golden era of the thin-walled whiskey glass came to an inglorious end
with National Prohibition in 1920.
The armies of Prohibition, also known as "the Drys", were fueled by
religious fervor. They capitalized on public
disgust of open displays
of drunkeness, and on sympathy for mothers and children abandoned by
their father in favor of the whiskey bottle and the saloon.
Prohibitionists had been making serious inroads in
many regions of the
country for decades. Maine enacted State Prohibition in 1851 and Kansas
went dry in 1880, which probably explains why
there are no known liquor advertising glasses from these
when your favorite state succumbed to Prohibition).
were shipped from the manufacturer individually wrapped in a very thin
a glass with its wrapper undisturbed is an extremely
rare event, in part because modern-day sellers unwrap them to display
them for sale, and in part because the wrappers often become brittle
with age and readily crumble when handled.
Bouquet whiskey glass at right was a part of an estate-sale find. The wrapper was still intact when discovered, but the new
unwrapped it to reveal the glass inside and list it on eBay.
The glass instantly lost around 80% of its wrapped value, even though
the wrapper was rescued from the trash upon request.
By the time the time the Volstead Act was passed into law, most
establishments in states where the Wets still prevailed appear to have
been advertising via shot-glass
giveaways. Glasses from this time are typically inscribed
very simply, however, recording the
name and address of the establishment in plain block letters and no
monogram or detailed design.
examples of thin-walled shot glasses from the latter part of the
When National Prohibition came into effect in January, 1920, it
effectively put an end
to the production of blown whiskey glasses as a form of advertising.
Existing stocks of whiskey were moved to concentration
warehouses and placed under close government supervision. For
the next 14 years, whiskey could only be obtained legally with
a Physician's prescription.
Alcohol had long been used for medicinal purposes so its
by Pharmacists was not so surprising. A few of the larger
continued operating to replenish stocks of medicinal whiskey and
produce alcohol for industrial use, but
the bulk shut down their copper stills, closed their doors, and
untimately were dismantled.
liquor wholesalers and retailers had
themselves to maintain a livelihood. For example, Caspar
was a German-born liquor wholesaler and importer who plied his trade at
427 Poplar Street in Philadelphia beginning
in 1884. He is the
orginator of the shot glass shown at right. Checking the
Philadelphia city directories show him to be still at the same address
in 1924 but now as a soft-drinks merchant.
Although data is difficult to come by, per capita alcohol consumption
may actually have increased during Prohibition thanks largely to the
diligent efforts of bootleggers, the most famous being Al Capone.
The primary source of whiskey was Canada. Hiram
Walker had built a massive plant at Walkerville across the border from
Detroit, while Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams fame was running plants in Montreal and
importing various spirits from across the Atlantic. Shot
glasses advertising Hiram Walker Co. Ltd. products are relatively common and
believed to date to the Prohibition era. Although they are
gold banded and look as if they might
be pre-Pro, they're small, have relatively
thick paneled walls, and have been made by being pressed into a mold
arther than being blown.
Barclay glasses such as the Gold Label and Black label below
also believed to be Canadian and to date to the Prohibition
shot glasses from the Prohibition era (ca.
Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, most of the old whiskey houses
had vanished. Their old brand names had been acquired during
Prohibition by new
corporate conglomerates who rebuilt the industry essentially as we see
Some of the shot glasses from the years immediately
post-repeal are reminiscent of the earlier, pre-Pro glasses, but they
have none of the charm or value. An era had passed
spirit and character of the old days has gone for good. All
remains are a few crystal glasses that hold the memories of a
Welcome to the club.
They are reminiscent of pre-Prohibition glasses, but they are small and have relatively thick walls with tear-drop optics.