Seventy-Five Years Ago: It's Our Party, Pal, Not Yours

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

April 5, 1933: Meet Jake Ruppert, Master Party Pooper. Ruppert owned one of the nation’s largest brewing companies, Ruppert Brewing located in New York City. (He also owned the New York Yankees. He’s the guy who snatched Babe Ruth from Boston.)

In 1933, Ruppert was president of the United States Brewers Association, the brewing industry’s trade and lobbying organization. And on April 5, 1933, in his role as USBA president, he ordered brewers to hold back on beer deliveries until 6 a.m. on April 7. Not 12:01 a.m., as everyone expected, but 6 a.m.

Never mind that dozens of cities had planned celebrations that would begin before or at midnight. Never mind the big live radio broadcast that would air the first legal “glug" at 12:01. Never mind the airplanes scheduled to depart from several airports at 12:01, loaded with beer for President Roosevelt. Never mind the people camping out at local taverns, ready to grab the first glasses the bartenders passed over the bar.

Never mind all that. Ruppert said no dice. You gotta wait till 6 a.m. Why? Because he feared that midnight beer deliveries would provoke a “carnival" atmosphere, causing merrymakers to lapse into “untoward celebration."

To which August A. “Gus" Busch, Jr. of Anheuser-Busch replied “Huh?" Well, okay, what he actually said was that he could not “imagine" Ruppert issuing such an order without consulting his brother brewers, or the USBA’s vice-president, Rudolph Huber, (who also happened to be VP of Aheuser-Busch). And since Ruppert hadn’t contacted Gus or anyone else at A-B -- well, as far as he, Gus Busch, was concerned, the party was on. He would roll out the barrels at 12:01 a.m. Brewers in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia issued similar announcements.

To which the nation heaved a sigh of relief -- and got back to the business of staking out barstools.


Source: “Jake Ruppert Warns Against Beer ‘Carnival’" in Milwaukee Sentinel, April 6, 1933, p. 3.

Seventy-Five Years Ago: You: Celebrate. You? Back Off!

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

April 4, 1933: City leaders and beermakers picked up the pace. B-Day was coming up fast. Time to finalize arrangements, hire truck drivers, and track down extra bartenders.

In Chicago, brewers and hotel owners finally agreed on the terms of that city's events. Hotel owners had asked brewers to hold off on deliveries until 7 a.m. on the 7th. (What? They thought people needed a good night's sleep -- preferably at a hotel -- before they began drinking??) After considerable debate, the hotel owners finally conceded: if brewers began delivering at midnight, the hotels would start pouring.

At least people in Illinois could expect the taps to flow. A whopping 29 of the 48 states were still dithering over details and had not yet passed the legislation needed to allow local beer sales on April 7.

Maybe that was just as well. The vast majority of the states didn't have any breweries, and the few hundred beermakers who planned to have trucks rolling on the 7th didn't have enough beer even for their local markets

. (For the record, the happy states were: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illlinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, with the District of Columbia thrown in for good measure.)

(So if you live now in one of those other no-fun states? No parties for you come Monday! You'll have to wait for your state's "real" anniversary........)

Seventy-Five Years Ago: Let's Give It A Taste, Shall We?

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

April 3, 1933: Wisconsin newspaper reporter Lionel C. Moise sat down in front of a microphone at a radio station in Milwaukee. (Remember: it's 1933; no commercial television yet. You want mass media? You got radio.) Live, and on the air -- and for the "edification" of the nation's youth who had suffered the misfortune of reaching adulthood "during the arid years" -- Moise was ready to describe and assess the "stimulation and flavor" of the "new" 3.2% beer versus old, pre-prohibition lager.

Like any good reporter, Moise had done his homework. He'd signed on as a temporary assistant brewmaster at a local brewery so that he could "scientifically" test the beer's content. He also downed "sufficient cubic centimeters to equal" six 8-ounce glasses of beer, after which hard labor he stopped to "ponder the result." Now he was ready to share his findings with a radio audience.

It's not clear if Moise enhanced the broadcast by sipping, smacking, and swallowing his way through a re-enactment of his previous research -- but he did render a verdict. 3.2% beer, Moise announced, "is all that has been promised -- and more." "It is agreeably surprising," containing both the flavor and "stimulation" of lagers brewed during the "pre-drought days." "Two quarts," he added, "made me pleasantly light, but not giddy." To which the no-doubt envious audience added: "Nice work if you can get it."


Sources: Milwaukee Sentinel, "Layman's Beer Verdict Heard on Radio Today," April 3, 1933, p. 1 and "Radio World 'Tastes' Brew," April 4, 1933, p. 3.

Seventy-Five Years Ago: Gearing up for the Big Night

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

City officials and beermakers around the country began announcing their plans for the evening of April 6 and wee hours of April 7. The national centerpiece would be a live radio broadcast from Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, beginning at 11:30 pm and hosted by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Remember, in 1933 commercial television had not yet arrived, so people gathered around their radios the way we congregate now in front of our flat screens. And programming focused on sounds rather than images. In this case, there would be the usual round of speeches and music.

But the program would also feature: --- the roar of three aircraft departing from the St. Louis airport. Each would carry a case of beer. Two planes were headed to Washington, carrying beer in two cargos, one for President Roosevelt, one for Vice President Garner. The third plane was destined for New York and former governor and presidential candidate Al Smith, a fervent supporter of ending Prohibition. --- the sound of trains loaded with beer pulling out of Chicago railyards --- the hiss and swoosh of the first beer tap being pulled at a Miluwakee tavern --- general merrymaking and mayhem from taverns and hotel bars in the three host cities.

Several people were schedule to speak during the broadcast, including Gus Busch, Jr., son of Anheuser-Busch president August Busch, Sr. and general manager of the A-B brewery. As I noted the other day, you can hear his speech here -- but why not wait until the witching hour itself? Just after midnight on April 7!

Seventy-Five Years Ago: Roll Out the Barrel! Um, Okay -- But Which Kind?

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

No matter how good the news, we humans will find some way to squabble over the details. Milwaukee beermakers, labor unions, and the Wisconsin state legislature spent the last few days before Legal Beer arguing over the legality of metal kegs.

On March 31, one house of the legislature adopted a bill that banned the use of metal kegs. Brewers protested, explaining that the ban would force them to cancel contracts with the Wisconsin companies already hired to fabricate the metal containers.

Worse yet, said Fred Pabst, Jr., of Pabst Brewing Company, the lumber for old-style wooden barrels would have to be imported from "Arkansas and some of the other dry states" -- meaning states that had long supported Prohibition. Pshaw, said members of organized labor, which supported the ban on metal kegs. We want to drink beer "out of wooden barrels, as in the olden days."

This tempest in a teapot -- er, barrel -- raged on for a few more days. But the story had a happy ending: on April 5, the legislature passed a new bill that allowed brewers to use the metal containers. Beer might be back, but the "olden days" were gone for good.


Sources: Milwaukee Sentinel, April 4, 1933, p. 1; and April 6, 1933, pp. 1 and 17.

Seventy-Five Years Ago: Celebrating Beer's Return on the Internet and Beyond

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

Today, a slight detour from my daily rundown of anniversary factoids in order to alert you to annivesary-related material located at other websites. In a previous post, I noted that a state-by-state list of celebration events can be found at the Brewers Association website.

But here are a couple of other places to visit: Check out the website hosted by The National Beer Wholesalers Association. Scroll down to their notice of the 75th anniversary and you'll find a video titled "Mr. Beer Guy," honoring -- of course -- the guys who deliver the beer.

Then hop over to the Anheuser-Busch website for some terrific historical material. Start here to see a collection of photos relating to the event. The small video screen on that page contains more photos and a recording of Gus Busch's address to the nation just after midnight on April 7, 1933, when he told Americans that "happy days are here again." A larger version of the video/audio also at YouTube. It's a bit easier to see and hear. Click here for that version.