prohibition ends. McSorley’s is still there. Though many bars now admit women. McSorley’s still goes by their philosophy of “Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies.”

  • 1934

    Fidelio Brewery markets bottled McSorley’s Ale, Stout & Lager Beer.

  • 1936

    Bill McSorley sells bar to Daniel O’Connell, a patron and NYC policeman. O’Connell retires from the force to become the first non-McSorley to own the place. He changes little.

  • 1938

    Bill McSorley dies.

  • 1939

    Daniel O’Connell dies, leaving his saloon to his daughter, Dorothy O’Connell Kirwan. Patrons fear she will renovate and innovate. She does neither, staying out of the place as she promised her father she would. After some minor management problems, she makes her husband Harry Kirwan the manager. He will be in charge until his death.

  • 1940

    New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell visits the Saloon at 15 East 7th Street. He writes a watershed article, “The Old House at Home” for the New Yorker. A new life begins for the old saloon.

  • 1943

    Joseph Mitchell’s articles are compiled in a book, entitled “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.”

  • 1943

    Life Magazine does a feature photographic article on “McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon.”

  • 1954

    McSorley’s celebrates its 100th anniversary. Women are still not permitted inside, including the owner. She only visits on Sundays after they are closed.

  • 1960

    Dorothy and Harry Kirwan’s son Danny begins his apprenticeship at the bar.

  • 1964

    While visiting Ireland Harry Kirwan’s car breaks down. He is picked up on the road by Matthew Maher. Harry promises him a job in New York. Matty goes to NY to work as a waiter and bartender at McSorley’s.

  • 1969

    McSorley’s Old Ale house is sued to allow women to enter.

  • 1970

    McSorley’s under order of the court and law from the city council considers becoming a private club, but relents to the pressure and opens its doors to women. There are no restrooms for the women. Danny Kirwan wants his mother to be the first woman served. She refuses citing the promise she made her father. Predictions of the end of McSorley’s are heard around the world.

  • 1974

    Dorothy Kirwan dies.

  • 1975

    Harry Kirwan dies. McSorley’s old Ale house now belongs to their “beloved son” as Harry refers to him, Danny Kirwan.

  • 1977

    Matthew Maher, night manager of McSorley’s buys the place from Danny Kirwan. It is now owned by the third family since opening.

  • 1986

    Women’s restroom installed at the Old House.

  • 1994

    Matthew Maher’s daughter, Teresa Maher de la Haba, becomes the first woman to work behind the bar.