This Day in Milwaukee County History: The National Wartime Prohibition Act goes into effect on July 1, 1919. The measure was intended to save grain for the war effort, although the act had been passed full week after the armistice was signed. All sales of liquor were ceased on June 30th and July 1 quickly became known as the “Thirsty-First.” What was supposed to be a temporary measure turned into a 14-year-long drought. The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect one year and a day later.
During Prohibition, many breweries began to make non-alcoholic beer while others began to produce soda, ice cream, and cheese. Some brewers made malt syrup and other products which individuals could use for home brewing. Schlitz decided to produce confectioneries. Many breweries eventually had to close – some forever.
Wisconsin, the nations’ brewing capital was especially hard-hit during the interwar years. But it refused to go down without a fight. In 1926, Wisconsin voters approved a referendum amending the Volsted Act that allowed the manufacture and sale of beer with 2.75 percent alcohol. In 1929, voters repealed Wisconsin’s prohibition enforcement law, the Severson Act. Pledging loyalty to the “will of the people” as expressed in these referendums on alcohol, Wisconsin Senator John J. Blaine proposed a constitutional amendment for the repeal of prohibition. The U.S. Senate modified Blaine’s resolution to satisfy antiprohibitionists and passed the measure without delay. On December 5, 1933, the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified and national prohibition ended.