Michigan’s Quirky Prohibition Years: 1855-1933
Boy, do we take our booze for granted. But over 100 years ago, Michigan was a dry state – meaning no beer, no liquor, and no wine were to be consumed by state residents.
National Prohibition years were from 1920-1933, but Michigan’s dryness started somewhat earlier.
TIMELINE (thanks to Mlive):
Michigan gets a 65-year head start on being a dry state. Taking a cue from the state of Maine, Michigan implemented its first wave of Prohibition, lasting 20 years. Michigan cities became dry – except for Kalamazoo, whose officials refused to acknowledge and enforce Prohibition.
Detroit and other Michigan cities followed suit and defied the law. With so much defiance and opposition, the law was dropped. The Kalamazoo Brewing Company began brewing beer for thirsty residents, at the corner of Walnut and John streets, soon moving to the corner of Portage Avenue and Lake Street. The company boasted "the biggest schooners in town", thumbing its nose at the past Prohibition law…..until a local law closed it down in 1915.
The Michigan Liquor Dealers Protective Association forms in Detroit, attempting to hold onto the right to sell booze.
Each county in Michigan gets the right to make their own unique non-drinking laws.
Van Buren County is the first Michigan county to ban booze.
The Anti-Saloon League is created in Grand Rapids, pushing for more dry state laws.
Kalamazoo goes dry.
Michigan goes dry for the second time since 1875, two years before nation-wide Prohibition.
Jan. 16, 1920
The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) begins throughout the United States. It lasted almost fourteen years, ending on December 5, 1933. Thanks to President Franklin Roosevelt, Prohibition was repealed and all states once again could booze it up freely.
For those thirteen years, illegal booze, speakeasys, and bootleggers flourished. This was big time dough for organized crime. The Purple Gang mastered in smuggling illegal booze, especially across the Detroit River to and from Canada. Even as far north as Lake Superior (there’s even an image of a submerged 1920s auto near Bois Blanc Island near Cheboygan, as you'll see in the gallery below). During winter time, the autos drove across the frozen water, transporting bootlegged liquor. Plus, since most police officers still rode on horseback, the mob used automobiles for faster getaways to continue their booze trade for another day.
Bootlegged (and homemade) booze could cost as much as $15 a quart, which is about $164 these days.
Take a look at a few images below of Michigan’s Prohibition era…
Michigan During Prohibition