The prohibition era, it seems to me at least, is remembered rather negatively. And its notoriety piques a bit of interest, regarded as a dangerous, calamitous and daring period of American history. After all, it spurred lawlessness, corruption and, as I found out today, a bit of infidelity. So, when I found out that the Neville Public Museum had a prohibition exhibit, I was lured through the local institution’s doors.
The museum is located in down town Green Bay, resting on the western bank of the Fox River. It focuses on area residents’ way of life during yesteryears. Recently, its permanent exhibit was overhauled to appear trendier, though it’s still as educational as ever.
And when I strolled into Spirited: Prohibition in America, which is the latest addition to the museum, I guess I was a bit disappointed. Like the admissions attendant had mentioned, there’s not a lot of artifacts. I found some beer bottles,
a flapper dress, top hat and a few other remnants from the era.
Mainly, as an old time radio hailed the end of the era, with Adolphus Busch Jr exclaiming, “Happy days are her again!” I surmised a lot of panels with info.
Don’t get me wrong, the info was great. As I circled through the room, doing so in a clockwise direction, I learned of early Americans’ attitude towards alcohol-and their voracious appetite for that type of beverage. Further down, having seen a reasonable motivation for ridding the United States of alcohol, I learned of leaders of the Temperance Movement.
Yet, further still, as I read of the movement’s victory on Jan 17, 1920, I discovered the adverse effects of the 18th amendment’s passing.
I guess my favorite part of this economical display would have been on the speakeasies-secret establishments that allowed adults to drink in public. Those illegal hangouts brought social change to the drinking culture.
We all know how the exhibit ends; the want for alcohol persevered, and the misguided attempts of the Temperance Movement were recognized as such. And as I heard the rhetoric of a radio personality celebrating the 18th amendment’s repeal, I wondered what today, and its economy, would be like had the country never returned to drinking alcohol legally.