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Tales of Takoma

Prohibition and Takoma Park

One hundred years ago this month, America entered the Prohibition Era. The 18th amendment became the law of the land on January 17, 1920, banning the production, transport and sale of alcohol. This was no big deal in places like Takoma Park or Montgomery County. In fact the County had passed similar restrictions back in 1880 even before B.F. Gilbert arrived to establish Takoma Park and put his own ban in the deeds for the land he sold.

The 18th Amendment was the culmination of a decades-old fight against demon rum. Beginning in the 1930s, the temperance movement sought voluntary pledges of abstinence. Gilbert himself was part of this movement as were the Adventists who came to Takoma in 1904. Carrie Nation and her hatchet turned temperance into an anti-saloon crusade. Meanwhile, states and local jurisdictions, like Montgomery County, had been passing legislation to prohibit manufacture and sales. Amending the Constitution was the next step.

The amendment ignored consumption entirely and, more importantly, left enforcement to the individual states. Maryland was the only state that never got around to creating a state enforcement policy. By 1932, after years of the violence associated with bootlegging and the outright defiance of the law (think speakeasies), it was clear that prohibition was a failure. In a one-month period the nation rescinded the 18th Amendment.

Once again it was up to the states to regulate liquor. Most states "licensed" retailers to buy and sell liquor. Other states "controlled" sales directly. Montgomery County chose to do both (a story for another day). But first it gave each local jurisdiction a vote on whether to be "wet" or "dry." Takoma Park stayed dry -- after all, residents had easy access liquor across the line in Prince George's County or DC. It stayed that way until 1983.

NOTE: For more on this topic, one of the morning sessions at the Montgomery County History Conference coming up on Sunday, January 26 will delve into the details of Prohibition from the county and Takoma's point of view.

Register here.

Street Address:
7328 Carroll Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 5781
Takoma Park, MD 20913

When visiting Historic Takoma, please walk, bike or take public transportation. Metered parking is available either in the City lot adjacent to the TPSS Coop, or in front of the Carroll Avenue businesses.