News / Arts & Entertainment

    Temperance Music Marked US War Against Drinking

    New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (R) watches agents pour liquor into a sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition in an undated photo held by the Library of Congress.
    New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (R) watches agents pour liquor into a sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition in an undated photo held by the Library of Congress.
    Richard Paul
    Eighty years ago, an unusual experiment in the United States came to an end.  On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. It repealed a previous amendment that had banned the production and sale of alcohol.  It was the end of a political struggle that had raged in the United States for more than 100 years - a struggle that had been argued, in part, through music.

    There were many issues that engaged Americans in the years between the War for Independence and the Civil War -- separation of church and state, U.S. relations with France and England, but while those others came and went, the battle over one subject never let up.  That subject was alcohol.  

    Richard Paul's Feature on Temperance Music
    Richard Paul's Feature on Temperance Musici
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The war against drinking in the U.S. started in the early 1800s. Before then, Americans had been heavy drinkers. Scott Gac, a professor at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut, and the author of a book about reform in the 19th century, says that in the 1820s and 1830s, American churches started emphasizing the idea that God wanted people to take better care of themselves.

    “They start eating differently.  There are people who actually became some of the first vegetarians in the United States," he explained. "There are people who stop drinking alcohol -- about one in five Americans take a temperance pledge, which is an anti-drinking pledge."

    Temperance advocates preached about the evils of alcohol.

    “The breadwinner in the family was going out, spending what little money he had, and thus creating poverty for his family," Gac said. "His wife had to work, his kids had to go out and beg on the street, so drunkenness was eating at the core of American families.”

    Because the temperance movement came out of the church, a lot of the songs were to the tune of popular hymns.  People would sing these songs at meetings of groups like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, who would go out and smash up saloons with hatchets. By 1900, more than half of the states had gone “dry,” restricting or even banning the sale of alcohol.  Of course there were plenty of people who opposed this idea, and they also expressed themselves in song.

    In the wake of the First World War, Temperance advocates were finally able to get enough votes to put a ban on alcohol into the United States Constitution. The 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” But the Constitution still protected people’s right to argue that Prohibition was a bad idea.  And they did.  One example is a song from the year Prohibition started about how one used to need a lot of money to get a date, but now all one needed was a secret stash of alcohol in the basement.

    The ban on alcohol only lasted 13 years.  By 1933, the forces of prohibition admitted defeat, the 18th Amendment was repealed, and alcohol flowed freely again in the United States. And that was cause for song too.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs