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Progressive Era to New Era
Prohibition: A Case Study of Progressive Reform
Money That Was Poured Out in the Gutter

Mr. MacCurrie lived in Thomaston, Connecticut, when he was interviewed by the WPA in December 1938. The following excerpt from that interview is from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. What is MacCurrie's primary objection to prohibition?

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"It's a funny thing, they got everything in this country they need. Enough for everybody. Why can't they work out some system where everybody has enough? Look at the . . . money that's been wasted.

"Look at the money that was poured out in the gutter, you might say, tryin' to enforce prohibition. Nobody will ever know how much. The money spent on enforcement, and the money lost in license fees and the money taken in and never accounted for by bootleggers. Man, it's a cryin' shame.

"And the dam fool things they did. Arrestin' a man for 'reputation!' I wonder was that ever fought out in the courts. Seems to me it was illegal.

"I remember one time I was over to the hotel havin' a nip and a bunch of cops came in to raid it. They was all Thomaston fellas, Charley What'sis-Name and Dan Sanger and some more. They searched the place from top to bottom, couldn't find a thing. They was all ready to go out, and Dan says 'Wait a minute.' He walked in the back room and when he came out he had a half pint. Now by God, you can't tell me he didn't have that half pint when he went in there.

"That was the way of it," sighs Mr. MacCurrie. "It was a horrible mistake. Accomplished nothin' and did a lot of harm.

"Sometimes I think they run things better in the old country. There was a lot of poverty and discontent, but things went along a bit steadier. Over there, now, they're way ahead of us when it comes to socialized medicine."
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View the entire interview with Mr. MacCurrie from American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Use your browser's Back Button to return to this point.