Most everyone had heard of Prohibition (with a capital 'P,' the period when the Volstead Act prohibited the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States). Most people, however, only have a vague idea of when it was and of many factors facilitating its enactment and repeal. Let us offer some insights.
Prohibition started in January of 1920 and lasted until 1933, so the roaring twenties were during Prohibition. Prohibition was an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, requiring two-thirds of the states to approve its passage. Prohibition as a social experiment was a miserable failure, spawning more problems than intended to solve. The idea of Prohibition goes back to at least the early 1800s when small temperance groups (people dedicated to abstinence from alcohol) came into existence. They blamed alcohol for a host of ills. Saloons of the 1800s were a men-only domain where men could be bad boys and participate in all the behaviors their wives would disapprove of, such as gambling, cigar smoking, tobacco chewing, even prostitution, and occasional violence. The temperance movement was understandably a cause supported most fervently by activist women of the day. The temperance movement got a considerable boost at the end of the Civil War. With the war over and the enslaved people freed, many abolitionists that worked tirelessly to stamp out slavery converted to a new cause—stamping out alcohol. Another factor fueling the temperance movement was the filthy condition of many of the revolution's factories and mines. Let us present the situation from the Victorian-era laborer's wife's point of view. You have a large brood of children to feed and perhaps don't speak English very well because you weren't born in this county, and you carry the responsibility of the home and the family upon your shoulders. Your husband works six days each week, twelve hours each of those days, and often drinks and gambles away what little he is paid because his life is so miserable.
Meanwhile, your children go hungry. Activist women of this era, both poor and wealthy, blamed alcohol primarily for the unbearable condition of working-class motherhood. We know now that alcohol was more of a symptom than a cause of their problems. Still, they could not change their living conditions, so many supported the cause of stamping out the demon alcohol. The Women's Christian Temperance Union was formed in 1874, and the movement toward Prohibition was in full swing.
Now let's factor into the equation the fervent anti-German prejudice spawned by World War I. By 1910, German immigrants to the U.S. had finally almost won a respectable place in American society. Still, with the outbreak of WWI, they quickly lost all the ground they had gained (the amount of German ethnicity in this county, then and now, is very significant). German-Americans had previously been resented for their differences from English-speaking American society. They were associated with socialism, Marxism, anarchism, Judaism, Catholicism, and (God forbid!) free-thinking (very different from what most people have associated with Germans since WWII). Also, Germans had become rich, making demon alcohol and, prohibitionists thought, causing the ruination of our society. Anti-German prejudice was much more substantial during WWI than during WWII. Hard to believe, considering how fully the German immigrants' progeny have integrated into American society since that time. However, the anti-German sentiment during WWI was enough to put support for Prohibition over the top. If it hadn't been for WWI, it is improbable we would not have had Prohibition.
January 1, 1920, Prohibition begins. Organized crime takes over the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Federal and state governments lose one of their most consistent (and sometimes most considerable) sources of tax revenue. Corruption, bribery, and disrespect for the law have become rampant. Alcohol consumption in the county doubles. The young generation of the 20s gave up the idealistic activism of their parents in favor of partying-drinking, smoking, and girls began wearing dresses that came down no further than their knees. Young women also started going into illegal barrooms. Women never went into barrooms before Prohibition. Their Victorian mothers were shocked and dismayed. (The only comparable generation gap in U.S. history was between post-WW2 parents and their Children in the Vietnam-era '60s.) Violence in the streets was, relative to population, has never been worse in this country than when gangs fought over alcohol sales' turf' in the 1920s. Prohibition wasn't working. The stock market crashed in October 1929, and Depression began. In the darkest days of the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt was elected (in 1932) on a platform of offering the county a 'New Deal' and an end to Prohibition and all the problems it had caused. Corruption during Prohibition led in no small way to the monetary and credit attitudes of the 1920s, which in no small way led to the Depression. Prohibition ended in 1933. The forces of prohibition (with a small 'p') were silenced for a while.
During Prohibition, Bube's did not make beer. However, the bar in Alois operated as a speakeasy, and moonshine liquor was made on the premises (we still have two bottles!) Come see us for a legal beer in the Biergarten, the Catacombs, or Alois, at a feast or a murder mystery, and don't forget to check out the Cooper's Shed while you're here.
Looking forward to seeing you!