The year was 1933. America's fourteen-year experiment in sobriety was over; the federally mandated ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol had been lifted. All across the U.S., people welcomed the repeal of prohibition with open arms and flowing taps.
Or rather, most of them did. Meet the counties where America's "noble experiment" never died.
When prohibition lifted almost eighty years ago, many communities (particularly in the Bible Belt) voted to keep alcohol bans in place at the local level. Today, there are still more than 200 "dry" counties nationwide with what most would consider excessively stringent liquor laws. There are even more that remain partially dry (or "moist," to those familiar with the particulars of prohibition legislation).
It's interesting to compare the effects of early 20th century prohibition against those of 2012. America's first experiment with alcohol regulation was a failure on many fronts. Alcohol consumption remained rampant. Thousands died from poorly prepared bathtub liquor. But on the other hand, it also fueled a pretty badass culture of back-alley science and innovation. Smugglers looking to bootleg booze had to come up with innovative ways of eluding the law. Sometimes this involved coming up with creative ways to hide cargo; other times all it meant was being able to outrun whoever was chasing you.
In many ways, prohibition was the catalyst for the first (and arguably biggest) large-scale Do-It-Yourself science movement in the nation's history; home-brewing became extremely popular during prohibition, with magazines like Popular Science publishing how-to guides for assembling DIY distilleries, and measuring your alcohol to keep it within the ABV standards outlined by the eighteenth amendment.
Today, however, it seems like the only real benefit to prohibition is the sense of moral superiority that it instills in those who support it — and that's a reality many of the country's driest regions are having to face up to. According to the BBC, many communities that have been dry for decades have been forced to re-evaluate their non-alcoholic standards in light of hard economic times. If you look at the map, you'll notice that many of the dry and moist counties are interspersed with wet ones. With establishments in dry communities losing business to those in counties that permit alcohol, there are many who feel that the prohibition model cannot hold.
"I hope that we can move into the 21st Century and take advantage of a lot of the things that other communities have," explained Paul Croley, a local lawyer who recently led a campaign to change the status of Williamsburg Kentucky from dry to moist. (The tiny community voted on Tuesday — by a margin of just 14 votes — to finally allow the sale of alcohol in restaurants).
"It is time to wake up and realise that our standard of living can be as good as our neighbours."
Read more about the (slow) death of prohibition in America, over on BBC News.
Top image via BBC