75 years ago, Prohibition was on its way out
By Jeremiah McWilliams - Lee News Service
ST. LOUIS n April 6, 1933. Midnight was approaching. A crowd of perhaps 25,000 milled around the Anheuser-Busch brewery on Pestalozzi Street.
Inside the lobby of the Bevo packaging plant, August A. “Gussie” Busch Jr., grandson of the brewery’s patriarch, stepped up to a KMOX microphone.
“April the seventh is here, and it is a real occasion for thankfulness,” Busch said in his Midwestern growl. “Happy, grateful men are back at work after what seemed an endless idleness.”
At 12:01 a.m., sirens and steam whistles blasted. Dozens of Anheuser-Busch trucks rolled into the streets, carrying their first beer shipments in more than 13 years.
Beer was back. The nation had tired of Prohibition, a grand and failed social experiment, and was on its way to repealing the law.
National prohibition on alcohol manufacturing, consumption and shipments started in 1920, a product of the 18th Amendment and federal legislation.
But its roots went back decades, emerging from a stew of religious activism, optimistic reform and the thrust to regulate big business, including banks, railroads and meat companies. By 1917, more than a dozen states had already drafted tough anti-alcohol laws in response to the perceived perils of alcohol: addiction, violence and the breakup of families.
Still, the federal government relied on revenue from alcohol taxes. But the 16th Amendment, ratified in 1913, ushered in a national income tax. Its ability to raise big sums surprised “even its most enthusiastic supporters,” said Donald Boudreaux, chair of George Mason University’s economics department.
Suddenly, the federal budget didn’t have to lean on alcohol. “The political cost of pandering to the temperance groups” fell, said Boudreaux.
Congress passed the 18th Amendment in December 1917. In January 1919, Nebraska became the thirty-sixth, and decisive, state to ratify it. One year later, Prohibition went into effect, outlawing the manufacture, sale or transportation of “intoxicating liquors” in the U.S. for beverage purposes.
Anheuser-Busch executives sensed gathering storm clouds. The company did much of its business in rural states such as Oklahoma, where the push for Prohibition was stronger than in big cities on the East Coast.
In response, the brewer pushed the “Budweiser Means Moderation” message in the 1910s.
“Law abiding German-American citizens ... know there is no evil in the light wines and beers of their fathers,” one ad thundered. “EVIL ONLY IS THE MAN WHO MISUSES THEM.”
But by the middle part of the 1910s, brewers had reason to worry.
Even before Prohibition, World War I rationing, anti-German sentiment and the burgeoning temperance movement lowered the thirst for beer, causing Anheuser-Busch to slash production.
In September 1918, President Woodrow Wilson issued a wartime ban on beer production that would take effect Dec. 1. Though the war ended in November, the ban remained in place.
Anheuser-Busch had sufficient beer in lagering tanks to last until June 1919. But it produced just 218,000 barrels in 1919 after making more than 1 million barrels every year from 1901 to 1915.
Beer town beat down
~snip~ long article - rest on link above