Hatchets, speakeasies and gangsters! There’s no killing the Liquid Vampire in the Early 20th c.

Prohibition Era Signs
Prohibition Era Signs.

The Rise and Fall of Temperance (1900 to about 1933)

The growth of temperance movements developed rapidly at the beginning of the twentieth century, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Prohibitionists believed that a world without beverage alcohol was a reasonable and attainable goal. The growth of the Progressive movement in the U.S. contributed to the belief that governments could effectively engage in social engineering to create virtually perfect societies.

1900 | Famous WCTU member Carry A. Nation (who copyrighted her name) began destroying saloons with a hatchet until her death in 1911.

1903 |The first fully automatic bottle-making machine was built. A later version produced over 50,000 bottles per day.

1907 | Prohibition began in Canadian provinces. “Except for Prince Edward Island, which was the strongest holdout for prohibition (1907-1948), other provinces repealed prohibition in a relatively short time, ranging from only one year for Quebec (1918-1919) to thirteen years for Nova Scotia (1916-1929). The failure of prohibition marked the end of the biggest and longest social movement in Canadian history.”

Absinthe Prohibition, The Terror of the 20th Century
Absinthe Prohibition, The Terror of the 20th Century

1914 | Consumption of absinthe increased when phylloxera destroyed much of France’s wine production. “Only in the first years of the twentieth century, when viticulture flourished once more in Languedoc, did wine growers begin to blame absinthe for the poor sales of their own product.” Consequently, “An anti-absinthe movement gradually came into being: the Academie de Medecine demanded a ban in 1903, and other scientific and temperance organizations supported the cause.” In 1914, France yielded to pressure from wine producers and banned the sale of absynthe.

So many people were convinced that alcohol was the cause of virtually all crime that, as the implementation of National Prohibition approached, some towns in the U.S. actually sold their jails.

During National Prohibition in the U.S., some temperance leaders hired a scholar to rewrite the Bible by removing all references to alcohol beverages.

January 16, 1920 – December 5, 1933 | National prohibition went into effect in the U.S. It banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions. Contrary to common belief, it did not prohibit the purchase or consumption of alcohol.

1920s | “Reversing a historic pattern, hard liquor took the place of beer, contributing about two-thirds of total alcohol consumption by the end of the 1920s”.
“Unlike the saloons they replaced, speakeasies were patronized by both sexes.”
“Cocktails spread from the public [speakeasies] to the private [home] sphere during Prohibition” in the U.S.

1924 | The National Distillers Products Corporation was formed (1924) and began buying the alcohol stock of defunct distillers. When prohibition ended, it owned over half of the aged whiskey in the U.S.

Prohibition Era Parties.
Prohibition Era Parties.

1926 | Dr. Raymond Pearl published Alcohol and Longevity (1926), in which he reported finding that moderate drinkers outlived both abstainers and alcoholics. Dr. Pearl’s ground breaking research occurred during the middle of National Prohibition and therefore, received little attention. Nevertheless, over time, an increasing volume of research has found that consumption of alcohol is associated with health and longevity.

1929 | The New York City “police commissioner estimated it was home to thirty-two thousand drinking places — double the number of saloons and illegal joints it had contained in the pre-Prohibition era.”

temperance movementThe Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WOMPR) was founded by Pauline Morton Sabin. She had earlier been a staunch supporter of National Prohibition. However, over time she came to believe strongly that it was not only ineffective but actually counterproductive and causing very serious problems.

National Prohibition led to a boom in the cruise industry. By taking what were advertised as “cruises to nowhere,” people could legally consume alcohol as soon as the ship entered international waters where they would typically cruise in circles. The cruises quickly became known as “booze cruises.”

“Starting in the 1930s, cocktail parties became popular forms of entertainment This is also when the social practice of having a drink (or two or three) before dinner became widespread [around the world].”

December 5, 1933 | Prohibition ends.


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