History is Not Boring discussion

45 views
A Question about Prohibition

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Mary JL (new)

Mary JL (maryjl) | 29 comments I am reading a historical novel set in the 1920's. Prohibition of alcohol plays a big part in the novel.

Prohibition forbade the selling and manufacting and shipping and so on of alcohol in the United States.

But, if I am correct, foreign embassy's are not considered Us soil. am I right on this? If so, in the British embassy--and other embassies, or course--the British staff should have been allowed to possess liquor and consume it legally. An American guest should have been able to drink legally if he were on the embassy property. Am I right on this?

I do know that illegal drinking was widespread--speakeasies and so on--just curious about that particular legal point. Anyone?


message 2: by Vince (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Mary JL wrote: "I am reading a historical novel set in the 1920's. Prohibition of alcohol plays a big part in the novel.

Prohibition forbade the selling and manufacting and shipping and so on of alcohol in the..."


So far, all I can find is that Hoover would visit the Belgian embassy for a nip for the reason you state. However, I did find a reference to the British embassy respecting our law out of courtesy. Whether this held true when no one was looking, I don't know.
From reading reviews of the book I'm waiting for (Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition) I learned that it became easier than ever to procure alcohol after Prohibition.


message 3: by J. (last edited Aug 21, 2010 11:50AM) (new)

J. Pearce (jlpearce) | 3 comments From my very very very quick reading on extraterritoriality (the idea that the embassy is British Soil) and diplomatic immunity, I don't think they applied in the US at the time. Nevermind! I don't know what I'm talking about. :)


message 4: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments How curious to see this thread, because as it so happens I have just finished reading a book about Prohibition.

Even though Prohibition was the "law of the land" it seems no one took the law seriously. In fact drinking became something chic and drinking actually increased. For the first time in history, women could drink in "public" and no one thought much about it.

Most American Liners practiced "Prohibition" and consequently they lost business to foreign carriers because foreign liners opened the bar as soon as they left American territorial waters.

With regards to the British Embassy.
The British Embassy and every embassy of all other countries were exempt from this law. The British ambassador (I do not remember his name) thought it would be a nice way to "honor" his host country by also banning alcohol from the embassy. Supposedly, after he was recalled back to Britain, the embassy staff celebrated with a "huge" cocktail party.


message 5: by Vince (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Manuel wrote: "How curious to see this thread, because as it so happens I have just finished reading a book about Prohibition.

Even though Prohibition was the "law of the land" it seems no one took the law serio..."


What book did you finish? I'm on a waiting list at my library for "Last Call".
Thanks for the rest of the British embassy story. What little I found looked to be from news of the time.


message 6: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Aug 21, 2010 11:37PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Can't remember the source but remember reading the following somewhere, anyone heard this?
Ford pushed for prohibition as a rival had produced a car that ran on ethanol.
Possible to do and being looked at now with more interest by some car companies and even some "energy" companies.
As an aside, did prohibition apply to all alcohol? Would it have actually been effective in stopping the use of ethanol as fuel?
Did it stop the use of surgical spirits?
What was used to treat methanol poisoning if you can't get ethanol?
What else can you serve with your olives? Oh, Greek salad I suppose...not the same though is it?


message 7: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments The book I read, said FORD was a very ethnocentric bigot with regard to recent European immigrants from non protestant countries especially Italians, Poles, Jews and Catholic Germans.

For years, traditional Protestant churches had been making steady inroads by passing "dry" laws in the midwest rural counties and a few states; suddenly these new beer and wine drinking immigrants are swarming into America's cities and factories. Ford claimed Prohibition would increase production in his factories; he even hired a "private" army of spies and informants to make sure his employees didn't go into saloons on their days off. During WWI, Prohibition was seen as "patriotic" (remember freedom fries) because it mainly inconvenienced beer drinking German-Americans who lived in large (German speaking) urban areas of Milwaukee, Chicago and Cincinnati. Ford wrapped patriotism and racial stereotyping to help push the Anti-Saloon League ASL to pass the Volstead Act in 1920. He claimed productivity at his plants increased.

Prohibition didnt stop all legal alcohol. It allowed alcohol for industrial purposes to continue. They took great pride in denaturing alcohol, (making it toxic) until it became a public relations nightmare, after Americans started to flood the hospitals and morgues.

Alcohol could still be "prescribed" by a doctor for medicinal purposes and wine could only be obtained by clergy for sacramental purposes for Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran and Jewish services.


message 8: by Vince (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments From what little I've read, it was Rockefeller who opposed the production of ethanol because cars of the day could run on it (Fords included), thus cutting Standard Oil's gas sales.
There were exceptions made for sacramental wine and medicinal spirits (Walgreen's being the big purveyor of the latter).
Don't know about methanol (wood alchohol) poisoning except that over 50,000 deaths were attributed to it & many more cases of blindness.


message 9: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa Hadn't even thought of sacramental alcohol...and it being a Sunday too.
I think one of the reasons that regulation got tight in the UK was to cut accidents in industry during WW1.
There are still beers that are available in "export" strength, only weaker stuff was meant for consumption at home and the stronger for sale abroad.
Regarding the cultural issues - "beer and wine drinking immigrants" - what did everyone else drink? Rum and whisky/whiskey I assume. I know there were Lager riots in Chicago in the 1800s (thanks to The Gangs of Chicago).
What time is it? Is the Gem in Deadwood open?
Mr Swearengen sir, pass the bottle and have one yourself...


message 10: by Manuel (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments It was a really strange time in America.

Supposedly it pushed back American cuisine for decades. Many fine dining restaurants closed because they could not serve wine with their European style courses and menus. Unlike whiskey and beer, bootleg fine wine was very hard to make. Ironically; British beer, ale, lagers and French Champagne exports to Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas increased dramatically.

This was also the era when cocktails became popular. They needed mixed drinks to mask the taste and odor of all the low quality bootleg alcohol.


message 11: by Vince (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Hadn't even thought of sacramental alcohol...and it being a Sunday too.
I think one of the reasons that regulation got tight in the UK was to cut accidents in industry during WW1.
There are still..."


There was alot of anti-German sentiment during & after the war, so the brewing industry was an easy target for the "drys". Weren't the Lager riots a response to an earlier attempt at curbing the sale of beer on Sunday? (Being from Chicago, you'd think I'd know.) Many of the taverns in older neighborhoods here were built & supplied by local breweries, Schlitz being the most prevalent.
Our bars won't be open for 6 more hours (11 AM) here, but feel free. Slainte!


message 12: by Manuel (last edited Aug 22, 2010 12:31PM) (new)

Manuel | 1439 comments Vince, my apologies for not answering your original question to me.

I was also waiting for "Last Call" in my library, but it had a long reserved list and I didnt want to wait until October to read it.

I ended up getting:
"Prohibition-Thirteen Years that Changed America" by Edward Behr.
Apparently it was the companion book to the PBS documentary about Prohibition.

The most surprising and shocking fact I discovered; was the attempt by conservative churches to ban or rewrite all passages from the bible that referenced alcohol. I.E Jesus' last supper consisted of bread and grape juice.


message 13: by Vince (last edited Aug 22, 2010 12:28PM) (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Manuel wrote: "Vince, my apologies for not answering your original question to me.

I was also waiting for "Last Call" in my library, but it had a long reserved list and I didnt want to wait until October to read..."


"Last Call" is also getting the Ken Burns/PBS treatment, according to the dust jacket. (I was 34th in line when I checked a couple weeks ago.)


message 14: by Marian (new)

Marian (gramma) | 98 comments It was a weird time. I live in the Lake ERie Islands area where the border with Canada runs down the middle of Lake Erie. When I was young, people were very hush-hush about their participation in the "Rum Running" trade. But over the years, the stories came out & a row of expensive houses facing the lake was called "Rum Runners Row." Now, being a member of a family who got rich during prohibition is something to brag about. the phrase "Rum Runners" is used as a business slogan & on all kind of things. Wonder if they will change the name of the High School Sport teams from the Redskins to the Rum Runners?


message 15: by Vince (last edited Sep 04, 2010 07:45AM) (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Marian wrote: "It was a weird time. I live in the Lake ERie Islands area where the border with Canada runs down the middle of Lake Erie. When I was young, people were very hush-hush about their participation in..."

There must be some great stories about smuggling across the Great Lakes. Does anyone know of any books on the subject? (Still waiting for Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. It's been "in transit" for a week or so.)


message 16: by Vince (last edited Sep 06, 2010 04:04PM) (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Here's some trivia: apparently the Temperance movement was responsible for those sickeningly sweet things we call Maraschino cherries. Before the ban on alcohol Marasca cherries soaked in brandy were used for the same purposes.


message 17: by Vince (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Mary JL wrote: "I am reading a historical novel set in the 1920's. Prohibition of alcohol plays a big part in the novel.

Prohibition forbade the selling and manufacting and shipping and so on of alcohol in the..."


I just finished Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and apparently the embassies were repositories for a lot of the liquor consumed in Washington DC. One Scotch importer provided 13,000 quarts of "diplomatic whiskey" in a single three month period, which was equivalent to 20 quarts for every diplomat or embassy staffer in town.


message 18: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Oct 04, 2010 11:20PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa Vince wrote: "13,000 quarts of "diplomatic whiskey" in a single three month period..."


"diplomatic whiskey"...love it. Don't know anyone diplomatic after a few drams...ranting, poetic, sleepy...but not diplomatic.


message 19: by Vince (new)

Vince (vchile) | 22 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Vince wrote: "13,000 quarts of "diplomatic whiskey" in a single three month period..."


"diplomatic whiskey"...love it. Don't know anyone diplomatic after a few drams...ranting, poetic, sleepy...."


Between the diplomatic whiskey & the sacramental wine, we must've been some civilized boozers.


back to top