New Prohibition Exhibit Opens at the Iowa Historical Museum

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It’s hard to believe that nearly 100 years ago, alcohol was banned in the U.S. Today, a traveling exhibit at the State Historical Museum shows the impact prohibition still has on our country. The exhibit is called “Spirited: Prohibition in America” it tells the story of the buildup and the actual period of prohibition from 1920 to 1933.

This is a national traveling exhibit but it does have some Iowa ties. Billy Sunday was a baseball player in Iowa who very quickly became a national figure against alcohol due to his fiery services and preaching’s against the vices of alcohol. While Billy Sunday grew up in Iowa, Iowans historically lines up on both sides of the debate. There were the ‘wets’ who supported alcohol and there were the ‘drys’ who were against alcohol consumption. There is even an interactive display that will tell you which side of the debate you would have leaned. A lot of the differences broke down along ethnic lines and immigration patterns. Many German and Italian immigrants brought drinking customs over to America and Iowa.

“For Germans, beer was just a part of everyday life, so German immigrants in Iowa didn’t understand what the fuss was about drinking and didn’t understand why people wanted to ban it,” Iowa Historical Museum’s Michael Morain said.

Hollywood has told us all about the 1920s and the era of prohibition with glamorous stories of gangsters and flappers and jazz, but this exhibit tells us more about the real stories that happened during that era. Prohibition rose at a time when women were becoming more active in politics, the 18th amendment was about prohibition and a few months later the 19th amendment was passed which allowed women the right to vote.

“They sort of went hand in hand, women were, a lot of women led the charge for prohibition and there were Iowans, Ida B Wells was a national figure from Iowa who was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union,” Morain said.

The exhibit is open now, however the historical museum is closed for Labor Day, but it will run through October 20th. The museum is normally open every day but Sunday from 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.


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