Today marks the 80th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. On Dec. 5, 1933, the United States repealed the nationwide prohibition on alcoholic beverages, by ratifying the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And, while the masses may have raised their glasses, there were certainly those among them not happy with the decision. Temperance activists championed Prohibition because they felt alcohol was a social ill.
Kansas became the first state to outlaw alcohol, in its constitution, in 1881. Enter Carrie Nation – talk about someone you’d want on your team in a bar brawl. Nation was a hatchet-wielding, 6-foot tall, 175-pound weapon of mass destruction who left the dust and rubble of early 20th-century saloons in her wake. A staunch supporter of the temperance movement, Nation was arrested some 30 times for her position against alcohol. Talk about an axe to grind!
On Dec. 27, 1900, Nation brought her campaign to Wichita, Kan., where she smashed the bar at the Carey Hotel. This first public demonstration kicked off her harangue on hooch, which continued for 10 years. But her public protests didn’t stop there … Nation stood on her soapbox against foreign goods, corsets, tobacco, fraternal orders and, most importantly, short skirts. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, as her anti-alcohol activities became widely known, many barrooms adopted the slogan “All Nations Welcome But Carrie.”
Nation died in 1911, before Prohibition became a national law with the enactment of the 18th Amendment in January 1920. A story on her death in the Lincoln County Leader, Sept. 1, 1911, carried a sub-headline that read “Saloon Smashing Made Her Famous – She Realized a Fortune Hatchets.” (Apparently she made a good deal of money selling souvenir hatchets.)
“During her career Mrs. Nation wrecked hundreds of saloons, using a hatchet, which became as well known as she. She was absolutely with out fear, invading saloons, demolishing mirrors and furniture and assailing bartenders and proprietors without re gard for her own safety. She had many narrow escapes from injury and was roughly handled on several occasions.”