Big shock – founder of Coca-Cola was an advocate of Prohibition. We all know how much better soda is for us than alcohol. Aside from, perhaps, the women suffragists who felt that alcohol was destroying their families, other prohibitionist groups were at least partly represented by people who personally enjoyed alcohol, but who felt it would either be in their best political or economic best interests (or both) to vote in favor of banishing the stuff. I read through Chapter 7, and, without question, the word of the day is HYPOCRISY.
Some politicians and other wealthy men had no intention of actually quitting drinking; they stockpiled alcohol up until the time they voted to amend the Constitution to outlaw the sale of liquor; some tried to make sure they would never run out of the stuff. It seems there was a great deal of racism in the decision to ban alcohol – African Americans and especially immigrants were seen as not being responsible enough to drink without abusing it.
The following passage was quite surprising to me:
“In Atlanta, a bourbon-swilling thirty-five-year-old knock-about named William Joseph Simmins created the modern Ku Klux Klan just weeks after the lynching of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, whose wife was the daughter of a former saloonkeeper and granddaughter of a liquor wholesaler. It was a later edition of the KKK that focused its venomous loathing on black people; this version had a special hatred for Jewish and Catholic immigrants. The Klan, which supported woman suffrage in behalf of Prohibition, in turn supported Prohibition as a weapon against the immigrants.”
At the same time, there were politicians in the South who strongly opposed women’s suffrage, not because of the potential for an alcohol ban, but because they thought passing a law enabling women to vote would end up forcing states to enforce the 15th Amendment, which allowed black men to vote. They wanted to make sure they could keep disenfranchising black voters. They needed have worried – they have been able to get away with this far into the future.
They weren’t really crazy about German brewers either:
“We have German enemies across the water,” a dry politician named John Strange told the Milwaukee Journal that month. “We have German enemies in this country too. And the worst of all our German enemies, the most treacherous, the most menacing, are Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, and Miller.”
Lawmakers met to set the terms – what counts as an alcoholic beverage and what does not. It is said that they decided to count anything containing at least .5% alcohol. The book teases that this definition would exclude some harmless foods due to their naturally occurring alcohol content, including “some recipes” of “German Chocolate cake (.62%) and sauerkraut (up to .8%). I notice that vanilla extract is not mentioned, even though it has a much higher alcohol content. Do you know how to make pure vanilla extract? My mother-in-law bought me a natural vanilla kit one Christmas. – it contained a glass bottle, some long, wonderfully fragrant vanilla beans, and instructions. Can you guess the missing ingredient? Rum or vodka. You put the vanilla beans in the bottle, fill to the top with rum or vodka, close tightly, and place in a dark cabinet for at least three months. That’s it. And as long as you keep the beans covered in alcohol, you will always have vanilla extract.
Other trivia that is far less trivial: It took Mississippi about 15 minutes to ratify the 18th Amendment (outlawing alcohol); it took the state until 1995 to ratify the 13th (outlawing slavery).