Prohibition in Connecticut, as elsewhere, was part of a cultural war.
The state’s Yankee old-stock promoted prohibition. A flood of southern and eastern European immigrants was entering the state. Prohibition was a way to reduce the crime, poverty, and vice the Yankees linked with the newer arrivals.
Yale economist Irving Fisher was a strong promoter of prohibition. He complained about in the state’s cities. “[T]he American stock has been submerged by a wave of immigrants from Italy, the Balkans, Russia, and Poland.”
Prohibition was a way to “Americanize” immigrants. This was the view of these and other groups.
Prohibition in Connecticut
Some employers viewed prohibition as a way to increase the efficiency of their work force. Especially their immigrant workers. But not everyone supported prohibition.
Organized Labor Opposition
Organized labor tended to oppose it. Unions thought it was an attempt to make workers more docile. Union leader Samuel Gompers said that Prohibition was the only amendment in history to reduce rather than expand the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
Many people weren’t going to let their freedom to drink be denied. Legal, tax-paying alcohol producers and retailers were outlawed. They were replaced by illegal operators, including organized criminals. They quickly met the brisk demand for alcohol.
Bootleggers and speakeasies had to bribe police and even entire departments. They often had to bribe elected officials. The public became alarmed at the decline in public morality.
Prohibition denied the state tax revenues from alcohol. This was at the same time it was causing great increases in crime and violence. This led to heavy court expenses and over-crowded jails.
Bootleg alcohol was carelessly made. It often contained creosote, lead toxins and even embalming fluid. Consumers sometimes suffered paralysis, blindness and death. A very painful death.
This led many drinkers to switch to opium, cocaine, hair tonic, sterno, and other dangerous substances. Prohibition largely caused this.
Widespread crime and other problems caused by Prohibition mushroomed. More and more people decided that the presumed cure was much worse than the disease. They called for Repeal.
Now, many decades later, CT residents continue to suffer from the legacy of Prohibition-era thinking. CT remains one of the very few states in the entire country that still prohibits Sunday alcohol sales. This is despite the fact that Sunday is the second busiest shopping day of the week.
Perhaps residents will abolish one of the final vestiges of Prohibition in Connecticut.
- Brooks, C. CT goes Dry: The Experience of the Temperance and Prohibition Movements in CT, 1850-1933.
- Cohn, H. and Davis, E. CT and RI Reject the Prohib Amendment.
- Farnam, H. Confessions of a Prohibitionist.
- Kehoe, T. History of the Catholic Total Abstinence Union of CT.
- Steuart, T. $100,000,000 Saved CT in Three Dry Years.
- The Temp Movement in CT.