One wonders if the men arrested here ever served any hard time. I suspect they did. [Read more…] about July 1931: Prohibition Agents Seize A Still Near Lake George
The answer lies in early Americans’ fascination with delirium tremens, or alcoholic insanity, and the Temperance Movement of the early-to-mid 19th century.
In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Matthew Osborn, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and author of Rum Maniacs: Alcoholic Insanity in the Early American Republic (University of Chicago Press, 2014), leads us on an exploration of early American medical history and reform movements. [Read more…] about Alcoholic Insanity in the Early Republic
In 1869, alarming news about the dangers of drinking absinthe swept north from the city of New York, through Albany, all the way to Malone, near the Canadian border. A “brilliant writer” from the New York press and a “talented lady” had ruined themselves physically and mentally by drinking absinthe.
Comparing the drink to opium and morphine, the article warned readers that absinthe “obtains an all-powerful control over its votaries, deadens the sensibilities, and is, indeed the guillotine of the soul.” [Read more…] about Absinthe: ‘The Guillotine Of The Soul’
During Prohibition – which ended on December 5, 1933 – my grandfather’s brother Denis Warren, a veteran of some of the bloodiest American battles of the First World War, was left for dead on the side of Route 9N south of Port Henry on Lake Champlain. He was in the second of two cars of friends returning from Montreal, both “heavily loaded with Canadian ale” according to a newspaper account.
Going through Port Henry, Essex County, local customs agents gave chase and the car he was in hit a rock cut and he was badly injured in the accident. Figuring his was dead, or nearly so, and worried he would go to prison, one of Denis’s best friends rolled him under the guardrail, climbed into the other car, and sped off. [Read more…] about Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
In March 1791 Treasury Secretary and Federalist Party leader Alexander Hamilton shocked the western frontier when he proposed a domestic excise tax on whiskey to balance America’s national debt.
The law, known colloquially as the “Whiskey Act,” disproportionately penalized farmers in the backcountry, while offering favorable tax incentives designed to protect larger distillers. [Read more…] about The Whiskey Rebellion: A Distilled History
On a wintry walk in the woods, the glossy evergreen leaves and bright red berries of American Wintergreen make a pretty sight against fallen snow. Plentiful in the northern U.S. and Canada, the low-growing Gaultheria procumbens is known for the pungent aroma and mint-like taste of leaf and berry — pleasing but hard to define.
Native Americans used the leaves to treat pain and fever, and introduced colonists to the custom of drinking wintergreen tea. This “teaberry” carried them through the Revolutionary War, when British tea was scarce. [Read more…] about Wintergreen Oil: Local Employer to Bootlegger’s Subterfuge
Americans are surprisingly more familiar with John Hancock‘s famous signature than with the man himself. In a spirited account of Hancock’s life, Brooke Barbier’s King Hancock: The Radical Influence of a Moderate Founding Father (Harvard University Press, 2023) depicts a patriot of fascinating contradictions ― a child of enormous privilege who would nevertheless become a voice of the common folk; a pillar of society uncomfortable with radicalism who yet was crucial to independence.
About two-fifths of the American population held neutral or ambivalent views about the Revolution, and Hancock spoke for them and to them, bringing them along. [Read more…] about King Hancock: Drinking with John Hancock during the American Revolution
Over time, there have been numerous taverns and pubs in England that carried the name of Hole-in-the-Wall. It has been suggested that the name is a biblical reference to Ezekiel 8:7: “And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall.”
There is, in other words, an access to every secret which no man can seal off – there is “a crack in everything.” [Read more…] about Roguery & Mythmaking: Criminal Biographies From Claude Duval to Herbert Asbury
On Saturday, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed a package of legislation changing New York’s “blue laws” to will allow for the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, extends the brewer’s license, where alcohol can be served, and more. [Read more…] about New York Changes Sunday Alcohol Blue Laws
Humans take pride in their unique, perhaps exalted, place among creatures. We’re the only animal that can point to triumphs like space travel, nerve gas, for-profit prisons, and plastic-filled oceans. Until recent times, we also thought we stood alone in our taste for addling our brains with drugs. Alas, we can no longer claim that distinction: Dolphins, dogs, wallabies, waxwings, and loads of other species like to get loaded. [Read more…] about Wildlife Gone Wild: Animal Intoxication