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Prelude to Prohibition: The State Referendum Vote September 22, 1914: The Recorder, Post & Enterprise

BallotIt was Wet vs. Dry and City vs. Country and Dry Country won.  It wasn’t even close.  The advocates for Prohibition themselves might have been surprised by the disparity of the result–a win for Virginia prohibition by over thirty thousand votes–94,251 to 63,086.  City drinkers likely peered into their empty glasses the evening of September 22, 1914, surer in the knowledge that legislation to ban liquor in the state would soon follow.  And it did.

For more detail and the broader context of this debate–more votes were cast in the prohibition referendum vote than in the presidential election that November!–I refer you to two articles by our LVA sister blog “Out Of The Box.”

The Mapp Act passed and went into effect November 1, 1916.  Virginia, then, had a head start of four years to the arrival of national prohibition.

The specific purpose of this blog entry is the encouragement of your physical presence at the Library of Virginia’s exhibit “Teetotalers & Moonshiners:  Prohibition in Virginia, Distilled,” now open to the public.  A hundred years after prohibition, we’re confidant you’ll depart with a different awareness of an unusual episode in the state’s history.MapEach state in the Union took its own particular route to prohibition until the constitutional amendment of 1920. A key date in Virginia’s path was the approval of local option in 1886, allowing for a community or county’s voters to determine their stance on the sale and distribution of alcohol.  The map above illustrates the camps and lines of the liquor divide.  Note, for example, in a concentration of ink, Fort Norfolk, a seaside stronghold hostile to the dry life.

There was no shortage of political contentiousness in the run-up to the referendum. The very organized, determined drys, abetted by grassroots religious fervor, drove the … read more »

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