Prohibition - Episode 1.

Kanopy (Firm)

Streaming video - 2015

Prohibition - Episode 1: A Nation of Drunkards Americans have argued over alcohol for centuries. Since the early years of the American Republic, drinking has been at least as American as apple pie. As Episode 1: A Nation of Drunkards begins, clergymen, craftsmen and canal-diggers drink. So do the crowds of men who turn out for barn-raisings and baptisms, funerals, elections and public hangings. Tankards of cider are kept by farmhouses' front doors, and in many places alcohol is considered s...afer to drink than water. Alcohol, along with its attendant rituals and traditions, is embedded in the fabric of American culture. But by 1830, the average American over fifteen years old consumes nearly seven gallons of pure alcohol a year, three times as much as we drink today. Alcohol abuse, mostly perpetrated by men, wreaks havoc on the lives of many families, and women, with few legal rights or protection, are utterly dependent on their husbands for sustenance and support. As a wave of spiritual fervor for reform sweeps the country, many women and men begin to see alcohol as a scourge, an impediment to a Protestant vision of clean and righteous living. Abolitionists, moralists, and some churches band together for temperance. But by 1860, the movement, like women's suffrage and other reforms of the day, finds itself overshadowed – first by the mounting struggle over slavery and then by the Civil War fought to settle it. In the 1870s, the country's population swells with immigrants, who bring their drinking customs with them from Ireland, Germany, Italy, and other European countries. In towns and cities, brewery-owned saloons compete for customers, spawning vice districts in some places and terrifying the old, rural, Protestant America. To many, the saloon is the poor immigrant's living room where he can find work or companionship, but to others the saloon is a place where men squander their paychecks, contract diseases from prostitutes, and stagger out into the street to threaten society. In 1873, in the small town of Hillsboro, Ohio a group of women band together in an act of radical civil disobedience that spreads across the nation. They block the entrances of saloons and taverns, praying and singing until the bartenders agree to close up. The temperance campaign ignites again, spearheaded by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Carrie Nation and her Home Defenders Army bring publicity by attacking Kansas bars with stones and hatchets, while around the country hardworking activists succeed in convincing many counties to go dry with "local-option" laws. The Anti-Saloon League (ASL) forms to push for an amendment to the Constitution outlawing alcohol nationally. Led by a ruthless Wayne Wheeler, the ASL becomes the most successful single-issue lobbying organization in American history, willing to form alliances with Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, the Klu Klux Klan, the NAACP, industrialists and populists. The ASL quickly proves it has the power to oust politicians who dare to speak out against Prohibition. With the ratification of the income tax amendment in 1913, the federal government is no longer dependent on liquor taxes to fund its operations, and the ASL moves into high gear. As anti-German fervor rises to a near frenzy with the American entry into the First World War, ASL propaganda effectively connects beer and brewers with Germans and treason in the public mind. Most politicians dare not defy the ASL and in 1917 the 18th Amendment sails through both Houses of Congress; it is ratified by the states in just 13 months. At 12:01 A.M. on January 17, 1920, the amendment goes into effect and Prohibitionists rejoice that at long last, America has become officially, and (they hope) irrevocably, dry. But just a few minutes later, six masked bandits with pistols empty two freight cars full of whiskey from a rail yard in Chicago, another gang steals four casks of grain alcohol from a government bonded warehouse, and still another hijacks a truck carrying whiskey. Americans are about to discover that making Prohibition the law of the land has been one thing; enforcing it will be another.

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Documentary films
Online Access
A Kanopy streaming video
Cover Image
[San Francisco, California, USA] : Kanopy Streaming 2015.
Item Description
Title from title frames.
Physical Description
1 online resource (1 video file, approximately 95 minutes) : digital, .flv file, sound
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Corporate Author
Kanopy (Firm) (-)
Other Authors
Ken Burns (film director), Lynn Novick