First Draft Follies: The "Dry" Assault On American Brewers, 1916. Part One

Part One --- Part Two --- Part Three

Welcome to First Draft Follies, an ongoing series here at the blog. All of the previous entries are available by clicking on "First Draft Follies" in the index. The material is presented "as is" from the first draft of the manuscript that became the book Ambitious Brew. In a few places I added one or two words in brackets -- [like this] -- for clarification. Whenever the excerpt is long, I've broken it down into several "parts."

This edition concerns the early twentieth century prohibition movement, which eventually produced the 18th Amendment and constitutional Prohibition.


On January 1, 1916, seven more states went dry, bringing the total to nineteen. Three weeks later, Texas Attorney General B. F. Looney and his staff marched into a Sulphur Springs courtroom. On trial were the seven members of the Texas Brewers’ Association, each charged with violating anti-trust laws and with “attempting to influence, affect and control” the state’s legislature and elections. (*1)

Prosecutors and defendants squeezed past the hulking mass that covered the floor in front of the bench: five hundred pounds of evidence in the form of twenty-five thousand pages of letters and reports. Prohibitionists filled the galley, hoping that the mound of paper would provide “interesting campaign reading and prove spicy for stump purposes.” (*2)

The circus never got off the ground. Looney announced that six of the seven defendants had surrendered their charters; accepted an injunction preventing them from engaging in “the acts complained of”--election fraud and anti-trust activities--; and agreed to pay court costs, the Attorney General’s expenses, and a $276,000 fine ($4.6 million today). (*3)

In short, and in the eyes of the public, a solid “guilty” verdict and therefore more evidence of the brewers’ evil ways. Looney entered all twenty-five thousand pages of evidence into the public record. (A few months later, an anonymous citizen--a member of the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) --footed the bill for printing the entire record: two fat volumes that ran to sixteen hundred pages.)

Things were about to get worse

. ______________________


*1: The Brewers and Texas Politics (San Antonio, TX: Passing Show Print Co., 1916), p. 15.

*2 “Record in Brewers’ Suit Leaves Austin,” Dallas Morning News, January 23, 1916, p. 4.

*3: “Six Breweries Agree to Penalties of $276,000,” Dallas Morning News, January 25, 1916, p. 1.