Seventy-Five Years Ago: Details, Details, Details

Counting Down to April 7, the Anniversary of the Return of Legal Beer

Beer was on the way but now it was time to wrangle over the details. The United States Attorney General and the Treasury Department squabbled over the definition of "12:01 a.m."

That was the moment on April 7 when beer sales could begin. The Attorney General insisted that 12:01 meant 12:01, whether that was in New York or Los Angeles. Officials at the Treasury Department argued that beer ought to go on sale everywhere at 12:01 Eastern Time -- even though it would only be 9 p.m. on the west coast. (The Attorney General won that debate.)

The mayor of Milwaukee had declared that the city would celebrate the event with a half holiday on April 7. Church officials objected and asked the mayor to delay beer sales and the celebration until the following Monday -- the day after Easter. Apparently beer -- and the jobs it would bring -- would distract people from their religious obligations.

Many people objected to the newly allowed 3.2% alcohol content. Some said it was too high; others declared it too low. Nonsense, said Max Henius, head of the one of the nation's leading beer schools, the Wahl-Henius Institute of Brewing. "Beer of 3.2 percent is the perfect beer." It would "satisfy the popular demand for beer without . . . endangering temperance and sobriety."

"When people want beer," he added, "They want a refreshing drink, not a fiery drug."



Sources: articles in Milwaukee Sentinel, March 23, 1933 and New York Times, March 24, 1933.