Though we’re passing the centennial of Prohibition, interest in Prohibition’s effect on cider isn’t diminishing. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Andrew Tobia at The Alcohol Professor site. Check out our conversation, “The Rise and Fall of American Cider Culture.”
Tag Archives: Prohibition
This is the next installment in our continuing series, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?”
Though Temperance originally advocated moderation, after the 1830s it fought for total abstinence (from alcohol consumption, that is). As Temperance changed, cider went from being a temperance drink, to a contributing cause, and finally to being the cause of alcohol abuse in America.
Temperance grew more potent because Americans at the beginning of the nineteenth century were a drunken, hot mess. Prior to the Revolutionary War Americans generally drank in a couple of ways – daily dram drinking (small tipples throughout the day, not with the intention to get drunk) and occasional social binging (essentially inebriation parties). The Revolution unleashed a degree of freedom completely unknown before, and with it came excessive drinking. Some people were anxious and uncertain about this new-found freedom and sought refuge in alcohol, while others saw drinking to intoxication (whether alone or not) as an expression of personal liberty. Whether it was from anxiety or freedom, studies suggest that more alcohol was consumed per person between 1790 and 1830 then at any other time in American history. (1)
As we saw last time, Cider was originally tolerated as a Temperance drink. Temperance advocates focused on hard liquor instead. Up through the 1820s if Temperancers viewed cider as a problem it was because it could be distilled into apple brandy. Some Temperance-supporting farmers worried that their apple orchards were the root of this evil. (2) For example, one “farmer” entitled his 1827 op-ed, “What Shall I Do With My Apples?” and continued
Is the question now rising in the mind of many a farmer, who is, or would appear, the friend of temperance. If he gathers his apples, of course he must make them into cider; and if he makes them into cider, of course he must sell it; and if he is to sell it, of course he must sell it to the distiller, or procure it distilled and then sell the brandy; and if the brandy is sold, it must be drank; and in this way every barrel will make and circulate liquid fire enough to ruin a soul, if not to destroy a life.
In 1829, a Connecticut farmer was quoted as saying he worried about having an orchard, “because the apples may be ground into cider, the cider may be distilled into spirituous liquor, and liquor, if drunken, will make a man drunk.” (3)
In the 1820s, Temperance organizations were established and spread across the nation. By the 1830s, these organizations hardened their view of softer alcoholic drinks. In 1869 one Temperance supporter explained this change, saying
In the infancy of the temperance reform, say from 1826 to 1832, a pledge, including spirituous or distilled liquors, was the only pledge in force, so that a man could be an active member of a temperance society and yet use and dispense in his household, wine, beer, or cider. A few years of experience convinced the earnest friends of temperance, that these drinks were constantly manufacturing new drunkards, and were also carrying back to their cups the most of those over whose reformation they had rejoiced. Hence the adoption of the total abstinence pledge, embracing the fermented as well as the distilled liquors.
From then on the Temperance view was that cider, not apple brandy, made drunkards. In 1836 the American Temperance Society said that, “Cider, strong beer, and wine are… the foundation of intemperate drinking.” Physician Samuel Bayard Woodward wrote in 1838 that, “Even cider, although in many instances it may be taken without danger, will induce, in many others, a love of something stronger, and, as the natural tendency is to desire an increase of strength, it will increase the danger of a relapse.” In 1839 the American Temperance Union wrote that, “Wine and cider are great and mighty hindrances to the overthrow of intemperance.”
The 1838 Temperance Map illustrated these views.
The map shows the Lands of Inebriation and Self-Denial. The map is an allegory of one’s descent into drunkenness and the (one and only?) route to salvation. The Ocean of Animal Appetites leads you to Inebriation. Inebriation consists of the territories of Indulgence, False Security, False Pleasure, False Comfort, False Hope, Total Indifference, and Ruin. The entry into the “Land of Inebriation” – a horrible place full of nasty pleasures and self-inflicted pains – was “Cider Inlet.”
From the 1830s onward, cider was portrayed as the “gateway” drink to harder stuff. During that time, Temperance worked to prevent alcohol addiction by working to prevent cider consumption.
Next Time: Did intemperate Temperance cut down orchards?
1. See W.J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), Chapters 2 and 5.
2. It is often difficult to tell if a temperance article was authored by a farmer or by a Temperancer posing as a farmer to use “peer” pressure.
3. Weekly Eastern Argus, published as Eastern Argus. (Portland, Maine) • 07-14-1829, Page 3.
This is the next installment in our continuing series, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?”
It’s easy to think that Prohibition was the first attempt to legally control alcohol consumption, but it’s not. Almost as long as there has been alcohol in America, there has been alcohol control. In Colonial America that legal control was exerted through anti-intoxication laws, dispensing licenses, and access control.(1)
Pennsylvania, for example, took intoxication very seriously. Drunkenness was officially illegal throughout the entire eighteenth century.
In 1700 the Pennsylvania Assembly passed, “The Law Against Drunknenness and Healths-Drinking.” It expressly outlawed, “every person disordering or abusing him or herself with drink unto drunkenness, and every person suffering such excess at their houses, and every person that shall drink healths [toasts] which shall provoke people to excessive drinking…” In January 1706, the Assembly passed the similar, but slightly reworded law, “Act Against Drunkenness and Drinking of Healths.” The 1779 “Act for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality,” continued to outlaw intoxication using very similar language as the “Act Against Drunkenness,” (see Section IV). In 1786 the Assembly felt that the 1779 law was not, “fully and duly executed and enforced…” and passed, “An Act for the Prevention of Vice and Immorality and Unlawful Gaming and to Restrain Disorderly Sports and Dissipation.” Section III, yet again, stated that no one shall drink to intoxication.
This concern over intoxication spilled into taverns. We think of early American taverns as places flowing with drunken fun. They certainly were, but they were also places for public discourse, education, and entertainment. They were central to their communities and were seen as places where community standards needed to be upheld. Tavern licenses were granted to those seen as being a, “sober and fit person to keep a house of entertainment…” As specified in the tavern license, part of a tavern keeper’s job was to prevent indecent behaviors, including drunkenness, in their establishment.
Though everyone was legally expected to refrain from drinking to excess, colonial American leaders felt they needed to limit certain people’s access to alcohol. They passed additional laws prohibiting Indians, enslaved people, servants (indentured, domestic, and apprentices), and even working class white men from having ready access to hard liquor.
At the same time they’re passing these laws, gentry men’s drinking habits are getting a pass. Middling and gentry men could drink whatever they wanted and to excess, often in social, all-male gatherings.
Like many laws attempting to prohibit sin and vice, there was more hope than success in them. Whether at home or at the tavern, people drank what they wanted and got drunk.
NEXT TIME: The temperate beginnings of Temperance.
- The majority of other alcohol-related laws covered production, sales, and taxes.
This is the first post in a series based on my talk, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?”
American cider’s recent resurgence has people asking if it was so popular before, why did it go away?
Most cidermakers will say that Prohibition killed cider. Prohibition is the popular name for the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution which outlawed alcohol production. The story generally says cider was America’s drink, but Prohibition suddenly ended that.
It wouldn’t be until the 1990s, 60 years after repeal, that cider began its current recovery.
This timeline certainly suggests Prohibition ended, or at least interrupted, our cider culture. But it’s not a very satisfying answer. Prohibition didn’t affect our taste for beer, wine, or spirits. So what was going on? Did Prohibition really prohibit and inhibit cider?
Over the coming weeks we’ll explore how Temperance, pests, new apple products, changing popular tastes, market competition, and Prohibition influenced American cider culture.
I hope you’ll come along!
NEXT TIME: Early Americans attempt to keep drinkers in their proper place.