I was about 200 pages into "The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State," by Harvard historian Lisa McGirr, when suddenly she made a somewhat local reference. 

McGirr was discussing the overcrowded, deplorable conditions of jails during alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. One of her prime examples of the issue? Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, just outside of Plattsburgh. That's the same prison that convicted murderers David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped from two years ago, causing a national stir. 

According to McGirr, the prison was so packed with consumers of alcohol, it reached double its capacity. That led to riots inside the jail in 1929. 

New York state played a big role in alcohol prohibition and the eventual repeal of it. One of prohibition's most outspoken critics was New York Gov. Al Smith. Smith ran for president in 1928 as a "wet," meaning he wanted to repeal alcohol prohibition. He was clobbered that year by Herbert Hoover, who won all but seven states.

However, during the following presidential election, New York's new governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, won the presidential election, thanks in large part to his opposition to prohibition.

It's interesting to see the role this state, particularly this area, played in the prohibition battle. After all, Argyle's still a dry town.   

Dan King is the Sunday Editor at the Post-Star. He also covers a few towns and villages in Washington County. Dan can be reached at dking@poststar.com

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