Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

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Hardcover, Simon & Schuster, 2010, ISBN13 9780743277020, ISBN10 0743277023

About this item

A brilliant, authoritative, and fascinating history of Americas most puzzling era, the years 1920 to 1933, when the U.S. Constitution was amended to restrict one of Americas favorite pastimes: drinking alcoholic beverages.

From its start, America has been awash in drink. The sailing vessel that brought John Winthrop to the shores of the New World in 1630 carried more beer than water. By the 1820s, liquor flowed so plentifully it was cheaper than tea. That Americans would ever agree to relinquish their booze was as improbable as it was astonishing.

Yet we did, and Last Call is Daniel Okrents dazzling explanation of why we did it, what life under Prohibition was like, and how such an unprecedented degree of government interference in the private lives of Americans changed the country forever.

Writing with both wit and historical acuity, Okrent reveals how Prohibition marked a confluence of diverse forces: the growing political power of the womens suffrage movement, which allied itself with the antiliquor campaign; the fear of small-town, native-stock Protestants that they were losing control of their country to the immigrants of the large cities; the anti-German sentiment stoked by World War I; and a variety of other unlikely factors, ranging from the rise of the automobile to the advent of the income tax.

Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and convivially (and sometimes fatally) imbibe their favorite intoxicants. Last Call is peopled with vivid characters of an astonishing variety: Susan B. Anthony and Billy Sunday, William Jennings Bryan and bootlegger Sam Bronfman, Pierre S. du Pont and H. L. Mencken, Meyer Lansky and the incredibleif long-forgottenfederal official Mabel Walker Willebrandt, who throughout the twenties was the most powerful woman in the country. (Perhaps most surprising of all is Okrents account of Joseph P. Kennedys legendary, and long-misunderstood, role in the liquor business.)

Its a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrents narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing sacramental wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.

Last Call is capacious, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrents rank as a major American writer.

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Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: May 11, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780743277020
ISBN-10: 0743277023
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 480
Written in: ENG
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 1.75
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.4
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