On this installment of Lost Lansing, we bring you history from Seeking Michigan, written by Bob Garrett of the Archives of Michigan.Here, we see a very thirsty camel. Sadly, he finds no relief in Lansing â€“ or, indeed, anywhere in Ingham County, Michigan.
The image comes from a post card, post marked â€œMay 1910.â€ One month earlier â€“ on April 4, 1910 â€“ Michigan held a major election. Ingham was one of thirty-six Michigan counties to include a local prohibition option on the ballot. It passed. Ingham then became a â€œdry county,â€ where alcoholic beverages were illegal. Such local option elections were quite common in the decade before 1920, when national prohibition began.
â€œAwful Two Year Drouth Hits Ingham County!â€
â€¦so read the headline of the April 5, 1910 State Republican. The Republican reported that fifty-two Ingham County saloons would be out of business for at least two years. At that point, the local option prohibition would be subject to a new vote.
That new vote did occur in 1912, and this time, the â€œdryâ€ forces lost. It proved to be a short-lived defeat. Ingham again went dry in 1914, and voters renewed prohibition in 1916. That same year, Michigan voters approved statewide prohibition, which went into effect in 1918. The Michigan Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in 1919, but, this â€œwetâ€ victory was short lived. An amendment to the U.S. constitution brought national prohibition into effect in 1920. It remained in effect until 1933, when the amendment was repealed. With a few exceptional years aside, alcohol was illegal in Ingham County for over two decades.
â€œIs Owosso as Dry as This?â€
Well, old boy, how are you coming along? Is Owosso as dry as this? If it is, I am sorry for you. All we can drink here is soft drinks, but that donâ€™t taste like the real thing.
Your old friend,
In fact, Owosso WAS as dry as Lansing. Owosso sits in Shiawasse County, and Shiawassee voters also opted to enact prohibition in 1910.
Some â€œDryâ€ Statistics
Ingham and Shiawassee voters were hardly alone in embracing prohibition. On April 5, 1910, the State Republican reported that twenty Michigan counties voted to go dry. The Republican also noted that an additional twenty were dry already. Following the April 1910 election, then, alcohol was illegal in forty of Michiganâ€™s eighty-three counties (For the record, those counties were: Alcona, Allegan, Antrim, Arenac, Barry, Benzie, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Charlevoix, Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Emmett, Genesee, Gladwin, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kalkaska, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Midland, Missaukee, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Joseph, Tuscola and Van Buren.)
The 1910 Republican article includes these other interesting facts:
*Van Buren was the first Michigan county to enact local option prohibition. It had been dry since 1890, and Van Buren voters renewed countywide prohibition yet again in 1910.
*Ten of the counties voting on local option prohibition were already dry and voting on renewal. Of these ten counties, Oakland and Wexford were the only two that opted to go from dry to wet.
*While much of the lower peninsula was dry after the April 1910 election, the entire upper peninsula remained wet.
The â€œcamel post cardâ€ comes from the Jerry Lawler Collection, which is housed at the Archives of Michigan. The Jerry Lawler Collection contains many post cards with depictions of Lansing. Items span the entire twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Other sources include:
- The Story of Reo Joe by Lisa M. Fine
- â€œHow A Mayor Helped Crush Lansingâ€™s Spiritsâ€ by Robert Garrett. City Pulse. Lansing, Michigan. August 23, 2006.
- Out of the Wilderness: An Illustrated History of Greater Lansing by Justin Kestenbaum
- Rumrunning and the Roaring Twenties: Prohibition on the Michigan-Ontario Waterway by Philip P. Mason.
- The State Republican. Lansing, Michigan. April 4 and April 5, 1910.
Bob Garrett has worked as an archivist for the Archives of Michigan since 2000. He is a regular contributor and moderator for the Seeking Michigan blog . His personal interests include American history (especially the Civil War and the 19th century west), film, and 1950s and 1960s rock nâ€™ roll music.