Ardent Spirit covers the full range of the temperance idea in America, beginning in the early seventeenth century and continuing through the prohibition years, 1919--1933. Using a wide variety of sources, Kobler quotes the amusing and often startling comments relating to the efforts of prohibitionists and lawmakers, so that the speakeasies, the rum-running, the bootleggers, and the gang wars all come vividly to life. Here too are portraits of eccentrics, instant millionaires, law enforcement officers, and murderers--all part of the Noble Experiment which proved to be one of the most tragicomic sagas in American history.
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(203mm x 127mm x 24mm)
Da Capo Press Inc
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
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US Kirkus Review »
"For there can't be good Living where there is not good Drinking," wrote Benjamin Franklin. George Washington was a famed toper, and in 18th-century America "no class imbibed more freely than the clergy." This full-brimmed history of U.S. drinking habits and temperance movements describes Dr. Benjamin Rush of Revolutionary War fame as the first major reformer, followed by growing organizations ("teetotal" comes from the American Temperance Society's "T" for total abstinence). Kobler gives profuse biographies of such leaders as Frances Willard, who possessed a semi-lesbian magnetism as well as an intelligent concern for other reforms. Unlike her WCTU, the Women's Crusade used guerrilla coercion against (usually) German barkeepers ("Go vay, vimmins!") who in turn hired mercenaries to stone the Crusaders off the streets. It isn't clear, Kobler says, whether the majority of Americans favored the bone-dry Volstead Act. He reviews the debates, which reflect post-World War I ferment: abstainers attacked "the Bolshevistic liquor interests" while Sam Gompers protested that to take away the workingman's beer would foment revolution. The varieties of bootleg poison, homebrew paraphernalia, speaks and rum-running strategies (airplanes tanked up in Canadian air) are wittily detailed. A wholesome, effervescent study. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - John Kobler
John Kobler's (1910-2000) many books include biographies of John Barrymore, Henry Luce, John Hunter, and Otto Kahn. He wrote for the New Yorker and other magazines, and lived in New York City.