Book- Prohibition: Thirteen Years that changed America

By Sara R.



  • Most early settlers were hard drinkers, and while the Puritans preached against every form of pleasurable self-indulgence, they outlawed drunkenness, not drinking. This would have been unthinkable, for the Bible itself was full of references to the joys, and blessings, of liquor.
  • Clergymen were offered drinks, rum or cider and, when they left they had to take a farewell drink for politeness sake.
  • In 1857, 50% of clergyman died drunkards.- 40 ministers whose reputation was in danger because of their addiction to alcohol.
  • In 1630, one quarter of New Amsterdam is devoted to houses for the sale of brandy, tobacco and beer.
  • In some parts of rural America, liquor was used as currency, with prices displayed in terms of whiskey pints or gallons.
  • Rum, applejack and blackstrap, eighteenth-century Americans, whether rich or poor, slaves, or free men and women, appear to have gone through life in a semi perpetual alcoholic haze.
  • The taverns where Americans did their drinking were little different in their squalor from the inns described by eighteenth and early nineteenth century travelers in Europe. – With the exception that rum, and not gin, was the staple liquor.
  • Temperance and Prohibition issues became the most important question in American life- The temperance issue was to become a constant religious obsession.
  • In America, from independence, the saloon keeper became a key figure in local politics- He delivered the vote.
  • Social drinking was so prevalent that outright Prohibition was unthinkable, except to a few mavericks. According to Mather: “Wine is from God but the drunkard is from the devil”. Excessive drinking came hand in hand with spiritual neglect.
  • Dr. Benjamin Rush, a man who graduated from Princeton was an intellectual giant, the country’s best known doctor and the founder of America’s first antislavery society.
  • Beznet aroused Rush’s interest in liquor, and his later revisionist views. He called into question that alcohol was a healthy stimulant. – ‘ The Good Creature of God’.
  • Immodest actions such as: singing, halloing, roaring, imitating the noises of brute animals, jumping, tearing off clothes, dancing naked, breaking glasses and china, decay of appetite, obstruction of the liver, jaundice and dropping of belly and limbs, hoarseness, diabetes, redness and eruptions in different parts of the body, fetid breath, disgusting belchings, epilepsy, gout and madness. Opius was widespread like aspirin nowadays. – For Indians liquor was only fit for slaves.
  • Liquor addiction became hand in hand with mortal disease.


  • A new Generation of puritanical Temperance designed a new theme to put an end to another avenue of pleasure: drinking was a mortal sin.
  • They believed that the business of alcohol could affect religion. –Thomas Sewell alleged that liquor was responsible for most human afflictions.
  • Between 1820 and 1826, it was realized that if drunkenness was to be done away with, men must abstain not only from abuse but from the use of what intoxicates- They will enjoy better health, they can perform more labor and they will live longer.
  • By 1851, the Maine State Legislature passed the bill he had proposed making the sale of liquor illegal throughout the state.
  • In 1840, disciples of the Reverend Matthew Hale Smith decided to take the pledge and a campaign for abstinence.
  • Social and personal disasters brought by liquor come not from the abuse of a very good thing but from the use of a very bad thing.


  • The Women’s War against liquor was the first women’s mass movement in American history. First nonviolent protest movement.
  • American women discovered their power for their first time.
  • Dr. Dioclesian Lewis was a preacher, social reformer, feminist, and health faddist whose targets included not only liquor but corsets and male chauvinism. – He was regarded as a charlatan. Though he was called doctor he only had a degree on ‘ Homeopathic Studies’ at Harvard.
  • Thanks to Lewis, in 1860, was initiated the practice of walking into saloons at the head of his followers to pray for the souls of saloon keepers and bartenders.
  • For several months, the ‘ Women Crusade’ became an itinerant wonder, attracting crowds similar to those that flock to self-proclaimed saints claiming miraculous powers. – This crusade proved to be a media triumph. According to the New York Tribune, $300,000 in liquor taxes had been forfeited because so many breweries and saloons had closed.
  • Francis Willard was brought up to believe that liquor was evil incarnate, promoting Godlessness and the ‘devil’s works’ – The fruitful fountain from which the flood of intemperance is fed.
  • The WCTU’s leaflets were designed to teach children about the evils of drink from the earliest possible age. They even had a jingle: ‘There’s a drink that never harms, there is a drink that never alarms, a drink that keep our senses right, a drink that make our senses bright, God give us the only drink’.


  • Society was becoming more organized, complicated, and vested interests, on both sides, more formidable.
  • Brewers and distillers, became increasingly institutionalized and manipulative.
  • From 1810 til’ the following 130 years, Prohibition became a hugely important issue.
  • In the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, the saloon was not only the one place working-class men. The saloons served the much decried ‘free lunch’. Prostitutes used some saloons to ply their trade and, at the weekends, social gathering involving: singing, dancing, and recitations took place.
  •   William Newell, Governor of Washington Territory, denounced the fearful destruction of property and happiness which occasions in its march of desolation, disease and death with no redeeming influence for the good.
  • Wet and drys boycotted each other’s businesses.
  • The AEA was the compost heap that brought the Volstead Act into being after three generations of indoctrination.
  • Moral propagandists such as Ernest H. Cherrington brought the Prohibition message to the masses but, it was Wayne Wheeler who engineered the political change.
  • In March of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson called the Sixty-fifth Congress into special session to declare war on Germany. – New weapon patriotism.
  • After Britain and France went to war with Germany in 1914, Wheeler, accurately gauging the feelings of his fellow Americans, was aware that the increasingly anti- German mood, rapidly amounting to hysteria, would be a godsend to the dry cause.
  • In 1917, Harry Micajah Daugherty, one of the most corrupt members of American Administration, decided to climb on the Prohibition wagon.


  • A massive transformation in the ethnic mix of the United States occurred in the half-century that preceded America’s entry into the First World War. – Especially germans; thanks to them, their culture and industriousness put an indelible stampt on the areas they settled into.
  • Millions of Europeans, taking advantage of its ultraliberal inmigration policy, settled in America, changing the country’s ways.
  • Political unrest in Germany accelerated their departure: socialists and liberals hostile to Metternich’s policies began fleeing in large numbers after a brutally suppressed movement in 1832.
  • Beer-drinking was a part of the German- American way of life.
  • Beer-making was a small-scale business but also, hard liquor business: the founder of Jim Beame whiskey was Jacob Boehm.
  • Cicinnati benefited from the German-American presence: they were energetic, industrious, entrepreneurial, and civic-minded. There was no anti-semitism