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Thread: Dry counties

  1. #1
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    Dry counties

    In the "Conecuh Ridge controversy" thread the phenomenon dry county was mentioned. I somehow took it for granted that this was a left-over compromise from Prohibition but from a (rather primitive) Google search I draw the conclusion that some of these counties predate prohibition by almost a hundred years.

    Can someone here possibly provide me with a historical background or, alternatively, pass forward a link to a good web site? Thanks!

  2. #2

    Re: Dry counties

    To this day there remain many dry counties in states around the country, but especially in the South. Even in Kentucky and Tennessee -- the whiskey/bourbon axis, if you will -- dry counties today outnumber so-called 'wet' ones.
    In fact, even before national Prohibition was enacted in 1920, 33 states (including Tennessee) encompassing 63 percent of the population had voted themselves dry.
    I'd hate to try to point you to a "best" site about Prohibition, but just run a Google search for "history of Prohibition" and/or "history of the temperance movement" and you'll find plenty of references.

  3. #3
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    Re: Dry counties

    Thanks! I will dig deeper into it. I cannot claim to be particularly steeped in this era of American history. Of course I realize that the enactment of prohibition didnīt come out of the blue but I was surprised to learn that some counties in Texas appear to have gone dry already in 1850. Apparently it was a long dayīs journey into night.

    We actually had a similar movement in Sweden at roughly the same time but they never got closer than ration books. In 1922 their efforts came to an end when they were defeated in a national referendum (it was a close shave, though!).

  4. #4
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    Re: Dry counties

    Most states have something called "local option" that lets counties and even smaller jurisdictions, like precints, vote themselves dry. The current legal mechanisms for this were put in place after prohibition. Exactly what the mechanisms were before prohibition I don't exactly know, but the states certainly had the right to enact statewide prohibition and many did prior to national prohibition. Presumably, many or possibly all states had local option in place then too, at least permitting counties to vote themselves dry.

    The original concept of federalism was that the states were sovereign and the United States was supposed to be a kind of federation of sovereign states. The states still have the primary "police powers," which means most ordinary crimes are matters of state law and handled by state courts. Long way of answering the question and I'm not sure I really did, but now that I've typed all this, I guess I'll post it.

  5. #5
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    Re: Dry counties

    Long way of answering the question and I'm not sure I really did, but now that I've typed all this, I guess I'll post it.
    Itīs a good answer - thanks a lot! This "local option" is a bit of a curio to me because I donīt think that this has ever been a reality in Scandinavia. This is, of course, due to the fact that here alcohol is the responsibility of the central government.

    The only powers that the Swedish equivalents to counties (Kommuner in Swedish) can wield as far as I know is to grant licenses to restaurants and their ilk.

    Returning to US conditions, are the states with dry/wet counties the same as the ones where liquor sales are "free", that is, not being sold via state-controlled ABC stores? Is there a connection here?

  6. #6
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    Re: Dry counties

    Returning to US conditions, are the states with dry/wet counties the same as the ones where liquor sales are "free", that is, not being sold via state-controlled ABC stores? Is there a connection here?
    In many cases, it isn't even a matter of state control. Here in Minnesota, we have the control of off-sale beer, wine and liquor (sold in the package, vs. on-sale, where it is served by the glass, open can, open bottle, etc) at the city level.

    It seems as though about 1/4 of the cities own and operate the liquor stores. The rest merely license them as private, commercial businesses.

    I don't know anything about the existence of any dry counties or cities here, but I have heard of some cities where there are no liquor stores.

  7. #7
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    Re: Dry counties

    No. Here in Alabama, all liquor sales are by or through the state ABC board. But, many or most of the counties are dry.

    Tim

  8. #8
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    How Dry is Dry, Anyway?

    If one has the misfortune to live in a dry county, is it legal to buy alcohol in a nearby wet county and transport it to one's home to drink? Does the answer vary by state?

    My only experience in this regard came while on vacation about ten years ago. The town of Mountain View, Arkansas (home of the Ozark Folk Center, among a few other attractions) is in a dry county, and, IIRC, only one adjoining county is wet. We drove there, stopped at the liquor store conveniently located just over the county line, and happily picked up a couple of six-packs of mass-produced beer at an inflated price.

    While driving back to our motel my wife asked, "Are we bootleggers now?" I did not and do not know the answer.

    While trying to get an answer to my question by searching via Google a few moments ago, I came upon some truly astounding sites, such as this one and this one. And here's one that may interest the attorneys here. I'd say the battle still rages, at least in some of the so-called "red" states. (The answer to my question may be implicit in this article.)

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  9. #9
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    Re: Dry counties

    are the states with dry/wet counties the same as the ones where liquor sales are "free", that is, not being sold via state-controlled ABC stores? Is there a connection here?

    No correlation. I associate (though perhaps inaccurately) dry counties with Kentucky, Tennessee and the states of the Confederacy. That doesn't correlate to the control states. Some of those states are (Virginia), some aren't (Kentucky) and many control states (e.g., Ohio, Pennsylvania) are not in that group.

    The dichotomy is control states (the state owns all liquor stores) and license states (the stores are privately owned but licensed by the state). In some control states, the stores are privately owned but the state is the sole distributor and sets prices.

  10. #10
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    Re: How Dry is Dry, Anyway?

    Interesting articles, Dave! The temperance movement seems to be alive and kicking at least in some parts of the US.Judging by the first link, 'No' seems to be their favourite word in the English language. Is this just a small but loud fraction of "fire & brimstone" types or do they (horror of horrors!) exercise a considerable amount of influence?

    The president of Citizens Against Alcohol in Craighead County mentioned in the second article had a suspiciously Swedish-sounding surname (Jacobson). How embarrasing!

    Veering sligthly off topic, I wonder if there is a common theme between the states that Chuck call Control states? Are there possibly any political, religious, cultural or historical connections?

 

 

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