The Irish and American Bar was Toulouse-Lautrec's preferred venue away from bohemian Montmartre. Gerstle Mack in his biography of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec (1938) described the bar as 'a small place, consisting of a long narrow room with a leather banquette and a single row of little tables on one side, and a mahogany bar on the other. At the back a short flight of steps led to a tiny square room in which Lautrec usually sat; from this vantage- ground he could survey the crowd that milled in front of the bar during the apéritif hour'. Centrally located on the Rue Royale, between Place de la Madeleine et Place de la Concorde, the clientele was for the most part connected with the racetrack: grooms and jockeys, touts and bookmakers, many of them English and Irish. Due to its proximity to the expensive restaurants located in this quarter of Paris, it was also a favoured haunt for the coachmen of the wealthy families who dined at these establishments. The portly man seated at the bar was a regular habitué, the Rothschild's coachman Tom, who also appears in the lithograph La grande Loge. To his left is an unidentified gentleman who may perhaps be William Warrener, the artist's friend and model for the lithograph L'Anglais au Moulin Rouge. They are being served by Ralph, the San Franciscan barman, who had a reputation for his exotic concoctions.
With it's Anglo-centric audience, The Irish and American Bar was an ideal setting for a poster commission advertising the American literary journal The Chap-Book. The craze for collecting posters which had swept Paris in the 1890's had done much to establish Lautrec's artistic reputation and led to several lucrative commissions, including this one. In an early survey of poster art and its market, Picture Posters by Charles Hiatt (1895), the author noted that: 'It goes without saying that proofs before letters or prints on special paper of the posters of Chéret or of nearly any other artist, are much more valuable than ordinary copies'. Lautrec was clearly aware of this trend, and published this special edition of his poster before the addition of text, to cater to this demand.