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Prohibition Raids in New Orleans, 1919-1933

Each dot on the map represents a Prohibition raid and colors correspond to specific years. Click on a dot to read more about the raid. 

Map Key

1919

1922

1925

1928

1931

1920

1923

1926

1929

1932

1921

1924

1927

1930

1933

 

In the summer of 1918, the Eighteenth Amendment narrowly passed though Louisiana legislature—a 21-20 vote in the Senate. A year later, on July 1st, 1919, the sale of alcoholic beverages became prohibited. The Act of Congress used to carry out and enforce the amendment was the National Prohibition Act, often known as the Volstead Act.

At the time of Prohibition's enactment, New Orleans was home to approximately 5,000 bars and a centuries-long affinity for alcohol. Historian Joy Jackson called Prohibition in New Orleans “the unlikeliest crusade,” one that ultimately failed to curb the thirst of New Orleanians [1].  

Between 1919 and 1933, Prohibition agents raided thousands of establishments throughout the city of New Orleans, arresting even thousands more. The Times-Picayune, one of the city’s most widely-circulated newspapers, dutifully published almost daily the names and addresses of those who violated Prohibition laws [2]. These places included restaurants, cafes, breweries, automobiles, speakeasies, saloons, coffeehouses, cabarets, barbershops, jewelry shops, corner grocery stores, and druggists. By 1920, bootlegging began to expand through the city on a massive scale. In fact, the bulk of raids mapped here are of private residences where citizens were often arrested for brewing their own beer, wine, and/or spirits. 

Few escaped the watchful eyes and well-developed noses of Federal Prohibition agents, who often justified raids by claiming they smelled the stench on alcohol on a premises. Even Commander’s Palace, one of New Orleans’ oldest and most well-known restaurants, did not escape a Prohibition raid in 1921. 

This exhibit aims to explore and visualize the impact of the Volstead Act on the lives, drinking habits, and neighborhoods of New Orleanians through the mapping of Prohibition raids over a period of roughly 15 years. There are 683 raids mapped in this exhibit; the complete dataset can be downloaded on Github. To receive updates, follow Intemperance on Twitter

You can zoom into different neighborhoods like the Vieux Carre, the Central Business District, and the Marigny [3].

Notes

[1] Joy Jackson, "Prohibition in New Orleans: the Unlikeliest Crusade," Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 19, no. 3 (Summer, 1978), pp 261-284. 

.[2] All raid information gleaned from the digital archives of The Times-Picayune. Once all data is completely compiled, it will be made publically available for download.

[3] Borders between neightborhoods tend to be arbitrary and fluid, especially in New Orleans. The neighborhoods delineated in this exhibit are for the purpose of reference and spacial orientation, for those both familiar and unfamiliar with the city. They not necessarily representative of 1920s neighborhood lines. In fact, the first attempt at official neighborhood planning in New Orleans didn't occur until 1929. Those mapped here are largely taken from The Yat Map

 

Credits, Sources, and Further Reading

The map, Map of the City of New Orleans and Vicinity, July 1925 is used with permission from the Louisiana State Museum.

For more on New Orleans neighborhoods, see Richard Campanella's Bienville's Dilemma: A Historical Geography of New Orleans (2008). See especially the chapter, "'The Cradle of Civilized Drinking': Ruminations on New Orleans' ancient reputation for escapism."

To read more about decadence in the modern era, I recommend Robert Azzarello's essay from The Southern Literary Journal, "The Withered Toe of Louisiana: Transatlantic Decadence in the Big Uneasy"

All data for this exhibit is hand compliled and mapped by Hannah C. Griggs.

 

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