The Last Will and Testaments of Peter Eisinbrey and John Eisenbrey both show their occupation as Tavern keeper.

What records can be found :

In the City of Philadelphia Magistrate’s Ledger Book, located at the Pennsylvania Historical Society, in the Licenses for Marriages, Taverns, and Pedlars, 1761-1776. (Ref# Am.2014, 2nd vol.) , this ledger book shows Tavern keeper Licenses for a tavern keeper with the name of Peter Icenbrey on April 6, 1770, location of “City”, with a time of recommended date of April 1770, a Price of £2.6.0 and continues to pay this licensing fees through August 12, 1775 on this date of £3.6.0 , the last date for the listing of Peter Icenbrey.  With a date of January 8, 1776, the same ledger book shows John Icenbrey for Tavern keeper’s license fees being paid with a location of “City”, time of recommended –Jan. 1776 and a Price of £2.6.0, which would be date Peter transferred the running of the tavern to his son, John. 

Other copies of these Ledgers as sources are available.


The ledger,  “ A List of Public House Keepers recommended July Session, 1773” from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania shows Peter Icinbry with an “abode” of Cor. 5th & Race St.                                                                  

By 1774, based on the 1774 Philadelphia City Provincial Tax List, Peter Isinbrey was not shown located in Northern Liberties but is shown as being located in the Mulberry Ward of Philadelphia, due to the fact that the Eisenbrey’s home was at the corner of 5th and Race Streets, based on City Magistrate records of 1773, although the tavern was still at the southwest corner of Vine and Crown at least through 1785, based on the City Directory.  This section of the city was known for its German residents and would be a familiar place in the “big city” of approx. 25,000 people to resettle with his family of Sophia (Dorothy) and son John, now age 22. Peter is listed as a “t. k. - tavern keeper” with a tax of £ 4.4.0.

 A “tavern keeper” during the colonial period typically is different than an “inn keeper”. Usually a tavern keeper serves beer, rum, Madera wine but does not serve extensive meals or lodging with the full services and accoutrements of an Inn. It was a way to build a business and customer base given your location in the city and a way to struggle out of poverty during the colonial times. In Philadelphia during the pre-revolutionary war era, there were some 175 taverns/inns in Philadelphia (approx. 25% owned by women) with a strict licensing process with annual renewal. Based on being in the Mulberry Ward, the location of the tavern was at the know locations of the Samson and Lion, at Vine and Crown Streets and 5th and Race Street. (See history of Samson and Lion to follow).

Base on available records, there is no indication that Dorothy took over the running/ownership of the tavern at Peter’s death in 1778, which would have been the custom of a widow taking over a tavern license to support a family. Dorothy died shortly after Peter in 1778. Peter’s son John took over the tavern in 1776. John was scheduled to muster into the Philadelphia City Militia as a Corporal, but was listed as “sick” in the September 17, 1778 muster rolls.

The original Wills of Peter and John are both located in the Register of Wills office in City Hall in Philadelphia. Crumbling in your hands, the Wills also list there assets in their Investory of Assets -- showing the tables, chairs, pewter plates and utensils of running a tavern.

With the death of John Eisenbrey’s father Peter during the first few years of the Revolutionary War in September 1778, and with John’s Tavern License recorded in January 1776 as referenced above, it would be assumed that John’s wife Catharine ran the tavern during John’s active duty in the Militia. It was extremely common for the widow of a tavern keeper to take over the operations of a tavern or inn at this time in Philadelphia. It would require her to petition for an annual tavern license with the  Magistrates of the Courts of Quarter Session.  In order to obtain a license, the keeper would have to be known to be sober, honest and conscientious. During the 1780 service of John, the tavern may have also been run by Henry Smith, t.k. – “For the John Eisenbrey’s est.”  John’s estate was valued at £10,000 with a tax of £27.10.0 for the City of Philadelphia Effective Supply Tax - 1780, as referenced in Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, (pub. by David Martin, edit.  by William Henry Engle, Vol. XV).  Also, in the Effective Supply Tax, County of Philadelphia -1779 he is listed in Northern Liberties, West Part --John  Eisenbrey, d.,  ..Amount of  Tax  £ 8. (Pennsylvania Archives, 43 Vol. XIV -3rd Series, 1897, page 669).  With the event that the tavern and wealth was handed down from Peter Eisenbrey to his only son, John Eisenbrey, the tax increase from just over £4 in 1769, £8 in 1779 to just over £27 in 1780 showing the growing fortunes of the Eisenbrey family during the Revolutionary period of Colonial Philadelphia.

John Eisenbrey – Inn Keeper:

With establishing the Samson and Lion tavern being at Vine and Crown Streets by Peter Icenbrey in 1770 and John taking over in 1776, with the Philadelphia oral history showing it to be there as well in 1785, well after Peter Eisenbrey’s death, based on available records it cannot be determined the exact date that the tavern moved locations and changed from being a Tavern and became an Inn, with the Samson and Lion being located at 110 N. Fifth Street, Philadelphia. It occurred sometime between 1785 and 1791. There seems to be some evidence that it was 1785.

Catharine Eisenbrey, John's wife, ran the tavern from 1793 to approximately the year 1813 at 110 N. Fifth Street upon which the tavern was sold to William Hurlick.  This would confirm the 1813 date being at the top of the Samson and Lion sign as mentioned in the Philadelphia Annals. Catharine would live at various locations on Sassafras St and at N. 6th Streets prior to her death after the sale of the tavern.

Henry Eisenbrey, the only child of John and Catherine to do so, is shown to take over the tavern in 1806 and 1807 during this time period probably due to Catherine's incapacity/illness or other events, with her continuing to run the tavern until the sale of the Samson and Lion.


 Source: A view of the northwest corner of 5th & Race Streets, featuring the North America College of Health/Dr. Wrights Indian Vegetable Pills. Location: Historical Society of Pennsylvania - call number: /862EV15/.152