On May 15, 1918, ground was broken for the Brooklyn Army Terminal, a colossal warehouse and transportation hub designed to deliver American troops and supplies to the fields of Flanders. World War I would end before the complex was completed, but it would soon find a different use, fighting a different foe: alcohol.
Prohibition came into effect on January 17, 1920, and the war was an important catalyst for it. Prohibitionists had been condemning alcohol for decades, but the war gave them the perfect instrument to marshal political support for their cause. They portrayed alcohol as a vice that sapped American strength and wasted American food, and they associated it with America’s mortal foreign enemies. The country’s beer industry was dominated by first- and second-generation German immigrants, all of whom were now suspect. New “dry” laws came into being as soon as America entered the war in April 1917. That same month, New York City enacted a 1 a.m. closing time (unthinkable today), and by December, Congress had enacted the 18th Amendment. So-called Wartime Prohibition (it did not take effect until long after the war ended, in May 1919) prevented food crops from being used to make alcohol (for more on World War I, Prohibition, and its impacts on the German-American community, read my blog series).>> Continue reading