This edition is sponsored by Gumption Savannah Membership
American Prohibition Museum
Performers, intricate sets, and a real speakeasy tell the story of the 18th Amendment.
The 18TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. Constitution in 1920 outlawed alcohol as a deleterious indulgence. It was the culmination of more than 100 years of campaigning by the national temperance movements. The American Prohibition Museum, Savannah, Georgia, traces the complicated history of this movement from its infancy to the 21st Amendment that ended Prohibition in 1933.
The museum is entertaining without being corny, and it educates without being preachy. The museum’s entrance is adorned with a Model T beer truck, as well as a variety of slogans, headlines, and “saloon art”, which set the stage for national debate. You will need to climb a staircase that is covered with quotes about drinking and alcoholism in order to reach the second floor. Then, you’ll have to listen as an evangelical preacher explains the dangers of liquor through a historical movie.
The museum’s Prohibition story begins in a saloon where a mannequin from the notorious and fierce temperance advocate Carry Nation holds a hatchet. Nation was well-known for burning saloons’ properties with this weapon. As historical docents in costumes of barkeeps or flappers answer questions and tell stories, history is brought to life.
Another exhibit focuses on illegal ways to circumvent Prohibition. It begins with the darkness of a moonshiner’s hideaway, followed by a well-lit bootlegger tableau with confiscated weapons from mobsters. If you have the password, you can escape to a nearby speakeasy and avoid the gangster racket. Guests can enjoy 1920s cocktails and listen to jazz music while inside.
It is impressively comprehensive. The museum contains all the familiar Prohibition suspects. However, the museum excels at weaving Savannah’s history into the narrative and also reveals the lesser-known effects of Prohibition. The engineering of cars was changed and improved by bootleggers who created faster and more powerful vehicles to defeat G-men (slang term for “government men” or agents). Speakeasies were a catalyst for greater racial integration. However, there were also negative consequences: Nativism increased as German beer brewers and Irish whiskey distillers were made to be lawbreakers.
Before you go
The museum is open every day from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with the last entry at 4:15 pm. Before entering, tickets for cocktails in the bar must be purchased. The gift shop sells great souvenirs, including shot glasses made during Prohibition.
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