At this point, I'm not quite to the halfway mark of Daniel Okrent's Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and I'm already thoroughly immersed in his well-crafted historical cocktail. It's an enjoyable, interesting, and informative read with a superb, but not superfluous, level of detail and analysis. The following is but a small sample of some of the tastier tidbits from Part One of the book called "The Struggle."
Frederick Marryat on the role liquor played in American life in 1839:
"If you meet, you drink; if you part, you drink; if you make acquaintance, you drink; if you close a bargain you drink; they quarrel in their drink, and they make it up with a drink. They drink because it is hot; they drink because it is cold. If successful in elections, they drink and rejoice; if not, they drink and swear; they begin to drink early in the morning, they leave off late at night; they commence it early in life, and they continue it, until they soon drop in the grave."
In the Mesabi and Vermillion ranges of Northern Minnesota, congressional investigators counted 256 saloons in fifteen mining towns, their owners representing eighteen distinct immigrant nationalities.
In the two decades leading up to Prohibition's enactment, five distinct, if occasionally overlapping, components made up this unspoken coalition: racists, progressives, suffragists, populists (whose ranks also included a small socialist auxiliary), and nativists. Adherents of each group may have been opposed to alcohol for its own sake, but each used the Prohibition impulse to advance ideologies and causes that had little to do with it.
Given that you couldn't collect much revenue from a liquor tax in a nation where there was no liquor, this might have seemed an insurmountable problem for the Prohibition movement. Unless, that is, you could weld the drive for Prohibition to the campaign for another reform, the creation of a tax on incomes.
Take my drink and my money.
Delegates accepted a resolution of solidarity from a new organization called the Catholic Prohibition League of America, which unconvincingly claimed a membership of thirty thousand.
George Ade carved an appropriate epitaph for the anti-Prohibitionists in his 1931 elegy, "The Old Time Saloon": "The Non-Drinkers had been organizing for fifty years and the Drinkers had no organization whatever. They had been too busy drinking."