Traveling Prohibition exhibit makes stop in Eau Claire

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (PRESS RELEASE)- For a limited time, the Chippewa Valley Museum explores the Prohibition era, a tumultuous time in American history when flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance lobbyists, and legends such as Al Capone and Carry Nation took sides in a battle against the bottle. The traveling exhibit Spirited: Prohibition in America opens April 9 and runs through May 25.

Photo: Pixabay

In 1830, the average American consumed 90 bottles-or about four shots a day-of 80-proof liquor each year. Saloons gained notoriety as the most destructive force in American culture, and a growing movement against alcohol led to ratification of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919.

Through the exhibition, visitors will learn about the amendment process, the changing role of liquor in American culture, Prohibition's impact on the roaring '20s, the connections between women's suffrage and the temperance movement, and how current liquor laws vary from state to state. Local history will also be explored. By Prohibition, the Chippewa Valley was home to the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewery, Eau Claire Eagle Brewing Company, Bloomer Brewery, Durand Brewing Company, and the Walter Brewing Company. Only one of these breweries exists today.

The Chippewa Valley Museum is hosting special programs to highlight the exhibit:

Spirited: Community Day, Saturday, April 13, 12:00-4:00. Presentations and hands-on activities link prohibition and temperance with today. Visitors can participate in a scavenger hunt, try toys and games from the 1920s, learn about the distilling process from the owners of Chippewa River Distillery and Brewster Brothers Brewing Company, see equipment used in modern home brewing, vote for their favorite Kool-Aid (which was invented during Prohibition), listen to a panel discuss modern issues surrounding alcohol, and try dancing the Charleston. Presentations and activities included with museum admission.

Speakeasy Party, Saturday, April 13, 7:00pm - 9:00 pm. The Speakeasy at the Chippewa Valley Museum is a place for "Wets" to defy the restrictions of Prohibition. It includes special exhibit tours, big band music, dancing, casino-like games, and "prohibited" beverages for sale. This is a ticketed event for 21+ $10 for members, $15 non-members.

"The Noble Experiment: Prohibition in Eau Claire," lecture, Tuesday, April 23, 6:30 - 7:30, Dr. Brian Blakely, historian and author of A History of Eau Claire, takes a local look at Prohibition in America. Free and open to the public.

"Waldemar Ager House Tour," Saturday, May 12, 10:00 - 2:00. Visitors to the Ager House at 514 W. Madison Street will be able to see the house of a noted local temperance leader and learn more about temperance in Eau Claire. This special program is presented by UW-Eau Claire public history students and co-hosted by the Ager Association. $5/adult, $2 children.

Admission to Spirited: Prohibition in America is included in general museum admission, with special rates for the Speakeasy Event and Ager House tour. The Chippewa Valley Museum is located in Eau Claire's scenic Carson Park. During the school year, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 5 pm, with late hours Tuesday evenings until 8 pm, and early hours starting at 10 am on Saturdays. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children ages 5-17. Museum members and children 4 and under are free. Admission is always free Tuesday evenings from 5 to 8 pm. Contact Olaf Lind at 715-834-7871 or o.lind@cvmuseum.com for more information.

Spirited: Prohibition in America is based on the exhibition American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, organized by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA, in collaboration with Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. Spirited has been made possible through NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been adapted and toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance. For more information, visit www.maaa.org or www.nehontheroad.org.