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History in a Hurry: Temperance Society Leading to Prohibition

The 13 year experiment that was Prohibition actually began long before its actual implementation on January 17th of 1920. Several temperance societies popped up around the country beginning in 1826 with the American Temperance Society being founded. This movement slowly gained traction as more and more saloons were being built, eventually leading to 1.5 million members by 1835. Temperance society was not losing momentum and by 1851 we have our first notable change in the thinking with the adoption of the Maine Law. Founded by Neal Dow, the Maine Law saw the sale of all alcoholic beverages except for “medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes” prohibited. This directly lead to 13 total states banning the direct sale of alcohol, which were known as “dry” states. The temperance movement had its biggest pop in 1873, with the founding of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union preaching about the alcohol fueled abuses by their husbands. The WCTU movement was compelling, especially to state governments, as they were able to get Kansas to ban alcohol in 1881. Things eventually flatlined with the Progressive Era, but would come back even more strong with the implementation of Prohibition.

Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Members

Carrie Nation

One of the more unique figures during this time was Carrie Nation, a radical member of the temperance movement. Carrie Nation was born Caroline Moore, in Garrard County, KY to a slave-owning, farming family. Her first husband was an alcoholic that died from alcoholism after her first child was born, thrusting her into to the temperance movement. She became passive aggressive at first, greeting bartenders with “Good Morning, destroyer of mens souls” daily to her local barkeeps. Feeling lost, she prayed to God for guidance, and on June 5th 1900, she said that God told her to smash local saloons with rocks. Later, her second husband, David Nation, recommended she used a hatchet for maximum damage. She would go on to do at least 30 more saloon raids, damaging the buildings, destroying product, and tearing out structures.

Carrie Nation

The Wine Industry Before Prohibition

Before Prohibition, the wine industry in the united states was developing in California, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. New York is home to Americas oldest winery, Brotherhood Winery located in Washingtonville, NY. The winery was able to survive prohibition time by selling wine for religious sacrament. New Jersey was home to Renault Winery who was the largest distributor of sparkling wine, then called “Champagne”, in the United States. As you head west, winemaking in Missouri was spearheaded by Stone Hill Winery. Stone Hill at the time produced over 1 million gallons of wine, making it one of the largest in the country. Finally, we get to California, where wineries were the most successful, before and during prohibition. A good example of the resiliency would be Wente Vineyards, who were able to sell their wine to Beaulieu Vineyards. Beaulieu was able to sell this wine to the Catholic Church as sacrament.




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Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis

Sommelier and Beverage Informant. Writer and Editor for @TheSpillTab

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