Saturday, June 29, 2019

Last Call: Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink

Detail from "The Rectangle" by Frank O. King, in Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1919
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was set to go into effect on July 1, 1919, prohibiting the production, sale and transportation of beer, wine, and intoxicating liquors throughout the country. As reported by Arthur Sears Henning in the Chicago Tribune that fateful Tuesday morning, alongside reports that $1.5 million was spent in 4,500 Windy City taverns Monday night:
Washington, D.C., June 30: Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, who is a Quaker and a "dry" than there is no dryer, announced tonight the determination that the department of justice [sic] "shall do its utmost to enforce wartime prohibition, which goes into effect tomorrow."
"The Vacant Chair" by John T. McCutcheon in Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1919
Faced with the reality of the situation, a few — very few — editorial cartoonists still thought the Noble Experiment was a good idea worth a shot.
"Its Finish" by Orville P. Williams in New York Journal, ca. June 30, 1919
And by "very few," I believe I mean "perhaps as many as two."
"Drowned in His Own Bathtub" by J. Thomas in Bend (OR) Bulletin, June 9, 1919
The rest of the lot were not looking forward to that Tuesday morning.
"It Doesn't Seem Like the Same Old 'Smile'" by Paul Plaschke in Louisville Times, ca. June/July, 1919
"Sketched on the Edge of the Desert" by Wyn Barden in Los Angeles Evening Herald, June 27, 1919
If cartoonists were apprehensive about John Barleycorn's impending doom, the nation's tavern keepers were all the more so. They would be put out of business overnight unless they could come up with some other commodity with which to attract their old clientele.
"Booming" by Kenneth R. Chamberlain in Cleveland Press, ca. July, 1919
Frank O. King devoted the top half of his "The Rectangle" on the Sunday prior to Prohibition to the spectacle of the guys down at the bar gathered to enjoy a frosty mug of soda. This originally printed at about a meter wide, so you will need to click on the image to read any of it.
Detail from "The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1919
Many taverns did indeed become soda and ice cream fountains, but as King predicted, those treats simply were not going to cut it for many American men.
"Signs of the Times" by Shafer in Cincinnati Post, ca. June/July, 1919
"Near beer" would remain legal for the time being: pending a ruling by the courts, there would be no prosecution for the sale of beer with less than 2.75% alcohol content. In that court case, however, Attorney General Palmer contended that even 1/2 of 1% alcohol content was intoxicating, and warned that if the government won its case, it would not grant immunity from prosecution to anyone cited for selling near beer.

"It Will Be Dry By To-Morrow" by Ted Brown in Chicago Daily News, June 30, 1919
Some of the nation's editorial cartoonists were openly skeptical of the prospects for the Noble Experiment.
"Samuel" by Daniel Fitzpatrick in St. Louis Post Dispatch, ca. July 1, 1919
Barely weeks before Prohibition went into effect, American and British pilots had successfully flown their rickety, open-cockpit aircraft across the Atlantic from North America to Europe, triumphing over fog, rain, snow and mechanical breakdowns. Nobody had yet managed to make the return trip against the prevailing winds. But where there's a will, there's a way.
"What Will the Atlantic Look Like..." by William Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, June/July, 1919
In the meantime, there was still talk that "wartime Prohibition" would last only as long as the war was officially on, perhaps only a few months. Germany, after all, had finally signed the Treaty of Versailles on June 28. There were a lot of cartoons about people having stockpiles of beer, wine and liquor in the cellar to tide them over until Congress ratified the treaty, too.
"Whenever Mrs. Jones Thinks She Hears Burglars..." by Kenneth R. Chamberlain in Cleveland Press, June/July, 1919
That stockpile was going to have to last a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment