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Tag Archives: Prohibition

- Last Call: Women and the Repeal of Prohibition

National prohibition was officially repealed with the ratification of the 21st Amendment on 5 December 1933. Prohibition of the production and sale of alcoholic beverages had been the law of the land since the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, although Virginia instituted a state-wide prohibition in 1916. The temperance movement had created widespread demand for prohibition during its rise in the late 19th century. By the early 1930s, however, many Americans regarded prohibition as a failure and were instead calling for its repeal.

Although women and particularly organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) were essential to the adoption of prohibition and to the temperance movement that preceded it, national suffrage was not granted to women until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, over a year after the ratification of the 18th amendment. However, women were not a monolithic political block, either before or after gaining the right to vote. Although many women supported and remained supportive of prohibition, there were also a number of women who were vocally opposed to the 18th Amendment and worked hard to repeal it. Pauline Sabin founded the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform (WONPR) in 1929, and by 1933 the organization had an estimated 1.5 million members. Other organizations included the Women’s National Committee for Law Enforcement, the Women’s Committee for Repeal of … read more »

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- The Murder of John R. Moffett: Race, Politics, and Local Control


J. R. Moffett portrait, Thompson, S. H., The Life of John R. Moffett. Salem, Virginia: Mrs. Pearl Bruce Moffett, 1895.

On the evening of 11 November 1892, attorney and Democratic Party operative John T. Clark shot and fatally wounded Reverend John R. Moffett on the streets of Danville. Moffett, minister of North Danville’s Missionary Baptist Church, had feuded with Clark previously. Religious people and churchmen claimed that he was targeted for loudly proclaiming his intense anti-liquor views. In their minds, Moffett was “the first martyr to the Temperance cause,” a heroic figure battling the bottle and its terrible social consequences. In reality, as historian Richard F. Hamm has persuasively argued, Moffett’s murder reflected deep divisions in Danville—and Virginia—of race, politics, and issues of local control. As a closing chapter of our blog posts related to the exhibition “Teetotalers and Moonshiners,” we will take a look at Library sources related to the events leading to the murder and the trial and its aftermath to tease out these themes.

Rev. Moffett published a newspaper dedicated to the Prohibitionist cause. The Tennessee State Library and Archives recently donated a rare issue of Anti-Liquor to the Library. The masthead proclaimed that “Anti-Liquor is a temperance and prohibition monthly, issued for the sole purpose of educating the people upon the evils of the drink habit, and especially to turn light upon the question of Legal Prohibition.” Moffett’s powerful words, delivered in speeches and in the pages of Anti-Liquor and the … read more »

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- “Of Liquid Death, To Which Men Flee:” Temperance Reform Efforts in Antebellum Norfolk

Restricting the use of alcohol was not a novel idea in the Roaring Twenties when Prohibition banned illicit spirits nationwide. Inspired by the reforming impulses of the Second Great Awakening, civic leaders across the country prior to the Civil War worked to curb alcohol consumption, which they viewed as a threat to the individual and society. One temperance advocate wrote, in the 18 March 1847 issue of the American Beacon and Norfolk and Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, that great efforts were needed for the “extermination of the ruinous flood which belches forth from the distillery, the extinguishment of the liquid fire, which has so long been the devil’s chief instrument in peopling jails, alms houses, hospitals, jails, grave-yards, and the bottomless pit.” By eliminating one of the root causes of society’s ills—drunkenness—businessmen, religious leaders, and reformers sought to help the intemperate become productive members of society and by extension elevate the community.

 

Norfolk’s stagnant economy during the 1840s and 1850s pushed local boosters to embrace temperance organizations to help revive the city’s fortunes. By November 1841 teetotalers could attend a meeting of the Norfolk Total Abstinence Society and five years later the Young Men’s Temperance Society was organized. Reformers aimed their efforts at males arriving in the seaport who might be open to temptation and vice; during this period it would be unthinkable that … read more »

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- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterhead in the Archive, Prohibition Edition

As promised in a previous post, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives. In honor of our current exhibition, the letterheads in this post are all related to Prohibition. The original text by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

The primary role of these illustrations at the time of their use was publicity. The images showed bustling factories, busy street corners, and sturdy bank buildings–all portraying ideas of solidity, activity, and progress. Other types of symbolism … read more »

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- “Breeding Places of Drunkenness:” Prohibition Crackdowns and UVA Football

College students have never been known for their avoidance of alcohol, and it was no different in the 1930s, despite the fact that alcohol was illegal nationwide. In 1930, Virginia Attorney General John R. Saunders attempted to crack down on violations of prohibition laws at the University of Virginia, especially at football games. Before the Thanksgiving Day game between UVA and UNC, one of the oldest rivalry games in the country, Saunders announced his intention to have seven prohibition inspectors patrolling the stadium in Charlottesville.

Some members of the community protested vigorously, concerned that the action would damage the reputation of the city and the university. Members of the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce entered an “open telegraphic protest” against the attorney general’s plan, complaining that the action was unwarranted and that the “attendant publicity [was] exceedingly unfair to [the] city of Charlottesville and university.” Noble Powell, the rector of St. Paul’s Memorial Church in Williamsburg, told Governor John Garland Pollard that although he didn’t doubt that there was some drinking at the football games at UVA, he felt “our students are every bit as well behaved as any other and better behaved than most.” In Powell’s view, for the attorney general to single out the University of Virginia, where “these men try to have their games as decent and clean as possible,” … read more »

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- Drink Wet and Vote Dry

One of the hallmarks of the age of Prohibition is a certain level of contradiction. After all, the country was supposed to be entirely dry; the 18th amendment, passed in 1920, prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages. And yet the 1920s are best remembered for the culture of speakeasies and flappers, flasks hidden in garters or walking sticks, and bootleggers, mobsters, and moonshiners. The prohibition movement had always been dogged by the hypocritical beliefs of political leaders who supported the general outlawing of alcohol but saw no reason to restrict their own consumption. Even Governor Harry F. Byrd, who was personally a “dry,” knew how to procure a supply of brandy for Winston Churchill’s visit to the Executive Mansion in October 1929.

 

This disparity was publicly called out in April 1930, when Vivian L. Page, a member of the House of Delegates from Norfolk, claimed that the House of Delegates would be overwhelmingly wet if a secret ballot were taken, and that he had personally “drunk with 95 per cent of the delegates.” The statement was reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch the next day and caused something of an uproar. Reverend David Hepburn, the superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League of Virginia, wrote an angry letter to Governor John Garland Pollard, complaining both about the flagrant violations of the Prohibition Law by … read more »

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- “I Could Not Tell Who Was Shooting”: The Death of Lump Moore

When Petersburg’s coroner filled out the death certificate for farmer Lump Moore, he wrote a simple “no” in answer to the question, “Was disease or injury in any way related to occupation of deceased?”  And it was true – farming had nothing to do with how Moore died. It was his other, less than legal, occupation that led to his death in early March 1931.

Lump Moore was a bootlegger and had been convicted twice of violating prohibition law. He was known to local law enforcement in Brunswick County as “a very bad man” who carried a shotgun. Moore had his gun with him the night of 27 February [1] when five Special Police Officers found him and fellow moonshiners dismantling a still. After a bootlegger discovered the officers lying in ambush and raised the alarm, a firefight broke out. When it ended, Moore had shot Officer Leslie Daniel and Officer Norman Daniel had shot Moore.

It was not a clean wound. Norman Daniel’s gun was loaded with buckshot, and the coroner’s postmortem examination noted that both bones in Moore’s left leg had been shattered. Moore did not die immediately, but the officers, in their haste to get Leslie Daniel to a doctor, left the injured bootlegger, covered “with some bags and blankets,” by the still site. They did not return for … read more »

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- Pardon Me

Within the records of Governor E. Lee Trinkle (1922-1926) are several boxes relating to extraditions and pardons of prisoners. I came across one letter from Leroy Kittrell to the Governor, dated 12 December 1923, asking for a pardon after his conviction for running a still. In his letter, he appealed to the Governor for a pardon, stating that his son had recently been murdered , his wife had injured herself and could not work, and he was needed to support the family. I found an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch, 26 November 1923, regarding the shooting of Eddie Kittrell, a nine-year-old African American boy who is presumably Mr. Kittrell’s son.

I found this letter so interesting not only because of the sad story but mostly because of the beautiful hand-drawn images of Santa Claus, horse, carriage and snowy scenery. It is unclear if Governor Trinkle pardoned the gentleman, since the only thing in the files for Mr. Kittrell is this letter. It is highly doubtful that Governor Trinkle issued a pardon because he supported Prohibition and rejected most, if not all, applications for pardons that dealt with the illegal production of alcohol. Mr. Kittrell must have been a talented artist though. This is one of the prettiest drawings I’ve seen and thought others should get to enjoy it too.

-Renee Savits, State records … read more »

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- Drying Out Dixieland: The Confederacy and Prohibition

What do prohibition and the American Civil War have in common? More than you may think. The debate over prohibition in Virginia, which culminated in Virginia going “dry” on 1 November 1916, occurred during a period of sectional reconciliation between the North and the South. In November 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first southern Democrat elected President of the United States since the Civil War; Union and Confederate troops held a reunion in Gettysburg in July 1913; and in 1916, a Confederate Memorial was created at Arlington National Cemetery. However, as the country was becoming less divided over the war, new divisions arose over prohibition. Over the course of state and later national prohibition, both opponents and proponents used the memory of the Civil War and especially the Confederacy to support their positions.

A 1914 anti-prohibition tract from the Virginia Association for Local Self-Government proclaimed that “a large majority of Virginians are free and independent and will not bend to the lash of the invader’s whip.” The Anti-Saloon League (derisively referred to by opponents as the Ohio Anti-Saloon League) faced problems in much of the former Confederacy due to its northern origins, as well as the strong antebellum links between the temperance and abolitionist movements. Although organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) flourished in Virginia starting in the 1880s, the Virginia Anti-Saloon … read more »

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- Dry Voters, Wet Drinkers: The Anniversary of Virginia’s Prohibition

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the first day of Virginia’s state-wide prohibition. To see more about the build-up to the referendum that dried up Virginia, see yesterday’s blog post.

The drys won out on 22 September 1914. The Temperance cause heralded this as a “mighty victory.” And indeed, state-wide prohibition won out by almost 60% of the vote, with 94,251 votes in favor and 63,086 opposed. Interestingly, the total voter turnout of 158,000 was significantly higher than the total for the 1912 Presidential election, which had a turnout of 136,900. Out of 100 counties, 71 voted dry, as well as every city except for Alexandria, Norfolk, Williamsburg, and Richmond.

State-wide prohibition went into effect on 1 November 1916, heralded by church rallies where parishioners rang bells and shouted out “Hallelujah!” at midnight. Despite the new law, alcohol didn’t completely disappear from the Commonwealth. Of the six major breweries in Virginia at the time, only one—Portner’s of Alexandria—closed down immediately. Brewers and distillers were temporarily allowed to remain in business as long as they sold their products out of state. Several breweries attempted to establish themselves as sellers of soda or other non-alcoholic beverages, with limited success. In contrast, the Garret and Company winery, located near Norfolk since 1903, immediately closed down operations and relocated to New York and California.

Home … read more »

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