Saturday, February 9, 2019

Last Call for Alcohol: Make Mine a Double

When I published a post marking the centennial of ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution a few Saturdays ago, I was disappointed that I didn't have any cartoons to include by vocal prohibition opponents such as John Cassel of the New York Evening World.
"Freed from the Demon Rum" by John H. Cassel in New York Evening World, ca. January, 1919

I only needed to have kept looking for them.
"The 18th Amendment" by John H. Cassel in New York Evening World, February 1, 1919
The 18th Amendment was ratified by the required 36 states on January 16, 1919; by the end of the month, eight more states added their votes to ratify. Provisions of Prohibition were scheduled to go into effect July 1.
"Remember, Now, John Here Is Only Goin' Half Way" by William Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, January, 1919
There is a difference in tone between the work of other cartoonists in January and cartoons drawn in February. Several earlier ones make light jokes playing off the "Dry" and "Wet" nicknames for the pro- and anti-Prohibition camps, depicting a nation suddenly overtaken by deserts and camels, or depicting Uncle Sam or John Q. Public adjusting to a menu of ice cream sundaes and phosphates.
"Not If They Can Help It" by Jay N. "Ding" Darling in New York Tribune, February 11, 1919
During the war, several cartoonists drew cartoons in support of Prohibition at the urging of the Committee on Public Information's Office of Cartoons. Banning Demon Rum and its hard spiritual cousins was touted as a noble and necessary sacrifice in order to save wheat and sugar for food production, and to optimize productivity among the working class in America's factories and fields. The association of breweries with German immigrants of suspect loyalties, moreover, tainted the beer industry.
"How Do You Like Your Uncle Camuel?" by Fred Morgan in Philadelphia Inquirer, January 19, 1919
"Notice of Removal" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 30, 1919
But such concerns vanished with the arrival of peacetime, replaced by the dawning realization that the amendment didn't apply only to hard liquor, but also that stein of beer at the ballgame and the innocent glass of wine with dinner.
"The Widow Douglas Civilizes Huck Finn" by Harold T. Webster in Detroit News, ca. February, 1919
I can imagine some cartoonists who had dutifully drawn prohibitionist cartoons at the behest of the Office of Cartoons now pulling themselves up short à la Lt. Colonel Nicholson and gasping, "What have I done!"
"Will the Son Love Father's New Affinity?" by William C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, ca. February, 1919
And then wondering whether the Prohibitionists were quite satisfied yet.
"Next!" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, ca. February, 1919
I close with one more John Cassel cartoon, echoing Edward Brown's.
"Next!" by John H. Cassel in New York Evening World, February 4, 1919
Brown and Cassel, and the rest of the cartoonists on this page, outlived Prohibition, but would not live to see tobacco fall from its exalted role of America's premier power, sophistication and sex symbol. But their predictions weren't terribly far off base. Merely premature.

Tune in again next Saturday for a couple more cartoons from John Cassel that, as the clickbait teasers would say, might surprise you.

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