Prohibition came into force at
midnight on January
Thus, by definition, a "pre-Pro"
shot glass includes any made before that time.
In practice, most of the glasses featured on this website date to the
first two decades of the twentieth century (ca. 1905-1915),
although they began showing
up around 1880. A typical pre-pro shot glass is
unlike the heavy modern glasses commonly found in gift
shops, souvenir stalls, and retail establishments such as the
Rock Café. A pre-pro glass usually stands around 2-1/2" tall and is extremely delicate,
its walls almost eggshell thin. This makes them
deceptively light, almost as if they were made of plastic
rather than fine crystal glass.
Most pre-pro glasses have "white frosted" labels comprising a
of text or an elaborate design whose intricacy and delicacy
identify it as a product of an earlier time. Some examples of
glasses are shown at right.
There are many other styles of pre-pro glass and label, including heavy
cheater glasses, tonics, metal thimbles and sliders, and thin-walled
glasses labeled in
color or with thick, white, toothpaste-like enamel. Much more
information on glass- and label variety can be found in the "Collecting
pre-Pro's" section of this website.
This and the pages that follow provide a brief introduction to the
history of pre-pro glasses, including the reasons why they were
made, who made and decorated them, how they
were distributed, and the consequences of
Prohibition both for the liquor industry and glass
Americans had a very different attitude toward beer and
whiskey during the years leading up to Prohibition compared with today. Today, we take the ready
availability of pure water for granted, but in the 1870s,
sources of untainted water were uncommon and unreliable. Beer
was considered a pure, healthful alternative and thus was consumed in
quantity by both men and women.
Beer was available from saloons, which could be found on every street
corner. Although it was quite usual for a working man to
to his local establishment every evening to have a few beers at the bar
with the regulars, saloons were also important social centers that
often provided food and back rooms where the whole family could gather
and eat. During the daytime, women and children
might drop by their local saloon carrying a pail
known as a
"growler", refering to the noise it made as it was slid down the length
of the bar. The growler was filled with beer and then
carried home to be enjoyed later in the day.
Beer was as popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s years as it is
now, but the consumption of whiskey back then was far
greater. Whiskey production was concentrated in Kentucky,
but even smaller cities had their own distilleries.
Philadelphia had a total of five, for example. Although the
idea seems taboo now, whiskey and bourbon was heavily marketed and sold
via the mail. Popular literary magazines such as Munsey's
and The National Magazine were
filled with advertisements for whiskey right alongside those for Jell-O
and patented cures for baldness!
advertisement for "10-Year-Old Security Rye Whiskey", from the Security
Distilling Co. of Chicago, IL. It appeared in the April 1904
edition of The National Magazine.
Whiskey could be
mail by the bottle, by the case, and by the barrel, shipped in plain
unmarked boxes so that their contents were disguised. These
boxes often contained a corkscrew with which to open bottles
bottles were usually corked, like wine), and they often also contained
the finely-etched shot glasses that collectors now treasure!
fine examples of pre-Pro glasses with typical "white frosted" labels.
Many such glasses bear a brand-name only (e.g. the Old Clarke Bourbon
at top), whereas others may include city and state
information, company monograms, or detailed pictorial images.