The Best Solution to the Liquor Problem: Dispensaries and profit in the pre-prohibition South

This paper investigates the impact of the liquor dispensary movement across the south in the years prior to the adoption of prohibition. When Southerners aligned themselves as either pro or anti-dispensary, they staked out their positions based not on a different reading of the liquor problem but rather on the perceived efficacy of dispensary as a solution. Cities and towns that adopted dispensaries were those that stood to gain financially, and that had previously witnessed the limits of prohibition to prohibit in their communities. These patterns suggest two conclusions; 1) anti-liquor sentiment did not always mean a support for prohibition, and 2) community characteristics might impact the final outcomes of prohibition debates as much as individual characteristics.

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