No Liquor Sold to Drunkards

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With a growing temperance movement in the United States rooted in such groups as The American Temperance Society, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Prohibition Party, the notion that a dry nation would be written into the Constitution was not as far fetched as it sounded.

The brewing industry was also growing by leaps and bounds during the late 1800s and early 1900s, with saloons popping up like Starbucks cafes today. Saloons were more often than not linked to a specific brewery, financed by a brewer and contractually obligated to sell the brewer’s product to the exclusion of competing brands.

The 1915 Pabst publication took the offensive while cow-towing to the temperance advocates with their own form of self-regulation. Although they criticized the prohibitionists by saying they were “drunk with power,” Pabst went so far as to start their own Temperance Tavern League (code for “let them drink Pabst”).


Prohibition, which was to be a salve on corruption and other evils, was also a schism between urban and rural values. The decision to pass the 18th Amendment (inaugurated in 1920) and the Volstead Act in 1919 to enforce it was made by a majority in congress in 1917, and three years later America went dry.

In the place of legally sold alcohol, various soft drinks were promoted as refreshing substitutes. This elaborate 1913 booklet “Grape Juice and its Uses” anticipates the laws to come and attempts to show that there is buzz in them there Armour (yes, the meat company) concords.


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About Steven HellerSteven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →