The Nation Dries Out

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Photograph of local liquor law ballot, Floyd County, Georgia, 1887. Courtesy, Georgia Archives, Vanishing Georgia Collection, flo061.

Influenced by the growing temperance movement, state legislation regarding sale and consumption of alcohol appeared as early as the mid-19th century. In 1851, Maine became the first state to prohibit the manufacture and sale of liquor, yet the law was repealed five years later. Kansas was another early enactor of anti-liquor laws, outlawing alcoholic beverages in 1881. The Sunflower State was also the launch pad for Carrie Nation’s outspoken and often violent temperance activism. Between 1900 and 1910, Nation was arrested over thirty times for destroying Kansas saloons with hatchets and rocks.

The Prohibition movement spread throughout the United States, gaining the most popularity in the South. Alliances were tied to religious beliefs; Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians tended to side with the “dries” and Protestants and Catholics with the “wets”. By early 1917, temperance supporters held a majority of seats in Congress, drawing members from the Democratic and Republican parties alike. In August 1917 the Senate passed a resolution to institute nationwide Prohibition. By 1919, the legislation had been ratified by 36 of the 48 states.