Breweries of Dayton

Dalton, Curt. Breweries of Dayton: A Toast to Brewers from the Gem City: 1810-1961. 2nd Edition. Dayton, Ohio, 2002.

There has been increased interest in the 1920s and Prohibition.  So much so, that if it has not already happened, the major networks will start bringing out historic dramas set in the 1920s, similar to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  From a history lesson approach, Ken Burn’s documentary Prohibition retells the story in pictures.  In literature, there has not been an explosion of Prohibition-based novels that I know of, but ex-pats living in Paris at the time is having a moment with Paula McLain’s Paris Wife and the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris. Paris at the time being the antithesis of Prohibition America. I thought I should jump into the conversation and talk about Ohio Breweries, again.  I know, always with the breweries, even when Ohio was the center of the Anti-Saloon League.  One day I will find the right book to talk about their story.

Prohibition is such a complex and odd issue.  The breweries were the evil big business with political clout, but at the same time the drys very much succeeded in much of the country running a KKK platform against immigrant, Catholics who were more prone to support the “wet” movement.   I find it hard to get my hands around it in a standard narrative.  But, one point that came up in Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition that I find fascinating is how undemocratic local government was at the time — even for white men.  In state government, there was no One Man One Vote.  Each county, regardless of population, had equal representation.  So, even though a majority of Ohio voters (white men at the time) rejected a referendum, the passage of the 18th Amendment steam-rolled through the statehouse (see Hawke v. Smith for the legalities – federal Constitution trumps state constitution in this case).  The ethnic, urban population, who was very wet, really didn’t have much say in the matter. Continue reading