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Prohibition History

               Prohibition History Film Clips

The 1918 New York Elections (The Stars and Stripes, 1918)

By the time this short notice was seen on page one of THE STARS and STRIPES during the Spring of 1918, the political momentum was clearly on the side of the Prohibition advocates and the voters of many states had elected to go dry long before the Congress had decided to amend the Constitution. The 1918 election in New York between Wets and Drys was a close one and the eyes of the nation were watching. The headline read:


The deciding and unknown factor was the women of New York, who were permitted to vote in municipal elections.


Anti-Soft Drink Legislation Defeated (The Atlanta Georgian, 1917)

On the same day that it was announced that the state of Georgia was going to prohibit alcohol a full year and a half prior to the Congressional measure, a bill died in the state legislature that would have prohibited all alcohol substitutes that had caffeine, as well (Georgia, you'll recall is the home of the Coca-Cola Company):

"In an effort to force the "bone-dry" majority of the House to the greatest extreme, Representative Stark of Jackson, Friday offered an amendment which would have barred all substitutes for liquor, all patent medicines, and soft drinks containing caffeine."


Wet vs. Dry (Vanity Fair, 1918)

If you are looking for a serious report concerning the political battles fought in Congress regarding Prohibition (1919 - 1933), you can keep looking. The attached essay is a humorous parody of that dispute between the Drys and Wets as it existed just months before the 'Noble Experiment' began in earnest. By November of 1918, the American newspaper readers had simply overdosed on the redundant writings of assorted war correspondents - and so, with a bit of whimsy, the VANITY FAIR writer George S. Chappell sat down to write about the political war between these two groups using the same journalistic affectations everyone was so heartily sick of. You will also find a mock military map depicting the faux topography in dispute.


Theater Intermissions and Prohibition (Vanity Fair, 1919)

"Prohibition has been pretty rough on everybody, but there is no class of people which it has hit so hard as the theater-goers. The Federal Amendment has completely wrecked their evenings. It isn't so bad while the show is going on; the blow falls between the acts. In happier times the intermissions were the high spots of the evening..."

With pin-point accuracy, Vanity Fair was able to identify the new minority-victim class that emerged from America's unfortunate experiment with Prohibition: Broadway theater enthusiasts (It might be argued that the real victims were American bar tenders, many of whom high-tailed it over to Europe where they established a number of American-style bars).

The attached page from the magazine can be classified as humor and is illustrated with six great sketches by Edith Plummer.

Read other articles from 1919.


Lord, Deliver Us from Prohibition (The Smart Set, 1920)

For some unexplained reason, H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956) wrote this essay under the pseudonym "Major Owen Hatteras". The one page article is written in typical Menkenese and catalogs example after example of how prohibition is creating a worse society, not a better one; citizens of all stripes who would otherwise be judged as honest souls, are instead committing illegal acts and there seemed to be no end in sight to such behavior.


Shall Tobacco Be Prohibited, Too? (Current Opinion, 1921)

"Tobacco is not food. It is a drug. A healthy human being can get along without it. One who has never used it is better off, his health has a surer foundation and his life expectancy is greater than in the case of one who is a habitual user."

The cautionary paragraph posted above was written in the early Twenties, and this article points out that the health advocates of the that era were not delusional or ill-informed in matters involving tobacco and health care. Tobacco's ability to harm was understood so well that an effort was afoot in the U.S. Congress to make the weed illegal. Needless to say, that effort did not get very far.

In the 1950s, some people questioned whether cigarettes were truly dangerous - click here to read about it...


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