American Prohibition Timeline

On January 16, 1920, America went dry. For the next thirteen years, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the making, selling, or transportation of “intoxicating liquors,” heralding a new era of crime and corruption on all levels of society. Instead of eliminating alcohol, Prohibition spurred more drinking than ever before.
U.S. Prohibition

U.S. Prohibition

The Prohibition Era in the United States has a storied past where the start can be traced to 1645 when the State of Connecticut prohibits the selling of intoxicating liquors to Indians under penalty of 40 shillings to 5 pounds, before an explosion of various temperance movements in the 1830's and finally culminating with the passage of the 18th amendment. However, the success was short-lived and the 18th amendment was repealed thirteen years later with the passage of the 21st amendment.


First American Temperance Meeting

Probably the first distinctive temperance meeting on American soil is held at Sillery (Canada) under the auspices of Jesuit missionary, Father Jérôme Lalemant. The meeting is addressed by an Algonquin chief, who in his own name and the name of the other chiefs proclaims the Governor’s edict against drunkenness, and exhorts the Indians to total abstinence, declaring that all drunken Indians will be handed over to the French for punishment.

Law, Native Americans, Temperance

Native American Rum & Liquor Law

Mohawk Indian chief Joseph Brant served as a spokesman for his people

Mohawk Chief Brant

In May 1709 New York legislators passed a law preventing the selling or giving rum or other strong liquors to Indians in Albany County, which they renewed periodically until June 1713, when they let it expire and no similar law was passed until 1755, in response to complaints from Iroquois sachems about the troubles alcohol was causing. That law had an important provision: the trading house at Oswego, still the most important in the province was exempted from its restrictions. That law remained in force only until 1757.

Law, Native Americans, State

Georgia Bans Spirits

General James Oglethorpe

General James Oglethorpe

Georgia, the last of the thirteen original colonies, did have a ban on spirits for a while. Georgia’s patron, General James Oglethorpe, on the second day after his arrival in America, decreed that ‘the importation of ardent spirits is illegal’. Fearing that his colonists, who were nearly all debtors, had picked up the habit of heavy drinking in the English jails from which they had been rescued. They were told only that they could not have rum. The following year the Councilors of Georgia acted upon the advice of Oglethorpe and prohibited the importation of rum. In 1735, the English Parliament, at the request of Oglethorpe, enacted a law prohibiting the importation of ardent spirits into the colony of Georgia. At first this provision was rigidly enforced but through the influence of Europeans who later came to the colony and those who visited Georgia from other colonies, the enforcement became lax and the law finally drifted into disrepute.

Person, Prohibition, georgia
Law, State

An Enquiry into the Effects of Spiritous Liquors

Dr. Benjamin Rush

Dr. Benjamin Rush

Dr. Benjamin Rush, the surgeon general of the Continental middle army during the Revolutionary War, published his pamphlet ‘An Enquiry into the Effects of Spiritous Liquors upon the Human Body, and Their Influence upon the Happiness of Society’. He promoted his ideas that alcoholism is an ‘odious disease’ for which his recommended cures included ‘whipping the patient severely,’ blistering the ankles, bleeding, and purging with toxic substances. Parenthetically, he also promoted his belief that being black was a result of a curable skin disease related to leprosy, which he called negroidism. Intermarrying, he argued, help spread the disease. He also wrote that with proper treatment a black person could be cured and made white.

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Congress Bans Sale of Alcohol to Native Americans

Chief Little Turtle

Chief Little Turtle

Many Native American leaders decried the abuse of alcohol among their people. At the request of Chief Little Turtle and a group of Quakers, Congress gave the President  authority “to take such measures from time to time as may appear to him expedient to prevent or restrain the vending or distribution of spiritous liquors among all or any of the said Indian Tribes….  An amendment was added to the Trade and Intercourse Acts that outlawed the use of liquor in the Indian fur trade.

Person, native americans
Congress, Law, Native Americans, Prohibition

First U.S. Temperance Organization Founded

Billy J. Clark, Temperance Society of Moreau and Northumberland, New York

Billy J. Clark

Dr. B. J. Clark (Billy Clark) with the help from Reverend Lebbeus Armstrong, founds the  first U.S. temperance organization, the Union Temperance Society of Moreau and Northumberland at Saratoga, N. Y. The constitution of this society declares : “No member shall drink rum, gin, whisky, wine or any distilled spirits, or compositions of the same or any of them, except by advice of a physician or in case of actual diseases, also excepting at public dinners, under the penalty of 25 cents; provided that this article shall not infringe on any religious rite ; no member shall be intoxicated under penalty of 50 cents; no member shall offer any of the above liquors to any person to drink thereof under the penalty of 25 cents for each offense.”

Clergy, Person, state, billy j. clark
Organization, Temperance

Beginning of the Temperance Movement in America

Rev. Lyman Beecher

Rev. Lyman Beecher

A clergyman, mild of manner but as granitic in purpose was Rev. Dr. Lyman Beecher, who would have no truck with “Sabbath-breakers, rum-selling, tippling folk, infidels and ruff-scuff,” and whose move in 1810 from East Hampton, long Island, to Litchfield, Connecticut, is accepted by some historians as the real and proper beginning of the temperance movement in America. Soon afterward Dr. Beecher began his famous series of six sermons against the evils of selling or drinking alcohol and insisted that‘Drunkenness is a sin which excludes [one] from Heaven.


Clergy, Temperance Society

First Documented Temperance Society Founded

Nathan Dane

Nathan Dane

The Massachusetts Temperance Society held its first meeting in 1813. It was the first documented organization of its kind in the United States. In the beginning, the Massachusetts Temperance Society was the Massachusetts Society for the Suppression of Intemperance . The first meeting was held in Boston in February, 1813. When they drafted their mission statement, not only were they against drinking but also opposed to profanity and breaking Sabbath. The Society was not an abstinence society, they suggested if you drank, do it in moderation. One of the founders was Nathan Dane who served in some capacity in the Society for sixteen years, from 1813 to 1832.
Later in the year, other organizations were formed, the Maine Society for Suppression of Intemperance, and the Connecticut Society for the Reformation of Morals.

Person, Temperance Society, nathan dane
Organization, State, Temperance

American Tract Society Founded

American Tract Society Volume 1 Front Cover

ATS Vol. 1

The American Tract Society (ATS) is a nonprofit, nonsectarian but evangelical organization founded on May 11, 1825, in New York City for the purpose of publishing and disseminating tracts of Christian literature. ATS traces its lineage back through the New York Tract Society (1812) and the New England Tract Society (1814) to the Religious Tract Society of London, begun in 1799. By 1851 it had distributed about 5,000,000 temperance tracts. The ATS still continues it mission today.

Temperance Society
Organization, Publication

American Society for the Promotion of Temperance Established

Justin Edwards

Justin Edwards

 The American Temperance Society (ATS), first known as the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, was established on February 13th in Boston Massachusetts.  Lyman Beecher and Dr.Justin Edwards were both preachers and the Co-Founders of ATS. Lyman Beecher, was strongly anti-Catholic and also a racist who refused to permit African-American students in his classes, the other, Dr. Justin Edwards, said the organization was to promote temperance while letting drunkards “die off and rid the world of ‘an amazing evil.’” The American Temperance Society worked to improve the society  by the banning of drinking alcohol, and organized lectures, press campaigns, an essay contest, the formation of local and state societies, and publishes Listen: A Journal of Better Living.  The ATS marked the beginning of the first formal national temperance movement in the US that called for the abstention from drinking, and contributed to the abolitionism of slavery.

Person, Temperance Society, lyman beecher, justin edwards

American Temperance Union (ATU) Formed

ATU Almanac 1948

ATU Almanac

The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance organized a national convention in Philadelphia where the American Temperance Union (ATU) was formed by the merging of two existing national temperance organizations. Like nearly every reform movement of the day, temperance had a wing of absolutists. They would brook no compromise with Demon Rum and carried the day with a resolution that liquor was evil and ought to be prohibited by law.



Temperance Union, temperance society

First Prohibition Law Passed

The first Prohibition law in the history of the United States was passed in Tennessee, making it a misdemeanor to sell alcoholic beverages in taverns and stores. The bill stated that all persons convicted of retailing “spirituous liquors” would be fined at the “discretion of the court” and that the fines would be used in support of public schools.
Meanwhile Maine passed its Fifteen Gallon Law designed to reduce the availability of distilled spirits by making that amount the minimum legal purchase quantity and the state of Massachusetts also passed a temperance law banning the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities; though the law was repealed two years later, it set a precedent for such legislation.

maine, tennessee
Law, Prohibition, State

Formation of the Washingtonian Society

Washington Society

Washington Society

On April 2, 1840, six members of a drinking club at the Chase Tavern in Baltimore, Maryland were prompted, by an argument with the proprietor, to send a delegation to investigate a temperance lecture being given that very night by the Reverend Matthew Hale Smith.” (Slaying The Dragon, The History of Addiction and Recovery in America.)  Further discussion led, the following day, to the formation of the Washingtonian Total Abstinence Society. William Mitchell, John Hoss, David Anderson, George Steers, James McCurley, and Archibald Campbell all signed the pledge drafted by Mitchell: “We,  whose names are annexed, desirous of  forming a society for our mutual benefit to  guard against a practise—a pernicious practise— which is injurious to our health  and the standing of our families, do pledge ourselves as gentlemen that we will not drink any spirits, malt liquors, wine, or cider.” Unlike other temperance groups which tended to be led by, and composed of, the social elite, the Washingtonians were from the artisan and working classes. The main bill of fare at a Washingtonian meeting was experience sharing – confessions of alcoholic debauchery followed by glorious accounts of personal reformation… As each newcomer came forward, he was asked to tell a little of his own story, then sign the abstinence pledge amid the cheers of onlookers. This ritual of public confession and public signing of the pledge carried great emotional power for those participating. It evoked, at least temporarily, what would be described one hundred years later as ego deflation and surrender.”

People, Temperance Society

The Pathology of Drunkenness

Pathology of Drunkenness

Stomach Drawing

Thomas Sewall—a member of the D.C. Chapter of the American Temperance Society, a doctor to three American presidents, and a member of the D.C. Board of Health—was a temperance activist who published the book “The Pathology of Drunkenness” in 1841. The book contained eight graphic colored drawings of what he called “alcohol diseased stomachs” that compared the stomach of an alcoholic to the stomach of a “temperate” person.  These were widely distributed to promote abstinence. One temperance leader sent a copy to every household in the state of New York and also sent 150,000 copies to poorhouses, prisons, hospitals and schools.

Person, Temperance Society, thomas sewall

Order of Sons of Temperance Founded

The Order Of The Sons Of Temperance is a drawing by Mary Evans Picture Library

SOT poster drawing

The Order of Sons of Temperance is organized by sixteen strong-souled, earnest men, who meet in Tee-totalers’ Hall, New York, on Thursday evening, September 29. This organization is designated as New York Division No. 1, Sons of Temperance. The Sons of Temperance became the most widely known fraternal temperance organization. Its three goals were clearly laid out in the constitution of the organization, which “proposed then, as it does now, three distinct objects-To shield its members from the evils of intemperance; afford mutual assistance in case of sickness, and elevate their character as men.”

Temperance Society
Organization, Temperance

First state Prohibition Law Passed

The Territorial Legislature of Oregon passes a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors to Indians and in 1844 passes a general prohibitory law. This was the first state or territory to enact such a law, on record. This prohibitory liquor law of Oregon was strengthened in 1845, before it was repealed in 1849.

Prohibition, oregon
Law, Native Americans, Prohibition, State

Father Mathews Nation-wide Abstinence Crusade

1848 Currier Ives lithograph of Father Mathew

1848 Father Mathew

Father Mathew (Theobald Mathew) an Irish Catholic priest and teetotalist reformer arrives from Ireland on July 2, —returning in 1851—and begins his pledge-signing crusade. President Tyler gives a banquet at the White House to Father Mathew and the Senate votes the extraordinary distinction of admitting him to the bar of the Senate. While in the U.S., he found himself at the center of the Abolitionist debate. In order to avoid upsetting anti-abolitionist friends in the US, he snubbed an invitation to publicly condemn chattel slavery. He defended his position by pointing out that there was nothing in the scriptures that prohibited slavery. He was condemned by many on the abolitionist side.

Clergy, Person, Temperance
Event, Temperance

The Maine Laws

Neal Dow, Napoleon of Temperance

Neal Dow

Neal Dow, the “Napoleon of Temperance,” a businessman, helped found the Maine Temperance Society before entering politics in Portland, where he became mayor in 1851. It was from that position that he successfully wrote and submitted to the state legislature “A Bill for the Suppression of Drinking Houses and Tippling Shops” that prohibited the manufacture and sale of all alcoholic beverages. The bill also allowed the search for and seizure of suspected contraband. The Maine Law (or “Maine Liquor Law”), passed the Maine House by a vote of 86 to 40 and the Senate by a vote of 18 to 10, and was signed by the Governor on June 2, the first of its kind in the nation. But this law was full of mazes and loopholes such that inhabitants of Maine could still drink alcohol. Some citizens started smuggling liquor into Maine, others hid their booze in their pants and then sold it on street corners. They were called bootleggers.

Person, Prohibition, Temperance Society, neal dow
Law, Prohibition, State

Maine Law Spreads to Other States

A prohibitory law is passed in Rhode Island by a Democratic Legislature on May 2 (repealed in 1863). The Massachusetts Legislature enacts the “Maine Law” in its most stringent form (repealed in 1868).  A Prohibition law similar to the Maine law is adopted by Massachusetts on May 22. The Territorial Legislature of Minnesota adopts a short lived Prohibition and the same is ratified by the people. Vermont enacts a state wide prohibitory law on December 20. Thirteen states adopted prohibition between 1852 and 1855.

Law, Prohibition, State

Woman’s New York State Temperance Society Founded

Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Susan B. Anthony was brought up a Quaker. Her family believed drinking liquor was sinful and joined the Daughters of Temperance, making her first public speech in 1848 at a Daughters of Temperance supper. In 1849 Anthony was elected president of the Rochester branch of the Daughters of Temperance and raised money for the cause.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton a woman suffragist and writer, married Henry Stanton in 1840. Marriage transformed Elizabeth’s life in many ways and set in motion her metamorphosis into a reformer. Within a short time, she met all the leading women of the antislavery movement, who opened her mind to the puzzle of women’s rights reform. This fledgling reform movement grew to recognize Elizabeth Cady Stanton as one of its leaders, although her co-workers knew her principally by her writing.
In 1851 Anthony met Stanton, and the two would form a life-long friendship and collaboration focused on obtaining suffrage. On 20 and 21 April 1852 Anthony and Stanton founded the Women’s New York State Temperance Society, which, even in its name, claimed an equality with the leading male society and featured women’s right to vote on the temperance question and to divorce drunken husbands. Beginning as an agent for this society, Anthony became a full-time reformer.
The Women’s State Temperance Society, eventually petitioned the New York State legislature to pass a law limiting the sale of liquor. The State Legislature rejected the petition on the grounds that the 28,000 signatures on the petition were mainly from women and children. This spurred Anthony and Stanton to focus so intently on the suffrage movement as a means of gaining more political sway that they were harshly criticized and resigned from the society.

Person, Temperance Society, WCTU, Women’s Christian Temperance Union
Organization, Temperance
1861 to 1863

Civil War Regulations

President Lincoln at General McClellan's Headquarters, October 1, 1862

President Lincoln and Gen. McClellan (1862)

1861: President Lincoln signs an act of Congress forbidding the selling or giving of intoxicating drinks to soldiers. Generals Butler, McClellan and Banks issue orders expelling all liquors from their respective commands. A gill of whisky is allowed by Congress to each man in the navy in case of excessive fatigue and exposure. Revised Army Regulations, issued by Secretary of War Simon Cameron, August 10, re-establishes the ration of one gill of whisky per man daily, in case of excessive fatigue or severe exposure. The New York Senate by a vote of 69 to 33 approves the joint resolution providing for a constitutional prohibitory amendment.
1862:To help finance the Civil War, the federal government imposed a license fee of twenty dollars on retail liquor dealers, a tax of a dollar a barrel on beer, and twenty cents a gallon on distilled spirits.  Congress by Act of February 13 makes it a crime punishable by fine and imprisonment to sell liquors to Indians under the care of a superintendent or an agent, whether on or off the reservation. Congress, on July 14, forbids the sale of liquor to soldiers and volunteers in the District of Columbia. In July Congress abolishes entirely the naval spirit ration. The United States Brewers’ Association is organized on November 12 in the city of New York. Congress passes a law declaring that the spirit ration in the navy shall cease forever after September 1. 1863: In the Confederacy, prohibition was imposed because of the new country’s severe shortage of grains needed for the war effort.

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Congress, Law, State

National Temperance Society & Publishing House Formed

No.14 The Four Seasons by Edward Carswell published by National Temperance Society and Publication House, circa 1870

1870 Publication

The National Temperance Society and Publishing House was founded by James Black in Saratoga Springs, New York. Black was a temperance movement activist and who went on to be the founder of the Prohibition Party and in 1872 he was the first nominee of the Prohibition Party for President of the United States. During its first 60 years, the Society and Publishing House published over a billion pages of literature in support of the temperance movement. Its three monthly magazines had a combined circulation of about 600,000. They were The National Temperance Advocate for adults, The Youth’s Temperance Banner for adolescents, and The Water Lily for children. The Society also published over 2,000 books and pamphlets in addition to textbooks, posters and flyers.

People, Temperance
Organization, Publication, Temperance

State Probition Laws Passed

The Kansas Legislature enacts a state prohibitory statute and the Alabama Legislature enacts several local Prohibition laws.

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Law, Prohibition, State

Prohibition Party Formed

A poster for the Prohibition Party, 1888.

Prohibition Party Poster 1888

The Prohibition Party, also known as the Dry Party, is the oldest continuous third party in the United States, was founded in September 1869 by temperance crusaders for the legislative prohibition of the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. The temperance movement was in existence as early as 1800, but it was not until 1867 that its leaders marshaled their forces to establish a separate political party to campaign for legislation to prohibit the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors. In September, 1869 at a convention in Chicago organized by the Rev. John Russell of Michigan. Delegates from 20 states were present.
Before entering a presidential race, the Prohibition party entered elections in nine states during the period from 1869 to 1871. The first three presidential candidates—James Black (1872), Green C. Smith (1876), and Neal Dow (1880)—each polled a very small number of votes. In 1884 a vigorous presidential campaign by John P. St. John resulted in the party’s first large popular vote (150,626). Four years later the temperance leader Clinton B. Fisk received almost 250,000 votes. The best showing occurred in 1892 with 271,000 votes received by John Bidwell for president.
The Prohibition Party championed women’s rights a full half century before they even had the legal ability to vote. Many women, in turn, found that the party’s platform of temperance aligned with their moral and economic values. From the party’s founding, female members  were able to speak from the floor, enter debates, introduce resolutions, and vote on the party platform. 

People, Prohibition Party, Temperance
Organization, Prohibition

The Woman’s Crusade

Woman's Temperance Crusade Eliza Daniel Stewart "Mother Stewart" and staff

Mother Stewart and her staff

The Woman’s Crusade has been generally recognized as having been started in Hillsboro, Ohio. It was the direct result of a meeting held in Hillsboro and addressed by Dr. Diocletian “Dio” Lewis on the night of December 23. Doctor Lewis, then on the lecture platform, had spoken in Hillsboro the night before and had been persuaded to stay for a second address in which he told of the unsuccessful effort of his mother and some of her friends to get rid of the saloon in their community by prayer and visitation.
His story appealed to the  women of Hillsboro  who decided to attempt such a movement, and the following day saw the Christian women of that village, headed by Eliza Thompson “Mother Thompson,” begin what was destined to sweep the country as a moral crusade.
Every day they visited the saloons and the drug stores where  liquor was sold. They prayed on sawdust floors or, being denied entrance, knelt on snowy pavements before the doorways, until almost all the sellers capitulated.
An other leading member of the crusade was Eliza Daniel Stewart sometimes referred to herself as “Mother Stewart. ” She was among an important group of American women who gained leadership experience by working in the Sanitary Commission (from which the Red Cross later emerged) during the American civil war.
Ohio was the major place in the crusade with a third of the crusaders, but the crusade spread to over 900 different communities in over 31 states in the United States.
The Crusades ended during the spring of 1874, but inspired many women across the country to become directly involved in the temperance movement and out of which was to spring in the following year the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

People, Prohibition Party, Temperance
Event, Organization, Prohibition

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Founded

Annie Turner Wittenmyer, President WCTU

Annie Wittenmyer

The Woman’s Crusade began in Hillsboro, Ohio after many women became inspired by a speech given by Diocletian Lewis to fight against the vices of alcoholism. Annoyed by their drunk husbands, many of the women involved wanted a way to express their opinions on alcohol. Eliza Thompson (“Mother Thompson’) led 70 women from a local church to the saloons. “Every day they visited the saloons and the drug stores where  liquor was sold. They prayed on sawdust floors or, being denied entrance, knelt on snowy pavements before the doorways, until almost all the sellers capitulated.”
An other leading member of the crusade was Eliza Daniel Stewart sometimes referred to herself as “Mother Stewart. ” She was among an important group of American women who gained leadership experience by working in the Sanitary Commission (from which the Red Cross later emerged) during the American civil war.
Their goals included using methods of prayer, song, and exhortation to close as many saloons possible. Ohio was the major place in the crusade with a third of the crusaders, but the crusade spread to over 900 different communities in over 31 states in the United States.
The Crusades ended during the spring of 1874, but inspired many women across the country to become directly involved in the temperance movement.

People, Prohibition Party, Temperance
Event, Organization, Prohibition

First Lady Lucy Hayes

First Lady Lucy Hayes

Lucy Hayes

Teetotaling First Lady Lucy Hayes resisted lending her name to the controversial dry cause. Nevertheless, she banned alcohol from all White House events, earning the nickname “Lemonade Lucy.” However, “It was actually the President who made the decision, recognizing how vital the support of the Prohibition Party was to the Republican Party.”

People, Prohibition Party, Temperance
Event, Organization, Prohibition

Frances Willard WCTU President

Frances Willard, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)

Frances Willard

Frances Willard became president of the WCTU, serving until 1898. She focused on stopping alcohol abuse but also agitated for prison reforms, aid for homeless children, pre-school education (kindergartens), sex education, aid to working women, and women’s suffrage. The WCTU did more than any other organization to mobilize women in support of progressive social reforms. After she took over leadership in 1879, the WCTU became one of the largest and most influential women’s groups of the 19th century by expanding its platform to campaign for labor laws, prison reform and suffrage.
Born in New York, Frances Willard moved to Wisconsin with her family in 1846, establishing a farmstead near Janesville. Willard studied at a small schoolhouse built by her father before continuing her education at Milwaukee Female College. An early advocate of dress reform, she became an influential educator, lecturer, writer, and editor of a newspaper in Chicago, as well as leading the efforts to preserve the school she attended in
Janesville, WI.

People, Temperance, WCTU, Women’s Christian Temperance Union

WCTU Backs Garfield

Frances Willard, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)

Frances Willard & her Staff, 1895

From the time of the birth of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union at the convention in Cleveland in 1874 until the presidential campaign of 1880, the society was a non-partisan organization. There had been no connection whatsoever between the Union and the Prohibition party. The women, however, had been led to believe that the presidential candidate on the Republican ticket in 1880, James A. Garfield, was a true friend of the temperance cause.
After the election and inauguration, however. Miss Willard called upon the President at the White House. The reception which Miss Willard received on that occasion led her to believe that neither the President nor the party which he represented were vitally interested in the Prohibition movement. Consequently, upon her return to Chicago she set about the work of organizing a new political party, and in 1881 with the cooperation of others launched the “Home Protection Party,” which was later merged into the National Prohibition party.

president, election, willard
Congress, Organization, Prohibition

Mary Hunt WCTU Educator

Mary Hunt, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)

Mary Hunt (WCTU)

The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) established its powerful Department of Scientific Temperance Instruction in Schools and Colleges, with Mary Hunt as the national head. Mrs. Hunt became the de factor judge of which physiology books would be acceptable and in making anti-alcohol education (temperance education) a part of the required course in public schools throughout every state in the U.S. as well as its territories and possessions.

People, Temperance, WCTU, Women’s Christian Temperance Union
Organization, Temperance

Coca-Cola Introduced

John Stith Pemberton was an American biochemist and American Civil War veteran who is best known as the inventor of Coca-Cola.

John Pemberton

Coca-Cola was introduced as a temperance beverage when the curiosity of an Atlanta pharmacist, Dr. John S. Pemberton, led him to create a distinctive tasting soft drink that could be sold at soda fountains. He created a flavored syrup, took it to his neighborhood pharmacy, where it was mixed with carbonated water and deemed “excellent” by those who sampled it. Dr. Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, is credited with naming the beverage “Coca‑Cola” as well as designing the trademarked, distinct script, still used today.
His bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, chose the name for the drink and penned it in the flowing script that became the Coca-Cola trademark. Pemberton originally touted his drink as a tonic for most common ailments, basing it on cocaine from the coca leaf and caffeine-rich extracts of the kola nut; the cocaine was removed from Coca-Cola’s formula in about 1903.

Prohibition, coca-cola

Prohibition Law Repeal

New Hampshire and Rhode Island repeal their Prohibition laws. Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, defeat efforts to impose Prohibition laws. South Dakota adopts Prohibition. North Dakota adopted Prohibition by a 1,159 majority. 

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Law, Supreme Court

Anti-Saloon League Formed

Wayne Wheeler, Anti-Saloon League President

Wayne Wheeler

As a result of the ongoing corruption, the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) was founded in 1893 by Doctor Howard H. Russell, a Congregational minister and Christian statesman, in Oberlin, Ohio It began life as a state organization, two years later became the Anti-Saloon League of America. It would turn out to be the most effective political group for the dry side. It had only one cause, a dry United States.
The ASL was organized as a business, it had a headquarters, a full time staff, a sufficient financing and a printing plant to spread propaganda. Wayne Bidwell Wheeler became the de facto leader of the Anti-Saloon League and wielded awesome power, as described by one historian: “Wayne B. Wheeler controlled six congresses, dictated to two presidents of the United States, directed legislation in most of the States of the Union, picked the candidates for the more important elective and federal offices, held the balance of power in both Republican and Democratic parties, distributed more patronage than any dozen other men, supervised a federal bureau from outside without official authority, and was recognized by friend and foe alike as the most masterful and powerful single individual in the United States “
Under the motto “The Saloon Must Go,” the organization worked to unify public anti-alcohol sentiment, enforce existing temperance laws and enact further anti-alcohol legislation. At first, the League appealed to local churches to carry its message to the people. Once they had established a loyal following, the League leaders focused their efforts on getting individual politicians elected who supported the cause. As a non-partisan organization with ties to prohibitionists throughout the country, the Anti-Saloon League announced a campaign for the nationwide prohibition of alcohol. The league used the dislike for saloons by respectable people and conservative groups like the WCTU to fuel the fire for prohibition.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Temperance, ohio
Organization, State, Temperance

Hatchet Nation Begins

Carrie (Carry) Amelia Nation

Carrie Amelia Nation

Carry A. Nation, (née Moore) grew up in poverty. Despite holding a teaching certificate from a state school, her education was intermittent. In 1867 she married a young physician, Charles Gloyd, whom she left after a few months because of his alcoholism. In 1877 she married David Nation, a lawyer, journalist, and minister, who divorced her in 1901 on the grounds of desertion.
Nation initially entered the temperance movement in 1890, and founded a chapter of the WCTU,  following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the importation and sale of liquor in “original packages” from other states that weakened the prohibition laws of Kansas, where she was living. In her view, the illegality of the saloons flourishing in that state meant that anyone could destroy them with impunity.
On December 27, 1900, Nation brought her campaign against alcohol to Wichita, Kansas when she smashed the bar at the elegant Carey Hotel. Earlier that year, Nation abandoned the nonviolent agitation of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in favor of direct action she called “hachetation.” Alone or accompanied by hymn-singing women, Nation, who was typically dressed as a Methodist deaconess, in stark black-and-white clothing, would march into a saloon and proceed to sing, pray, hurl biblical-sounding vituperations, and smash the bar fixtures and stock with a hatchet. At one point, her fervor led her to invade the governor’s chambers at Topeka. Jailed many times, she paid her fines from lecture tour fees and sales of souvenir hatchets, at times earning as much as $300 per week. She herself survived numerous physical assaults. Her “hatchetation” period was brief but brought her national notoriety.
She was for a time much in demand as a temperance lecturer; she also railed against fraternal orders, tobacco, foreign foods, corsets, skirts of improper length, and mildly pornographic art of the sort found in some barrooms of the time. She was an advocate of woman suffrage.

People, Temperance, Temperance Union, WCTU, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, kansas
Organization, State, Temperance

Ernest Cherrington Joins Anti-Saloon League

Ernest Cherrington, Anti-Saloon League

Ernest Cherrington

Ernest H. Cherrington joined the Anti-Saloon League and became one of its most powerful leaders; edited The Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem, a comprehensive six-volume work that was distributed to schools throughout the country; was active in establishing the World League Against Alcoholism; and headed the Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals of the Methodist Church until shortly before his death in 1950. He was one of the few prohibition leaders whose reputation was not harmed by public revelations of racial or religious bigotry, sexual infidelity, financial improprieties, political scandals, or other moral/ethical problems.

The Intercollegiate Prohibition Association was established and within two years was reportedly the third largest collegiate organization in the country. After Prohibition was repealed its name was changed to Intercollegiate Association for the Study of Alcohol.

People, Temperance, Temperance Union, WCTU, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, kansas
Organization, State, Temperance

Lincoln-Lee League Established

Lincoln Lee League Membership Card

Lincoln Lee League

The Lincoln League was founded in 1903, providing pledge cards to children during pledge drives at churches, Sunday schools, and temperance meetings, operating under the auspices of the Anti-Saloon League. In 1912, however, the ASL was ready to expand the geographic reach of the Lincoln League, and they did so by creating a “Lee Division” and then in 1913 amending the name to the Lincoln-Lee Legion, reflecting broader patterns of reconciliation fifty years after the Civil War. The new legion touted Robert E. Lee as temperance man, providing anecdotes of his resistance to the evils of alcohol.
Girls who signed the pledge were “Willards,” after Frances Willard of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Boys in the North were “Lincolns.” Boys in the South became “Lees.” By 1925, over five million children had signed the total abstinence pledge cards.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Temperance
Organization, Temperance

Purley Baker Heads Anti-Saloon League

Purley Baker head of the national Anti-Saloon League

Purley Baker

Purley Baker was an ordained Methodist minister who strongly opposed any consumption of beverage alcohol and was superintendent of the Ohio Anti-Saloon League. He became head of the national Anti-Saloon League in 1903 and five years later created the League’s Industrial Relations Department to promote the idea that imposing prohibition would be a good business investment. He raised large sums of money to create a major information campaign, an important component of which was to demonize the producers of alcoholic beverages.
An important part of his strategy was to demonize brewers, as most brewers were of German heritage. Baker stated that Germans “eat like gluttons and drink like swine”. League posters vilified the “Huns” who were portrayed as Neanderthals threatening the U.S. and its way of life. Stigmatizing German brewers proved to be a highly successful strategy as World War I approached.
Purley Baker, went on to led a parade of the League down Pennsylvania Avenue to the steps of the U.S. Capitol where he presented copies of a proposed Eighteenth Amendment to bring about National Prohibition to two dry congressmen.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Temperance
Organization, Temperance
1904 to 1912

Prohibition Attempts Continue

From 1903 to 1912 the record of practically every year showed an increase in the dry territory and dry population of the United States along with a corresponding decrease in the license territory and license population of the nation. Rural townships and villages which adopted local Prohibition during this period were numbered by the thousands. A number of Prohibition laws were either passed, strengthened or repealed and some prohibition attempts were defeated.
1903: The Prohibition laws of Vermont and New Hampshire are repealed by the adoption of local option measures in these States. Eighteen of the twenty-four towns and cities voting in Virginia adopt Prohibition.
1904: The Iowa Legislature enacts an anti-bootleggers’ bill and inebriates’ bill and passes a resolution urging Congress to amend the interstate shipment law in such a way as to prevent the shipment of liquors from one State to the dry territory of another.
1907: Georgia and Oklahoma became the first states in the U.S. to adopt statewide prohibition in the twentieth century. Alabama became “dry” by act of Legislature.
1908: North Carolina adopts Prohibition. Mississippi “dry” by act of Legislature.
1909: Tennessee adopted statewide prohibition by act of Legislature.
1910: Missouri defeats Prohibition proposal. Florida defeats Prohibition by a 4,600 majority. Oregon defeats Prohibition by a 20,000 majority.
1911: Alabama’s state-wide prohibition law was replaced by a law creating local option by county. Maine retains Prohibition by bare majority of 758 votes. Texas defeats Prohibition by 6,297 majority. Alabama repeals the Prohibition law.
1912: West Virginia adopted statewide prohibition, while Arkansas refuses Prohibition by 15,968 majority.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Temperance
Organization, Temperance

Webb-Kenyon Act 37 Stat. 699

Democratic Rep. Edwin Y. Webb of North Carolina

Edwin Y. Webb

The Webb-Kenyon Act, named for its principal sponsors, Democratic Rep. Edwin Y. Webb of North Carolina and Republican Sen. William S. Kenyon of Iowa, was passed in 1913. The Act regulated the interstate transport of alcoholic beverages. It prohibited the shipment of alcohol beverages into a State in violation of the receiving State’s laws. The statute provided additional authority to enhance enforcement of Federal Alcohol Administration Act requirements. In effect, this prohibited shipping or importing alcohol into a state with statewide prohibition.
Congress passed the legislation and sent it to the President on February 18, 1913. Ten days later, on February 28, 1913, President William Howard Taft, in the closing days of his administration, vetoed the law on constitutional grounds, believing that it delegated to the individual states the federal government’s exclusive right to regulate interstate commerce.
Taft submitted his veto with an opinion by Attorney General George W. Wickersham. In a vote of 63 to 21 the Senate overrode his veto the same day, and the House of Representatives did so by a vote of 246 to 85 on March 1, 1913.
The passage of the Webb-Kenyon Act marked the political maturation of the prohibition movement and set the course for national prohibition. Prohibition forces overcame determined political opposition in Congress and constitutional objections to their measure. The idea behind the act was that the federal government should assist, or at least not interfere, with the operation of state laws that prohibited the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. This concept of concurrent power of state and federal governments was written into the Eighteenth Amendment and underlay the national prohibition enforcement act, the Volstead Act.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Temperance, irs, treasury
Congress, Law

Sixteenth Amendment

The Sixteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1909, was ratified by the requisite number of states (36) on February 3, 1913. It played a central role in building up the powerful American federal government of the twentieth century by making it possible to enact a modern, nationwide income tax. Before long, the income tax would become by far the federal government’s largest source of revenue. This Amendment was part of a wave of federal and state constitutional amendments championed by Progressives in the early twentieth century.
One of the stumbling blocks advocates of Prohibition faced before 1913 was that the federal government was heavily dependent on taxes on alcohol. The tax on liquor annually provided from one-half to two-thirds of the IRS collection, amounting, after the turn of the century, to approximately $200 million. The passage of the income tax constitutional amendment that year allowed government the luxury of banning alcohol without reducing tax revenue and helped pave the way for Prohibition.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Temperance, irs, treasury
Congress, Law

R. P. Hobson’s Resolution

Congressman, Capt. Richard Hobson of Alabama

Rep. R. P. Hobson

The Prohibition movement reflected a cultural war in the country. For example, in arguing in favor of Prohibition, Congressman Richard Hobson of Alabama asserted that “Liquor will actually make a brute out of a Negro, causing him to commit unnatural crimes. The effect is the same on the white man, though the white man being further evolved it takes longer time to reduce him to the same level.”
A proposed resolution providing for the submission of National Constitutional Prohibition was National Prohibition, 1913-1919 presented by the committee to Honorable Richmond Pearson Hobson as a  member of the National House of Representatives, and to Honorable Morris Sheppard of Texas, as a member of the United States Senate. The measure was promptly introduced by these gentlemen in both Houses of the Sixty-Third Congress and referred to the Judiciary Committee in each House.
The Article stated: “Section 1. The sale, manufacture for sale, transportation for sale, importation for sale of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes in the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof, and exportation for sale thereof, are forever prohibited.” “Section 2. The Congress, or the states within their respective jurisdictions, shall have power to enforce this article by all needful legislation.”
The Hobson Joint Resolution was taken up by the House of Representatives by the adoption of a special rule, on December 22, 1914, and on final vote received 197 votes in its favor with 189 votes against it, thus failing for lack of a two-thirds majority necessary for the passage of a resolution providing for the submission of a constitutional amendment. Fifteen absent members were paired, ten for the resolution and five against it, while twenty-seven other members of the House did not vote.

Anti-Saloon League, People, Person, Temperance, congressman, richard p. hobson, alabama
Congress, Law

The Sheppard Bill - 18th Amendment Proposal

Senator Morris Sheppard

Senator Morris Sheppard

A joint resolution known as the Sheppard Bill, that proposed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was introduced in both Houses of the Sixty-Fourth Congress which convened in December, 1915. The resolutions were presented in the Senate by Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas and Senator J. H. Gallinger of New Hampshire.
In the House the resolutions were introduced by Representative Edwin Y. Webb of North Carolina and Representative Addison T. Smith of Idaho. On December 14, 1916, the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of twelve to seven favorably reported the National Prohibition resolution which was placed on the House calendar as House Joint Resolution No. 84. On December 21, 1916, the Judiciary Committee of the Senate by a vote of thirteen to three favorably reported the National Prohibition Resolution which went on the calendar of the Senate as Senate Joint Resolution No. 55. Neither resolution, however, came to a vote, and both died with the adjournment of the Sixty-Fourth Congress.
Similar resolutions were presented in both Houses early in the first session of the Sixty-Fifth Congress and were passed, in the Senate on August 1. 1917 and in the House on December 17, 1917. The final vote in the Senate was sixty-five to twenty while the vote in the House was 282 to 128. Slight amendments were made to the measure when it was adopted by the House on December 17. The Senate, however, on the following day voted to concur in the House amendments and the resolution was thus finally adopted on December 18, 1917, with the provision that to become effective it must be ratified within six years and sent it to the states for ratification.

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Congress, Law, Prohibition

18th Amendment Introduced

Ratification of the proposed prohibitory amendment to the Federal Constitution began almost immediately after the passage of the Joint Resolution by Congress. Mississippi was the first state to ratify, action being taken by the Legislature of that state on January 8, 1918.  From that time forward, regular and special sessions of state Legislatures continued to act favorably on the question of ratification.
The specific dates on which different states ratified the Eighteenth Amendment during the year were: January 8, Mississippi; January 11, Virginia; January 14, Kentucky; January 28, North Dakota; January 29, South Carolina; February 13, Maryland; February 19, Montana; March 4, Texas; March 18, Delaware; March 20, South Dakota; April 2, Massachusetts; May 24, Arizona; June 26, Georgia; August 9, Louisiana; November 27, Florida.

The War Time Prohibition Act was passed to save grain and other materials for the war effort in W.W.I.

Congress, Law, Prohibition, State

18th Amendment Ratified & The Volstead Act

Andrew H. Volstead

Andrew H. Volstead

Ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment occurred quickly. “On January 7, Ohio and Oklahoma ratified; the next day, Idaho and Maine; the following day, West Virginia. After a weekend lull, fifteen more states approved the dry amendment in the span of four days, including states that had only recently shifted into the dry camp. On the afternoon of January 16, 1919, Nebraska became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, giving it the three-fourths majority needed for enactment.” It went into effect one year later and 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.
The House of Representatives Bill No. 6810 The Volstead Prohibition Enforcement Code, presented by Rep. Volstead is passed by the United States House of Representatives on July 22, 1919, by a vote of 287 to 100, and by the Senate on September 4, without roll call. The Senate concurs in the conference decision on October 8, and the House concurs by a vote of 321 to 70, on October 10. The measure is vetoed by President Wilson on October 27, and passed over the President’s veto, by a vote of 176 to 55 in the House of Representatives and by a vote of 65 to 20 in the United States Senate.
The Volstead Act stated that “beer, wine, or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquors” meant any beverage that was more than 0.5% alcohol by volume. The Act also stated that owning any item designed to manufacture alcohol was illegal and it set specific fines and jail sentences for violating Prohibition.

People, Prohibition, andrew volstead
Congress, Law, Prohibition, State


When Prohibition took effect on January 17, 1920, many thousands of formerly legal saloons across the country catering only to men closed down. People wanting to drink had to buy liquor from licensed druggists for “medicinal” purposes, clergymen for “religious” reasons or illegal sellers known as bootleggers. Another option was to enter private, unlicensed barrooms, nicknamed “speakeasies” for how low you had to speak the “password” to gain entry so as not to be overheard by law enforcement.

The result of Prohibition was a major and permanent shift in American social life. The illicit bars, also referred to as “blind pigs” and “gin joints,” multiplied, especially in urban areas. They ranged from fancy clubs with jazz bands and ballroom dance floors to dingy backrooms, basements and rooms inside apartments. No longer segregated from drinking together, men and women reveled in speakeasies and another Prohibition-created venue, the house party. Restaurants offering booze targeted women, uncomfortable sitting at a bar, with table service. Italian-American speakeasy owners sparked widespread interest in Italian food by serving it with wine.

Organized criminals quickly seized on the opportunity to exploit the new lucrative criminal racket of speakeasies and clubs and welcomed women in as patrons. In fact, organized crime in America exploded because of bootlegging. Al Capone, leader of the Chicago Outfit, made an estimated $60 million a year supplying illegal beer and hard liquor to thousands of speakeasies he controlled in the late 1920s.

Speakeasies were generally ill-kept secrets, and owners exploited low-paid police officers with payoffs to look the other way, enjoy a regular drink or tip them off about planned raids by federal Prohibition agents. Bootleggers who supplied the private bars would add water to good whiskey, gin and other liquors to sell larger quantities.

Others resorted to selling still-produced moonshine or industrial alcohol, wood or grain alcohol, even poisonous chemicals such as carbolic acid. The bad stuff, such as “Smoke” made of pure wood alcohol, killed or maimed thousands of drinkers. To hide the taste of poorly distilled whiskey and “bathtub” gin, speakeasies offered to combine alcohol with ginger ale, Coca-Cola, sugar, mint, lemon, fruit juices and other flavorings, creating the enduring mixed drink, or “cocktail,” in the process.


Supreme Court - Jacob Ruppert v. Caffey, 251 U.S. 264

1920 Supreme Court

1920 Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States on January 6 renders a decision in Jacob Ruppert v. Caffey, that had been argued November 20, 21, 1919. The Court decided that The National Prohibition Act (October 28, 1919, Title I, § 1), in its provision that “[t]he words ‘beer, wine, or other intoxicating malt or vinous liquors’ in the War Prohibition Act shall be hereafter construed to mean any such beverages which contain one-half of one percentum or more of alcohol by volume.” Thus holding that Congress has power to define intoxicating liquors, and to fix the standard of alcohol.

People, Prohibition, andrew volstead
Congress, Law, Prohibition, State

Bureau of Prohibition

Maisy SImpson's Treasury Dept. Inland Revenue ID

Maisy SImpson ID

The Bureau of Prohibition, was formed as a unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 1920. It was made an independent agency within the Treasury Department in 1927, and was transferred to the Justice Department in 1930, and became, briefly, a division of the FBI in 1933.
When the Volstead Act, which established Prohibition in the United States, was repealed in December 1933, the Unit was transferred from the Department of Justice back to the Department of the Treasury, where it became the Alcohol Tax Unit (ATU) of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Special Agent Eliot Ness and several members of The “Untouchables”, who had worked for the Prohibition Bureau while the Volstead Act was still in force, were transferred to the ATU. In 1942, responsibility for enforcing federal firearms laws was given to the ATU.

People, Prohibition, andrew volstead
Congress, Law, Prohibition, State

Alcohol Prescriptions

Prescription for Whiskey

Whiskey Prescription

Within the first six months of National Prohibition, more than 15,000 physicians and 57,000 druggists and drug manufacturers had applied for licenses to prescribe and sell liquor. Not surprisingly, the Council of the American Medical Association refused to confirm the Associations 1917 resolution that discouraged the therapeutic use of alcohol.

medical, prescription
Law, Prohibition

Mullan–Gage Act

John Boyd Mullan, member of the New York State Senate co-sponsored with Assemblyman Bert P. Gage the “Mullan–Gage Act” also know as “Little Volstead. ” In addition to the federal law, the New York State legislature on April 4, 1921, passed the law in an attempt to provide a means to enforce the new Prohibition laws. After considering the bill for four weeks, Gov. Alfred E. Smith signed it on June 1. However, the new enforcement law fixed none of the problems in the Volstead Act, rather, it restated the federal law almost word for word, the only additional provision that the Mullan-Gage law included was that the carrying a hip flask in New York was the “equivalent of carrying an unlicensed handgun.” It made a violation both a state and federal crime, and thus enabled the Federal Government to secure a double punishment “for the same acts.  It completely failed, and was repealed in 1923, just two years after it was passed.

People, Prohibition, bert p. gage, john boyd mullan
Law, Prohibition, State

Hobart Act

George S. Hobart was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1917, and elected again in 1920 and 1921. He was the Assembly Speaker in 1921. As an Assemblyman, Hobart was the sponsor of the New Jersey Prohibition Enforcement Act.
Though the Van Ness Act was declared unconstitutional the  work of suppression went on. The  Hobart Act took its place. The Hobart Bill invites Prohibition agents and officers to go anywhere they desire without a search warrant, with the absolute assurance that in their unlawful occupation they are  immune under the law. “Malice” is the most difficult thing in the world to prove—with the possible exception of “without reasonable cause.”
March 17, 1922: The Hobart Act, New Jersey’s implementation law for the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, was passed. Initial arrests under this law, and the federal Volstead Act, for bootlegging numbered 91 in 1922 but, by 1932, had escalated to 996 for the year.

People, Prohibition, new jersey, hobart
Law, Prohibition, State

Police Sgt. Roy Olmstead Arrested

Roy Olmstead, Bootlegger

Roy Olmstead, Bootlegger

Nicknamed the “King of the Puget Sound Bootleggers,” Roy Olmstead was the youngest and most promising lieutenant on the Seattle police force when he was caught bootlegging whiskey and was fired from the police. He then turned himself into a professional bootlegger and before long, he was making more in one week then he would have earned in twenty years as a policeman. Olmstead bought local officials – sheriff’s deputies, members of the police department’s so-called “Dry Squad,” city council members, the chief of police, even the mayor.
Olmstead was eventually caught by evidence obtained through wiretapping in 1924 and sentenced to four years hard labor. He appealed on the grounds that wiretapping was unconstitutional, but his Supreme Court case ruled 5 to 4 to uphold his conviction. In his dissent, Justice Louis Brandeis, asserted that there was a right to privacy embedded in the American Constitution.
The Supreme Court eventually reversed itself, and Olmstead received a presidential pardon, but by then, he had already served out his sentence.

Bootlegger, Enforcement, People, Prohibition, new jersey, hobart
Bootlegging, Enforcement, Law, Prohibition

The Real McCoy

William "Bill" McCoy, Bootlegger, Rum Runner

William “Bill” McCoy

One of the famous rumrunner on the East Coast was William “Bill” McCoy. McCoy, an enterprising former merchant sailor, had lost his Jacksonville, Florida, motorboat transport business to onshore buses in early 1920.  When a wealthy gentleman offered him the chance to smuggle liquor, McCoy agreed and soon became one of the earliest and most successful rumrunners. The quality of the name-brand Scotch and whiskey he provided was so revered that bootleggers on Rum Row used the term “the real McCoy” to describe good liquor.
McCoy started hauling British (Scotland)-made liquor from Nassau harbor in the Bahamas to the East Coast, then, with the heat on, moved for a time up north to St. Pierre Island. He could store 5,000 cases of liquor on his schooner the Arethusa. The “cases” were unique – not wooden ones but far-lighter, consisting of six paper-covered bottles stacked in a pyramid, covered in straw and tied into a burlap sack. McCoy installed a machine gun on the deck of the Arethusa; in case he had to deal with go-through guys.
While floating at sea on Rum Row, boats like McCoy’s would post handwritten signs on the riggings, showing the names of their liquors and prices. McCoy’s customers, up to 15 at a time, drove their contact boats up to his schooner, keeping their motors running while buying cases of his products such as Johnny Walker and Dewer’s. He was popular for his fair prices, offers of free samples and a free case per order to paying customers.
McCoy’s time as the brash, romantic rumrunner, however, came to an end in 1923, when a Coast Guard cutter spotted his flagship schooner, renamed the Tomoka, on Rum Row about six miles off the coast of New Jersey. McCoy ordered his crew to sail away, but he surrendered after the Coast Guard fired a six-pound cannon shell at his vessel. In the mid-1920s, he pleaded guilty to smuggling, served nine months in jail and later moved to Florida where he and his brother Ben started a business building ships.

Bootlegger, Enforcement, People, Prohibition, mccoy
Bootlegging, Enforcement, Law, Prohibition

Eliot Ness, Prohibition Agent

Eliot Ness, American Prohibition Agent

Agent Eliot Ness

Special Agent (SA) Eliot Ness is one of the most famous federal agents in the history of law enforcement. As a supervisor of an ordinary team of agents he did the extraordinary. Against all odds, he and his Untouchables broke the back of organized crime in Chicago, a city that was dubbed the “Crime Capital of the World.” SA Ness performed brilliantly as both a crime fighter and a leader in a time of national distress.
From the enactment of the Volstead Act, prohibition agents hunted down bootleggers who were growing enormously powerful and rich by smuggling liquor into the United States primarily from Canada and Europe.  By the time Ness entered the service in 1926, three of Treasury’s six law enforcement arms: the Prohibition Unit, the Coast Guard, and Customs – were working together, sharing information, and conducting joint operations against what would be described today as a transnational organized crime threat.
When SA Ness and his Untouchables emerged as the enforcers who had put away Al Capone after he had maintained a decade-long empire in Chicago, they became so ingrained in the American psyche that cartoonist, Chester Gould, launched a new comic strip based on the crime stories published in the daily headlines.  Using Eliot Ness as his model, Dick Tracy was born.
For decades thereafter, SA Eliot Ness and his fictional alter ego would influence American notions of detective work, crime-fighting and heroism. Perhaps what is most remarkable about Ness is not that he and his squad sent Capone packing for the penitentiary; but that he later went on to lead two additional teams of agents in the cleanup of two equally crime-ridden cities protected by corrupt law enforcement agencies, Cincinnati and Cleveland

Bootlegger, Enforcement, FBI, G-Men, People, Prohibition, Treasury Department, untouchables, eliot ness
Bootlegging, Enforcement, Law, Prohibition

Bishop James Cannon

Bishop James Cannon Jr.

Bishop James Cannon

After the death of powerful Anti-Saloon League leader Wayne Wheeler in 1927, Bishop James Cannon, Jr., chairman of the Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals, emerged as the most powerful leader of the temperance movement in the United States.
James Cannon Jr. was an educator, a bishop of the southern Methodist Church, a leader of Prohibitionists in Virginia and the nation, and a political activist of such skill and combativeness that he became one of the most famous, and deeply controversial, American figures early in the early twentieth century. Best known as a relentless advocate of Prohibition, Cannon led the Virginia Anti-Saloon League’s campaign for statewide Prohibition, adopted in 1914. He then served as the national Anti-Saloon League’s principal Democratic lobbyist through the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919 and the subsequent enforcement of national Prohibition during the 1920s.
Cannon was a partisan Democrat, yet in 1928 he led a rebellion of southern Democrats against the presidential campaign of Alfred E. Smith, a wet, Catholic representative of the urban wing of the Democratic Party. Also an innovator and divisive figure within his church, Cannon, who became a bishop in 1918, directed worldwide missionary efforts and unsuccessfully pushed for the unification of the northern and southern branches of American Methodism. Charges of embezzlement, stock-market gambling, and adultery, fanned by Cannon’s numerous enemies, dogged the bishop from 1929 until 1934 and diminished his influence thereafter.

People, Prohibition, Temperance, Temperance Union, james cannon
Congress, Law, Organization, Prohibition, Temperance

Beginning of the End

States Pass Laws To Undermine Prohibition: Led by states in the Northeast and Midwest, by 1927 at least six state legislatures pass laws preventing police from following up on reported violations of the alcohol ban. Organized crime grows with a large increase of illegal bars and clubs. Notorious mob boss Al Capone reportedly made $60 million (equivalent to $2 billion today) in 1927 mostly from liquor sales.

Voluntary Committee Of Lawyers Forms To Repeal Prohibition: Nine prominent New York lawyers form the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers to repeal the Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment. They argue that the growing disregard for Prohibition threatens to undermine respect for the country’s system of laws and repealing the amendment is needed “to preserve the spirit of the Constitution of the United States.” The committee develops a large network of lawyers – estimates say 3,500 in all states at its strongest. The American Bar Association will call for repeal a year later.

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Congress, Law, Organization, Prohibition

Hoover Appoints Wickersham Commission

Attorney General George W. Wickersham

George W. Wickersham

January 1931 Wickersham Commission was the topic of the month, especially among New Yorkers keen to see the end of Prohibition, which was the focus of the commission. Established by President Herbert Hoover, the 11-member Wickersham Commission (officially, the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement) named and run by  attorney general George W. Wickersham. The commission was not seeking to repeal the 18th Amendment, but rather to examine the criminal justice system under Prohibition, everything from police brutality and graft to the rapid rise of organized crime.
Commission members included Henry W. Anderson, Newton D. Baker, Ada Comstock, William Irwin Grubb, William S. Kenyon, Monte M. Lemann, Frank J. Loesch, Kenneth Mackintosh, Paul John McCormick, and Dean Roscoe Pound of the Harvard Law School. Pioneering American criminologist August Vollmer wrote portions of the report.
The Commission focused its investigations almost entirely on the widespread violations of national alcohol prohibition to study and recommend changes to the Eighteenth Amendment and to observe police practices in the states. They observed police interrogation tactics and reported that “the inflicting of pain, physical or mental, to extract confessions or statements… is widespread throughout the country.” They released a second report in 1931 that supported Prohibition but found contempt among average Americans and unworkable enforcement across the states, corruption in police ranks, local politics and problems in every community that attempted to enforce prohibition laws.

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Congress, Law, Organization, Prohibition

Pauline Sabin Switches Sides

Pauline Morton Sabin by Philip Alexius de László

Pauline Morton Sabin

Hoover’s decision to appoint a commission to study the problems of Prohibition was criticized as inadequate by Pauline Sabin, the first female board member of the Republican National Committee and a nationally known “dry” advocate. In April 1929, Sabin decided to switch sides and campaign for repealing the 18th Amendment. She was disillusioned with it, having seen many people drinking and flouting Prohibition in New York, notorious for its thousands of speakeasies.
Pauline Sabin was the wife of Charles Sabin, chairman of the board of the Guaranty Trust Company, and an heiress in her own right. She was also the first woman ever to serve on the Republican National Committee, the founder and first president of the Women’s National Republican Club, and a major fund-raiser for the presidential campaigns of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover.
But Sabin found the hypocrisy of Prohibition intolerable, was repelled by politicians who voted dry and then turned up at her dinner table expecting a drink—and she had a special aversion to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the way its President, Ella Boole, claimed to speak for all American women. Sabin resigned in disgust from the Republican National Committee and helped launch a repeal advocacy group, the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. She quickly found that many other American women—who like Sabin once favored Prohibition—agreed with her about repeal. Sabin’s pro-repeal movement caught fire and her organization had more than one million members by 1932.

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Congress, Law, Organization, Prohibition

Man in the Green Hat

George L. Cassiday, Main in the Green Hat, Bootlegger

George L. Cassiday

October 24, 1930, just two weeks before the congressional midterm elections, bootlegger George Cassiday—„the man in the green hat”—came forward and told how he had bootlegged for ten years for members of Congress and Senate. One of the few bootleggers ever to tell his story, Cassiday wrote five, front-page articles for The Washington Post. He estimated that eighty percent of congressmen and senators drank, even though they were the ones passing dry laws. This had a significant impact on the midterm election, which saw Congress shift from a dry Republican majority to a wet Democratic majority, who understood that Prohibition was unpopular and called for its repeal.
As an underemployed World War I veteran, George Cassiday turned to the illegal alcohol trade during the Prohibition Era. From 1920 to 1925, he sold spirits to House Members in the House Office Building (now Cannon Building).
From a New York supplier, Cassiday routinely transported 35 to 40 quarts in two large suit cases by train. A Member, he claimed, secured basement office space for him that suited his illicit trade. The room, Cassiday explained, opened on the court and when the blinds were pulled and the door opening…was bolted there was no chance of being interrupted at work.
It took the Capitol Police five years to uncover Cassiday’s operation. When they arrested him with alcohol in a briefcase, he was wearing “a light green felt hat.” When the House Sergeant at Arms described the perpetrator’s attire for reporters, the incident and Cassiday’s new moniker made national headlines.
Cassiday pled guilty to possession of alcohol and was banned from House premises. His newfound publicity, however, did not hurt his business. As many who have left the House in one capacity or another have done, Cassiday simply found employment on the North side of the Capitol building.
From 1925 to 1930, he ran a bootlegging operation out of the Senate Office Building (now Russell Building). The experience gave him a unique perspective on the two institutions. In the House, he told the Washington Post, “I dealt directly with most of my customers,” but “most of the senators would order their liquor through their secretaries.” Cassiday added, “You find a more general spirit of good fellowship and conviviality in the House.”

Bootlegger, Enforcement, Person, Prohibition, george cassiday
Bootlegging, Congress, Enforcement, Law, Prohibition

FDR Calls For End Of Prohibition

Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Democratic Convention in Chicago 1932

FDR at Democratic Convention

“This convention wants repeal. Your candidate wants repeal. And I am confident that the United States of America wants repeal,” Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his speech at the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Earlier in his career, he had been supportive of Prohibition. Some credit FDR’s switch to the 1929 stock market crash, the resulting Depression, and his belief that a revived liquor industry would create jobs and help get the economy back on track.
After four ballots the Roosevelt received 945 votes on the fourth ballot to Al Smith’s 190 after Speaker of the House John N. Garner’s released his delegates to vote for Roosevelt. This resulted in the nomination of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York for president and Garner became the vice-presidential candidate, likely as part of a deal for his delegates. Franklin D. Roosevelt went on to win the election to the presidency defeating Hoover in a record landslide – 22.8 million votes to 15.7 million – and voters installed large Democratic Party majorities in the House and Senate.

Enforcement, Person, Prohibition, president, fdr, franklin d. roosevelt
Congress, Enforcement, Event, Law, Prohibition

Blaine Drafts Twenty-first Amendment

Senator John J. Blaine of Wisconsin

Senator John Blaine

Sen. John J. Blaine was the 24th Governor of Wisconsin and a United States Senator. He also served as Attorney General of Wisconsin and a member of the Wisconsin State Senate and served in the U.S. Senate from March 4, 1927 to March 3, 1933.
On December 6, 1932, he drafted a Twenty-first Amendment to be submitted to the states for possible ratification in order to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment that created National Prohibition in the US. It quickly passed both houses of Congress and was ratified by the necessary 36 states on December 5, 1933, thus ending National Prohibition.
However, a number of states maintained state-wide prohibition. The last to drop prohibition was Mississippi in 1966. However, it and many other states continue to permit local option regarding the legal sale of alcoholic beverages.

Enforcement, Person, Prohibition, wisconsin, blaine
Congress, Law, Prohibition

1933 End of Prohibition

On March 13, 1933, nine days after he took office, President Franklin Roosevelt sent a short memo to Congress asking for “modification of the Volstead Act in order to legalize the manufacture and sale of beer. Five hours after receiving Roosevelt’s message, a subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee drafted a bill that would legalize 3.2 % ABW beer at the federal level, but would allow states the option of keeping their own Prohibitions in place.

Representative Thomas H. Cullen of New York, the bill’s sponsor in the House of Representatives, introduced the measure. After around four hours of debate, the beer bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 316 to 97. After its passage in the House, the bill went to the Senate under the sponsorship of Senator Pat Harrison of Mississippi. California Senator William McAdoo succeeded in amending the bill to include the legalization of wine of up to 3.2 % alcohol—essentially taking up parts of a light wine bill previously proposed in the House by Representative Clarence Lea of California’s 1st Congressional District. Known as the Cullen-Harrison bill it passed the Senate on March 16, 1933, by a 43-30 vote. The final step was to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions in the reconciliation process. Much of the reconciliation debate focused on beer’s ABW content, which the media dubbed “The Great Percentage War.” The opposition maintained that either percentage was, in-fact, intoxicating, and hence a violation of the 18th Amendment.

March 20, the Senate approved a reconciled bill for 3.2 % beer and wine by a vote of 43 to 36—the vote was a bit tighter than the one on March 16, as some Senators apparently could not bring themselves to vote for the 3.2 % level versus the 3.05 % level. The House likewise passed the reconciled bill without a formal roll call on March 21. President Roosevelt signed the bill on March 22.

In those states that did not have their own laws against beverages below 3.2 % alcohol in place, beer would become legal on April 7, 1933 (states could begin to produce beer immediately and hold it until the legalization date.) On April 7, 1933, beer became legal in 21 of the 48 states. Over the next eight months—prior to the end of federal Prohibition in December—22 more states legalized 3.2 % beer. Five other states chose to remain dry even after national Prohibition ended. Kansas became the last state to legalize beer in May 1937.


After Repeal, Liquor Prosecutions Halted

Supreme Court 1932, Front row: Justices Brandeis and Van Devanter, Chief Justice Hughes, and Justices McReynolds and Sutherland. Back row: Justices Roberts, Butler, Stone, and Cardozo.

Supreme Court 1932-37

In U.S. v. Chambers, Claude Chambers and Byrum Gibson are prosecuted for possessing and transporting intoxicating liquor in violation of the National Prohibition Act. Although the events that led to their arrest occurred before ratification of the 21st Amendment, the prosecution occurred after its adoption. Thus the defendants asked the Court to dismiss their case because the laws for which they were arrested were no longer valid. The U.S. Supreme Court agrees that the prosecution under an inoperative or repealed law cannot go forward. The ruling, however, does not address whether defendants who had been convicted of alcohol-related charges during Prohibition are to be freed.

Enforcement, Prohibition
Law, Prohibition

Carter Legalizes Home Brewing

President Jimmy Carter

President Jimmy Carter

In 1976, a group of homebrewers in California, where homebrewing had become popular, lobbied Senator Alan Cranston for federal legalization. After two years of failed attempts, Cranston was finally able to incorporate the legislation into a transportation bill to avoid scrutiny. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed HR 1337, legalizing homebrewing at the federal level and giving Carter the unlikely distinction of homebrewing hero. The law took effect on February 1st, 1979, just as Papazian was launching his homebrewing magazine Zymurgy (Zymurgy is a scientific term that is defined as fermentation by yeast) and the American Homebrewers Association. Today, homebrewing is how over 95 percent of craft brewers learn their trade.

Enforcement, People, Prohibition, jimmy carter, president
Law, Prohibition