Thursday, 6 November 2014

Wet and dry in the States

Here's another result of my trawl for the word "pilsener" in the newspaper archive.

It's an article about the creeping prohibition in the US in the years leading up to WW I. I've been as guilty as everyone else of thinking that prohibition was introduced at a stroke in 1919. In reality, it had been happening county by country for some time.

Temperance campaigners in Britain took note and that's why they were so keen on getting "local option" legislation introduced. That would allow district to vote to close all alcohol outlets. After WW I, such legislation was introduced in Scotland and a few areas did become "dry". But in the 1920's the temperance campaign was running out of steam and they were unable to persuade voters to ban alcohol in most of the country.


[By Special Western Gazette Correspondent.]
As in England, the liquor traffic question is very much to the front at this time the United States. The promoters of the trade and the townships and counties which permit the sale of drink are known "wet", and the prohibitionist party and districts "dry." A wave of temperance and "dryness" appears be spreading over the land. The raising of the cost of licenses from 350 dollars to 1,000 dollars of course caused the weeding out of many the small saloons, but the pace was not fast enough for the prohibitionists, and now the people are generally voting "dry." Racial feeling has, no doubt, something to do with the vigorous prosecution of the campaign against the saloons in the .Southern States, the ostensible object being remove one of the chief causes of crime among the coloured population. In the North the moralists receive great support from the moderate drinkers, who see in the war against the liquor interests a just retribution for the unjustifiable uses they have made of their vast monopolies. In this State of Ohio 66 out 88 counties have gone "dry," and in the adjoining State of Indiana 78 out of 92.


New York City is declared "dry" on Sundays, a surprising fact when one sees the amount of business and pleasure going on there during that day. But it doesn't need even bold imitator of the "bona-fide traveller" in England get "wet" in New York. In justice to the hotels of that city, it is only fair to say that the drinking bars are not prominent features of the establishments. Still, you can find the buffets when needed. On the Sunday I was there I saw two men who had not registered at the hotel call for glasses of Pilsener. The smiling waiter hinted that the order must include food, and brought a couple of sandwiches with the beer. The sandwiches remained untasted, and would probably do duty again and again for the same purpose, much as that noted contract beast, "Old Jerusalem," was tendered and rejected at the British camps in South Africa during the Boer War."
Western Gazette - Friday 09 July 1909, page 5.

Of course, even when total prohibition came in, getting a drink wasn't much of a problem

I've seen something similar to the untouched sandwiches. I was drinking in a bar in Krakow in the mid-1980's. You had to have food to get an alcoholic drink. There were several blokes with a boiled egg an two 100 ml glasses of vodka.


Gary Gillman said...

The tired sandwich was a feature of Toronto beverage room life into the 1960's, I understand.

Jeff Renner said...

Are you including the alternate spelling "pilsner" in your searches?

Franzsigel said...

Untouched sandwiches were also normal in Norway into the 1970's.