Momentum for prohibition grows
By 1900 the temperance movement was impacting virtually every area of American life, and had made several inroads overseas. Nearly all states had at least some communities which banned alcohol, and several states were entirely dry. The temperance movement and evangelical religious movements were inextricably linked. The Anti-saloon league had succeeded in obtaining some forms of prohibition, such as no Sunday sales of alcohol. In 1880 the Cincinnati Reds Professional Baseball Club was kicked out of the National League for the crime of selling beer at their ballpark on Sunday, which was not viewed as a sin in the city’s large German community.
During the Gilded Age, urban saloons were often connected to breweries, especially in cities with large German and Irish populations such as St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati. These cities also contained other large industries and working men were often offered free lunches along with their steins of beer, featuring heavily salted foods to increase thirst. Also during the Gilded Age the size of a man’s girth was viewed as a measure of his affluence, and conspicuous consumption to the point of obesity was common, though food was never blamed for its overconsumption as alcohol was when it was taken to excess.
In the first two decades of the twentieth century the battle lines between the wets and drys became more clearly drawn, along lines derived by the temperance groups and the propagandists who supported them. In industry manufacturers of soft drinks came to support the idea of prohibition as a means of increasing demand for their products. Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League developed the tactic of pressuring dry supporters to vote for measures limiting alcohol regardless of party affiliation, in effect making Republicans and Democrats partisans for prohibition rather than party.
Wheeler’s use of pressure politics was so effective it became known as Wheelerism, and his constant use of the tactic in the 1910s was the single most effective weapon in the passing of the 18th Amendment, which launched Prohibition in the United States. Yet it likely still would not have passed were it not for events in Europe. As World War I began, German communities in the United States were marginalized and after America entered the war the German communities lost their influence entirely, as anti-German hysteria gripped American cities. It was during World War I that the 18th Amendment was finally ratified by most states.
Dry activists supported the 16th Amendment, which created the federal income tax, as a means to remove the argument of the wets that alcohol taxes were critical to the operation of the federal government. Knowing that the vote of women was essential to the support of national prohibition they also supported women’s suffrage, though the 19th Amendment was not ratified until after prohibition was the law of the land. The temperance movement was critical in the creation of the women’s right to vote and income taxes in the United States. It also created prohibition, which Winston Churchill called, “an affront to the whole history of mankind.”