The story of alcohol in the mid-20th century was tame compared to earlier in the century. Here we look at the period from 1934 to 1979.
By 1930, an economic depression had begun around the world. In the U.S., National Prohibition had been under increasing attacks by those who wanted to repeal it. The desire to stimulate employment and increase tax revenues strengthened arguments for Repeal.
World War II also had a profound effect on economic, political, social and other spheres of life. That included drinking patterns. Following the war, there was a dramatic increase in prosperity around the world.
Alcohol in the Mid-20th Century
After Repeal of Prohibition in the U.S.
- The three tier system was established in the U.S. It required that alcohol producers sell only to licensed wholesalers, who could only sell to licensed retailers and ownership had to be kept separate between all three tiers. Therefore, no one could be both a producer and a wholesaler, a producer and a retailer, or a wholesaler and a retailer.1
- In the U.S. ‘Home consumption [of beer] was further facilitated with the arrival of the aluminum beer can in 1934 and the spread of home refrigerators beginning during the 1930s.’2 After Repeal, ‘…drinking returned to the home and surfaced in the new cocktail lounge, in both of which women’s drinking was more acceptable than in the old-time saloon.’3
- Following Repeal in the U.S. those states that long maintained state prohibition had significantly more alcoholism than other states.4
The Wine Institute was established by California vintners.5
- Beer was sold in cans became popular.6
- Alcoholics Anonymous was established.7
- The Shadel Sanitarium began the use of aversive conditioning to treat addiction. Later re-named Schick Shadel Hospital, it continues to use aversive conditioning today.8
- France introduced the Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) or regulated place name system. It means ‘Naming According to Controlled Place of Origin.’ It was an effort to fight wine fraud. A consequence of the restritive laws has been to stifle winemaker creativity.9
The Federal Alcohol Administration Act was enacted, enabling the U.S. federal government to regulate alcoholic beverages.10
Phylloxera and powdery mildew had devastated New Zealand vineyards. By 1938 there were fewer than 200 acres remaining.11
Although British and French allied soldiers were given generous alcohol rations, American soldiers were expected to be abstainers.12
- ‘In early 1940, fully a third of the French railroad’s tank cars were appropriated to carry wine to the front. The rationale was that soldiers needed it more than civilians.’15
In August of 1940, Vichy or Nazi France introduced, for the first time in French history, a minimum legal drinking age. It prohibited drinking by anyone under the age of 14. It also prohibited the sale of alcohol ‘in cafes and restaurants on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.’16
- In the Netherlands, ‘Up to 1940, most drinking took place in pubs. After 1940, drinking at home became common.’17
Adolf Hitler was one of the world’s best known teetotalers or abstainers from alcohol; his adversary during World War II, Sir Winston Churchill, was one of the world’s best known heavy drinkers.13
The annual consumption of absolute alcohol per capita in the U.S. rose to 1.5 gallons. It had been about one gallon the year after prohibition (1934).18
Temperance leaders tried to have alcohol prohibition imposed on all U.S. military bases and installations.19
- The University of California at Davis published a map of California with five classifications of climate zone based on degree days. They associated each zone with specific grape varieties most suited for it.21
- The National Council on Alcoholism was created by the first female member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Marty Mann. Its goal was and is to promote the disease theory of alcoholism of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies. It later became the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.22
- Within three decades after WW II, the Japanese had divided business into two parts. One is ‘dry’ relations (meetings during office hours). The other is mizu shobai, or the ‘water trade.’ It takes place at night in bars.23
- After WW II, Japanese women were expected to serve alcohol to men but to avoid it themselves, unless they were old or sick.24
The annual average per capita consumption of absolute alcohol in the U.S. reached the pre-Prohibition level of about two gallons.25
Quarrying of the gravel in abandoned vineyards began in the Medoc. This destroys their future use as vineyards. The quarrying continues today.26
- Following the establishment of the state of Israel, ‘The sense of mission, the pionering spirit, and austerity worked together to maintain the traditional [Jewish] moderate level of drinking.’27
- Prince Edward Island became the last province in Canada to repeal its province-wide prohibition against alcohol.28
- Ontario established the Addiction Research Foundation. It’s now part of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.29
- India’s new constitution enabled individual states to enact prohibition.30
- ‘By the late 1940s and 1950s, cocktail rituals were woven into the fabric of the dominant culture…’ in the U.S.31
- ‘Drinking…began to shift from an occasional, often public, act to one that was incorporated into daily life in the home as a marker and accompaniment of leisure.’32
‘By the 1950s, Malbec was one of the most widely cultivated wine grapes in Argentina, with over 120,000 acres under cultivation.’33 The wines would later set international standards for what this variety could achieve.34
Max Schubert, a winemaker at Australia’s Penfolds, began experimenting with what would later become known as Penfolds Grange. It is now recognized as Australia’s most iconic wine and one of the very best in the world.35
The American Psychiatric Association published its first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual: Mental Disorders. It devoted little attention to alcoholism.
- The best red wines in the Graves district of Bordeaux were classified, reflecting their increasing prominence.36
- Baron Philippe de Rothschild began a 20 year political battle to get his chateau raised from its 1855 classification as a Second Growth to a First Growth.37 See listing for 1973.
- New South Wales voted to abolish six o’clock closing to eleminate the infamous ‘six oclock swill.’
- Earl Dodge, perennial candidate of the U.S. Prohibition Party, first ran as a candidate for public office.38
Sweden abandoned its Bratt (or motbok) government monopoly rationing system that was introduced in 1917.39
Demographer Sully Ledermann proposed his influential, albeit very controversial, single distribution model of consumption distribution.40
The best white wines in the Graves district of Bordeaux were classified. The reds having been classified in 1953.41
Lager began to become the dominant style of beer in the U.S., which it achieved by the 1990s.42
E.M. Jellinek published The Disease Concept of Alcoholism. It described his now generally ignored five types of alcoholism: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon. Jellinek is known for asserting that ‘A disease is what the medical profession recognizes as such.’43
Excellent weather conditions led to the best Bordeaux vintage in almost 20 years.44
- Arthur Sinclair, author of Prohibition: the Era of Excess, observed that ‘Up to the present day, alcohol is still miscalled a poison….[in the U.S.]’ Indeed, it is still being called a poison in the twenty-first century.45
- Alsace received AOC status.46
- Research by Dr. D.L. Davies found that some recovered alcoholics could drink alcohol in moderation. This finding challenged the disease theory of alcoholism and led to much subsequent research. Most of which has supported Dr. Davies’ findings.47
- Italy created a national appellation or controlled name of origin system known as the Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC.48
- Mississippi became the last U.S. state to repeal its state-wide prohibition against alcohol.49
- A study in San Francisco reported that as many children age 9 to 11 recognized Budweiser’s animated frogs as Bugs Bunny and more than Smokey the Bear and Tony the Tiger.50
- The Road Safety Act of 1967 introduced the first maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in the UK at a maximum BAC of 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood. The use of alcohol breath testers was also approved. 51
- The production of table wine exceed that of fortified wine in the U.S.52
When breathalyzers (blood alcohol content estimators) were first introduced in the U.S. in 1944, the maximum legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .15, or almost twice as high as the current standard of .08. This was based on a recommendation by the American Medical Association.
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first identified.53
- The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Orders (DSM-II) was published. It presented the first of subsequently differing criteria for the diagnosis of alcoholism. It later dropped the terms ‘alcoholic’ and ‘alcoholism.’54
The Potter fermenter, named after its inventer, Australian Ron Potter, is a patented stainless-steel tank that allows vintners to control the temperature of their musts. It became standard equipment in most wineries during the decade.56
- The U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970. This legislation, also known as the Hughes Act, created the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).57
- The U.S. federal excise tax on alcohol had risen so high that a moonshiner could produce and sell it for half the amount of the tax alone.58
Germany passed a wine law to bring the country into conformity with the mandates of the European Economic Community (EEC).59
Chateau-bottling became compulsory for classified wines in Bordeaux.60
- South Africa implemented its Wine of Origin certification system.61
- The first wine in the now famous Marlborough region of New Zealand was produced.62
- Baron Philippe de Rothschild successfully ended a 20 year political battle to get his chateau raised from its 1855 classification as a Second Growth to a First Growth.63 See listing for 1953.
The first commercial vineyard was planted in Denmark. The EU later and inexplicably limited total growth in the entire country at 245 acres.64
- The historic 1976 Judgment of Paris blind wine tasting comparing California wines with the best wines of France and judged by top French wine experts was the biggest and most influential event of the twentieth century in the world of wine. California wines won first place in both red and white categories. Vintners around the world realized that they might be able to produce wines as great, or even greater, than those produced in the most famous regions of France. Subsequent events have proved them right. The Judgment of Paris tasting competition fundamentally revolutionized the world of wine, which has never been the same since that milestone event.65
- Commissioned by the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), what is now known as ‘the RAND Report’ documented the fact that many alcoholics are able to drinks in moderation. This was a major challenge to the disease theory of alcoholism.66
‘In 1977, the first of what would later come to be known as microbreweries opened in Sonoma, California.’67
- Robert M. Parker, Jr., began publishing his Wine Advocate and applying his wine rating system. Parker’s judgments are widely used by consumers in making purchase decisions and have a powerful influence on both wine style and prices around the world. His judgments are credited with the emergence of the so-called ‘garage wines’ that command high prices.68
- The European Economic Community imposed rules governing wine production in all its member states.69
- U.S. legalized home brewing of beer for the first time since before National Prohibition began in 1920. Up to 200 gallons per household could be produced tax-free.70
- The American Homebrewers Association was formed, reflecting the growing popularity of home brewing.71
New World wine continued to demonstrate the quality it could achieve. Three years after the Judgment of Paris competition opened eyes, it occurred again ‘at the Gault-Millau Wine Olympics [when] another icon of French winemaking fell. A 1971 Penfolds Grance Hermitage, an Australian Shiraz, walked away with a first prize in Shiraz, a field long dominated by the French.’ 72
We’ve seen highlights of alcohol in the mid-20th century. We now turn to alcohol in more recent years.
- 1 Three Tier System.
- 2 Blocker, J. Drinking in the United States, 1400-2000. In: Holt. M., (Ed.) Alcohol. Oxford: Berg, 2006. Pp. 225-240. P. 234.
- 3 Blocker, ibid.
- 4 Sournia, J.-C. A History of Alcoholism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990, p. 149.
- 5 Nachel. M. Beer for Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG, 1996, p. 260.
- 6 Jan 24, 1935: First canned beer goes on sale. History.com website .history.com/this-day-in-history/first-canned-beer-goes-on-sale.
- 7 Kurtz, E. Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 1979.
- 8 Schick Shadel Hospital website.
- 9 McCarthy, E., and Ewing-Mulligan, M. Wine For Dummies. Foster City, CA: IDG, 1995, pp. 138-139. Taber, G. Judgment of Paris. NY: Scribner, 2005, pp. 19-20
- 10 Blocker, J., et al. Alcohol and Temperance in Modern History. Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2003, p. xliii.
- 11 Esteicher, S. Wine from Neolithic Times to the 21st Century. NY: Algora, 2006, p. 121.
- 12 Gately, I. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 366.
- 13 Shirer, W. The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler. NY: Random H, 1961. Richards, M. Alcohol Abuser. Churchill WarRoom, London. website winstonchurchill.org.
- 14 Kurtz, E., ibid. History of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- 15 Lukacs, P. Inventing Wine. NY: Norton, 2012, p. 199.
- 16 Gately, p. 403.
- 17 Garrelsen, H., and van de Goor, I. The Netherlands. In: Heath, D. Pp. 190-200. P. 192.
- 18 Lender, M., and Martin, J. Drinking in America. NY: Free Press, 1987, p. 177.
- 19 Rostow, E. Recent proposals for federal legislation controlling the use of liquor. Q J Stud Alco, 1942, 3, 230-235. Pp. 230-231. Rubin, J. The Wet War: American Liquor Control, 1941-1945. In: Blocker, Jr., J., (Ed.) Alcohol, Reform and Society. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1979. Pp. 235-258, pp. 238-239. Moore, M. The alcohol problem in the military service. Q J Stud Alco, 1942, 3, 244-256. P. 249.
- 20 Page, P. Archives and manuscripts at the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies. Am Archivist, 1987, 50(3), 405-407. P. 405.
- 21 Jackson, R. Wine Science. London: Academic, 2000, p. 214.
- 22 National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Addiction website.
- 23 Gately, p. 445.
- 24 Gately, p. 444.
- 25 Lender and Martin, p. 177.
- 26 Stevenson, T. The Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. London: DK, 2005, p. 71.
- 27 Weiss, S. Israel. In: Heath. Pp. 142-155. P. 143.
- 28 Hallowell, G. Prohibition. The Canadian Encyclopedia website.
- 29 Blocker, J., et al., p. xlii.
- 30 Blocker, J., et al., ibid.
- 31 Blocker, J., 2006, p. 234.
- 32 Blocker, J, 2006, p. 235.
- 33 Nachel, p. 269.
- 34 Nachel, pp.271-272.
- 35 Lukacs, pp. 239-243.
- 36 Esteicher, p. 124.
- 37 Esteicher, pp. 94-96.
- 38 Earl Dodge biography.
- 39 Lund, A. The change of temperance policy in Sweden. Brit J Addict, 1957, 54(1), 55-58. Fanberg, P. The social and political significance of two Swedish restrictive systems. Contemp Drug Prob, 1985, 53-62.
- 40 Ledermann, S. Alcoolisme, Alcoolisation. Paris: Presses Scientifiques de France, 1956.
- 41 Esteicher, p. 124.
- 42 Blocker, J., et al., xxxi-xiv.
- 43 Greenberg, G. The creation of disease. The New Yorker, April 30, 2013. Souria, J.-C., ibid., p. 150.
- 44 Lukacs, p. 280.
- 45 Sinclair, A. Prohibition. Boston: Little, Brown, 1962, p. 41.
- 46 Stevenson, p. 184.
- 47 Davies, D. Normal drinking in recovered alcohol addicts. Q J Stud Alco, 1963, 24, 330-332. Alcoholics Can Recover from Alcoholism & Drink in Moderation.
- 48 Lukacs, p. 215.
- 49 Prohibition. LiquorLaws.net. .liquorlaws.net/prohibition.html.
- 50 Budweiser frogs beat out Smokey in study of kids. San Francisco Chron, April 25, 1996.
- 51 Drink Driving Laws & Motoring History. DrinkDriving.org website. drinkdriving.orgdrink_driving_information_uklawhistory.php.
- 52 Lukacs, p. 188
- 53 Calhoun, F., and Warren, K. Fetal alcohol syndrome. Neuro Bio Rev, 2007, 31(2), 168-171.
- 54 White, W. Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. Bloomington, IL: Chesnut Health/Lighthouse Institute, 1998.
- 55 MacAndrew, C., and Edgerton, R. Drunken Comportment: A Social Explanation. Chicago: Aldine, 1969.
- 56 Lukacs, pp. 245-246.
- 57 History of NIAAA. NIAAA website
- 58 Nelson, D. Moonshiners, Bootleggers, & Rumrunners. Osceola, WI: Motoerbooks, 1995.
- 59 Stevenson, p. 346.
- 60 Esteicher, p. 125.
- 61 Esteicher, p. 149.
- 62 Esteicher, p. 151.
- 63 Esteicher, pp. 94-96.
- 64 Stevenson, p. 409.
- 65 Taber, ibid. Historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 and Other Significant Competitions
- 66 Armor, D., et al. Alcoholism and Treatment. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 1976.
- 67 Nachel., p. 307.
- 68 McCoy, E. The Emperor of Wine. NY: HarperCollins, 2005. Rose, A. Wine: The power of Robert Parker. The Independent, April 29, 2006. Esteicher, p. 125. Colman, T. Wine Politics. Berkeley: U California Press, 2008.
- 69 Lukacs, p. 205.
- 70 Beato, G. Draft dodgers. For DIY brewers, Prohibition lasted until 1978. Reason, March, 2009. Reason website /archives/2009/02/24/draft-dodgers
- 71 Nachel, p. 315.
- 72 Taber, pp. 247-248.