Our history: On Jan. 1, 1916, Glenwood Springs declared a drought
The Post Independent this year is celebrating local institutions’ anniversaries — including our own — with a special feature many Sundays through the year. The PI traces its roots back 127 years, but 125 as a daily, while the White River National Forest looks back on 125 years and Colorado Mountain College marks 50 years, as does Sunlight Mountain.
Today we offer the third installment of Post Independent history and the events it chronicled locally in the nineteen-teens.
“WHERE ONE MAY DRINK—In his own house and also in public if he doesn’t violate any of the ordinary rules of society.
“WHERE ONE MAY NOT DRINK—At the bar, because there will be no bars; at the club, because liquor in clubs is prohibited; at the drug store, because druggists may sell only ‘soft’ drinks as beverages.
“WHAT ONE MAY DRINK—Any alcoholic liquor if he does not buy it in the state and if, in obtaining it, he complies with provisions of the law regarding shipments into the state.
“WHAT ONE MAY NOT DRINK—Patent medicines, alcoholic liniments, cinnamon extracts and similar compounds, unless he has them sent from outside the state.
“HOW MUCH LIQUOR ONE MAY KEEP ON HAND—Any amount, but only in a private home. If a man is suspected of law violation a large amount on hand may count against him; he may carry liquor on his person, but only for his own use.
“PLACES EXEMPT FROM SEARCH AND SEIZURE—With a warrant, only the private home.
“HOW TO OBTAIN LIQUOR LEGALLY WITHOUT MAKING IT A PUBLIC RECORD—It can’t be done.”
Now it may seem amusing, even quaint. But on Dec. 18, 1915, the coming Prohibition of alcohol was The Glenwood Post’s lead story. In fact, it was the top story in the newspaper most weeks leading up to Jan. 1, 1916, the day Colorado’s alcohol drought began.
National Prohibition didn’t begin until 1920, but on that New Year’s Day, the Centennial State was one of 26 to ban the sale and most acquisition of alcohol.
Glenwood Springs was a town of saloons, with 30 located within blocks of one another. Seventh Street crawled with gambling halls and brothels.
“There were more saloons and gambling houses and brothels than restaurants and grocery stores,” Cindy Hines told the Post Independent in January 2016, the state’s 100-year anniversary of Prohibition.
Hines was then executive director at the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. She theorized that Colorado may have been early to Prohibition in part because it was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote. Women may have wanted saloon-hopping husbands to quit drinking, and voting against alcohol was a quick step in that direction.
As the big day drew near, the Post urged law enforcement to take a heavy-handed approach. On Christmas Day, an editorial read, “The governor estimates that a million dollars in costs may be saved the counties if the bootleggers, anticipated after the law becomes effective, are given the solar plexus blow the first crack out of the box. And he is right.” The editorial urged steps toward making Colorado “one of the most law-abiding of commonwealths.”
“Homes are not to be invaded for liquors legitimately within them, but home is where the wife is, and not the man’s club, nor the barn, nor garage, nor fraternal order. Colorado is on trial in the matter of law and order and acquiescence in the rule by the majority.” (Of course, in the weeks prior to Prohibition, it remained to be seen whether an individual could serve alcohol to a guest in the home.)
Happier homes and cleaned-up cities may have been the legislation’s goal, but it also had economic effect. Throughout the state — and indeed the country, as Prohibition became federal law — breweries and other related businesses shuttered. A Dec. 8 newspaper brief noted that 1,100 saloon keepers received notices that they were due refunds from the state. Annual revenue from Colorado liquor license sales averaged $55,000, or $1.3 million today.
Breweries across the state planned for the new law, some producing imitation or “near beer,” and others selling off equipment and shutting down business. Some of these breweries employed 100 or more people.
Indeed, Prohibition would affect Colorado and the United States for generations to come. Although it was repealed federally and statewide in 1933, the effects would linger. Golden’s Coors Brewing Co. was one of the state’s largest pre-Prohibition breweries, and it survived the dry years by shifting its production to malted milk. Today, Coors is the only pre-Prohibition brewery that remains in the state.
But on Jan. 1, 1916, The Post told another story: “Colorado entering a severe drought (sic), Glenwood liquor dealers have little stock left—many saloons will be converted into billiard halls. LAW TO BE RIGIDLY ENFORCED.”
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