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Liquor's Last Days

Nebraska law prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages effective May 1917, two years before the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed liquor nationwide. The April 27, 1917, issue of the Grand Island Daily Independent, found at the Nebraska State Historical Society, tells how the city coped:

"More or less during the past month, and particularly during the past week since the final passage of the prohibition bill . . . has the sales of wines, brandies and whiskies been extraordinarily large. [I]n several of the well to do families of Grand Island several cases of wines to the value of $25 per case have been put in . . . . Some dealers have suggested that they may not be able to dispose of their stock until the last hour, if then, and in order to remain open for the day without danger of damage from boisterous callers, such as has sometimes been the case, will ask for a special policeman during the entire day at their expense."

The story continued in the May 1 issue: "The liquor traffic in Grand Island gave up its ghost peacefully, and as a matter of fate. There was little or no disturbance. Many a periodical overindulger took one last whirl in an effort to put John Barleycorn to the mat with both shoulders touching but, as usual, the decision went the other way. . . . For the most part, however, they were pacifist drunks-not the fighting kind. . . . At 7 o'clock last night only three or four places were yet open. . . . It is said that in the Bushhausen place there were at one time at least two hundred men. In the Kaumann's place, according to a police officer stationed there, the crowd was packed like sardines. . . . About dark someone with an eye on history suggested a flashlight picture, and it was taken."

(July 1996)



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