18. The Movement to Ban Alcohol Soon Took a Nativists vs Immigrants Tinge
Beer only became big in America in the 1840s with the arrival of Irish and German immigrants in large numbers. Until then, Americans had mostly drank cider or hard liquor. However, the Irish, and especially the Germans, were beer drinkers, and immigrants from those countries brought with them the pub and beer garden culture, which morphed in America into saloons and bars. Those who disliked immigrants soon came to dislike those establishments. As a rule of thumb, the movement to ban alcohol was most widespread amongst those whose ancestors had been in America for generations. Those prohibitionists predominated in rural and small town America, and tended to be traditional and conservative.
On the other side, hostility to nascent prohibition was vehement amongst immigrants who began to arrive in ever greater numbers in the mid nineteenth century. Waves of new arrivals from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Eastern Europe, infused America with ever greater numbers of people for whom drinking was not just a social activity, but a traditional part of their culture. Their numbers were greatest in America’s burgeoning cities. From that perspective, the fight over prohibition took on a nineteenth and early twentieth century aspect of Red America vs Blue America.