Spirits of the Bluegrass: Prohibition Exhibit Opens at Frazier History Museum
Prohibition may be over but, before it was, it cost the United States Federal Government $11 billion in lost revenue while costing more than $300 million to enforce. The 13 year experiment was a complete failure. During that time crime flourished and the booze flowed freely (as in tax free) at what were commonly referred to as “Speakeasies.” Organized crime flourished and the likes of Al Capone built empires with elaborate distribution networks to serve a distilled spirits starved nation.
To commemorate this dark time in our nation’s history and to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, the Frazier History Museum opened its latest exhibit entitled Spirits of the Bluegrass: Prohibition and Kentucky. The museum sits right on what is now one of the most famous streets in America, “Whiskey Row” in Louisville, KY.
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The exhibit officially opened today with the crack of a hammer against the top of a 53 gallon American Oak Barrel filled with Kentucky Bourbon. Once cracked open, Frazier President & CEO Penny Peavler, Louisville Metro Council President David Tandy and Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris immediately poured the entire barrel onto the street. You could hear the blood curdling cries as onlookers watched about $7,500 worth of Bourbon go straight down the sewer. Was it real Bourbon or one of those Bourbons that was watered down with rattlesnake heads, prune juice or tobacco spit before the Bottled in Bond act? Only the Kentucky Distillers’ Association knows for sure!
With two full sized bars, an event ready Speakeasy with a lighted stage, and flapper dresses around every corner, Spirits of the Bluegrass stands ready for a party. In 1920, you needed a doctor’s prescription or a Speakeasy password to get your lips on some liquor. Today, both the great stories, and the spirits, are much easier to come by. The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) is the title sponsor for the exhibition, scheduled to run through 2016.
Just last April, the Frazier announced it will explore and develop a new and expanded Bourbon experience that will include a visitor center and, in partnership with KDA, will serve as an official gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour. A completion date has not yet been announced.
Prohibition and Kentucky traces the rise of the temperance movement from 1920 through the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933, taking an in-depth look at America’s “Noble Experiment.” By examining the Volstead Act and its effect on crime, politics, and culture, Spirits of the Bluegrass brings prohibition to life. It shows how millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans chose to violate the national alcohol ban and details the vast, often violent, criminal industry that quickly sprang up to quench the country’s thirst for illegal booze.
The Eighteenth Amendment
Amendment XVIII of the United States Constitution effectively established the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States by declaring illegal the production, transport, and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession).
The Twenty-first Amendment
Amendment XXI to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide Prohibition on alcohol on January 17, 1920. The Twenty-first Amendment was ratified on December 5, 1933.
The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 West Main Street on Louisville’s downtown “Museum Row.” The Frazier is open Monday-Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday, noon to 5:00pm. For more information call (502) 753-5663 or visit FrazierMuseum.org.