Prohibition in New Hampshire was embraced by most residents.
Temperance had long been influential in New Hampshire. Although it was later reversed, the state had established state-wide prohibition years before the Civil War. After the war, U.S. Congressman Henry Blair of New Hampshire introduced a prohibition amendment to the Constitution. It was the first time such an amendment had ever been introduced. As a senator, he again introduced another prohibition resolution in 1885. It also failed.
Early in the 20th century, New Hampshire passed a local option law. It permitted localities to decide whether or not to have their own prohibition. Many did.
New Hampshire eagerly ratified the 18th Amendment. That amendment established National Prohibition. Residents expected it to improve health and safety, reduce crime, improve the economy, and raise public morality. They were to be disappointed.
Legitimate tax-paying alcohol dealers were forced out of business overnight. To fill consumer demand, illegal bootlegging and speakeasies quickly sprang up. With them came organized crime and violence. They also brought corruption as law enforcers and elected officials were bought off with bribes and payoffs.
Public morality declined and respect for law and societal institutions plummeted. Breaking the law, even flaunting it, became fashionable, especially among young people.
Tax revenues from alcohol ended. But criminal justice costs skyrocketed. Taxpayers were stuck with the burden.
Illegal alcohol was sometimes tainted with lead toxins. Creosote was added when color was needed. Embalming fluid might be added for extra “kick.” Some consumers suffered paralysis, blindness and painful death.
This led many drinkers to switch to opium, cocaine, hair tonic, sterno, and other dangerous substances. They would have been unlikely to use those in the absence of Prohibition.
Many serious problems were caused by Prohibition. This led residents to call for Repeal. That was in 1933. But there is still Prohibition-era sentiment in the state.
The President of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police was recently asked if he would be in favor of reinstating alcohol prohibition. He said “I certainly would consider it.”
It’s easy to forget that Prohibition didn’t improve health but threatened it. Didn’t reduce crime but increased it. It didn’t raise public morality but corrupted it. Didn’t improve the economy but hurt it.
Prohibition in New Hampshire, as elsewhere, was a disaster. Yet today, almost one of every five Americans supports making drinking illegal. Not even National Prohibition prohibited drinking alcohol. Learn more at What Did Prohibition Prohibit? It Wasn’t Drinking. In addition, many millions more today support neo-prohibitionism.
Learn more about Prohibition in New Hampshire
New Hampshire Issue. Concord: New Hampshire Anti-Saloon League, 1900-1938. (Periodical)
New Hampshire Temperance Banner. Concord: New Hampshire State Temperance Society. (Newspaper)
Prohibition Herald. Tilton, NH. (Periodical)
Temperance Herald. Concord: New Hampshire Temperance Society. (Newspaper)