Friday, August 25, 2017

Nationally Touring Exhibit Visits Russell Library

ATHENS, Ga -- During the era of Prohibition Americans could no longer manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating beverages. Spirited: Prohibition in America, a new exhibition opening Sept. 1 at the UGA Special Collections Libraries explores this tumultuous time in American history, when flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and legends, such as Al Capone and Carrie Nation, took sides in this battle against the bottle.

Men and women drinking beer in rural setting, 1915.
Courtesy Culver Pictures, Inc.
Visitors to the exhibit will learn about the complex issues that led America to adopt Prohibition through the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919 until its repeal through the 21st Amendment in 1933. The amendment process, the changing role of liquor in American culture, Prohibition’s impact on the roaring ‘20s, and the role of women, and how current liquor laws vary from state to state are among the topics addressed.

In 1830, the average American consumed 90 bottles -- or about four shots a day -- of 80-proof liquor each year. Saloons gained notoriety as the most destructive force in American culture, where men would drink away their families’ money. Following extensive campaigning and lobbying by the Anti-Saloon League along with groups representing women’s suffrage and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, on Jan. 16, 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified and beginning January 17, 1920, Americans could no longer manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating beverages.

On the eve of Prohibition, Detroit, 1919.
Courtesy Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.
In the years following, the country was split between “wets” and “drys,” speakeasies flourished, legal authorities gave chase to gangsters, and many created inventive ways to circumvent the law. Along with rampant law breaking, Prohibition brought unexpected cultural and societal shifts from the development of mixed-gendered speakeasies to the growth of organized crime syndicated into national enterprises. The exhibition draws on the histories told from both sides of this divisive issue that riled passions and created volatile situations.

An opening event hosted by the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies in collaboration with the University of Georgia Press and University of Georgia Department of History will take place on Thursday, September 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Russell Building Special Collections Libraries. The event features a performance of prohibition era songs and stories by noted beverage historian Elizabeth Pearce, classic cocktail demonstrations by expert mixologist Jerry Slater, and tours of the exhibition.

Spirited: Prohibition America is based on the exhibition American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, organized by the National Constitution Center, in collaboration with Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Spirited has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been adapted and toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance. Founded in 1972, Mid-America Arts Alliance is the oldest regional nonprofit arts organization in the United Sates. For more information, visit or