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As It Was-Medford, Ore., Newspaper Reflects on Prohibition

On Jan. 5, 1919, the Medford Mail-Tribune published a reflective piece after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow enforcement of the 18th Amendment, the National Prohibition Act that forbade the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

“The country is dry by one vote,” the article said, adding “2.75 percent beer is illegal because five men say it is and four men say it isn’t.”

The article continued, “there is no question but that with the American people as a whole the decision will be popular,” and the article accurately predicted, “There will undoubtedly be strong liquor made and consumed, ... wood alcohol deaths and lemon extract poisoning, but there is a pretty general feeling that all in all the country will be better off under prohibition ...”

“At any rate,” the article said, “the die is cast and the people want to see the experiment given a genuine and uncompromising try-out.”

The unique American experiment lasted 14 years until the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933, the only amendment to the Constitution ever repealed in its entirety.

Source: "Mail Tribune 100: The Dry Decision." Mail Tribune, 4 Jan. 2020 [Medford, Ore.], p. A2; Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, The Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Jan. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volstead Act. Accessed 24 Jan. 2020.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.