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Trader Jakes – Issue 781 April 13, 2018

“In God we trust” Page 11

The Road to Prohibition in Florida

Florida Historical Archives

Policemen destroy confiscated liquor in Miami (1925).

Carry Nation’s notoriety and reputation as a force for prohibition

was remembered long after she died in 1911. Pictured here are

women at a Casa Loma hotel tea social in honor of Carry Nation’s

memory, in Coral Gables, Florida (February 20, 1925).

Most folks are aware of the United States’ “noble experiment” with prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor, which

lasted from the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919 until it was repealed in 1933. Some Floridians may or may not, however,

be aware that Florida had quite the head start on national prohibition, and even managed to elect a governor on the Prohibition

Party ticket in 1916.The question of whether and how to regulate or prohibit the sale of strong drink had been brewing in the

individual states long before Congress dealt with the matter. In Florida, as in many states, the issue was hotly contested.

Advocates of prohibition, or the “drys,” argued that liquor production and consumption was destructive to society and ought

to be outlawed for the sake of health and the integrity of the family. Those who opposed prohibition, known as “wets,” coun-

tered that the government had no business interfering so deeply into the personal lives of citizens. Breweries and liquor dis-

tilleries added that to outlaw strong drink would destroy the jobs they provided to their workers.The solution in Florida, for a

time, was to provide each county with the option of whether to allow the sale or manufacture of liquor. A number of counties

did become “dry” by vote of the local citizens, and they assured the rest of the state they were quite satisfied with the results.

A.G. Campbell, the mayor of DeFuniak Springs, wrote in 1907

that he was sure that the crime rate in his town was very favor-

able to that of any wet town of the same size. W.B. Thomas,

mayor of Gainesville reached much the same conclusion that

year, noting that the total value of taxable property in the city was

at least twice what it had been before the county went dry.

As time moved forward, prohibition became more political. The

nationwide Anti-Saloon League began reporting on the progress

of individual states toward prohibition, taking note of which

politicians did or did not favor ending the sale and production of

liquor. Carry Nation, the infamous anti-saloon activist who gained

notoriety for smashing up bars with her hatchet, toured the

Sunshine State in 1908 promoting a statewide prohibition law.

She also endorsed Governor Napoleon Broward, who

shared her views on spirituous drink and was up for reelection

that year.