Lucas Holstine, Fabian House, Riley Pelton
In the 1930’s, Prohibition faced a public perception problem amongst the American public. Two key events occurred during the 1930-39: first, the Wickersham Commission published a report on effectiveness of Prohibition, and later in 1933, the 18th Amendment was repealed by popular consent. In1929, newly elected President Hoover put together a team, headed by attorney general George Wickersham, that was given the responsibility of analyzing the many problems with prohibition, and to find practical solutions. The Wickersham Commission published a report in 1931 that recommended the 18th amendment remain intact, but admitted that enforcement of the law would have to improve greatly. The Wickersham Report was largely ignored, because in 1933, the 21st amendment passed, effectively repealing the prohibition on a national level. But still allowing states to uphold the laws of Prohibition if they wished. Incentives for the 21st were partially economic in order to provide government funding for Roosevelt’s New Deal, and to provide legal jobs that were in desperate need amidst the Great Depression.
At Wabash, students were largely against the enforcement of Prohibition. While the administration attempted to control student drinking, and succeeded to some degree, it could not prevent freethinking students from going to the speakeasies scattered through Crawfordsville, Lafayette, and Indianapolis. While some students opposed drinking as a National Evil, the majority of students felt that revision or total elimination of the 18th amendment was preferable to trying to further enforce a broken system that simply created excess policing and unnecessary expansion of the federal government. With the passage of the 21st amendment, it is difficult to assess what sort of sentiment Wabash was experiencing at the time. However, Wabash students tended to view the Prohibition question as an unnecessary invasion of personal liberty. It is unclear whether lifting the Prohibition encouraged Wabash students to engage in more drinking, but it is clear that the freedom to choose whether or not to drink was a principle valued by both Wabash students and faculty alike.
This article looks at a recent prohibition poll conducted on campus. Though predominately wet, Wabash was relatively conservative in comparison to other schools at the time.
This article gives voice to a popular fear that breweries would be provided too much political power with the legalization of low alcohol beer. After observing the influential power that a special interest group like the ASL had over politicians, people feared that the liquor industry would take its place and limit the voice of the people within the political process.
This article mentions the weakness of regulations of the alcohol content in beer. 1933 introduced the softening of federal prohibition against all forms of alcoholic substances. Congress had just passed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which legalized the consumption of beer with an alcoholic content of 3.2%. While the act brought some reprieve to prohibition enforcement, it also created a new avenue for the extension of federal power. However, the law was quite unpopular, and left some people desiring more buzz for their buck.
Wabash students and many faculty members displayed clear disregard for the laws preventing the consumption hard liquor due to the lack of regulation and enforcement. Both Students and professors likely enjoyed the abundance of alcohol with regularity in the speakeasies in Crawfordsville, showing very little concern for being caught. The administration, however, placed stiff punishments, such as expulsion of students from the college, for those who decided to partake in the illegal hard alcohol.
This article talks about the efforts of Wabash administration to limit the consumption of liquor at the Monon Bell game, and to bar entry to the game those who had obviously been partaking in these libations. The effort to achieve a dry Monon Bell game shows the attitudes that both college administrations had towards the “National Evils” of alcohol. This poses similarities to today, where both colleges are still trying to promote the enjoyment of the game, while preventing alcohol in the stadiums.