We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Old postcards reflect the American ambivalence toward alcohol and drunkeness - there are many images that make light of drunken men and their behavior.  We show a couple of examples here. 

 The colorful fellow in the barrel seems to be happy to be drunk, while the fellow with a candle stumbling toward bed illustrates another view of the inebriated citizen, befuddled and defensive. 

The camel quote below is a popular postcard theme, and is available with a variety of illustrations.  The sentiment is pro-alcohol, implying that no one in their right mind would want to do without.

On the other hand, the prevalence of alcoholism and the problems it posed to many families in the early 1900s, where the weekly paycheck was spent on liquor at the local saloon instead of paying for rent and food, was present in anti-alcohol images on postcards.  Here is a play on words using the popular image of a dog listening to a gramophone...instead of the musical horn, we see a large funnel set into a liquor bottle and the caption tells us the true meaning.  

If you have not yet seen the Ken Burns series on Prohibition, you may find it intriguing and educational.  The series outlines the ambivalence toward alcohol use, the conflicting factors on the political scene, and the unintended consequences of prohibition.  (For instance, did you know that Prohibition promoted the rapid growth of organized crime in America?)  On the side of instituting Prohibition were those concerned about the detrimental effects of alcohol on America's young men and their families.  Here are a few colorful images with that perspective.  A.T. Cook is the artist of these elaborate drawings.  In the third image, we see the comment, James is a drunkard, Henry owns a Handsome House

Although Prohibition was made law in 1919, the conflict of ideas did not cease.  Many postcards continued to show drunken men (not women!) as humorous, while the anti-drinking factions continued to promote sobriety and family responsibility. 

A pro-sobriety image offers one view of Prohibition as lovers cheerfully share a drink at a water fountain.

 Below is a humorous postcard about sobriety...which also illustrates the origin of the saying, "On the wagon."  A variety of Water Wagon images can be found relating to sobriety.

We also learned from the Ken Burns film the true impetus behind eventually repealing Prohibition - this postcard tells the hope of a positive result, where repeal would put the unemployed back to work and save the nation from poverty. 

Entitled Dream of Prosperity, the script at the bottom begins Last night I dreamed that the Volstead Law had been amended, permitting the sale of beer (Oh!  What a grand and glorious feeling!)  Immediately 100,000 carpenters, bricklayers and laborers went to work building and refitting breweries; 50,000 brewery truck drivers, helpers, vatmen and coppersmiths were hired; and 100,000 printers were put to work printing beer labels.  The Volstead Act, Prohibition, was repealed in 1933.
Price Estimates: Prohibition and alcohol-related cards vary widely in price.  Some of the WCTU - Women's Christian Temperance Union - postcards can be priced high, especially the real photo images of demonstrations and parades.  However, the cards in this post cost between about $5 - $15. These prices are for cards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic post and an interesting subject. Thank you and Happy Holidays.