Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Legal booze flowing again by Christmas

Mother's in the kitchen washing out the jugs, Sister's in the pantry bottling the suds, Father's in the cellar mixing up the hops, Johnny's on the front porch watching for the cops.
--Prohibition song

By July of 1933, everyone, including Time magazine was eagerly anticipating the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the legal consumption of liquor. “Repeal by Christmas,” suggested a headline in the July, 31, 1933 edition.
The news magazine said that it “looked so close last week that even a good professional Dry like Prohibition Director Alfred Vernon Dalrymple was in favor of letting distilleries resume production immediately under government license to stock up for the coming deluge.”
According to Time then, there was only about 6,000,000 gallons of medicinal hard liquor under government bond and the periodical speculated that the country would gulp that all down in a few weeks.
“Because it takes four years to age real whiskey, an acute domestic liquor shortage looms unless production is again permitted. As it is unlikely that the Federal Government will grant that permission in advance of final Repeal, foreign liquor manufacturers have amassed enormous surplus stocks for shipment to the U.S. at a moment’s notice.”
Time quoted Dalrymple who had recently spent years chasing bootleggers.
“There is no use to kid ourselves and there isn’t any use in delaying the start of liquor manufacture. It will mean putting hundreds of thousands of men back to work and it will mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of new business.”
That July, Arkansas had taken the Repeal effort past the halfway mark, though Drys charged that Wets had paid the poll taxes of indigents in return for their votes and the Arkansas Attorney General warned that under state law, it was still “as dry as a camel’s tonsils.”
“Tennessee gave the Repealists their first scare when it turned in a wet majority of only 9,000 out of nearly 250,000 votes. Memphis and Nashville were barely able to overcome the Dry strength of Republican moonshining East Tennessee,” according to Time.
Oregon refused to listen to William E. (“Pussyfoot”) Johnson, who stomped out of the State declaring his Dry campaign had been a failure and the U.S. was “in for a five year drunk.”
Colorado had scheduled a vote for Sept. 4 and Postmaster General Farley was quoted by Time as saying, “The country is safe. We will have Repeal by Christmas. The President agrees with me.”
That September, the majority of Coloradoans suspended the state’s prohibition laws and then voted two-to-one to ratify the 21st Amendment to repeal National Prohibition. Vestiges of temperance remained for years however, such “Blue Laws” prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, until as recently as 2008.
In the Nov. 18, 1933 edition of the Literary Digest, it was noted “National Prohibition has less than three weeks to live. On Tuesday, December 5, the thirty-sixth State convention will ratify the 21st Amendment, repealing the 18th Amendment, which came into effect less than 14 years ago, on January 16, 1920.”
It took only about eight and a half months from submission to Congress of the 21st Amendment to ratification by 37 State Conventions.
“The pathway to national repeal is now clear. Speculation and forecasting is over. It has been ruled that not even a formal proclamation from Washington is necessary to bury the 18th Amendment,” said the Digest.
Here in Colorado, the Dec. 6, 1933 edition of the Rocky Mountain News led with “Repeal Celebrators Find Liquor Lacking,” calling attention to the shortage of legal stuff the night before.
“The death of prohibition was being toasted tonight largely with the same illegal liquor used to flout the 18th Amendment’s existence. Officials ruled that bonded liquor in warehouses could not be removed for distribution to wholesalers and in turn to retailers, until Utah formally ratified repeal… There were only about 3,000,000 gallons of rectified liquor on hand on which taxes had been paid.” Utah formally ratified the law later the same evening.

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