For most of us, visuals of Prohibition usually involve Steve Buscemi. Boardwalk Empire may have been dramatized, but plenty of the chaos it was based on was historically just as nutty. The bottom line? America and booze have a pretty tumultuous relationship.
Cue Washington D.C.’s National Archives’ Spirited Republic exhibit, running through January 10, 2016. The theme of the exhibit is duality, the heated debate between America’s booze champions and naysayers, namely the Federal government.
Divided into four sections: “Good Creature of God,” “Demonizing Drink,” “Sober Nation” (eek), and “Concerned Acceptance,” Spirited Republic is a hands-on walk through the American government’s affair with alcohol. The exhibit covers all sorts of tipple related trivia. For instance, while President George Washington had plenty of accolades on his plate, I definitely have a bone to pick with him. In 1792, he wrote to his Attorney General that those participating in the Whiskey Rebellion should be “prosecuted vigorously.” All this from a man who ran a distillery near his home in Mount Vernon?
But don’t worry, plenty of people were fighting the good fight. An 1843 petition protesting the “spirit ration” stretches out to nearly 11 feet by 8 inches, almost as big as the petition signed by students of your alma mater when the school threatened to go dry. You can also imagine sipping martinis with FDR: his cocktail shaker is on display, and sneak a peek at a first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Think our generation swigs with the best of ‘em? Compare your hooch consumption with that of the Americans throughout U.S. history. Remember, that “moonshine” at your neighborhood “speakeasy” isn’t just a marketing ploy out of nowhere. Back in the day, quick, high-proof liquor and underground bars were a necessity. Find out who was nursing whiskey neat in a front shop, and who was preparing a raid around the corner.
Here are 12 amazing images from the exhibition:
1934 Ad for Southern Comfort
A postcard espousing one’s hatred for liquor
FDR’s cocktail set
A patent for a cocktail shaker circa 1927
Workers at Renault’s Champagne vaults in New Jersey circa 1906
ID for Prohibition Agent Daisy Simpson
Valley Forge Straight Bourbon Whiskey ad circa 1934
A fresh shipment of beer arrives in Cleveland
Simon Crow label
Night Cap Whiskey ad circa 1934
North Pole Beer ad circa 1934
An advertisement from 1919 for a home brew kit