Only die-hard supporters held out hope prohibition would survive the first year of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. The new President certainly didn't believe in the 18th amendment, and even before he took office in March — the last time an inauguration would be held so late — Congress put in motion the means to end what some had called The Great Experiment.


Syracuse Journal, February 20
WASHINGTON (INS) — The House today adopted the Senate resolution for repeal of the prohibition amendment, and thus transferred the 13-year battle for repeal to the 48 states.

The vote was 289 to 121 in favor of the resolution. This exceeded the two-thirds margin necessary.

The Senate had adopted the resolution last Thursday, 63 to 23.


Thirty-six states would have to vote to repeal the prohibition amendment. Michigan was the first, on April 10. Wisconsin was next, two weeks later. Then Rhode Island, Wyoming and, on June 1, New Jersey ...

The trend had been set. For those who wanted the matter settled, it was a slow process, even longer than the major league baseball season. It began in Michigan, on April 3, when almost 75 percent of the voters favored repeal of prohibition, which would be accomplished by the 21st amendment. A week after the vote, Michigan made it official through a convention, featuring delegates selected in the election.

So on April 10, the ball was rolling. One state down, 35 to go. Wisconsin was next, its voters favoring repeal slightly more than a four-to-one margin. Wisconsin's convention was held April 25.

Rhode Island voters went to the polls on May 1 and spoke loudly in favor of repeal. Had this been a basketball game, repeal would have won, 88 to 12.

By early September, repeal was headed for certain victory.


Syracuse Journal, September 12
WASHINGTON (INS) — Prohibition leaders gave up today and admitted it is all over but the shouting so far as the 18th amendment is concerned.

With Maine, the home of Neal Dow*, and the birthplace and cradle of prohibition, voting 2-to-1 for repeal, not even the most sanguine dry could see any hope of checking the flight of states toward repeal.

Twenty-six states have not voted and 22 states have registered their opposition to the 18th amendment. In most of the state it hasn’t even been close. Three more states — Maryland, Minnesota and Colorado — join the parade today.


* Neal Dow, a Maine politician and a Union general during the Civil War, was an strong opponent of alcoholic beverages. Some called him the Father of Prohibition, though he died more than 20 years before it became the law of the land.

On and on it went. Maryland, Minnesota and Colorado all voted for repeal, and would make it official through conventions that followed the elections a few weeks later.

When November began, the end was in sight.

Syracuse Journal, November 7
By International News Service
Voters of six states go to the polls today in a final decision as to whether prohibition will remain a part of the Constitution. The states voting — North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Kentucky — represent more than a fifth of the nation’s population. Votes of only three of the states are needed to wipe out the eighteenth amendment. All 33 states which have voted so far have favored repeal.

Four states — Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah — voted for repeal. Pennsylvania also legalized Sunday sports, a thorny issue throughout the country, though most other states had dealt with it earlier.

North Carolina and South Carolina became the only two states to vote in favor of keeping prohibition, though the vote in South Carolina was close, 52 percent to 48.

North Carolina voted against the repeal amendment, 70 percent to 30. The state had imposed prohibition in 1909, ten years before the federal government passed the 18th amendment. Feeling was so strong in North Carolina that it would remain dry — temporarily. What helped kill prohibition in that state was the realization many residents were crossing state lines to purchase liquor legally in Virginia and South Carolina, thus depriving their home state of tax revenue.

While some believe North Carolina's approach since then has been strange, you could say that about most states. Some have state liquor stores, some don't; some allow supermarkets to sell beer and wine, some don't; some allow supermarkets to sell beer, but for wine people have to go to a liquor store. There are all kinds of differences from state to state. (In Louisiana you can buy mixed drinks to go.)

Here is a small sample of New York's approach, dealing only with people going out for a drink. Obviously, things would change, particularly in regard to saloons or taverns.


Syracuse Journal, November 10
New York state’s alcoholic beverage control board released its regulations. Among them:

Liquor and wine for consumption on the premises may be sold only in bona find hotels, restaurants, clubs, railroad cars and vessels. There is no provision for saloons or taverns.

Liquor and wine sold for consumption on the premises cannot be served at bars, but only at tables where food is served, although patrons need not order a meal to buy a drink. Hours: 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sundays 2 p.m. to 3 a.m.


One politician, Governor Albert Ritchie of Maryland, had a common sense approach, and his message may have been aimed at New York's Governor Herbert Lehman:


Syracuse American, November 26
Today / by Arthur Brisbane
Governor Ritchie of Maryland thinks lawmakers should not be too fussy about drinking after it becomes legal. He advocates “taverns where a man, if he chooses, can buy his whiskey across a bar standing up and drink it.”

The governor says, “I see no practical difference in taking a drink sitting down and taking one standing up. No particular efficacy is requiring one to eat a meal because he wants a drink.”


While the November elections insured the end of prohibition, the three conventions that made it official weren't held until December 5, with Utah positioning itself as the state that drove the nail into the coffin of the 18th amendment.

However, in some cities prohibition came to an end immediately after the votes were tallied in November.

New York Sun, November 9
CLEVELAND (AP) — Like San Francisco, New Orleans and some other American cities where a vote makes a law, the legislature to the contrary notwithstanding, Ohio’s largest city today had taken Tuesday’s prohibition repeal ballots very literally.

Hard liquor was on sale quite openly. The peace authorities admitted it and asked the pertinent question: What are you going to do about it?

Wholesale purveyors of forbidden beverages were stocking up in anticipation of formal repeal a few weeks hence. Nightclubs and “speaks” dropped all pretense at secrecy.

Newspapers said Federal operatives charged with enforcing national prohibition had been virtually action-less for a long time.

Patrons at restaurant tables last night ordered highballs, wine or even the comparatively innocuous beer, while waiters at counters responded to other calls for mixed drinks.

Wines and assorted hard liquors, much of it appearing to be well-known bonded stuff, were stacked openly behind the counters of several drug stores. Trading was brisk.

Stories at the time tended to confuse matters a bit. The balloting referred to in the following story took place at state conventions attended by delegates chosen in November elections. These conventions often were glorified committee meetings. (The New Hampshire convention on July 11 took all of seventeen minutes to make it official that the state was in favor of repeal.)


Syracuse Journal, December 5
(INS) — Three states ballot formally today for repeal of national prohibition, with the probability that repeal will be effective about 9:30 p.m. EST.

Prohibition was carried a step nearer the “cemetery” by Pennsylvania’s formal ratification of the twenty-first amendment to the United States Constitution today.

The unanimous vote of 15 delegates attending the first constitutional convention in this commonwealth in 144 years made Pennsylvania the thirty-fourth state to ballot officially for repeal of the eighteenth amendment.

Moving with rapidity, the “wet” delegates, elected by more than a 3 to 1 vote, carried out the mandate expressed by the voters at the November election. The official vote was announced at 12:51 p.m.

Ohio’s ratifying convention, meeting at 1 p.m., is expected to cast its vote shortly after 3 p.m. EST.

Utah, jealous of the honor of being the thirty-sixth and deciding state to make repeal effective, decided to postpone its balloting until about 7:30 p.m. MST. Utah’s vote will make liquor legal once more along the eastern seaboard.

Repeal of the federal prohibition laws will find Syracuse dry, but ready to serve legal liquor as soon as a supply is available. Only the two largest hotels had received their licenses up to noon, but as the nearest liquor warehouse is in Buffalo and liquor cannot be released until orders come from Washington, first shipment probably will not arrive until tomorrow. Repeal parties are being organized tonight, but celebrators must fall back on liquor from drug stores on prescription or the bootleggers. The first retail store probably will not open before the end of the week.

Unlike Cleveland, New Orleans, San Francisco and other large cities that began openly dispensing booze before prohibition officially ended, Syracuse (and, I assume, other medium-sized and small cities) was caught short, even a month later when the 21st amendment was in place.

Syracuse Journal, December 6
The first day of legalized liquor sales found Syracuse drier than at any period in its history. There were a few places with licenses, but with nothing to sell. Places that had been selling without licenses, “speakeasies” and cheating beer gardens, refused to sell, fearing loss of their beer permits.

But the situation is being remedied rapidly. By airplane, by truck, by railroad and by privately owned passenger cars liquor has started toward Syracuse.

Both the Hotel Syracuse and the Onondaga received shipments of liquor today. The Hotel Syracuse consignment came from Buffalo by truck and consisted of a variety of vintages and brews. The Onondaga received a small consignment of champagne.

Up to noon today not a drop of whiskey, wines or other liquors had been received at the freight houses of the New York Central or the D. L. & W. These offices are being flooded with telephone calls from anxious persons, wholesalers and retailers, who expected shipments during the day.

Finally, an interesting tidbit from the period:

Syracuse Journal, December 4
NEW YORK (Universal) — Tentative price lists compiled by hotels and restaurants give an idea of prices that will be charged for various drinks:

Rye and Scotch, straight, 25 to 35 cents.

Manhattan, 35 to 40 cents.

Tom Collins, 50 cents.

Martini, 30 to 35 cents.

Whiskey and soda, 45 to 50 cents

Oh, for the good old days.