By Kris Leonhardt
In the early 1800s a temperance movement began sweeping the nation. The movement, led primarily by pioneering woman, was formed on the basic premises that all alcohol was evil — alcohol had ruined families, tearing them apart, never to be repaired.
As the movement gained in strength and appeal, supporters began calling for the removal of all alcohol.
In 1917, while in the midst of World War I, a temporary reprieve for advocates came in the form of a ban on production.
The ban, brought on by a need to save on grain, was a temporary one; however, what came on the backside of that ban was a more enduring restrain, when congress instituted the National Prohibition Act.
The Prohibition Act banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating beverages permanently.
What resulted from the Act was a nation filled with crime and violence, as federal, state and local authorities struggled to get a hold on the numerous bootleggers, moonshiners and dubious business owners. Central Wisconsin was not immune from these crimes.
Bootleggers around the region produced and sold homemade liquor to their wanting neighbors, while bar owners privately shared their goods to those they trusted.
In addition, major players like Al Capone made millions from bootlegging and speakeasies, not limiting their customers to the confines of the big cities.
For over a decade, federal officers worked with local officers to bust those ignoring the national law.
Police ran stings on unsuspecting home brewers and business owners, all over the country.
In July 1925, federal authorities, working with the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office, ran a huge sting on suspected Stevens Point Area offenders. Ambushing multiple farms and taverns, government officials searched for evidence of alcohol products.
On the south side of Stevens Point, one tavern produced a beer bottle filled with liquor, but otherwise the officials came up empty.
The raids became costly to the nation, and coupled with the increased strain on jails, support for prohibition waned.
As the decade came to an end the country entered into the Great Depression. Presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for a change, calling for the repeal of prohibition.
Using prohibition as a platform against incumbent Herbert Hoover, Roosevelt won in a landslide victory. One year later, the national ban on alcohol ended.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 54449 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.