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Prohibition Era: Ohio Roots in History and YA Lit

Today marks the anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, brought about on this date in 1933 with the passage of the 21st Amendment. As such, it was the end of an era for all of the groups who had taken up the cause of national prohibition of alcohol and lobbied for it to be written into law (via the 18th amendment).

 alt= daddy's in there

One of the most active of these groups, the Anti-Saloon League, was so important in the history of Westerville, Ohio, that it has its own museum attached to the Westerville Public Library, where I work.

So what’s the teen tie-in to this topic? Local History Coordinator Beth Weinhardt confirmed that The American Issue Printing Company (the League’s publishing arm) likely employed many teens as it became nationally known for its sheer output of leaflets — over 40 tons of mail per month.

getting ready for the mail powder and shot
this folds an american issue quick as a wink the wonderful typesetting machines

trimming the papers

In fact, all of this mail meant that Westerville became the smallest town to have a first-class post office.

When considering the recent teen book series focusing on this era — I’m thinking of The Flappers series by Jillian Larkin, the Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen, and The Diviners series by Libba Bray (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, 2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults) — I couldn’t help but notice that two of these kicked off with girls leaving their small Ohio towns for the big city. Evie in The Diviners has this in common with Bright Young Things’ Cordelia Gray.

These girls’ stories are more focused on the thrill of rebellion in the Jazz Age than fighting for the elimination of liquor, but an imaginative reader could still wonder if they knew about Westerville when they left home. Did they have peers working at the Anti-Saloon League? Did any hometown disappointment about the Repeal reach them on December 5, 1933, wherever they were?

twenties cover collage smaller

Special thanks to Beth Weinhardt for the historical images, many of which came from the book The Little Journey. Want to see more? Take a virtual tour of the Anti-Saloon League Museum here!

-Becky O’Neil, currently reading Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh