The SS Republic’s cargo included a large consignment of beer, whiskey, wine and champagne totaling over 800 bottles, the equivalent of nearly 10 percent of all the bottled products recovered from the wreck site. Most of the examples are made of thick, dark glass designed to reduce breakage and inhibit exposure to heat and light, preventing spoilage during transport and storage.
By the mid 19th-century, the annual consumption of whiskey in the United States was equivalent to 4 gallons per person. In 1867, the number of drinking places licensed for the sale of alcohol was approximately 130,000 in America. The large quantity of bottled wine, beer and other liquors shipped on the Republic just months following the war was likely intended to help restock the shelves of New Orleans’ recently reinvigorated saloons. Some of the bottles may have been destined for further trans-shipment up the Mississippi River for purchase in the towns and outposts of the Western Frontier.