By Tim Bean
*This article is a sample chapter from an as-yet untitled book on Calumet City speakeasy owner Johnny Mundo, due for release this May.
A few weeks after taking office in 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, allowing the manufacture, sale, and distribution of beers and wines. Among the confusion of questions shouted at the White House’s newest occupant, someone asked, “What now, Mr. President?”
President Roosevelt smiled and dryly responded, “I think now would be a good time for a beer.” The majority of the United States agreed with him. The day the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect, April 7th, remains memorialized as National Beer Day.
Even after its disastrous failure and repeal, Prohibition earned the moniker “The Noble Experiment.” Supporters believed the intentions behind the Eighteenth Amendment—safeguarding the morals, safety, and health of Americans—were just. Had those been the actual intentions of passing the amendment, calling it “the Noble Experiment” would be right and proper. But they were not, so it is not.
Of all the “collectives” supporting Prohibition, the temperance movement is the only one that truly had the best of intentions. The temperance movement (lowercase) wasn’t a single group, but a rotating collection of groups that opposed the use of alcohol. One of the first, the American Temperance Society, sprang from the Second Great Awakening, and opposed alcohol for the same reason it opposed slavery; both were seen as moral evils.
Discover more stories like this in INVENTING INDIANA, now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.