The Edmond Sun

Arts & Entertainment

July 3, 2014

Prohibition exhibit tempts travelers to visit

ST. LOUIS — I’m not old enough to remember Prohibition. I never thought about the conditions that impelled the 18th Amendment. I wasn’t aware of how society was changed by it. Frankly, I just never thought much about it until I visited the Missouri History Museum’s exhibition “American Sprits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.”

To begin with, guests are faced with a wall of bottles representing liquor consumption in 1830. At that time, the average American above the age of 15, consumed the equivalent of 7 gallons of pure alcohol every year. That works out to four shots of 80 proof liquor every day. Consumption then was at the highest level in American history — about three times today’s figures.

Temperance organizations were already active in Europe and taking hold in America. In 1874, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, one of the most powerful and active groups, was founded. Carry Nation (and her hatchet) became the poster child of the movement’s history and she is highlighted — including one of her weapons — in this exhibition.

Founded by Protestant ministers in 1893, the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) became the most powerful political enemy of “demon rum.” And, of course, men had the vote.  

In the early history section of the exhibit, visitors can take a test to determine if they would have supported the “wets” or the “drys.” And they can enter a replica of a church to hear a fiery sermon by Billy Sunday on “God’s worst enemy” and “Hell’s best friend.”

The machinations of modern politicians have nothing on Wayne Wheeler, who was the chief strategist for the ASL. In a brilliant display, the course he negotiated to the constitutional amendment to ban the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcohol is graphically illustrated. It took seven years of political maneuvering, but on Jan. 17, 1920, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The many moves and round-aboutations required to reach this point are illustrated in “Wayne Wheeler’s Amazing Amendment Machine” — a Rube Goldberg path to Prohibition.

The effect was said to be success for two groups: Baptists and bootleggers. The drys had their law but the wets still managed to get their liquor.

Society underwent a sea change — the combined result of the end of World War I and Prohibition. Saloons, which had been the exclusive territory of men, were replaced by speakeasies where men and women mingled freely. Skirt hems went up; inhibitions went out the window. In big cities, another taboo was broken when races mixed in clubs called “black and tans” where jazz, dancing and drinking provided an atmosphere of equality in a world which, outside, was still strictly segregated. Another innovation — the “powder room” — was created. Saloons hadn’t needed them but now, jazz babies needed a place to straighten their hose and powder their noses.

Fashions in clothes changed and the language changed, too. Flappers also were called “Whoopee Mamas” and a dirty club or bar became a “crum-joint.”  

Before Prohibition, the bartender’s manual at the Waldorf Hotel listed recipes for 513 drinks. With Prohibition, many of the ingredients were impossible to get. Bartenders relied on gin, cheap and easily made, mixed with syrups or cream to create cocktails like the Clover Club (gin, grenadine, lemon or lime juice, sugar and a whipped egg white; shaken, strained and topped with a maraschino cherry) and the Alexander (gin, crème de cacao and cream).

While the speakeasies were the best place to get a drink, if you knew the right words, you could order one in some regular restaurants. The secret: Order a ginger ale. When the server asked, “Imported or domestic,” a reply of “imported” would get you a cocktail.

How many movies have you seen where, at the shrill tweeting of police whistles signaling a raid, customers scramble to escape? Truth is, the proper response was to sit calmly at your table. The law didn’t prohibit drinking only the manufacture, transportation or sale of alcohol. This whole exhibition was packed with fascinating information.  

The last major section of the exhibit highlights the rise of crime brought on by Prohibition. Here you’ll find Eliot Ness’ signed oath of office from 1926 and Al Capone’s guilty verdict from his conviction in Chicago in 1931.  

The entire exhibition incorporates a number of interactive features from a lesson in how to dance the Charleston to, in this section, a photo op where guests join a police line-up, which includes gangsters Meyer Lansky, Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.

St. Louis is the third stop on American Spirits’ four-year, seven-city tour — it will never be closer. And the St. Louis stop has something extra, a whole section on Missouri’s history with wine-making and beer brewing. Of course, Anheuser-Busch is prominent in this area. One of the most interesting artifacts is a 1930 red-and-white-striped, amphibious vehicle used by the brewing company to promote a non-alcoholic malt beverage it produced during Prohibition. The prototype was developed by the company’s vehicle department for military surveillance but World War I ended before it was put into use.  

Prohibition lasted until the ratification of the 21st Amendment on Dec. 5, 1933. This amendment did, however, give states control over their own liquor laws, resulting in a hodge-podge of wet and dry states, dry counties in wet states and other variations on the theme. This was a fascinating period in our history and the exhibition is fun and educational.

If you want to see this super exhibit, you’ll have to hurry. Aug. 17 is its last day in St. Louis before it leaves for Indianapolis where it reopens Sept. 19.  

St. Louis is a little more than a seven-hour drive from Edmond — four-lane all the way — a good long-weekend trip.

ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond-based travel writer.

Text Only
Arts & Entertainment
  • jc_Earp Marlin 2 - photo credit Noel Winters.jpg Shootout of a sale

    An original article of the Wild West will be made available at auction Thursday. The rifle of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp will be part of the J. Levine Auction & Appraisal’s Summer Quarterly Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz.
    Earp was an Arizona deputy sheriff and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Ariz. He is legendary for playing a key role in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He died in 1929 at age 60.
    Wyatt Earp collector Barry Tapp of Edmond will be selling his 1895 Wyatt Earp Marlin rifle at the auction. The rifle has an estimated value between $50,000 and $75,000. It includes authentication documentation from Tombstone Heritage Museum, according to the auction house

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Carpenter Square Carpenter Square Theatre Presents ‘Fibs’

    For two nights only, Carpenter Square Theatre presents Albert Bostick’s one-man show “Fabulous Fibs, Fables, and Folklore.”  Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 and 9 at the theater at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Science Museum Oklahoma to exhibit Power Play

    Designed to test strength, speed, stamina, flexibility and balance, Science Museum Oklahoma’s new exhibit — Power Play — explores human physiology and the power of the human body. Power Play is now open to the public.

    July 25, 2014

  • Discard the boredom of family game night

    We’re all about families having fun together, and game night is one of the best ways to do that. But playing the same games over and over can get a little stale. So in the interests of injecting a little more fun into your family’s game night, here are some great choices that will keep you and yours engaged and laughing.

    July 25, 2014

  • OBU dance team celebrates National Dance Day

    In 2010, “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day in an effort to help people embrace dance and combat obesity on the last Saturday in July.
    This year, on July 26, Oklahoma Baptist University’s dance team will host a fundraiser that allows participants to dance all day for $30. The fundraiser will be in the Noble Complex on OBU’s campus.
    Cami Gower, an OBU junior and co-captain/co-founder of the dance team, said the team’s officers have been planning for their upcoming season since April. Gower is a graduate of Deer Creek High School.
    “Since then we have been coming up with better ways to reach the community with dance,” she said. “This day of dance was a great way to do it and help the team raise funds.”

    July 24, 2014

  • Never Girls Good Reads

    NOTE: Email to have your name entered into a drawing for the following titles: “The Never Girls: A Pinch of Magic” and/or “The Secrets of Tree Taylor.” Deadline is 10 a.m. July 28. Winner will be notified by return email. Winner is responsible for picking up the book at The Edmond Sun at 123 S. Broadway. All entrants must be 18 or older to win.

    July 22, 2014 3 Photos

  • garner4.jpg Family, friends remember Garner’s Norman roots

    Flowers started arriving at the James Garner statue at Main Street and Jones Avenue Sunday morning after residents learned of the famed actor and Norman native’s death Saturday night in California.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • Banjo 1 American Banjo Museum offers look at past

    What do you call perfect pitch?  If you can throw a banjo through the window and onto the garbage truck!  My brother-in-law, a musician, told me this joke.  Boy, the banjo is the Rodney Dangerfield of instruments — it gets no respect.  Well, get ready to appreciate the banjo for its history and heritage — at the American Banjo Museum in OKC’s Bricktown. This cool museum takes you through 370 years of banjo history in eight minutes, then settles down to give you details which will keep you interested for many more.

    July 19, 2014 6 Photos

  • Enjoy affordable romance in Dahlonega, Ga.

    Nestled in the mountains of northern Georgia against the Chattahoochee National Forest lies a tiny town that offers an authentic peek at a time long past. The charm of yesteryear combined with the calm of nature, friendly locals and the fun of back country roads dotted with vineyards and tasting rooms results in the perfect getaway for couples in search of a romantic escape or honeymoon destination. Those headed to Dahlonega for an intimate weekend will want to consider the following itinerary items.

    July 19, 2014

  • Kyle_Dillingham_cutout useBH.jpg Dillingham in benefit concert Monday at Symphony Center

    Musician Kyle Dillingham will perform a concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday to raise funds for a local man in need of a liver transplant.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo