Prohibition: The big lie


Prohibition: New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, right, watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of era.


Ken Burns and Lynn Novick are turning their documentary story telling to an odd and, frankly, ugly period of our history: Prohibition. The documentary will be showing on PBS this fall.

Recently I read Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent. Growing up I heard of prohibition. My dad was born 10 years before prohibition was enacted. By the time it was repealed in 1933, he would have been old enough to have been able to tell some stories. I wish I would have asked him to tell me a little about it.

It took about a half century of dogged work to get to the point of passing the constitutional amendment. And the efforts to legislate morality were ugly. If you think for a moment, what would those ugly tactics be?


Anti Catholic.

Anti Jew.

Anti German.

Anti Irish.

The bottom line is that there was a lot of hatred and fear used to scare voters and politicians into siding with the temperance advocates. It is a period worth studying from a political perspective. Congressional redistricting was delayed so the growing cities with growing immigrant populations were under-represented. The rural base had better representation.

Yet, the prohibition did nothing to halt alcoholic beverage consumption. Many of the politicians who voted for prohibition were not “dry.” It was political suicide to not support prohibition.

Here is a promo for the three-part series.



About Kim Kolarik

Exploring bourbon one sip at a time and sharing the experience.© Contact me at I've followed the original bourbon trail from my native Pennsylvania, where the whiskey rebellion erupted to Louisville, Kentucky, my current home. Bourbon is now in a revolution of expansion. I'll be bringing you news, information and tasting notes of bourbon from Kentucky and the emerging craft distillers from around the United States. I am photographer, designer and editor. --Kim D. Kolarik
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