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Alpena Man Takes the Lead in Ending Prohibition

Posted on April 8th, 2016
Prohibition protesters in Detroit in the early 1930's

Prohibition protesters in Detroit in the early 1930’s

On April 10, 1933, Michigan became the first state to vote yes on the 21st Amendment in an effort to end prohibition! We led the way to overturning the unpopular 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol in the United States. Michigan’s governor at the time was Alpena native Governor William A. Comstock. In his words, “Prohibition didn’t prohibit”.

Michigan was already full of booze; about 75% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S. during prohibition came from Detroit, with easy access to Canada just across the river. Ontario had 29 breweries and 16 distilleries during this time. In 1929, during the Great Depression, illegal booze activity boosted Detroit’s economy by bringing in $215 million! Crime escalated, and gangsters such as Al Capone became rich from the violent black market. Drinking increased, speakeasies had replaced saloons, and respect for the law decreased.

Michigan Governor William A. Comstock pours himself a beer after the ratification of the 21st Amendment!

Michigan Governor William A. Comstock pours himself a beer after the ratification of the 21st Amendment!

The National Repeal of the 18th Amendment required ratification by 36 states. Michigan rushed into action and threw together an election for April 3, 1933; the first in the nation by several weeks- with most not holding their elections until November. Every county in Michigan unanimously voted yes except for one, and the ratification convention took place on April 10. Beer was finally legal in Michigan after 15 years!! Once Michigan voted to ratify the 21st Amendment,  the federal ban on booze fell state-by-state like a set of dominoes.

Michigan Governor William A. Comstock's grave marker in Alpena

Michigan Governor William A. Comstock’s grave marker in Alpena

Who knew, for the many that enjoy an adult beverage from time to time, that we have this Alpena legend to thank? You can find his impressive grave marker where he was laid to rest in Alpena’s Evergreen Cemetery.

(Remember to always drink responsibly. ) Where is your favorite watering hole in Alpena: Sanctuary of the Great Lakes?