December 27

This Day in History

Crime

Dec 27, 1900:

Carry Nation smashes bar

Prohibitionist Carry Nation smashes up the bar at the Carey Hotel in Wichita, Kansas, causing several thousand dollars in damage and landing in jail. Nation, who was released shortly after the incident, became famous for carrying a hatchet and wrecking saloons as part of her anti-alcohol crusade.

Carry Amelia Moore was born in Kentucky in 1846. As a young woman, she married Charles Gloyd, whose hard-drinking soon killed him and left Nation alone to support their young child. The experience instilled in Nation a lifelong distaste for alcohol. She later married David Nation, who worked as a preacher and lawyer, and they eventually settled in Kansas. There, she was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). The WCTU was founded in 1874 by women "concerned about the problems alcohol was causing their families and society." At the time, women lacked many of the same rights as men and their lives could be ruined if their husbands drank too much. In addition to alcohol prohibition, over the years the WCTU lobbied for a long list of social reforms, including women’s suffrage and the fight against tobacco and other drugs.

In 1880, Kansas became the first state to adopt a constitutional provision banning the manufacture and sale of alcohol. However, prohibition was enforced unevenly and with many saloon owners ignoring the ban completely, Nation came to believe she needed to abandon the nonviolent methods of the WCTU in order to make an impact. After the incident at the Carey Hotel, her fame increased as she continued her saloon-smashing campaign in other locations and traveled extensively to speak out in favor of temperance. She sold souvenir hatchets to help fund her activities and used the name Carry A. Nation. Some people viewed her as crusader, while others saw her as a crank.

Nation died in 1911, never living to see nationwide prohibition in America, which was established with the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and went into effect on January 16, 1920. Prohibition, considered a failure, was repealed on December 5, 1933, by the 21st Amendment.

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