Times & Places

Prohibition

Temperance, a social movement against the consumption of alcohol, increased from a whisper to a cry to arms during World War I. The Anti-Saloon League and other temperance organizations took advantage of anti-German fervor and urged Americans to "Stay Dry for Victory." On January 16, 1919, Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited the production, importation, transportation, or sale but, interestingly, not the individual possession or consumption-of alcohol.

Although World War I ended on June 28, 1919, enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment nevertheless began on January 16, 1920, commencing a period known as Prohibition. Notwithstanding the ban, Americans continued to consume alcohol, either moonshine or "bathtub gin," distilled under amateur conditions, or professionally produced spirits smuggled into the US in an illegal practice known as "bootlegging" or "rum running."

Motivated by financial opportunity in a period of economic prosperity and emboldened by minimal, sporadic enforcement of Prohibition, proprietors opened thousands of clandestine speakeasies to quench America's collective thirst. Americans also enjoyed alcohol—often in the form of cocktails to disguise the unpleasant taste of moonshine—in intimate domestic settings or at lavish private parties. The cocktail shaker, among other accessories, was ubiquitous throughout American homes of the 1920s. Silver and silverplate companies such as Gorham Manufacturing Company, International Silver Company, Manning Bowman Co., and other capitalized on this trend. They produced cocktail shakers, often sold in sets alongside trays and cocktail cups, first in whimsical figural shapes and later in sleek Art Deco or Style Moderne forms that evoked the spirit of the era.

Excerpt from

Samantha Robinson, Gallery text, "The Noble Experiment: 1919-1933" in Shaken, Stirred, Styled: The Art of the Cocktail, November 18, 2016 to November 12, 2017.