Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dallas History, Dry America (1931, Cokesbury Press)

Cruising around Half Price Books last week, I found this 147 page paperback by Dr. Atticus Webb, former Superintendent, Texas Anti-Saloon League. This organization was formed in 1907, headquartered in Dallas and their goals were to fight for laws prohibiting the making or drinking alcohol. Other groups also fought for the same goals (they were all called "Drys"), though none as obsessively as the Anti-Saloon League. Mr. Webb became Superintendent in 1918, which also saw the advance of the prohibition movement from the rural areas to the urban, in 1919 Texas voters approved a state alcohol prohibition amendment.

Other prominent Dallas politicians who were Anti-Saloon League members included George Sargeant (Mayor of Dallas, 1935-37) and Sterling P. Strong (Lt. Governor 1930, US House of Representatives 1933-35). Luckily the the "anti-Drys" made up the majority of government, and refused to enforce the new laws (politics haven't changed much). Basically, by the beginning of the Depression (1933), the movement lost support, everyone needed a strong drink.

Reading this book makes me, well, want a drink. It's old style bullypulpit writing, with much passion, and chapter names include "Wet Leaders Public Enemies", and "The Church to the Battle". To quote Senator Morris Sheppard who authored the introduction, "Dr. Webb knows no fear. shirks no task, omits no essential fact in presenting his case for humanity".

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