Speakeasies, rum runners, and backwoods fundamentalists railing about the ills of strong drink are just one small part of the global story of prohibition. The full story of prohibition—one you’ve probably never been told—is perhaps one of the most broad-based and successful transnational social movements of the modern era. The call for temperance motivated and aligned activists within progressive, social justice, labor rights, women’s rights, and indigenous rights movements advocating for communal self-protection against the corrupt and predatory “liquor machine” that had become rich off the misery and addictions of the poor around the world.
From the slums of South Asia, to the beerhalls of Central Europe, to the Native American reservations of the United States, discover 20 key figures from history that you didn’t know were prohibitionists.
Full name: Upton Beall Sinclair Jr.
Lived: 20 September 1878-25 November 1968
Nationality: United States
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) is a classic of muckraking journalism: the graphic description of unsanitary Chicago slaughterhouses prompted such public outcry, that the Roosevelt administration quickly signed into law such hallmarks of progressive legislation: the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. However, The Jungle is at heart a temperance tale: chronicling the ensnarement of immigrant communities within the corrupt world of big city liquor politics, in which the saloonkeeper is simultaneously gatekeeper, political kingmaker, and exploiter of immigrant labor—all through the local trade in liquor.