Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 
Author: Dennis McCann of the Journal Sentinel staff
Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jan 1998
Fax: (414) 224-8280 
Editors note: Our newshawk writes: Another Sesquicentennial article from
the J-S. My family had a brewery in Wisconsin that was raided during
Prohibition, while operating under the guise of an ice cream factory!


For 13 years, the grand experiment that was Prohibition staggered and
teetered like the drunks it was supposed to have made extinct, forcing
thirsty Americans to improvise but seldom to go without.

Ultimately, it was the dry law that disappeared.

The 1920s experience was not Wisconsin's first experience with controls on

In 1851, prohibitionists had forced a statewide referendum on the issue and
won, 27,519 to 24,109.

The Legislature declined to go along, however, and liquor remained legal
until the nationwide ban 70 years later.

But colorful as the era of bootleggers and "The Untouchables" seemed years
later, Eliot Ness and all the G-men in America couldn't keep the spigots
closed. By the early 1930s, beer was on its way back.

Just as anti-German sentiment had added to the push for Prohibition,
efforts to fight the ravages of the Great Depression helped bring it to an
end. In Milwaukee, legal beer brewing would mean thousands of jobs, first
for low-alcohol beer and later for the real stuff. Breweries geared up,
even as politicians and wet and dry forces here and in Washington continued
to haggle.

When Milwaukeean Mary Eggert, still arguing for temperance, referred to
"poisonous alcohol" at a 1931 hearing, Antigo Sen. James Barker objected.

"Lady," he said, "I've been drinking alcohol for 55 years and I'm not

"You wouldn't act like that," Mary Eggert replied, "if you weren't poisoned

Others sweated the details, whether the percentage of alcohol that would be
set or the rate of tax. Some feared too high a tax would make the nickel
glass of beer impossible. Hundreds attended hearings on beer regulation.

But brewers, and many beer drinkers, kept their eye on the big picture and
were more than ready when low-alcohol beer was legalized again on April 7,

Lines formed early outside breweries, waiting for beer by the glass and by
the barrel.

Others stood outside their favorite former taverns, waiting for them to be
transformed again. At 12:01, deliveries began, taps were opened, factory
whistles blew and the party began.

Trains and trucks began beer shipments within minutes, returning Milwaukee
to its rightful status as brewer to America, and beer was even flown from
Milwaukee that night to President Roosevelt in Washington. On April 17,
when the city officially celebrated the end of this long, national
nightmare, 20,000 people squeezed into the Auditorium to rejoice.

As state Sen. H.W. Bolens had said during debate in Madison:

"I am glad that the people of Wisconsin have returned to their senses. . . .

"Happy days are here again."