Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Prohibition Killed More Than Just the Liquor Industry

Chicago's Chapin & Gore in its heyday.
When beverage alcohol was outlawed in 1920, people lost jobs and businesses closed. Economic disruption was widespread, affecting not just distillers, brewers, and vintners, and their associated distributors and retailers, but also coopers, bottle makers, printers, builders, shipping companies, advertising agencies, lawyers, accountants, and other businesses that supplied and supported the industry. 

All that has been documented, but little has been written about the loss of alcohol businesses as engines of economic development, a role they played in many American communities from the colonial period into the 20th century, and may have continued to play but for Prohibition's heavy hand.

The Chapin & Gore Building Today

In the new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader, we examine this phenomenon through two case studies, one from 19th-century Kentucky, the other from Chicago in the late 19th, early 20th century.

Chapin & Gore, the second example, is remembered today as a whiskey brand, no longer produced, that shows up in auctions, collections, and vintage bottle shops. 

In pre-Prohibition Chicago, Chapin & Gore was the midwestern boomtown's greatest emporium of beverage alcohol and also an important civic leader, functioning as a bank and even building Chicago's first electric plant, providing power to its own building and those around it. In those days before the 3-tier system, it was a producer, distributor and retailer, with six downtown retail stores as well as a saloon and restaurant popular with politicians and business people.

In this issue, we also take a deeper look at a matter broached here last fall, when Maker's Mark debuted its two latest Wood Finishing Series releases. Are Maker's Mark's managers endangering what has made the brand so successful? Read all about it in the new Reader.

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