Prohibition in the South


Published:

It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time in Savannah where one couldn’t stumble along River Street with a rum and coke in hand, all the while trying your damndest not to spill a drop of that sweet, sweet nectar on the historic cobblestones. But such a time did exist. And it was called purgatory.

Actually, it was called Prohibition. From January of 1920 to December 1933, the sale, production, transportation, and importation of alcohol was deemed illegal in the United States under the 18th Amendment. Barrels of booze were unceremoniously smashed in the streets, the pungent remnants trickling down the curb and into the waiting hands of children eager to fill their makeshift vessels and run the goods home to Mom and Pop. Long-established breweries like Yuengling, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Stroh’s, and Anheuser-Busch were forced to halt production on the hard stuff, instead funneling resources into other, more family-friendly markets that would keep the business afloat until this silly law was (hopefully) repealed. Imagine slicing off a hunk of Pabst cheese; mixing up some Coors-brand malted milk; spooning out a scoop of Yuengling ice cream. Yep, times were pretty dark in dry America. Fortunately, the one freedom the law didn’t touch was at-home guzzling, whereas any alcohol imbibed under your own roof, using your own stash, did not elicit any harsh legal consequences. Unless you had a still going–and even then the rules were a little bit fuzzy.

Why?

Truth be told, rumblings of discontent with alcohol consumption were embedded in American culture long before Prohibition was officially passed. Thanks mostly to a bunch of overly zealous Christian crusaders oozing with “moral fiber,” drinking became negatively tied to issues like poor health, crime, hygiene, social standing, and corruption early in the 19th century. You’re poor? Put down the hooch. Toothache? You heathen alcoholic. Wife left you? Should have laid off the devil’s firewater. You get the general idea. While most proponents of the temperance movement relegated themselves to proper means of protest, taking up prayer circle outside the local saloon and parading hand-painted banners along public thoroughfares, there were others that took a more, let’s say, “hands-on” approach to defeating the big bad boozing beast.

The infamous Carrie Nation was one such radical. A hatchet-wielding child of Kentucky, she became something of a legend for her notoriously destructive bar-room raids, sending shards of glass and amber liquid flying as she smashed her way to alcohol abstinence. With over 30 arrests under her belt and numerous establishments left totaled in her wake, the queen of the so-called “hatchetation” is still remembered for her steadfast loyalty to the pre-Prohibition campaign. And, ya know, the axe.

Spigot of the South

When professional-baseball-player-turned-evangelical-preacher Billy Sunday first visited Savannah, he was notably quoted for labeling the town as the “wickedest city in the world.” Rather than hang their heads in shameless humiliation, Savannians relished the title–probably toasting the fire and brimstone sermonizer with a whiskey, neat, later that same day. Georgia’s oldest city had been ardently opposed to the laws even some 13 years prior to national Prohibition, when Governor Hoke Smith enacted statewide legislation to ban alcohol. After all, places like Tondee’s Tavern–formerly located in the space now occupied by the Coffee Fox–were more than just places to sit and sip. Political discussions, formal meetings, even haircuts took place in these casual watering holes. So it only makes sense that Savannah’s rebuttal to a forced dry-up would be a serious one: become the undisputed “bootleg spigot of the South.”

To read more, subscribe now or pick up the October/November issue of South magazine.  

 

Prohibition Museum:

Housed in nearly 6,000 square feet of space on St. Julian Street, the American Prohibition Museum takes you on a journey throughout 83 years of tumultuous history, with interactive exhibits, photographs, artifacts and captivating research as your guide. Learn about why Prohibition began in the first place, who led the way and how the period influenced American culture, touching on everything from fashion to social gatherings, and dance crazes to classic cars. There’s even an old-fashioned (and fully stocked) speakeasy, where you can sample a unique 1920s-style cocktail–and toast to Prohibition never, ever happening again.

For more information, visit americanprohibitionmuseum.com or call 912.551.4054. The American Prohibition Museum, 209 W St. Julian St.

 

It's Just Business:

The downfall of legal alcohol was the up-rise of gangsters in the 1920s. Prohibition allowed gangsters to use their many connections to get alcohol to the people, while taking the money for themselves.

Because of Prohibition, there was suddenly a huge market for an illegal commodity. The gangsters of each city began to take over the sales of alcohol, and the most famous was Chicago’s boss gangster, Al Capone.

Capone was “public enemy number one.” He worked with Chicago’s leading figure in the underground gang scene, Johnny Torrio. Capone had to convince speakeasy operators to buy illegal alcohol from Torrio.

After a near-death situation by a rival gang, Torrio decided to get out of the criminal world and hand his empire over to Capone. Within two years, Capone was bringing in $60 million a year from alcohol sales alone. Other revenue streams earned him an extra $45 million a year.

Capone bought off Chicago police and important politicians, which fueled his rise to power. However, he still had enemies. Capone drove an armor-plated limousine and toted around armed bodyguards everywhere he went.

Eventually, the law caught up to Capone and he was charged with tax evasion. He received 11 years in prison. During this time, his health began to decline so badly that his mind had reverted back to the mentality of a 12-year-old child. Right before his death, Capone was no longer the man everyone feared, but instead, a legacy left behind with the memory of Prohibition.

The American Prohibition Museum is located in Savannah, Georgia 

At 209 West St. Julian Street, Savannah, GA 31401

Hours10AM–4:15PM(912) 220-1249,

www.americanprohibitionmuseum.com/building-the-museum

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Souths's Greatest Pets 2018

No offense, humans, but this is the greatest contest of the year! Nominate now!

South's Greatest Dads 2018

Voting is now open for South's Greatest Dads 2018!
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • Free Screenings for Oral Cancer Awareness Month

    Apr 12, 2018
    8:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Sandfly Family Dental

    Every 60 minutes, a person dies from oral cancer. Early symptoms are rare, but if you can catch it, early detection makes a dramatic difference,...

  • Paul Stephen Benjamin: Reinterpreting the Sound of Blackness

    Jan 26, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Paul Stephen Benjamin (American, b. 1966) is a conceptual artist whose work is a meditation on the color black, specifically as an entry point into...

  • Carrie Mae Weems: Sea Islands Series, 1991-1992

    Jan 26, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Considered one of the most influential contemporary artists, Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953) has continued to explore the African American...

  • ArtFields Returning to Lake City April 20-28, Featuring Georgia Artists; Inspiring New Exhibition Venues, Events

    Apr 20, 2018
    10:00 AM - 8:00 PM @ Lake City, SC

    INSPIRING NEW EXHIBITION VENUES, EVENTS Southeastern Artists Compete for $120,000 in Cash    The sixth annual ArtFields® competition will...

  • #art912, Grounded

    Mar 30, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums will feature a commissioned work titled Grounded by Adolfo Alvarado, a Savannah-based artist whose work incorporates cal­ligraphic...

  • Savannah Mile

    Apr 26, 2018
    8:00 AM @ Drayton and Park

    The 13th Annual Savannah Mile, presented by the Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, honors our fallen first responders, their families, and our...

  • Yoga Me Fit Challenge

    Mar 29, 2018
    5:30 PM - 6:30 PM @ Savannah Yoga Barre

    This class is designed for the younger and older practitioner who are seeking growth. Alignment and movement education are essential key components...

  • Tybee Wine Festival 2018: Wine and Dine at the Shrine

    Apr 26, 2018
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ The Tybee Shrine

    A gourmet dining experience celebrating Tybee Wine Festival’s 10th Anniversary.  The evening starts with appetizers and cocktails overlooking...

  • Anything Flows Yoga Class

    Jun 15, 2017
    7:00 PM @ Dragon Dance Yoga

    7 pm Anything Flows Yoga Class Walk in rate: $14 Dragon Dance Yoga This class will take you beyond your comfort zone while still...

  • Lean Ensemble Theater Presents Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest

    Apr 26, 2018
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ HHP Main Street Theatre

    This classic farcical comedy casts an amused eye on the British upper class and their mannerisms, social obligations, and their oh so human...

  • Laughing Skull

    Apr 26, 2018
    All Day @ Laughing Skull Lounge

    This comedy festival focuses on pure talent by bringing in only the best unsigned comedians from all over the country. This year’s venues...

  • Tybee Island Wine Festival

    Apr 26, 2018
    All Day @ Tybee Island

    Now in its ninth year, the Tybee Island Wine Festival, hosted by the Tybee Post Theatre, is any wine lover's dream! You are certainly in...

  • "Once Upon a Time" Joy Prom

    Apr 27, 2018
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Alee Temple

    For the past nine years, Xcel Strategies, a mentoring network in Savannahserving at-risk young men, has been hosting the Joy Prom for over 500...

  • Tybee Wine Festival 2018: Tybee Post Pickin & Shuckin with Bubbles & Beer

    Apr 27, 2018
    6:30 PM - 8:30 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    A toast to the Tybee Post Theater and the 10th Annual Tybee Wine Festival at an evening with roasted oysters and pig picking with bubblies and beer...

  • Georgia Historical Society's Annual Book Sale

    Apr 28, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Georgia Historical Society

    Please join us for the annual GHS Book Sale on Saturday, April 28! The tables of the GHS Research Center will be filled with thousands of used...

  • Georgia Historical Society's Annual Book Sale

    Apr 28, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Georgia Historical Society

    Please join us for the annual GHS Book Sale on Saturday, April 28! The tables of the GHS Research Center will be filled with thousands of used...

  • 15th Coastal Pet Rescue

    Apr 28, 2018
    10:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Grayson Stadium at Daffin Park

    Get ready to party with Coastal Pet Rescue as they celebrate their 15th anniversary! There will be live music by The Mandrakes, fun activities for...

  • Collin's Barefoot Comedy Club w/ Nicholas Anthony

    Apr 28, 2018
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    After you wind down from the Tybee Wine Festival’s Grand Wine Tasting, hustle over to the Theater for our monthly stand-up comedy show! National...

  • 14th Annual Tybee Turtle Trot 5K Beach Run

    Apr 28, 2018
    All Day @ Tybee Island

    Kick off Coastal Georgia’s sea turtle nesting season with this race benefiting Tybee Island Marine Center’s Sea Turtle Conversion Fund....


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Whiskey Wednesdays

Dozens of locals showed up at 39 Rue de Jean for Whiskey Wednesday. They enjoyed mingling, appetizers and drinks from Savannah's Ghost Coast Distillery and proceeds supported The Nine Line Foundation, who is dedicated to meeting financial and specialized need of severely injured soldiers and their families.

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

The Rape Crisis Center will hosed the 5th Annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Event at Forsyth Park to galvanize the support of men and boys in our community.

Gingerbread House Open House

The Gingerbread House opened its doors for an open house, inviting the public in to see all the beautiful historic home has to offer for those looking to plan a wedding or corporate event.

PGA Hyatt Pro-AM Pairings Party

Golf enthusiasts gathered at the Hyatt Regency for the PGA Hyatt Pro-Am Pairings Party. This highly anticipated event kicked off the Pro-Am experience of the Savannah Golf Championship.

Burst in Bloom at Telfair Academy

Telfair Academy was buzzing with art and beautiful floral arrangements by local floral artists for the opening night reception of Burst Into Bloom.

Budweiser Clydesdales

The world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales spent a few days at historic Grayson Stadium before their highly anticipated appearance at the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

St. Patrick's Day Fire Ball 2018

The Savannah Professional Firefighters Association held their annual Fire Ball at Savannah Station. The money raised during this event went towards the Fallen Firefighter's Fund.

Celtic Cross Ceremony

The St. Patrick's Day celebrations began early with the annual Celtic Cross Ceremony. The Celtic Cross Mass, Procession and Ceremony are all symbolic of the original celebrations of St. Patrick's Day in Savannah, dating all the back to the early 1800's.

An Evening of Brilliance for St. Andrews

St. Andrews partnered up with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce to bring this year's edition of the Chamber Ball.

March of Dimes Shamrock Run 2018