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into other, more family-friendly markets that would keep the business afloat until this silly law was (hopefully) repealed.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

South's Greatest Photographers 2018

We're looking for the greatest, most creative photographers. If that is you, or you know of any, don't hesitate to nominate!

South's Greatest Kids Contest 2017

When it comes to cute, the kids of the South are all way above average! Share the cuteness and nominate your kids today.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • #art912, Avanguardia

    Nov 17, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Avanguardia, an exhibition by Savannah-based artist Lisa D. Watson (American, b. 1967), explores the encroachment of the constructed environment on...

  • Scenic Impressions: Southern Interpretations from the Johnson Collection

    Oct 13, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Academy

    When the world gets urban, the South gets Southern. That’s one way to sum up Scenic Impressions: Southern Paintings from the Johnson Collection,...

  • PULSE Art + Technology Festival 2018

    Jan 17, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Comprised of innovative digital artworks, projection performances, and engaging family programs, the 12th annual PULSE Art + Technology Festival...

  • Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern

    Sep 22, 2017
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Can you have an art exhibition without any artworks? Is a curator an artist? Who or what decides an object’s value? Through the lens of an art...

  • The Candy Apple Happy Hour

    Jun 13, 2017
    3:00 PM @ The Candy Apple Cafe

    Repeats every day until Sun Jun 18 2017  11 am Cocktail Artist Series The restaurant will serve cocktails inspired by select Broadway...

  • Mountainfilm on Tour - Savannah

    Jan 18, 2018
    7:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Trustees Theater

    Prepare to be inspired! Mountainfilm on Tour in Savannah returns for its 9th year [January 18-20, 2018]. We have an incredible line-up of...

  • Jacob Lawrence, Lines of Influence at SCAD Museum of Art

    Sep 07, 2017
    All Day @ SCAD Museum of Art

    Jacob Lawrence Lines of Influence Sept. 7, 2017 - Feb. 4, 2018 The SCAD Museum of Art and the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence...

  • Coastal WildScapes Beaches and Barrier Islands

    Jan 20, 2018
    9:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ Richmond Hill City Center

    REGISTRATION 9 am Coffee and Snacks WELCOME 10 am COASTAL WILDSCAPES OF GEORGIA A GEOLOGIC PERSPECTIVE 10:10 am Clark Alexander BREAK 10:45 am...

  • "Beyond the Castle" Book Celebration

    Jan 20, 2018
    10:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ The Church Mouse

    Author, Jody Carbiener Dreyer will host a book celebration on Saturday, Jan. 20, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Church Mouse, 78 Arrow Road on...

  • PULSE Free Family Day and STEAM Expo

    Jan 20, 2018
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair’s most popular Family Day includes opportuni­ties to experience all of the 2018 PULSE exhibitions and experiment with technology...

  • “One of These Nights,” The Music of The Eagles

    Jan 20, 2018
    8:00 PM - 10:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    The Eagles are arguably the quintessential American band combining influences of both rock and country into a unique sound that provided the...

  • PULSE Metropolis-Synthesis Screening/Performance

    Jan 21, 2018
    2:00 PM - 4:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Atlanta-based artists Alessandro Imperato and David Spencer return to PULSE to perform a re-interpretation of Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film...

  • Lean Ensemble Theater presents 'Good People'

    Nov 28, 2017
    2:00 PM - 4:00 PM @ HHP Main Street Theatre

    Lean Ensemble Theater’s Production of Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire.  Welcome to Southie, a Boston neighborhood where a night on the...

  • National Reading Day

    Jan 23, 2018
    1:00 PM - 2:00 PM @ Hancock Day School

    The Sandfly Women Business Owner’s Coalition will promote literacy efforts on National Reading Day, Tuesday, Jan. 23, by spending time at Hancock...

  • Chocolate Bar Your Way Class

    Jun 14, 2017
    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Sweet Pete's Candy

    4 pm sweetpetescandy.com Learn the art of old fashioned candy making in one of Sweet Pete’s Candy’s most popular classes. Sweet...

  • Daughters of the Dust Film Screening

    Jan 25, 2018
    6:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Julie Dash’s dreamy, visually-striking film, the first wide-release feature by a female African American director, tells the story of the Peazant...

  • American Traditions Vocal Competition Educational Outreach Concert

    Jan 25, 2018
    7:00 PM - 7:00 PM @ Skidaway Island UMC

    Join the American Traditions Vocal Competition (ATC) as they celebrate their first week of educating students in the Savannah-Chatham County Public...

  • 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 'Good People'

    Jan 25, 2018
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ HHP Main Street Theatre

    Lean Ensemble Theater’s Production of Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire.  Welcome to Southie, a Boston neighborhood where a night on the...

  • 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...


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

Jazz'd Tapas Bar NYE

Make sure to check out these scenes from the Studio 54 NYE party at Jazz'd Tapas Bar!

Ho Ho Holiday Oyster Roast

Ele & The Chef hosted their 1st annual Ho Ho Holiday Oyster Roast at Current Kitchen & Cocktails on December 17th. All ticket sales benefitted Aiden Cares, an awareness intiitive that encourages giving and serving.

A prevention event by RCC - Step Up and Step In to Stop Bullying

This annual 8k run was held on December 16th at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, and all proceeds for the event benefited the Rape Crisis Center.

Oyster Roast for a Reason

Check out these photos from the UGA Marine Extension and Georiga Sea Grant Oyster Roast for a Reason. Presented by Oyster South, a regional non-profit organization, the Oyster Roast for a Reason is a fundraising event that celebrates Georgia's first oyster hatchery and helps continue the University of Georgia's efforts to bring the oyster farming industry back to the Georgia coast.

Lip Syncing with Ghost Coast

One epic battle took place on Halloween night, and it all went down at Ghost Coast Distillery in Savannah. Visitors wore their funniest (and scariest!) costumes for the 2017 Halloween event. Many donned costumes that portrayed the singer they would be on stage during the lip sync battle.

Savannah Children's Book Festival 2017

This Saturday brought thousands of visitors to Forsyth Park for the annual Savannah Children's Book Festival. Hosted by the Live Oak Public Libraries, the day-long event showcased the talents of eleven featured authors and thirty-nine indie authors, illustrators, and performing artists from around the country. This year’s festival includes book signings and readings, arts and crafts, community partners and nonprofit organizations, as well as food.

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

Thursday night was the night to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day at 39 Rue De Jean in Savannah! The arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau symbolizes the official end of this year’s growing season. Harvest is complete and vintners—especially in France—are ready to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that is annually released on the third Thursday in November. Nouveau wine undergoes a very short fermentation process, and yields an extremely fresh and fruity wine. Attendees enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres, an oyster roast outside on the patio, and Henry Fessy Beaujolais Nouveau.

Taste of Savannah Food and Wine Festival 2017

This signature, festival event was a huge hit at its new location, the Georgia State Railroad Museum! Guests wandered the grounds savoring hundreds of wines, spirits, craft beers and more.

13 Secrets Jewelry One-Year Anniversary

Boutique owners Chad and Manu celebrated the one-year anniversary of 13 Secrets Thursday, Nov. 9. Event highlights included gourmet appetizers by local chefs, a wine tasting, door prizes and great networking opportunities! Here's to another great year!

Celebrity Chef Dinner

A night featuring dishes by some of the South's best, James Beard Awarded, Chef's of 2017. The night included multiple courses, each paired with the perfect wine to complement the flavors. Simply put - a dinner one will not soon forget!