McSorley's Old Ale House, generally known as McSorley's, is the oldest "Irish" tavern in New York City. Located at 15 East 7th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, it was one of the last of the "Men Only" pubs, only admitting women after legally being forced to do so in 1970.
The aged artwork, newspaper articles covering the walls, sawdust floors, and the Irish waiters and bartenders give McSorley's an atmosphere that many consider, correctly or not, reminiscent of "Olde New York." No piece of memorabilia has been removed from the walls since 1910, and there are many items of "historical" paraphernalia in the bar, such as Houdini's handcuffs, which are connected to the bar rail. There are also wishbones hanging above the bar; supposedly they were hung there by boys going off to World War I, to be removed when they returned, so the wishbones that are left are from those that never returned.
Two of McSorley's mottos are "Be Good or Be Gone", and "We were here before you were born". Prior to the 1970 ruling, the motto was "Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies"; the raw onions can still be had as part McSorley's cheese platter.
New York magazine considered McSorley's to be one of New York City's Top 5 Historic Bars.
McSorley's has long claimed that it opened its doors in 1854, however historical research has shown that this is not possible. Researcher Richard McDermott has determined that the site was a vacant lot in 1861.
The evidence for the 1854 date was considerable, but second-hand. A document at the Museum of the City of New York from 1904, in founder John McSorley's hand, declares it was established in 1854, and a New York Tribune article from 1895 states it "has stood for 40 years. . . " a short distance from Cooper Union. A 1913 article in Harper's Weekly declares that "This famous saloon ... is sixty years old."
According to a 1995 New York Times "Streetscapes" article by Christopher Gray, the census taker who visited the Irish-born McSorley in 1880 recorded the year the founder of the pub first arrived in the United States as 1855, but immigration records show that he arrived on January 23 1851, at the age of 18, accompanied by Mary McSorley, who was 16. When confronted with the fact that the 1880 census did not contain this entry, Gray corrected it to 1900 in his book. John McSorley first appeared in city directories in 1862, and the building his bar occupies was built no earlier than 1858, according to city records.
Opened to women
Women were not allowed in McSorley's until August 10, 1970, after National Organization for Women attorneys Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow took their discrimination case against the bar to District Court and won. It did so "kicking and screaming."