Thursday, October 08, 2009 10/8/09 - german beer and prohibition

In today's enjoy excerpt - at the founding of our
country, Americans drank more alcohol than at any
time before or since, five gallons of pure alcohol per
person per year as opposed to two gallons today.
Currently, America is a nation of relatively moderate
drinkers, ranking around 20th among the world's
countries. Along the way, American anti-German
hysteria during World War I helped usher in thirteen
years of Prohibition:

"American prohibitionists believed the demon rum
and its church, the saloon, were the world's prime
sources of evil. 'When the saloon goes,' said Ernest
Cherrington, a leader of the Anti-Saloon League, 'the
devil will be ready to quit.' The American temperance
movement is as old as America itself, but it became a
political force in the mid-1800s, fueled in part by a
bias against immigrants, including Irish and Italian
Catholics, who were stereotyped as shiftless
alcoholics. After the Civil War, it spawned two powerful
groups - the Prohibition Party and [hatching-toting
Carry Nation's] Women's Christian Temperance
Union, whose slogan was 'For God, Home and Native

"But is wasn't the antics of Carry Nation that won the
fight for prohibition, it was the political savvy of the
Anti-Saloon League. ... Founded in 1895, the league
pioneered many of the techniques now used by
modern advocacy groups. Working through local
churches - generally rural Methodist or Baptist
churches - it raised money, endorsed candidates and
successfully lobbied for laws banning liquor in many
towns and counties. In 1905 the league demonstrated
its growing power by defeating Ohio Governor Myron
Herrick, who had thwarted the league's legislative
agenda--an upset that terrified wet politicians.

"In 1913 the league kicked off its drive for a
constitutional amendment prohibiting liquor with a
march on Washington and a massive letter-writing
campaign that flooded Congress with mail. The
amendment failed in 1914, but gained strength during
World War I, when the league exploited America's
anti-German hysteria by deliberately associating beer
with German-American brewers. 'Kaiserism abroad
and booze at home must go,' declared the league's
general counsel and wily Washington lobbyist, Wayne

"It worked. Congress passed the amendment in
1918. ... When the new law went into effect on January
17, 1920, evangelist Billy Sunday held a funeral for
John Barleycorn in Norfolk, Va. 'The slums will soon
be a memory,' he predicted. 'We will turn our prisons
into factories and our jails into storehouses and
corncribs. ... Hell will be forever for rent.'

"Alas, it didn't work out that way. Prohibitions not only
failed to eradicate slums and prisons, it even failed to
curtail drinking, a pastime that now took on the allure
of a forbidden thrill. ... In 1935, two years after
Prohibition's repeal, two middle-class alcoholics, Bill
Wilson and Bob Smith, founded an organization -
Alcoholics Anonymous - that proved far
more effective than Prohibition in combating

Peter Carlson, "Uneasy About Alcohol," American
History, December 2008, p. 37.


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