Prohibition in Wyoming

January 16th was the 92nd anniversary of the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which transformed Prohibition into federal law.

Much of our understanding of Prohibition is framed by its urban impacts and consequences–bootlegging and organized crime, car chases though downtown areas, speak-easies on city blocks, police raids on drinking establishments, and bathtub gin manufactured in apartments.  But how did it affect rural areas?  The most frequently documented rural areas are in Appalachia, where the moonshiners ran their stills.  What about Wyoming?

Well, with the Otto Plaga Photograph Collection, you can witness how Prohibition would have affected Wyomingites.

Here are a few sample images from the collection, or click the link above to browse more images.

Bates Hole, Wyo. Red Creek. Seized by O.W. Plaga, Federal Agent and S.R. Owens, Federal Agent with Bill Irving. Otto Plaga photographs, Box 1, Fol 1.

Billy Hunter, Al Morton, Chris Jessen with still equipment in Green River, WY. Note the young "helper" on the left side of the photograph. Otto Plaga Photographs, Box 1, Fol. 1.

Stills seized by Plaga, Peyton, and Everhart near Douglas, WY Otto Plaga photographs, Box 1, Fol 1.

Stills after a raid in Wyoming. Otto Plaga Photographs, Accession Number 10397, Box 1, Folder 1.

For a general introduction to Prohibition history, Ken Burns’ Prohibition, released in October of 2011, is a good starting point and with only three episodes, is easily finished over a weekend.  For the time being, episodes are available for free viewing online.  While Wyoming doesn’t feature prominently in Ken Burns’ latest work, viewers will have the opportunity to learn how Prohibition affected the U.S. as a whole, including some lesser-known unintended consequences

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution overturned Prohibition.  Since then, whether your choice was an occasional beer or to forswear alcoholic beverages, it was once again a personal choice rather than a matter of Constitutional importance.

Cheers!

–Rachael Dreyer, Reference Archivist

 

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