Current Museum Exhibit
Prohibition in America
Jan. 28 through March 16, 2016
By Mary Alice Hobbs
During Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, Americans could not produce, sell, transport or import intoxicating beverages. Bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, suffragists and flappers, and legends such as Al Capone and Carry Nation took sides in the battle against the bottle.
These tumultuous times are examined in the national touring exhibit “Spirited: Prohibition in America” that opens at the Brigham City Museum Jan. 28 and continues through March 16. Admission is free.
The museum is located at 24 North 300 West. The entrance is on the west side. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, please phone (435) 226-1439 or visit www.brighamcitymuseum.org.
The exhibit features Prohibition-era photos, artifacts, interactive touchscreen kiosks, videos and music. Some of the photos that emphasize the split between the “wets” and the “drys” are “Why the Twenties Roared,” “Billy Sunday Preaching,” “Prohibition Sparks a Fashion Revolution,” “Detailed Illustration of a Still,” “Gangsters and their Rap Sheets,” and “Eliot Ness and the Untouchables.”
Local photographs about liquor and tobacco in Northern Utah from 1850 on will also be on view, specifically Rudolph Keyser’s Saloon (interior view); the Willard Winery and Brewery; the Combination Saloon, Corinne; the Pearl Saloon, Garland; and the Billiard Hall, Brigham City.
Some of the artifacts on display that interpret these divisive times in America are the license plate Repeal the 18th Amendment; still boiler; flapper headband; silver cocktail shaker and goblets; minaudiere (purse) with mirror and money clip; physician’s medicinal alcohol prescription; top hat; fingerprint and identification magazine; anti-saloon league newspaper; and the “growler” pail. Fresh beer was carried from local pubs to homes in a “growler,” a small, galvanized pail. The beer usually “growled” when sloshing around the bucket as carbon dioxide escaped between the cracks in the lid.
Local artifacts from the Prohibition era as well as pioneer times include a “Women’s Christian Temperance Union Speech Program,” a flask, a tobacco cutter, bottles from alcohol elixirs and a wine jug.
Visitors to the museum 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. Senator Morris Sheppard, the sponsor of the 18th Amendment, said in 1930, “Repeal of the amendment has as much chance as a hummingbird [flying] to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.”
Signs that lend humor to the exhibit are “Happy Days Are ‘Beer’ Again” and “Soda Shop Salvation: Recipes and Stories from the Sweeter Side of Prohibition,” to name a few. Many non-alcohol drinks became popular during Prohibition, namely “near beer,” Kool-Aid and Coca-Cola.
Special programming about the “constitutional experiment” will be announced at a later date.
Funds to support this exhibit have been provided by the Box Elder County Tourism Tax Advisory Board.
“Spirited: Prohibition in America,” which is based on the exhibition “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” is organized by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in collaboration with Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Spirited has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been adapted and toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance, founded in 1972. Mid-America Arts Alliance is the oldest regional nonprofit arts organization in the United States.