I was reading a passage on the saloon history in North America, in a work titled The Saloon by Gerald Carson, and ran into the following passage:

A good bartender did not drink while on duty. If urged, he would say, "but I will take a mild cigar." This ultra-Colorado is known in saloon history as "the saloon cigar." At the end of the day, it went back into the box it came from, and the barman took credit for it on the cash register. If pushed hard to take something by a very special crony, the bartender would draw a "snit" of beer in a private glass he kept on the work board under the bar. It was about the size of an eye cup. The knowledgeable barman filled it with foam and could put down a hundred if necessary and still not know that he had received a message.

It's the end of the paragraph. I don't really understand the final part, what does it mean by received a message. What message?

  • 1
    It's clearly metaphorical, and from the preceding context the final clause must mean "not be at all drunk, or even buzzed". But I'm not familiar with any sort of slang where "receive a message" means "drunk". Maybe it's an old Wild West thing? Or a Colorado thing? – Dan Bron Jun 2 '17 at 12:33
  • The only sense I can make out is 'received any hit of alcohol.' He drank foam, not beer, with no reaction. – Yosef Baskin Jun 2 '17 at 12:33
  • Could you please provide a link to the passage you are quoting? – Arm the good guys in America Jun 12 '17 at 10:43
  • Sure, Clare. Here it goes: americanheritage.com/content/saloon?page=2&nid=51665 – Shun Jun 12 '17 at 10:46

It is possible that this is a reference to the Temperance movement in America, in particular to Carry Nation, who was a radical member of the Temperance Movement and began to take direct action against saloons after she 'received a message from God'.

She described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn't like", and claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by destroying bars.

Carry Nation is also discussed in the article cited in the Question, The Saloon by Gerald Carson, making the association credible.

Carry Nation, at her hatchet-wielding “spilling parties,” gave special attention to ripping apart the luscious barroom nudes who had been caught by the artist entering or leaving their ablutions.

So, my suggestion is that Carry Nation's receipt of a message (from the Holy Spirit) was lampooned by drinkers and the phrase used to describe the way they were moved by a different spirit.

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