Repeal Day:… But There’s More

Would you believe me if I told you that on December 5th, 1933, when the 21st Amendment was ratified, people were already legally drinking in the United States and had done so without fear for months? What if I told you that it didn’t necessarily repeal prohibition nationwide? Probably seems both counter-intuitive that both could exist, and very opposite of the message of the days celebration, but both are entirely true. While Repeal Day is to be celebrated as the day Prohibition was lifted and the proverbial drinks poured, it is not the entirety of the story.


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Pre-Repeal Day Drinking Games:

On March 22, 1933 the prohibition wall began to crumble. On this day, the Cullen-Harrison Act was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Cullen Harrison Act authorized the sale of 3.2% beer and wine in the US. At first, this doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment but break it down a bit. Your average beer is between 4% – 6%, with a large portion of the light beers we consume today sitting around 4.0% – 4.2%. In order to meet the law, is it hard to fathom that a company such as Anheuser-Busch couldn’t create a sort of toned down beer to make their product available to the large market of consumers that just legally opened up? Say, maybe they created a new “light beer” to be sold under the Cullen-Harrison Act. Wonder what would happen to said “light beer” over time? I would venture to say many a people celebrated the news of the ratification of the 21st amendment over a nice glass of “light beer.”


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Post Repeal Day Hangover:

There are two main things to remember about the 21st Amendment: 1) It Repealed Federal laws, not state and local laws governing the sale and consumption of alcohol; 2) There were “dry” counties before Federal Prohibition in 1913. So while there were no federal laws mandating prohibition, nearly two-thirds of the country was still under some form of prohibition rule due to state and local governments who enacted, kept (many pre-prohibition dry counties never took their local laws off the books), or didn’t repeal their prohibition laws. It wasn’t until 1966 that all state-wide prohibition laws were finally repealed, and to this day, we still have dry counties throughout our country. Most notable of these dry counties is Moore County in Tennessee, home to the Jack Daniels distillery.


None the less, Repeal Day is a momentous occasion not only for drinkers, but in American History. On this day, December 5th, in 1933, the American Spirit was [re]born in a sense. I’ll drink to that! Cheers!



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