Spirit Cruises Summer 2019 Leaderboard

Ken Burns' Prohibition Delves into the Noble Experiment

by The Drink Nation on Oct 5, 2011 in Culture
Ken Burns' Prohibition Delves into the Noble Experiment

Over the past few evenings, PBS aired the 6-hour film Prohibition, directed by renowned documentarian Ken Burns with Lynn Novick. The three episodes are also available online at the PBS website. The airing was a big success for the not-for-profit station, bringing in an average of 3.9 million viewers, per ratings company Nielsen. People organized drinking parties around the show, preparing speakeasy-era cocktails to accompany the narrative.

In the first installment, “A Nation of Drunkards,” Burns relates that America in the late 19th Century had a serious drinking problem. On average, people drank seven times as much as today, close to 90 bottles of whiskey per year! During the Civil War, nearly one-third of the federal government’s revenue came from taxes on alcohol.

This dependence led to the Temperance movement, which began as a campaign to reduce alcohol intake, not to ban it. However, as radical movements are wont to do, things escalated, as different groups tried to outdo each other with their zeal, and in 1920, the 18th Amendment went into effect, making the sale or consumption of alcohol illegal.

As related by Burns in “A Nation of Scofflaws,” the Noble Experiment did not work out as planned. The Yale Club in New York City managed to squirrel away enough booze to keep its members satisfied for the whole duration of the ban, but most people were not so lucky. They still wanted their drinks, though, and to supply the masses, organized crime in the U.S. was born.

“A Nation of Hypocrites” details the collapse of the experiment. People ended up drinking even more than they had before the passage of the ban. Speakeasies were everywhere. Al Capone and the mafia ruled cities. The Federal Government began wiretapping citizens for the very first time. Winston Churchill called U.S. Prohibition “an affront to the whole history of mankind.”

There are plenty more interesting storylines, threaded together masterfully, including several collaborations between unlikely allies that eventually worked to bring about the amendment's repeal, on December 5, 1933. People celebrated – surprise, surprise – by partying like crazy.

Did you enjoy the show? What did you mix up to sip while you watched?
 
Thanks goes to Clara Jeffery, who live-tweeted all three episodes

 

Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Local Winery Spotlight: Vox Vineti Wines

Local Winery Spotlight: Vox Vineti Wines

Ed Lazzerini says his goal is clear - to make world class wine in Pennsylvania. From the taste of it, he is well on his way. ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Nov 21, 2020
Best Bars for Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2019

Best Bars for Outdoor Drinking in Philadelphia, 2019

Whether it's to enjoy the first warm breezes of spring or the unexpected sunshine of a crisp day in fall, Philadelphia is full of great places to drin...read more ›

by Drink Philly Apr 11, 2019
The History of The Boulevardier Cocktail - and How You Can Make it at Home

The History of The Boulevardier Cocktail - and How You Can Make it at Home

In this history segment, we take a closer look at a classic cocktail: The Boulevardier....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Nov 2, 2020
SPONSORED
The Best Cocktail Bars in Philadelphia

The Best Cocktail Bars in Philadelphia

Here it is - the definitive list of Philadelphia's best cocktail bars....read more ›

by Drink Philly Dec 13, 2017
PA Voter Project Seeks to Pay Unemployed Restaurant Workers to Work Election Polls

PA Voter Project Seeks to Pay Unemployed Restaurant Workers to Work Election Polls

Power the Polls PA is looking for unemployed restaurant workers to work the polls and will pay for their time....read more ›

by Drink Philly Sep 16, 2020
You Can Now Get Cocktails To-Go in Center City Philadelphia

You Can Now Get Cocktails To-Go in Center City Philadelphia

Restaurants throughout the Center City limits are offering pre-made cocktails in special take out containers...read more ›

by Drink Philly Jul 18, 2020
Cocktails to Go in Bars & Restaurants Legalized in PA During Lockdown: Here's Where to Get Them in Philadelphia

Cocktails to Go in Bars & Restaurants Legalized in PA During Lockdown: Here's Where to Get Them in Philadelphia

Bars & restaurants in PA can now sell cocktails-to-go. Here's where to find them in Philadelphia...read more ›

by Drink Philly May 21, 2020
Relief for the Bar, Restaurant, & Hospitality Industry in Philadelphia

Relief for the Bar, Restaurant, & Hospitality Industry in Philadelphia

Right now the hospitality industry is—to put it lightly—struggling. We created a resource directory for an...read more ›

by Jessie Donofrio Mar 20, 2020
Where to Host a Private Event in Philadelphia

Where to Host a Private Event in Philadelphia

Whether it's for the holidays or you have a special birthday coming up, Philadelphia has some amazing options when it comes to event spaces. ...read more ›

by Drink Philly Nov 26, 2018
Where to Find Beer, Wine, & Liquor To Go in Philadelphia During the Pandemic

Where to Find Beer, Wine, & Liquor To Go in Philadelphia During the Pandemic

Bars and restaurants are officially closed (and offering take-out and delivery only), so your favorite bartend...read more ›

by Drink Philly Mar 18, 2020
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close