- Lee Criscuolo
“Now the temp’rance army’s marching,
Wives and sisters in the throng,
Shouting ‘Total Prohibition’
As we bravely march along!” - from the Temperance Army song
Did you know it was never illegal to drink during Prohibition? The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, also known as the Volstead Act, made the production, sale, and transport of intoxicating beverages illegal but said nothing about actually drinking the stuff. It contained some exceptions, too. For example, a doctor could prescribe medicinal whiskey to his patients. The production and distribution of liquor, once handled by legitimate businesses, became the province of criminal gangs. Can you say, Al Capone? Respectable folk patronized illegal speakeasies. New York City alone had an estimated 30,000 speakeasies! As organized crime grew, and drinking gained more social acceptance, support for Prohibition waned, and in 1933 the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th.
Virginia was ahead of its time, banning alcoholic drinks more than three years before national prohibition was enacted was enacted in 1920. Learn more about this fascinating period in Virginia’s history, including the long-lasting effects still felt today. With support from the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control, and the Virginia Distillers Association, Howell Branch will host the Library of Virginia's exhibit, "Teetotalers & Moonshiners: Prohibition in Virginia, Distilled," June 11 - July 21, during regular library operating hours.
In conjunction with the exhibit, former Commonwealth Attorney Dan Chichester will give a talk on "The History of Crime, Punishment, and Moonshining in Stafford," on Tuesday, July 10, 7:00 - 8:00, at Howell Branch.
Learn more about the days of Prohibition with books from our list: Teetotalers and Moonshiners.
Below is a brief video about the exhibit as it was originally displayed at the Library of Virginia. Come see it in person at Howell Branch.