Updated: Apr 19, 2018
Can you tell who's real and who's not?
The newest museum in town hasn’t taken much time to become a hit with visitors to our city. And there’s a good reason for that. The American Prohibition Museum, located in City Market, covers a rather serious subject in an entertaining and informative manner.
Granted, the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), with its gangsters, flappers and bathtub gin, does seem like a more lively time in our history than say the Era of Good Feelings (1812-1825). So the museum has the advantage of an intoxicating topic (sorry). But I give its designers credit for a smart integration of fun and facts. (Did you know that before Prohibition, alcohol taxes fueled 40% of the federal government? I didn’t.)
Although it’s a self-guided tour with reams of writings on the walls (bring your reading glasses), savvy staffers are scattered throughout the museum to answer questions and spin some yarns about those good old days.
The museum is well-designed with lifelike wax figures, vintage objects, photographs and videos telling the story of what led up to Prohibition, who the leaders of the temperance movement were, how society responded to the ban, and what transpired in its aftermath. The walk through the facility is designed to make creative use of flat video screens, disguising them as picture frames with life-size people suddenly talking to you from a barnyard or a street scene or the like. At the end of the tour you can view a film that explains the continuing effects of Prohibition today. Of course there had to be a speakeasy, featuring drinks of the era, in da back of da joint. At least you don’t have to give 'em the password to get in. The drinks are $8 per person.
Entry to the museum itself is $13 person. It’s open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. I would allow an hour and a half to take in the entire experience.
Bona fide history buffs will be delighted to know that there’s a logical reason for the American Prohibition Museum to have a home here in Savannah (and no, it’s not because of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade). As the plaque by the entrance to the museum proudly proclaims, “The First Act of Alcohol Prohibition in American was decreed in Savannah in 1735.”
You see, from the outset of our founding, Savannahians were prone to spend more time in the nearest public house than in the field. In August, 1733—just 6 months after touching land here—Founder James Oglethorpe wrote his fellow colony trustees back in England: “By degrees I brought the people to discipline but could not revive the spirit of labor. Idleness and drunkenness were succeeded by sickness.” So after trying everything else, he and the other trustees finally had King George II ban hard liquor from the new colony. (Beer and wine were spared.) And just like America’s experiment with banning booze in the 1920’s, the attempt was a miserable failure: most of the colonists continued to consume rum to their heart’s discontent.
For more information about the American Prohibition Museum, go to www.americanprohibitionmuseum.com.