Seventy-eight years ago today the Cullen-Harrison Act went into effect making it legal to once again produce beverages containing up to 3.2% alcohol. April 7 is now unofficially considered National Beer Day and in honor of this momentous occasion I’ve decided to share a little slice of history from that era.
The merits of prohibition were debated for decades before the passage of the 18th Amendment on January 17, 1919. During that time mountains of paper propaganda was produced on both sides of the argument. The Anti-Saloon League and The Women’s Christian Temperance Union produced millions pamphlets and postcards depicting the “horrors” of alcohol. Anti-prohibition forces also weighed in, but their efforts were far less effective. Documents proclaiming the economic benefits of the brewing industry were no match for depictions of crying fatherless children.
At the time, German Americans were suffering from a tremendous amount of discrimination due in large part to the onset of World War I. Of course, a large number of them started some of the biggest breweries in the country: Eberhard Anheuser, Valentin Blatz, Adolphus Busch, Adolph Coors, Frederick Miller, Frederick Pabst, and Joseph Schlitz. Throw the prospect of prohibition on top of that heap and their mood was clearly dire. Although this card was produced in 1911, three years prior to the wars onset, it shows you how important beer was to their heritage and happiness.
Eight months after the Cullen-Harrison Act amended the Volstead Act, prohibition came to an official end when the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933, which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment.