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Lecture: The Politics of Prohibition and American Identity

Sunday, March 3, 2019
2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Free for members, $5 for non-members

The stunning political success of the Temperance Movement, the 18th Amendment that ushered in national Prohibition, is often depicted as a conflict between fun-hating North Shore church-going women and low-down beer-swilling saloon habitués. But while the Women’s Christian Temperance Union did play a crucial role in the national conversation about alcohol, the key organization that actually made Prohibition happen was the now-defunct Anti-Saloon League.  The arguments put forth by this group demonstrate the ways in which the conflict over public consumption of alcohol was really an argument about American identity.  Small-town and rural WASPs who considered themselves “native” Americans tended to be Dry, while urban immigrants, mostly Catholic and Jewish, were Wet through and through.  In his lecture, "Men & Women, Wets & Drys, Immigrants & “Native” Americans: the Politics of Prohibition and American Identity," Bill Savage will discuss two books (Chicago by Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America, a guide to the seamier side of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, and George Ade’s 1931 pro-Repeal tome, The Old-Time Saloon) to explore the identity politics of Prohibition, nationally and on Chicago’s North Shore, from the 19th Century to the 21st.  Both books will be available for purchase (cash or check only) and signing after the program.  

Bill Savage is Professor of Instruction in English at Northwestern University, where he teaches courses on Chicago literature.  He also has taught several adult education seminars on Chicago Saloon culture, literature and history at the Newberry Library of Chicago.  Besides his scholarly credentials, he worked as a bartender for over 30 years.