Creative and Production Manager at the American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia
What would our country be like if average Americans drank three times as much alcohol as they do today? We don’t have to imagine; that’s the way it used to be. Travis Spangenburg discusses the rise of the Temperance movement in our country and the many parallels to the issues in our culture today. Travis is the Creative and Production Manager at the American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. He talks about the role heavy alcohol consumption played in the lives of average Americans and the adverse effects on families, health, and, especially, women and children. Information about the American Prohibition Museum can be found at https://www.americanprohibitionmuseum.com
[00:00:00] [Jaunty Music]
[00:00:12] Mike: Welcome everyone to Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, a series brought to you by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan. You know, we've had a lot of conversations here about substance use. And today we're gonna continue that, but it's gonna be a little bit different. I wanted to have a different sort of conversation around alcohol consumption.
[00:00:32] My guest today is Travis Spangenburg. Now Travis is a creative and production manager at the American Prohibition Museum in Savannah, Georgia. As a history major, I'm gonna love this. I hope the listeners, I hope you do too. This is gonna be fun. And I'm gonna guess that many of you listening are gonna hear some of our history that you have not heard before.
[00:00:55] Welcome Travis.
[00:00:56] Travis: Hey, how's it going?
[00:00:57] Mike: It's going great. I'm just so excited. And I'm so glad you could join us. Now, we're gonna, we'll talk a little bit later about the museum, but, but just so that it gives a little context. The prohibition museum seems like a unique place. Part history, part theater.
[00:01:13] Travis: Yeah. That's, that's a good way to describe it. We take the baseline, the story of prohibition, the history, the nuts and bolts, the 18th amendment. And we know that that is an interesting story in it of itself. But we know that not every guest that is gonna visit our museum is gonna necessarily engage with the purely historical content.
[00:01:31] So we take a lot of different routes and avenues to bring it alive for people, whether it be interactive displays, really high tech presentational features, music of the era, live actors who will tell you the story so that you don't have to read 'em off of the panels. So basically whatever kind of museum goer you are, if, if theatrical is more your style, you're gonna get that.
[00:01:53] But if, if, if you are like a nuts and bolts history person and you don't want just wanna be left alone in a museum, you can just read the plethora of information we have surrounding all the artifacts and the, the text panels, things like that.
[00:02:07] Mike: We'll come back to that. And of course, I'm gonna put links to the museum at the bottom of the podcast. But I wanna talk a little bit about the whole alcohol temperance movement in our country.
[00:02:19] And I think this is the part a lot of, well, I hope everybody finds all this interesting, but the whole temperance movement in the early and middle parts of the 1800s in our country, alcohol consumption was considered by many people and organizations as a real serious threat to our nation. How come?
[00:02:41] Travis: Yeah, I, I tend to call it a public health crisis.
[00:02:43] And I think that's really one of the hardest things that people grapple with when they have kind of their preconceived notions of prohibition coming to the museum is that we all view it through modern drinking culture. You know, of course alcoholism and addiction is still very much an issue, but there are so many ways to get treatment and to understand it.
[00:03:02] I, I think as a population, we understand a lot better that it is a problem, a, a medical problem, something to be treated But this is a time where those treatment options just aren't there. It is seen as a personal, moral failing by most people in society. You know, the people that are drinking are saying, you know, I like to drink and I control myself and I contribute to my family.
[00:03:24] If that guy can't, that's really his problem. So it should not be my problem. And. What we experience in that century is the industrial revolution. It leads to a lot more liquor being produced, a lot more beer being produced en mass. It's easy to get easier to buy easier to move around the country.
[00:03:43] You know, you have a place like Milwaukee, which is doing uh, Pabst, St. Louis doing Anheuser Bush in the latter half of the century. Suddenly those guys can be connected to Maine and California and Texas, and they're spreading all over and saloon culture explodes because of that. And they're able to basically sponsor saloons that make tons of money off of.
[00:04:07] Getting as many customers as possible. And you have a situation where liquor consumption, alcohol consumption explodes. By 1830 the average American is drinking seven gallons of pure alcohol a year. That amounts to about 90 bottles of whiskey across the course of the entire year, which is a bad enough a number as it is.
[00:04:24] But that's the average American, it's not the average American drinker.
[00:04:29] Mike: There's a lot of people that don't drink.
[00:04:32] Travis: Yeah. They're skewing that number downwards basically. You know,
[00:04:35] Mike: Break that down.
[00:04:37] Travis: Yeah.
[00:04:37] Mike: So how much that's, what, what is that around for the people who average that would be, what about eight shots a day?
[00:04:46] Travis: It's it's basically a full size, at the time, bottle of whiskey. It, it At the, at the average number, that's like, what was it? 90 bottles a year. So that's like almost two bottles a week. However, if you're on the, you know, like I said, that number is skewed downwards by the tea totals. If you are a above average drinker, you're drinking maybe four bottles of whiskey a week.
[00:05:07] And I always say I have the same bottle of bourbon on my bar at home from like months ago.
[00:05:13] Mike: Yeah.
[00:05:13] Travis: I, I don't go through a bottle in. Any amount of time like that?
[00:05:17] Mike: Well, I can see then why people would be concerned about that's a, not only a lot of alcohol consumption, but that's a lot of people who are messed up in a fairly, well in a fairly, in a male dominated culture.
[00:05:33] What do the women and children do?
[00:05:35] Travis: So that, that really is the issue. It's bad enough that these guys are drinking themselves into financial ruin and death and medical handicap One of the real issues. And I think it's really why this becomes a movement. I, I think if it was just the men in a vacuum drinking themselves to death, we likely could have ignored the problem.
[00:05:52] But the reason we can't ignore the problem is that it is. The entire society is focused around the time at, at the time around a man's ability to provide for his family as a sole breadwinner. If he has to, if you're lucky, you've got teenage sons, older sons that can help out do work and contribute to that household income.
[00:06:13] But that's not a guarantee. You could have a husband and a wife, three young kids, four young kids, eight young kids, all girls. I always use the example, Adolphus Busch of, of, of Anheiser Bush. He was German and his family was well off and they didn't have this issue, but he was the 22nd of 23 children.
[00:06:30] And so that gives you an idea of how big families could get, and it was across two wives, like, like they had a lot of. It was across a lot of times. So I'm sure a lot of those sons were quite on the older side, but that still, that's the case for Busch. If you have somebody who has 10 children by the time they're 40 something, and then he might be a complete upstanding member of his family.
[00:06:55] Bringing enough, more than enough money home to support that many kids. And then something happens. He goes off to war. He has a bad injury. He gets prescribed beer or whiskey or some kind of alcohol content medicine. And suddenly he's got an addiction. And six months later, he's not only not able to provide, he's barely able to, to work at all.
[00:07:15] And then of course that ends in death. They don't die rich when that happens. And the suddenly you've got in, in that case of, of 10 children, you've got 11 people who don't have a way to survive. And you have a wife who maybe she could replace her own income, like survive on her own, or even support one child with seamstress work, teaching work, things like that.
[00:07:38] But she cannot replace that income if he was a banker, if he was a lawyer, if he was a doctor, things like that. And that is just the, the kind of immediate family. You might have widowed sisters that you were supporting with children of their own, or you have unmarried sisters or you have a widowed mother.
[00:07:54] I know you wanna talk about Carrie Nation at one point when, when Carrie's, when Carrie's...
[00:07:58] Mike: Oh ya, that's her story, right?
[00:08:00] Travis: So, yeah. When Carrie's husband died she had a one year old daughter and she also had his mother had been depending on him. So it was Carrie, her mother-in-law and her daughter kind of destitute, scraping together money to make ends meet and survive on the American frontier.
[00:08:17] That that's something I also like to highlight with all this. This is not a friendly time.
[00:08:21] Mike: Right.
[00:08:21] Travis: You know, if you're in New England and in some of the metropolises of, of 19th century America, you might have more resources and more charities to get by. But some of these women in the epicenters of where this movement takes off, like Kansas, where, where Carrie Nation was, you were on the American frontier at the tail end of the wild west.
[00:08:40] It wasn't easy to get by. It was not an easy life. You had to be rugged. You had to be tough.
[00:08:45] Mike: I think her story is a good one to talk about, because I think it's so modern in a lot of ways, you know, most people have heard of Carrie Nation and of course, you know, the Wikipedia article on her starts out by calling her a radical, you know, gimme a break.
[00:09:02] But I think it's important for people that don't know the history. Carrie Nation was her second marriage. She didn't start out as Carrie Nation. Right?
[00:09:09] Travis: Yeah. She started, she was born Carrie Amelia Moore. And then she married Charles Gloyd in the after the Civil War and Charles was the love of her life.
[00:09:19] It's really, it. For me with history. I, I, I'm not history background. Like that's not my main background. My background's in a performance and, and theater art background. So for me, when I'm engaging with history, the things that get me are those human stories that I can recognize myself, people I know things like that.
[00:09:38] And, and what you have with Carrie is you have a storybook romance. She comes back from serving in the civil war as a nurse and in Missouri where she's living at the time and this man moves into her parents' boarding house. Charles Gloyd, they hit it off. They're leaving love notes for each other in, in his, he has a book of Shakespeare on his desk the complete works and There she's slipping notes in, and then at, at like breakfast, she'll say, Hey Shakespeare.
[00:10:05] And he knows to go check the book for love notes. Her parents had another man in mind for her to marry and she fights them on it. They eventually relent. They let her marry him. She's happier than anything. And it's almost like a switch is flipped. As soon as they get married, she starts to see the, the signs.
[00:10:22] She catches her mother-in-law smelling his breath at one point when he is passed out on the bed and she does it herself and she realize he's got liquor on his breath that, that he's in real bad shape. And they're not married very long before it becomes detrimental and he was a physician.
[00:10:38] He was a doctor. She might have had a pretty, pretty fruitful life if he hadn't gotten addicted. I, I, I think she blamed, she blamed the war and she blamed the masons socially, you know? It's one thing to, to get into alcohol because you're you like the taste and you're you like the culture surrounding that specifically, but for a lot of men at the time, it was the only social especially on the frontier, the saloon served as the center of your social life.
[00:11:04] It was where you could go to hear music and, and, and in the case of immigrants, find translators, find other people from your communities who understood your struggle coming from Germany and Italy and places like that. It was where you picked up your mail. It was where you could vote. In some cases they were polling places and the saloons purposely made themselves that way so that if you shut them down, it wasn't just an argument of whether we should have the saloon here because it has alcohol like, and, and deciding on the wet and dry issue. You had to decide whether you were willing as a community to lose that resource in your community. They, they basically made themselves indispensable and I think that's why they get so cocky during the movement. They know, they can't go away that easy.
[00:11:49] Mike: Well, that sounds Travis to me like Wisconsin softball teams and dart leagues, you know, the center of the community up here is still the Tavern. And I hear that present day, you know, what am I gonna do socially if I'm not drinking. Yeah. What happens to old Chuck then? What happens to Carrie's husband?
[00:12:06] Travis: I remember, I think in her autobiography, she, she talked about how he would rather sit in the, even when he was home, he'd rather just sit in the corner and read. They have a daughter, she gets pregnant, but she leaves him before their daughter is born. She basically says I'm going back to my parents.
[00:12:22] And when she does, her parents tell her flat out if you go back to him again, don't come back. Basically you've made your choice that if, if you go back to Charlie, you've chosen Charlie. And so she doesn't go back to him. She eventually goes to pick up her things and, and complete the move out when he is in the throes of his alcoholism.
[00:12:42] And the quote that she recorded, this one always gets me, the quote that she recorded in her autobiography. Their last meeting, he said, pet, if you leave me, I'll be a dead man in six months. And he was almost dead on, right. It was like five or six months later. He, he succumbed to his, to the drink and Carrie's daughter was born in that time.
[00:13:04] He never met her. Her name was Charlene. She named her Charlene in the hopes that maybe one day Charlie would get it together and they could be a family again. She named her daughter after the daughter's father and Carrie blamed herself for years. She, her, her autobiography is heartbreaking in that way because she.
[00:13:25] Yeah, it wasn't enough to blame Charlie. It, she said that Charlene was a, the product of a whiskey soaked father and a distracted mother. He said, she said that Charlie's problems were hereditary. Charlene had illnesses, both physical and mental all her life. She was a very difficult child by Carrie's description.
[00:13:45] And Carrie basically said that it was her fault. She felt like it was her fault for having a child with a drunkard. As much as she loved them for years, she reread their love letters. She really wallowed in her sadness while trying to also keep her and Nancy Gloyd and Charlene afloat as she raised Charlene.
[00:14:04] And Carrie is a good story to talk about because her early story is indicative of the entire argument that the WCTU, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was making. It's it, it would be easy. And, and there's an element of this to it. It would be easy to say. Oh, when they say that whiskey and, and, and beer and all that is, is the destroyer of homes.
[00:14:27] It would be easy to see that as just like reactionary, propaganda, and a ton of it is the kind of rhetoric that the WCTU uses. But it was all very much rooted in, in things that these women had experienced. And that's something I stress with the temperance movement. This wasn't an abstract political issue.
[00:14:44] This wasn't some farmer reading about the tariff or reading about the civil war and abolition and, and saying, you know, some, somebody without skin in the game going. Yes, I think I, that might be a nice direction for the country. This was oftentimes women who had direct experience with losing the men in their life to alcoholism either their fathers, their brothers.
[00:15:07] Or, or, or their husbands or their sons. Lot of women in the movement have similar stories where you look at it and go, I can, I always say that we can disagree about whether prohibition was, as you know, it's seen as a failure and we can retroactively say, oh, it was a big old mistake, but I always ask if you're a woman at the time.
[00:15:26] Or even a man seeing this in your community, what solution would you propose? Looking down the barrel of a life of ruin and destitution and seeing that in your community, what do you choose? It's a more complex and, and complicated question than I think we give it credit for in traditional prohibition talk.
[00:15:45] Mike: Well, and rather than call her a radical when she gets into her second marriage and is marries Mr.
[00:15:51] Nation, Loveless right?
[00:15:53] Travis: Yeah. So that's, that's the thing. And that's what I think, you know, I talk about the human story. That's what breaks my heart about it, is that she was a woman who found romantic love, which wasn't really a guarantee all the time. You know, you often married for, for, for money and for opportunity and for connections at the time.
[00:16:10] And, you know, people read Pride and Prejudice at the time. And that was, that was fictional for a lot of women, the men too. All of the romances of the times. I, I think that's probably why they caught on is cuz it was, it was a fantasy world to a lot of people and Carrie found that and she lost it very quickly.
[00:16:27] And David Nation was completely by what I can tell. A marriage of convenience. She knew that she had, she basically prayed to God to send her a husband. David Nation showed up. He was a lot older than her. He was successful-ish. He, he wasn't a very good businessman. He wasn't, every venture they tried together seemed, it seemed that Carrie was a lot better at it.
[00:16:48] Of course that's by her own description, you know, she's, she's the source on this, but David was mean to her. Not abusive at least by her, her, her account, but just disrespectful. They disagreed on religious matters which he spent time as a preacher. So that was a big deal. When she did start having religious vision he mocked them.
[00:17:07] He, he, he, he didn't take them seriously. And I always like to talk about religious visions at the time. It's often brought up as a way to prove, well, Carrie was a little crazy. She was hearing voices. Women backed up into a corner at the time who had intense spirituality and a, a very destitute situation.
[00:17:24] It was not uncommon for them to hear the voice of God in that way, or at least report that. So Carrie's story is a little less rare or crazy than it seems that really is the story of learning about Carrie is at first you see that she ends up this bar room smashing maniac, and then you read about what I've just been talking about, about her past and you go, well, I kind of understand why she would do that.
[00:17:50] And then you read a little more, and this is what I call the third stage is that you start to admire her. You start to she had things that she did wrong and, and she, she had control issues with what she was willing to say and do. She said some unsavory things. She applauded the assassination of William McKinley, all, all things that you can't really get behind.
[00:18:08] But you do start to admire a woman who not only saw the danger of the liquor traffic and wanted to do something about it, but also. Got frustrated with the passive, what she saw as the passive action of a lot of the organizations that were supposed to be fighting for this. And so she took matters into her own hands in a really brave way.
[00:18:32] Like I said, this was the wild west and she was walking into saloons. You know, nobody's gonna go into the OK Corral and start destroying places.
[00:18:40] Mike: Well, okay. She's walking into saloons, right?
[00:18:44] Travis: Yeah.
[00:18:44] Mike: And she's walking in with a hatchet. But she was living in a dry place.
[00:18:50] Travis: Yeah.
[00:18:51] Mike: So...
[00:18:52] Travis: Yeah, so that, that is something that I think is it, it backs up the idea that Carrie is not an insane lady.
[00:18:59] And, and, and for the listeners, we did a bit of a time jump. Basically. She lives with David Nation for 20 years and by 1900, she is so frustrated with the liquor traffic in her community because Kansas was the first state to constitutionally prohibit alcohol. 1881 is when it happens and that's where her and David were living at the time.
[00:19:19] And so she, for 20 years, she sees in Kansas. A complete abdication of the responsibility to enforce that part of their constitution by local police. And by 1900, she, she had tried WCTU activism. She was member of her own chapter. She owned her own chapter of the WCTU in, in that county in Kansas. And so she had tried it the right way.
[00:19:43] She had tried it, the passive, the activist way. You know, begging people to change their hearts and minds. And by 1900, she's fed up kneels down to pray one night in June of of 1900. And she says, what should I do? And she hears God tell her to go to nearby Kiowa Kansas. And she shut down the bars.
[00:20:04] So that's what she does. She starts off with rocks and bricks. The first one she smashed up was owned by a guy named Dobson, James Dobson. Fact is, his brother was sheriff Dobson. So she was, she, the very first bar she smashed up was one owned by the brother of the local sheriff, which tells you exactly how invested the local police are in enforcing prohibition in Kansas.
[00:20:27] And so this isn't the story of, you know, this isn't like if I were to take issue with something Target did, a legal business, and go into a department store or into a grocery and just start destroying things. This is her seeing an illegal establishment that the only avenue to shut down the illegal establishment, the law enforcement has abdicated the responsibility towards, and she goes, well, if not them, I guess it's me.
[00:20:53] And she gets kind of hooked from there. She smashes up that bar goes on to a couple of others. She basically moves across Kansas. She picks up the hatchet about five bars in, that becomes her trademark weapon and she's onto superstardom.
[00:21:05] Mike: Well, she ended up making money by selling souvenir hatchets, too.
[00:21:09] Travis: She did.
[00:21:10] Mike: That is so 2022. [laugh]
[00:21:13] Travis: Well, she, she had, she had to make bail. She, yeah, essentially that's the story is that Carrie mass is quite a following and she starts doing speaking engagements. She starts selling we have a lot of these in the museum. It's some of my favorite artifacts that we have. We have, yeah, we have hatchet ornaments. We have hatchet pins, lapel, pins stick pins. We have her newsletter, she's self edited and self-published her own newsletter. We have a copy of her autobiography. We have a lecture tour ticket and she would sell all these things. Here's the thing. I, and I don't wanna be too much of an apologist for Carrie, although I, I pretty much am, even though I fundamentally disagree with, you know, I'm not, I'm not a dry, I, I, I drink personally, but I, I do....
[00:21:53] Carrie hits a soft spot in my heart. She put all that money back into the movement. Either through bail to get her outta jail, to funding her lecture tours towards the end of her life, she actually her plan. She had moved to Arkansas by that point, she bought a big house in Arkansas, in Eureka Springs.
[00:22:09] And her plan was to open it up as a complex with a shelter for abused women, widows of alcoholics, a school, a church basically a charity, a whole charity complex. She didn't live for that to happen, but that was her intention. She, she was described by friends as someone who would essentially give you the shirt off her back.
[00:22:26] She was, she was generous to a fault
[00:22:28] Mike: And, and fast forwarding again. Unfortunately, you know, people don't understand, she didn't live long enough to see the enactment of the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol.
[00:22:42] Travis: Yeah. Lucky for Al Capone.
[00:22:43] Mike: Yeah. Well, you know, and when we talk about prohibition and the 18th amendment, we could talk about speakeasys and Al Capone and, you know, running alcohol and all of that stuff.
[00:22:54] But one of the things that I find interesting is I hear all the time Travis, Ah prohibition didn't do anything at all. You know, it's, it was a waste, but it changed the drinking culture. We talked earlier about all of the alcohol that was drank back before that started, how did it change the drinking culture?
[00:23:13] Travis: A lot and, and that's, that's a good point.
[00:23:15] And it's something that the museum is very in tune to because as much as we love the stories of the gangsters, we love the speakeasys, the glitz of it all. We have a speakeasy in, in, in here. We also wanna make sure that the story that's getting told is the Temperance Movement is the kind of other stuff that isn't, you know, nobody's making movies.
[00:23:34] Much to their detriment. There's no Carrie Nation movie. There's no Lillian M. N. Stevens. There's no Francis Willard movie. There's no, Billy Sunday movie. These guys don't get the attention from the public at large. So telling those stories is a big part of what I think the museum does in a really special way.
[00:23:49] But yes, that's, that's true. The drinking culture did change. . We, we like to act like prohibition was just this wholesale failure and there's nothing worth examining and that it was the wrong solution in every way. And there's arguments to be made, you know, all the crime, all, all, all of that. The economic effects are, are certainly something we talk about and it's certainly something worth talking about, but it did fundamentally change our drinking culture.
[00:24:13] What I talked about earlier about the saloons and their, their stranglehold on, on communities. That never returned. The saloon was killed by prohibition. It did not. And there's an argument to be made that maybe that would've happened anyway, that that was a, a relic of the 19th century. But fact is, the saloons were around before prohibition and they never came back.
[00:24:33] They were replaced by the speakeasy and they were replaced by a completely different interaction with social drinking. As soon as speakeasys happen the speakeasys were essentially environments where anything went. Is one of the really cool things about them is that it was really hard to enforce a lot of the previously held social constraints in them.
[00:24:52] So that affected people of, of different races and different genders. Women suddenly had access to social drinking, which they didn't. They weren't welcome in the saloons. If, if they were working, if they were in saloons, they were working behind the bar. Maybe their husband owned it, or they were working in rooms upstairs in the cases of some saloons.
[00:25:11] But then prohibition starts and suddenly women are going out to speakeasies alone or with all their other single friends. They're dating in speakeasies. They're going out with other single men. They are drinking cocktails. They're having cocktails marketed towards them, lighter flavors. They are working in the speakeasies.
[00:25:27] They are entertainers and they are bartenders and they are cocktail waitresses and cigarette girls. And speakeasy owners. There are like Texas Guinan in New York owned her own chain of speakeasies. And that's not really something you can put back in the bottle when prohibition is over. Women have access to bars now. A lot of speakeasys, not all of them, but a lot of them are racially integrated. Jazz becomes so popular in Harlem and beyond. It spreads from Harlem and New Orleans and Chicago all across the world. And suddenly. The high demand of popular music for mainstream white audiences are the black entertainers who get to start calling the shots about who they perform for when.
[00:26:08] Bessie Smith, the Empress of the blues. She starts traveling in her own private train car. She's that well, that well connected. And a lot of these people like Josephine Baker when she returns to the United States. She refuses to play for segregated audiences. You know, a lot of, a lot of musicians did that in the sixties, but this is 30, 40 years prior.
[00:26:29] People like Josephine Baker taking a stand and saying that that performing for a, an all white audience is beneath me. If I'm gonna perform, my own community is gonna see me perform. And so speakeasy's become this really awesome. You know, it's not perfect. It is still the 1920s. There are still issues, but they become a haven for all of society.
[00:26:52] I always like to say they are freer. The twenties was a lot freer for more Americans than. The decades before and for several decades after, as you know, a lot of things button up a lot of Jim Crow laws affect in the thirties and forties women kind of have to go back into the home with the Great Depression in World War II.
[00:27:12] But for, for most of the twenties, you have this kind of crazy time and I, I think what you also wanted, you were kind of getting at with the drinking culture is it forces us to rethink how alcohol works. They're not drinking straight liquor anymore. Cocktail culture is born out of it. You're cutting beverages with more juices, more different ingredients. And you're, it almost becomes a culinary pursuit, where you have the the rise of, of designer bartenders, like Harry, Harry oh, God. Macle, I don't know how to pronounce his last name. And then Harry Craddick, Coleman over in, in Britain.
[00:27:48] Tom Bullick here prior to prohibition, all these guys who are not only being like, yeah, I want to make tasty things and sell a lot of cocktails. They are innovating different ways to use different ingredients. They are they're wild and a lot of the drinks that any drink people like today tends to have some kind of basis in the formulas and recipes that those guys came up with.
[00:28:10] Mike: Well, and if I'm remembering correctly, even though we think alcohol consumption at times is pretty severe today. I mean, coming out of the pandemic, you know, excessive drinking went through the roof, but we're half of what it was back when we were talking about, and we're not drinking straight.
[00:28:33] Travis: Yeah.
[00:28:33] Mike: Out of the bottle. So the consumption is even, even troubling consumption is down about half since the 1830s.
[00:28:41] Travis: Yeah. Oh yes. That, that number I quoted earlier from 1830 is about three times what we drink today.
[00:28:46] Mike: Three times. Yeah. So even though we think that we, we, and we do have an issue today, could you imagine three times more consumption right now?
[00:28:55] Travis: Yeah. Even personally, I couldn't take it.
[00:28:59] Mike: Well, and all the domestic violence associated with it and crime and all the other stuff.
[00:29:03] Travis: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:29:04] Mike: Just fascinating. You know, I'm laughing through this whole thing listening to you, cause there's so many modern parallels.
[00:29:11] Like if, if you dropped into the middle of this podcast for we're just talking, you'd think we were talking about 2022 in a lot of cases. You know, the, the social ills and the family being ruined and all of the other stuff.
[00:29:24] Travis: Yeah, addiction. It, it, one of my favorite things that you see in the museum is we try to keep the museum focused on, on the moment and, and bringing prohibition that specific moment in time alive.
[00:29:36] So we don't like to draw a lot of. Modern. We don't say this is just like this, but the guests do it. Oh, do guests see their own lives reflected? You know, we hear all about different political issues even of today. People are saying, this is like this, this is like that. You can imagine marijuana comes up almost constantly, what you just said about it being like, it sounds like 2022.
[00:29:57] I actually don't draw those comparisons. I don't think. I don't think it's quite the same for me, the Temperance Movement and the causes for, it feels a lot more like the language we use about the opioid epidemic.
[00:30:09] Mike: Hmm. And that's what we've been focused on a ton here later.
[00:30:12] Travis: Yeah.
[00:30:13] Mike: In what ways are you thinking?
[00:30:15] Travis: So, I mean, at that time, alcohol was used as medicine. It was being prescribed by doctors. An otherwise sober guy could get addicted to his medicine at the time and suddenly have an issue that he did not have prior. There's also when we talk about opioids and we, we talk about alcohol at the time, there is a conversation around predatory behavior. Where at the time saloon owners had no incentive to stop serving you. They had no incentive to keep you from being addicted. If you were a bar fly, that was your personal choice. And they really did not, you know, I'm sure some saloon keepers would look, they were, they were members of the community and you would go, Hey, Tom's having a real bad issue let's let's, let's give 'em some help. But a lot of the big guys were trying to make as much profit as possible, and that tends to be the conversation we see surrounding the opioid epidemic, where the big businesses that stand to profit off of it are not being held accountable. So that was exactly the Temperance Movement's issue with the brewers.
[00:31:16] It was less so that alcohol was inherently bad, but that it was so out of control and the people that were letting it run away, you know, and get, get out of control. Weren't the brewers were not being held responsible.
[00:31:31] Mike: Fascinating. Well, Wrap a bow on this. Tell us a little bit about the museum and you know, when, when you go on your website, it [laugh] , I love your website by the way.
[00:31:41] Travis: Thank you.
[00:31:41] Mike: It, you know, you don't talk about your employees when you go to the, about, it's your cast.
[00:31:47] Travis: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:31:48] Mike: And everybody's kind of dressed in costumes, so it's kind of fun. So tell us a little bit about the museum.
[00:31:53] Travis: Yeah. So it, the, the casting is something that's important to us. We don't like the word staff or, or personnel employees, we don't use anything like that.
[00:32:03] And we've kind of modeled ourselves off of Disney in a lot of ways for, for, because we, we you know, just kind of share that mission of, of making memorable vacations magical ones, you know, all that. But yeah, the, the museum is really, like I said earlier, it's, it's got a lot of different things depending on what you're into.
[00:32:21] And the cast is a huge part of that. I was actually just telling them the other day that I've been to other museums that have wonderful collections, mind blowing stories involved, but when they don't have the people there to really bring it alive, to provide context, I tend to remember my experience less and I don't absorb the material as well.
[00:32:42] So I think they're really the best thing about it is having those guys here. The museum itself is really cool in that is something I hinted at earlier. Prohibition is not one thing. Prohibition is not gangsters. Prohibition is not cocktails. It is not speakeasies. It is a whole facet of American culture.
[00:33:00] Alcohol was ingrained in American culture. So when we changed our two alcohol in our, our, our society, it changed everything about how culture worked. The aftershocks went through music and sports and film and politics and gender. So the museum is. So say there's a bunch of different kinds of people who could come to Savannah.
[00:33:21] For any mess of reasons, we got history buffs. Well, this is about the only amendment to ever constitutionally take away rights. This is a massive moment in American history. It's also about the only amendment to ever counteract another amendment. The 21st amendment that repealed it. So there's a lot of meat on a historical level and on a political level.
[00:33:39] Some of the ways this got passed was through the introduction of what we know today as lobbying groups. The anti-saloon league was the first major. I, I think the first successful use of lobbying. Using big money to influence political elections. The political implications of that over the last century are astounding.
[00:33:58] So if you're into politics, we've got that. But you know, history and politics that tends to be, if you're not into that, we have, you get to see fashion change. As our wax figures, we have 35 wax figures in the museum that all come from potters wax museum in St. Augustine. And you see their style of dress change chronologically throughout the museum.
[00:34:17] And we talk about how the fashion specifically for women changed when the flapper came on the scene and how that represented women's liberation as they got the right to vote. So it is also a, a story of gender history in America. It's also a story of art. You see how art was used to, whether it be music or theater, you know, one of the biggest ways people had their opinions about prohibition influence was a play called 10 Nights in a Bar Room, that played all across the country. It toured all the vaudeville circuits. It was then made into a, a silent film in the early 1900s. One of the earliest ones you know, this is, you know, we think of silent films, these like 1915, early 1920s, but this was 19 like, oh five that 10 Nights in a Bar Room was made.
[00:35:01] And you see film being used to, to affect political change. Museum also deals with you know, if you're into Southern culture, as so many people that visit Savannah are. We talk about the proliferation of moonshine and how moonshine played a part in all of this. At the end of the museum our, our very last gallery is one about how NASCAR came out of prohibition.
[00:35:22] It's really easy to look at the name American Prohibition Museum and some of our gangster branding or our cocktail branding and think it's one thing, but it really is a story that has something for just about any interest you could name. If you can't find something in this building that interests you.
[00:35:37] I, I really don't know what you're interested in at that point.
[00:35:41] Mike: Oh, that's great.
[00:35:42] Travis: Law enforcement. It it's a law enforcement museum too. As, as the central question of the museum is how do you enforce a law that Americans have kind of decided isn't important? It was like, it's like, if we all decided that murder, wasn't all that bad.
[00:35:59] And you had cops out here trying to prosecute murders and couldn't get juries and judges and lawyers and witnesses that would speak against it. It's almost unprecedented in that way of a law that just, nobody took seriously.
[00:36:13] Mike: It, it's fascinating to me to, to talk about this, cuz we're talking about a time period now we began this with a time period that's almost 200 years ago.
[00:36:23] Travis: Yeah.
[00:36:24] Mike: And some of the issues that we're still dealing with today, Hey, we're dealing with back then we can learn from them.
[00:36:30] Travis: Yeah.
[00:36:31] Mike: Travis, just a blast. I could do this for another hour and a half.
[00:36:34] Travis: Yeah. So could I honestly, there, there there's so much ground to cover.
[00:36:37] Mike: For again, for those of you who are listening, there are links to the museum the bottom of this podcast, Travis. You're really generous with your time today. I really appreciate you doing this.
[00:36:46] Travis: No problem. If, if anybody wants to learn more, like if you can't get to the museum and I hope everybody can, cuz it's, it's nice down here.
[00:36:53] Especially in the winter, those Wisconsin winters, if, if you wanna come down.
[00:36:56] Mike: Rub it in, just rub it in.
[00:36:58] Travis: We have like an 80 degree December day every now and then it's very nice. But we also have a lot of virtual stuff that you can engage with. Our social media. I, I, I do all of that work. I try to highlight stories.
[00:37:08] Throughout, you know, I talk about all different kinds of topics, but we also have a web show called No Your Onions that I me and my co-host Juliana we do. And you can go through, we have 10 episodes currently out. We're working on the 11th now. And that is kind of a niche prohibition topic.
[00:37:25] We, we go back and between some really crazy stories and we act em out and we try to make it a, a lot of entertaining stuff. So that's stuff you can engage in while you wait for your plane tickets to Savannah to come.
[00:37:37] Mike: Well, that's, that's great. And by the way, I watched your vignettes and I was thoroughly entertaining.
[00:37:42] Travis: Oh yeah.
[00:37:42] Mike: And educated. So it was fun.
[00:37:44] Travis: Yeah. We, we tried to trick into being educated. I think that's that that's the tagline of the museum is that you don't even realize you're learning.
[00:37:50] Mike: Thanks again, Travis.
[00:37:51] Travis: You're welcome, Mike.
[00:37:53] Mike: Listen in next time. And until next time, stay safe and put away your hatchet.
[00:37:59] [END AUDIO]
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