Prohibition Era Correspondence from the William Walton Griest Collection

On January 16, 1920, the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” became illegal throughout the United States. However, reformers began advocating for the prohibition of alcohol and other kinds of vice as much as a century earlier, offering it as a solution to the problems of capitalist exploitation, domestic violence, and addiction. Many advocates predicted that the prohibition of alcohol would be an agent of broad social change. Supporters of prohibition were often also supporters of causes as diverse as the abolition of slavery, the right to vote for women, and an end to prostitution.

For decades, women led the effort to legally outlaw alcohol in the United States. Without the right to vote or the ability to participate in politics and policy making, women turned to grassroots organizing around temperance to make change. However, in the early 20th century, politicians like William Walton Griest of Lancaster and lobbyists like Wayne Wheeler of the Anti-Saloon League displaced women to become the leaders of the prohibition movement. Wheeler and others saw a Constitutional amendment as the only way to achieve their goal of the national prohibition of alcohol. By the 1910s, prohibition had become a political wedge issue– you were either for it or against it. 

These are some of the letters which were written to William Griest for and against prohibition. 

Correspondence and Ephemera from the William Walton Griest Papers
Collections of LancasterHistory, Gift of Rebecca W. Griest