Repeal Day, Monroe and Prohibition

A state convention gathered in Utah on this date in 1933 to ratify the 21st Amendment. A three quarter majority was needed to make it official and Utah became the 36th state to do so. Making December 5 the official day the 21st Amendment was ratified. Now this date will be known as Repeal Day.
Of course history is more complicated than that and I plan on covering some of those stories in the next few months. During my research I discovered a great blog post by Kathy Warnes. It is about Monroe during the beginning of prohibition. I will share the first paragraph then link it below. It’s fun and informative.

Rumrunner Muskrat La Framboise preferred to move his bootleg whiskey stored in jute bags tied together at the tops like ears in his boat equipped with a stopper resembling a bathtub plug. He rowed along the Detroit River Highway from Ecorse to its mouth near Monroe taking orders and delivering his liquid refreshment. When a government agent or policeman spotted him and gave chase, he pulled the plug and the boat would sink. After the drama of the chase and capture died down, he’d return to his boat and dive for his liquor, or if he had a large shipment, he would bring a few friends along to help. Muskrat became as skilled as a loon diving for fish at this method of River recycling.

Bootlegging Down The Avenue de Booze

May 11, 1933

I’m reposting my article from a few years ago in commemoration of the amended Volstead Act on this day at 6pm.

It’s Thursday, May 11th 1933 at 6pm. What would you as a beer drinker be doing? Most likely waiting in line to buy your first legal beer in Michigan for 15 years. Since the beer law was signed on April 7th, the state was preparing for this moment. Trucks and trains full of beer had been delivered to warehouses around the state for the sale of 3.2 beer. Yes, in spite of Michigan being the first state to repeal the 18th amendment on April 10, 1933. You could not sell beer until May 11th. Detroit got its first taste of legal beer on May 10th. One hundred and fifty barrels went on sale that night at a special charity ball by the American Legion. Now, it was the rest of the state’s turn.

Tax on the sale of beer was not the only way the government made money. License fees also brought in revenue to the state. While beer sat in warehouses, license seeking business owners like bar owners, retailers, restaurants hotels and clubs lined up at government bureaus hoping to get one before the flag dropped on selling of beer. In Escanaba the licenses were actually flown in by airplane to insure that beer could be sold on May 11th.

Most Detroit breweries would not have their beer ready till late June or early July. One exception was Stroh’s. They were prepared for selling their beer. They had 15 to 20 thousand cases ready to compete against the out-of-state breweries. In spite of breweries from other states and Canada pouring in shortages were expected.

Why did it take so long after the U.S. government amended the Volstead Act to make 3.2 beer legal? Obviously, Michigan wanted alcohol to be legal. The state was the first to repeal the 18th amendment on April 10th. It was basic government bickering over how to legislate beer. They didn’t want the problems that they had before prohibition. Also, the business had been ran by the mob for the last 15 years and they needed that to be addressed. Unfortunately, what they created was a lot of bureaucracy that is still handcuffing breweries in this state today.

Here is just a sample of the new laws enacted. Beer must be sold to a customer seated at a table. There is no free beer with food, no curb service, no free lunch and no gambling, drunkenness or idling on the premises. All packages must have the state tax stamp put on before it is turned over to retailers. No sales between the hours of 2am and 7am. No wholesaler or brewery can make deliveries to homes. The last law mentioned still hurts MI’s brewing and wine industry today. One thing of interest was that the drinking age was 18.

The May 12, 1933 Monroe Evening News reported that sales were disappointing here in Monroe. I blame Ohio. They had legal 3.2 beer on April 7th. In Detroit though the party was big. Woodward Avenue was the scene of a party that was compared to an holiday parade. Fortunately, there were only 15 arrests.

So this May 11th at 6pm raise a glass to legal beer in Michigan. It was beginning of a Michigan’s great brewing industry. A brewing industry that is respected and apprecaited all over the world. Oh… and when you do toast, please don’t use 3.2 beer. Toast with one of the finest beer’s Michigan has to offer.

Michigan First to Pass the 21st Amendment on April 10, 1933

<div class=\"postavatar\">Michigan First to Pass the 21st Amendment on April 10, 1933</div>

This Sunday, April 10, is the anniversary of Michigan ratifying the 21st amendment. It was the first state to do so. To commemorate this I thought I would run an encore post from 2008. Is it still an encore post if the only one calling for it is the writer of the post? Probably not but here it is anyway.

The big topic of conversation in 1933 was beer. The papers were full of daily updates of when we would be allowed to legally imbibe. Articles ran helping people brush up on the terminology of beer and even propaganda that sided with the “wets”. Some states were able to drink 3.2 beer on April 7th but Michigan had to wait until May 11th. However, Michigan did lead the way by being the first state in the Union to pass the 21st Amendment- by a vote of 99 to 1 with the lone vote being from the now great beer city of Hastings, MI. The lone dry delegate, Eugene Davenport, did get a dinner in his honor from the rest of the delegates for his “dry” vote. Maybe it was to honor his steadfastness in sticking to his guns on the issue. Or maybe they just felt sorry for the guy. In any case, thank goodness attitudes have changed in Hastings or their would be no Walldorff Brewpub and Bistro.

The story goes back to February of 1933 when the U.S. Congress introduced the 21st Amendment which repealed the 18th Amendment. The vote would be taken by having a special convention (the first of its kind) in each state. The citizens would elect predetermined “wet” or “dry” candidates that would only be discussing the matter of repealing the 18th Amendment. The amendment would have to pass by a three-fourths majority of the states in the Union. That meant that 36 states to would have to give their approval in order for the 18th Amendment to be repealed. That number was reached on December 5,1933.

For Michigan, the vote was a forgone conclusion. The citizens had already repealed the state constitutional provision in November. They also overwhelmingly voted for the wet candidates on the April 3, 1933 special election. All that was left was the official vote. Monroe’s representative was Rev. Henry F. R. Frincke, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church. When the time came to serve the citizens of Monroe he voted “wet”. Thank you Henry, job well done.

The images shown here were taken from various issues of the Monroe Evening News from March through May of 1933. The first image is of an article explaining all the terms that are associated with beer. The second is a graph of where the money will go for each beer you drink.