Lyman Allyn Art Museum
April 5 through May 25, 2018
West Baton Rouge Museum
June 25th -
d manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating beverages from 1920 until 1933. Spirited: Prohibition in America, a new exhibition opening at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum explores this tumultuous time in American history, when flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and legends, such as Al Capone and Carry Nation, took sides in this battle against the bottle.
Organized by the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA, in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance, Kansas City, MO, Spirited: Prohibition in America explores the era of Prohibition, when America went “dry.” Visitors will learn about the complex issues that led America to adopt Prohibition through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919 until its repeal through the 21st Amendment in 1933. Through the exhibition, visitors will learn about the amendment process, the changing role of liquor in American culture, Prohibition’s impact on the roaring ‘20s, and the role of women, and how current liquor laws vary from state to state.
In 1830, the average American consumed 90 bottles—or about four shots a day—of 80-proof liquor each year. Saloons gained notoriety as the most destructive force in American culture, where men would drink away their families’ money. Following extensive campaigning and lobbying by the Anti-Saloon League, along with groups representing women’s suffrage and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, on January 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, and beginning January 17, 1920, Americans could no longer manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating beverages. However, the Volstead act, the law enforcing the amendment, made exceptions for sacramental, medicinal, and industrial purposes as well as allowing families to “preserve fruit” through fermentation.
In the years following, the country was split between “wets” and “drys,” speakeasies flourished, legal authorities gave chase to gangsters, and many created inventive ways to circumvent the law. Governmental agencies, including the Prohibition Bureau and the Justice Department, charged with enforcing the Volstead act were ill equipped to deal with the flood of illegal booze. Along with rampant law breaking, Prohibition brought unexpected cultural and societal shifts from the development of mixed-gendered speakeasies to the growth of organized crime syndicated into national enterprises.
The exhibition draws on the histories told from both sides of this divisive issue that riled passions and created volatile situations. In the end after a decade of wide-spread corruption, wavering public opinion, and the need to generate revenue from an alcohol tax, the 18th Amendment became the first ever repealed. With the passing of the 21st Amendment, Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933 to a very different America. Today, Prohibition’s legacy can be traced through state laws regulating alcohol, created to avoid the excesses before Prohibition and the corruption and lawlessness experienced during the roaring ‘20s.
Prohibition, Detroit, 1919. Courtesy Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University
Spirited: Prohibition in America brings visitors back to this period of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and real-life legends, such as Al Capone and Carry Nation.
Adapted from the National Constitution Center’s flagship exhibition, Spirited explores the history of Prohibition, from the dawn of the temperance movement to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment in 1933. What made the country go “dry” and how did America change during this period in history? Visitors to Spirited will learn about the amendment process, the role of liquor in American culture, the cultural revolution of the roaring ’20s, and how liquor laws vary from state to state today
The morality and illegalization of liquor split American opinion and created a subculture of rampant criminality. Organized crime grew from localized enterprises to a national network for manufacturing, distribution, and sales of alcohol. The issue catalyzed a number of federal regulations and the passing of the Volstead Act, but little resources were provided for enforcement. Spirited draws on histories told from both sides of the law. Through strong visual and interactive elements, the exhibition demonstrates how America went from a nation drowning in liquor in the 1800s, to campaigns of temperance, and the upswing and downfall of outlawing prohibition.
The exhibition surveys the inventive and ingenious ways lawmakers and the American public responded to Prohibition. Legal provisions for sacramental wine, medicinal alcohol, and the preservation of fruit and the efforts of breweries to stay in business led to popularization of products such as “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine,” “near beer,” and Coca-Cola. Visitors will learn how transportation networks and clever disguises were used to run liquor from state to state, how speakeasies gave way to the popularization of jazz, and the Charleston dance craze.
Spirited features semi-immersive environments that encompass the sights, sounds, and experiences of this fascinating period in American history..
The 5,000 square foot exhibit features over 100 rare artifacts including:
- A 1929 Buick Marquette. One of the bootleggers’ key innovations was the “Whiskey Six,” six-cylinder cars, such as the Buick Marquette on display, that bootleggers would modify extensively to accommodate illegal cargo and evade authorities.
- A hatchet used by the famous saloon buster, Carry Nation.
- A telephone used Roy Olmstead to operate his bootlegging empire. Olmstead, after leaving the Seattle police force, became the most successful bootlegger in the Pacific Northwest. He was also the plaintiff in Olmstead v. United States, one of the most important Fourth Amendment cases to arise during Prohibition.
- Original ratification copies of the 18th and 21st Amendments.
- Al Capone’s guilty verdict, which convicted the crime boss of not paying taxes on money earned from his illegal operations.
- A Prohibition Bureau Badge issued by the Department of Justice.
- Prohibition agent Eliot Ness’ signed oath of office from 1926 in which he swore to “support and defend the Constitution.”
- Flapper dresses, cocktail couture, and other women’s and men’s fashion accessories from the 1920s.
- Original home manufacturing items used for making moonshine, homebrewed beer, and other illegal and highly potent liquor.