Tag Archives: Temperance

Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider? – Colonials Outlaw Inebriation For All and Alcohol For Some

This is the next installment in our continuing series, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?”

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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.

Tavern License 1755

During most of the eighteenth century, tavern keepers were also to keep alcohol from Indians. 1755 Pennsylvania tavern license. Courtesy of the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA.

 

Tavern License 1826

Seventy years later, Indians are no longer a concern and the wording is different. The intent remains the same though – no drunkenness allowed in the tavern. 1826 Northampton County, Pennsylvania tavern license. Courtesy of the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA.

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.

Indian Prohibition October 28, 1701

“An Act Against the Selling of Rum and Other Strong Liquors to the Indians.” Passed October 28, 1701. The Charters and Acts of Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania

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A Supplementary AC T to a Law of this Province, intituled, An Act that no Public-house or Inn, within this Province, be kept without Licence.

“A Supplementary Act to a Law of This Province, Intituled, An Act That No Public-House or Inn, Within This Province, Be Kept Without Licence.” Passed August 26, 1721. The Acts of Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania.

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Iron Workers

“An Act for the better regulating the Retailers of Liquors near the Iron Works and elsewhere.” Passed March 5, 1726. The Acts of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania.

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.

Tuesday CLub

The genteel could run riot, but no one else could. “Mr Neilson’s Battle With the Royalist Club,” attributed Dr. Alexander Hamilton. Maryland Historical Society.

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.

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  1. The majority of other alcohol-related laws covered production, sales, and taxes.
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Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider? – An Exploration

prohibition title slide

This is the first post in a series based on my talk, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?”

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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.

Cider Prohibition Statements

A quick Google search turns up thousands of hits saying similar things.

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.

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Upcoming Talk on Cider & Prohibition

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Click here for more information.

On Saturday, October 7th at 1 pm I’m presenting an original talk, “Did Prohibition Prohibit Cider?” at the Sigal Museum in Easton, PA in connection with their new exhibition, The Cat’s Meow: Lehigh Valley in the Age of Art Deco & the Roaring Twenties.

Prohibition is often blamed for abruptly ending American cider, yet it didn’t change our taste for beer, wine, or spirits. Come find out how Prohibition did and did not change cidermaking in Pennsylvania.

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Applejack & The Raven Black

Still not sure what applejack (distilled hard cider) and chicken feed have in common, but I’m assuming the company supported Temperance, which also might explain why it ends so unhappily.

fritz spindle shanks cards151. Fritz Spindle-Shanks The Raven Black, Takes kindly to the applejack.
2. Its taste is sweet, he thrusts his beak, into the liquor stiff and sleek.

fritz spindle shanks cards143. He takes a nip and with delight, it gurgles slowly out of sight.
4. Immerse his beak again goes back, into the glass of applejack.

fritz spindle shanks cards135. The glass is raised, his spirit pains, to think that nothing more remains.
6. Whew! Whew! He feels so very queer, with silly look and slinking leer.

fritz spindle shanks cards127. And screams with wild delight possessed, thus on three toes he blandly rests.
8. But wantonness too often tends, to show the moral of such ends.

fritz spindle shanks cards119. Thus roughly yanks with vulgar haste, these articles of female taste.
10. He takes a flop and spindle shanks, will ne’re again renew his pranks.

Fritz Spindle-Shanks, the Raven Black, on trade cards for Peel’s Improved Poultry Food (New York: New York News Company, 1882]). Set of 10 trade cards. Graphic Arts Collection. Gift of Allen Scheuch, Class of 1976.

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Your Temperance Temperature in 1790

Can you measure your moral and physical health by reviewing what you imbibe? At least one eighteenth-century doctor thought so.

In 1790 Dr. Benjamin Rush, Founding Father, Surgeon General for the Continental Army during the Revolution, and later professor at the University of Pennsylvania, published An Inquiry into the Effects of Spirituous Liquors on the Human Body and the Mind. He included this thermometer to help his readers gauge their level of health through their drinking habits. Cider comes in midway up the temperance side of the thermometer, too low to engender happiness but high enough to cause cheerfulness.

Temperance Theremometer

What’s your temperature?

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For more Temperance art, check out this 1838 temperance map which suggested that cider was a gateway drink to harder beverages.

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Cider Was a Gateway Drink In 1838

How does one get to the land of Inebriation? According to C. Wilterberger, Jr’s 1838 Temperance Map it all starts with cider.

The map is an allegory of one’s descent into drunkenness and the (one and only?) route to salvation. As you’re floating on the Ocean of Animal Appetites, you enter Cider Inlet, which leads you into Inebriation. Inebriation consists of the territories of Indulgence, False Security, False Pleasure, False Comfort, False Hope, Total Indifference, and Ruin. However, from Ruin you can sail up the Ocean of Eternity to the land of Self Denial, and it’s territories of Plenty, Enjoyment, Prosperity, Improvement, and Industry, where Adam’s Ale seems to be the most common drink.

Temperance Map

Here there be ciders….
Click image to enlarge. For a larger image click here.
Library of Congress

It’s clear from the lake names that as you travel from west to east in Inebriation, the drinks, and presumably your life, get harder. Cider, mead, and perry are all on the west coast, at the very beginning of your trip, seemingly harmless but leading you to danger.

As mentioned above, there is Cider Inlet, which entices you in from the Ocean of Animal Appetites.

Cider Inlet

Perryville is the capital of Hospitality Island.

Perryville

Meadville is on Indulgence Island.

Meadville

And finally Cider River leads into Wine Lake.

Cider River

Having now seen the implication of our work, we apologize for leading you to Inebriation. It’s really not all bad though. At least we have Quoit Town.

Quoit Town

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