Sometimes it’s just fun to celebrate a local historical celebrity – such as Congressman Andrew Volstead. Hailing from Granite Falls, he is best known for the Volstead Act, also known as Prohibition. MinnPost recently ran a story on Volstead…
Minnesota Congressman Andrew Volstead, as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was responsible for writing the National Prohibition Act, a law that became known as the Volstead Act. The stern-faced congressman from Granite Falls set out to moderate the strict philosophy of the amendment’s primary promoting group, the Anti-Saloon League. They and other unwavering prohibitionists had sought to prevent even one drop of alcohol from being sold.
Volstead struck a balanced approach between the spirit of the law and practical realities. His legislation continued the existing prescription of alcohol for medicinal purposes. It also allowed the brewing and sale of “near beer” with an alcoholic content of no more than one half of one percent, and the home manufacture of alcoholic, but “non-intoxicating,” fruit juice and cider. Volstead said that he put in as much alcohol as the Congress would stand for.
Prohibition as enforced by the Volstead Act transformed American streets, businesses, and social life. In Minnesota the streetscape had changed seven months earlier when the state legislature voted for full compliance with the War Prohibition Act that went into effect on July 1, 1919. In Little Falls, the town’s fourteen saloons closed overnight, with some of the dealers now selling soft drinks. In the Twin Cities, the Salvation Army turned some closed beer parlors into canteens for the entertainment of returned soldiers and sailors.