Repeal Day: when cartoons demonized saloons

In the drive for alcohol prohibition in the United States, as in many other paternalistic crusades to this day, a major theme was to demonize business; that somehow helped in shaking the sense that the main point of banning something was to restrict the freedom of the customer. Memes absent, opinion cartoons were the most persuasive tool available. “In the late 19th century, the cartoonist Frank Beard (not to be confused with ZZ Top’s ironically clean-shaven drummer) was among the most influential of those illustrators. He was a committed ‘Dry,’ whose images of seedy tavern owners, corrupt officials, and neglected children gave the Prohibition movement a moral force and an instant visual power.” [Joanna Scutts, Tales of the Cocktail]

Meanwhile, yesterday was Repeal Day, celebrated each year as the anniversary of the nation’s rejection of the Great Experiment. As David Boaz recalls, Cato has done two discussions commemorating the event, including one with me last year. Here is the other, from 2008:

One Comment

  • The history of Prohibition reads like some crazy conspiracy theory. “Okay, so the KKK supported Women’s Suffrage because suffragettes were also huge supporters of the Temperance movement, and the KKK liked the Temperance movement because they thought that alcohol encouraged rotten behavior by blacks while enriching Jews…”