Monday, December 6, 2010

Shumaker Returns to Hamilton County

In 1920, as Prohibition dawned across the nation, Shumaker opted to ring in the enactment of the 18th Amendment in Hamilton County.  As readers of this blog know, in 2010, one of the first speaking engagements I had about my book was with a local history club in Hamilton County.  Last night, I brought the year to a close by speaking to the Hamilton County Historical Society.  It was a fun event, filled with good food, good conversation, and a good historic setting (the Noblesville Masonic Lodge, which was built in the early 20th century).

My talk centered on Shumaker's, and the dry crusade in general, many connections to Hamilton County.  In many respects, it is one of the best places in the state to understand just how complex the dry crusade (and the wet reaction to it) was.  It is also a place to discuss how drys could become associated with the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (the Historical Society's museum is the former jail, where you can visit D.C. Stephenson's cell: , and what that ultimately meant to drys like Shumaker.  As always, the questions were great...ranging from George Washington, to law enforcement, to ethenoyl!

It was a nice way to wrap up the year.  Now it is time to get ready to write final exams, which I'll be grading next week!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back Home Again In Elkhart County

For the first 18 years of my life, I called Elkhart County "home."  To be honest, there are few things I'd trade when it comes to living in Indiana's "county number 20," the mix of town, country, and proximity to big cities was pretty much just right looking back on it.  And so, it was a special honor to get to "come home" today and speak to the Elkhart County Historical Society.

Before I offer a recap, let me say something about the ECHS's museum:  It is a jewel and is something that shouldn't be missed.  Housed in the former Bristol High School, the staff is great (and wonderfully professional on multiple levels), the facilities (both for giving a talk and in terms of exhibits) are top notch, and it has an outstanding collection.  If you get the chance to swing by in Bristol:  GO!

That being said, on to the show!  I had the distinct honor of talking about the book not once but twice.  I say honor not because of what I got to say (while I try and tailor each presentation to my audience, in this case by adding a bit about Elkhart County's connections to Shumaker's dry crusade, I also try and convey most of the basics about Shumaker and the book itself) but who I got to say it to.  Both sessions were very "Lantzer" (and Schrock) heavy--which is to say I got to speak about my book to most of my family, most of whom still live in Elkhart County and whom have never gotten to see me in full on "professor mode" before.  That is a very special honor in and of itself, and a humbling one at that....this is after all, where I come from, and these are the people who helped make me who I am.

But, it wasn't just family who attended, there were also members of the community who came ready to ask questions.  I was quite pleased to field a question in the afternoon session from the daughter-in-law of a 1940s era Prohibition Party candidate for office (in this case Governor of Indiana).  Likewise getting to take a question from my high school history teacher (Mr. Riley) was a pleasure in and of itself.  Plus, it was just great to see and talk with him after so long.  Between him and my middle school history teacher (Mr. Smith) I was well prepared to figure out that History is what I wanted to do as a career once I got to college.  And, since I've already given props to the NorthWood Panthers and Wakarusa Indians, I might as well make it a clean WaNee Community Schools sweep....and mention that my dear friend Amberly (a fellow Harrison Wildcat) made the trek over to Bristol as well (bringing along her husband for a lecture packed "date night").

All in all, a great day....made perfect by getting to come home to my darling wife in Indy and kissing my already sleeping kids good night.  More on other things soon enough!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

News from Amazon

As of 8:43 pm tonight, here is where "Prohibition" ranks:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1 in  Books > History > United States > State & Local > Indiana

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Shumaker and the City

Today I had the opportunity to speak to the Marion County Historical Society at the wonderful downtown Indy venue of Roberts Park United Methodist Church.  Truly a jewel, the congregations dates itself to the first Methodist gathering in Indianapolis (which also produced Meridian Street United Methodist) and have been in their current home since just after the Civil War.  While the turnout wasn't large (it was a beautiful day), it was still a great time.  The question and answer time was enhanced by the presence of a member of Attorney General Arthur Gilliom's family, as well as by a former student of mine (it is always good to see students after they've graduated).  Advanced coverage in the Indianapolis Star was also very nice.

I opted to talk about Shumaker and the City, and the idea that it was really in America's urban areas where Prohibition was debated, and where the battle was fought.  One of the points I tried to make was that things changed a great deal between 1910 and 1930, to the point that drinking as it had been known pre-Prohibition, simply didn't exist in post-Prohibition America.  And drys were partially responsible for both that change, as well as others throughout American society.  To say that Prohibition "failed" then is to misunderstand both what drys were attempting to do and what actually happened.  That I got to do so from whose pulpit the dry crusade was once proclaimed made it all very special.

The past year's journey with this book has really been special.  From book signings to book talks, from getting reviews and emails, to hearing the kids say "Daddy, that is YOUR book," I wouldn't trade a minute of it.  With other speaking events planned, and news this week that my second book (on the American Mainline) is looking increasingly likely, I can't wait to see what the next 12 months bring.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

News from Across the Pond

This is from, as of 1:35 EST today:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 441,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#52 in  Books > Biography > Historical > United States > Religion
#98 in  Books > Biography > Political > Countries & Regions > Indian Subcontinent

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Prohibition Returns to Franklin....again!

From the Fall of 2002 until the Summer of 2005, I was a member of the faculty at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana.  During that time I was working on my dissertation so, in addition to the memories of friends and former students (some of whom I still keep in touch with thanks to Facebook), there is a very real connection between "Prohibition" and the Johnson County seat.  Today I was honored by being able to come to Franklin and talk about the book at the Johnson County Historical Museum (

Located in the former Masonic Temple (interesting note, Franklin is home to an American Baptist college, a United Methodist retirement home, and a Masonic retirement community), the Johnson County Historical Museum offers a very nice research library for local history, several exhibit galleries, and a wonderful speaking space in its auditorium.  While we were hardly at capacity (once again weather was a factor, it was really to nice to spend an hour inside listening to speaker on Saturday), there was a nice group gathered to hear my presentation (and buy a few books), including my mother-in-law and father-in-law (who now make Franklin their home).  My talk centered upon Shumaker, but also on the many links the dry crusade had with Franklin, including this: (if you go, have the tenderloin, or the pizza, or the burger, in that order).

As always, it was fun getting feedback from the audience.  One gentlemen (as a joke he told me after) wore a Miller High Life t-shirt, and asked about the relationship the Klan had with Prohibition, as well as if Prohibition had any bearing on current drug laws.  A woman told me that she had a relative who was a sheriff in Tennessee who was killed by bootleggers during the dry years, while another man asked about the price of home brew, and yet another question centered on Paul McNutt (

It was a good day (which included lots of time with the kids and the in-laws) as well as a long one.  But well worth it!  I'm very much looking forward to talking with the Marion County Historical Society in August and the Elkhart County Historical Society in October.  More on some other fronts later!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Father's Day Gift from the Journal of American History

Really not sure it gets better than this as a means to kick of Father's Day Weekend: (Journal of American History, June 2010)

"Prohibition Is Here to Stay": The Reverend Edward S. Shumaker and the Dry Crusade in America. By Jason S. Lantzer. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009. x, 306 pp. Paper, $35.00, ISBN 978-0-268-03383-5.)
Jason S. Lantzer's "Prohibition Is Here to Stay" is a fine examination of the life and work of Indiana's dry crusader, the Reverend Edward S. Shumaker. Early in the book, Lantzer declares his intention to take seriously the world view of Shumaker and his allies about the place of religion in their campaign. For Lantzer, this means coming to grips with the organizational and institutional dimensions of the church, not simply the place of personal faith. This study makes a compelling argument for privileging religious organization over rural-urban divides—for example, in explaining dry motivations and behavior. The author deftly shows how a blending of the Social Gospel with progressive critiques of industrial exploitation and the profit motive could lead dry crusaders to denounce appeals to personal liberty as fictional and fraudulent. 1
      Lantzer usefully reminds us that the "rum wars" had front lines even before national Prohibition began. He takes the reader directly into the trenches, using evocative stories such as the beating of a "dry" prosecuting attorney in the trial of a Terre Haute saloonkeeper and the dynamiting of a Methodist church after a raid on a "blind tiger, an establishment illegally selling alcohol." The pre-Prohibition Anti-Saloon League (ASL) was a remarkably effective organization, and Lantzer does a fine job of illustrating the power of nonpartisan, single-issue politics as well as the ASL's skillful use of legal tools such as Indiana's remonstrance law (by which liquor licenses could be challenged). On the other hand, the enforcement of Prohibition proved transformative for the dry movement. Because Shumaker and his allies had to mount a more vigorous defense of Prohibition than they had expected, they issued a call to get tough with violators; this maneuver helped form a critical tie between the dry movement and the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan offered direct action, not just talk—a seductive call for Prohibition's supporters. 2
      Lantzer's exploration of the dry movement's legacy is the most interesting dimension of this work. As he points out, "though Shumaker's reform was over, the culture that produced it was not" (p. 177). Lantzer argues that Shumaker would today be counted among the "moral values voters" who place social issues ahead of all others in the political realm (p. 2). More provocative is Lantzer's assertion that Alcoholics Anonymous was the new organization of the dry movement. Focusing on the individual drinker, Lantzer argues, "dry culture, still alive, is trying to save America one soul at a time" (p. 187). That is an interesting claim—one that merits further examination by historians of both temperance and alcoholism. 3
      A few irritating typographical errors detract from this otherwise splendid contribution to the very large literature on America's crusade against alcohol: 1896 is presented as 1996 and Roosevelt is spelled Roossevelt (pp. 15, 72). 4
Joseph F. Spillane
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Dry Crusade comes to The Region's Happy Valley

The Thursday before Memorial Day, I had the honor to speak to the Muster Historical Society about Prohibition.  While the trek up and back were long along I-65, it was well worth it.  The MHS did a fine job getting the word out in the local papers, and put out a very nice flyer ( which I thought really captured the right balance, considering that we were that close to Chicago (with all the Capone era implications that has).

All told, there were over 20 people at the Kaske House (which is celebrating its centennial this year), including a family member and a former student.  There were many good questions, and even a few books sold.  It was a nice way to kick off the holiday weekend, and makes me excited about the other upcoming book talks at other local historical societies in the months to come.

In other news, it appears (though I've yet to get a copy to read) that Prohibition has been reviewed in another scholarly journal:  Church History.  This was something of a surprise, as earlier it had been listed as "received not reviewed" (which often means it won't be), so I'm excited to see what the reviewer has to say!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Ghost of Wayne Wheeler

For the second time in a month, Wayne Wheeler has come to haunt me......

For those of you who do not know who Wheeler is, he was the Washington, D.C. face of the Anti Saloon League.  That is to say, he headed up the League's D.C. legislative affairs office (a nice way of saying he was a lobbyist) and helped craft both the 18th Amendment as well as the Volstead Act.  Not unlike Shumaker, Wheeler was lucky enough to die before Prohibition came to an end, for surely seeing his life's work undone would have killed him.

Now, I say he's come to haunt me because earlier this month in a review of Prohibition, it was pointed out that I didn't make much comment about Wheeler in the pages of my book.  And that is a fair criticism, to an extent.  It's not as if I didn't know who he was, but rather, it is that he plays almost no role (at least none that I really came across in the years I spent working on Shumaker) in what Shumaker did in Indiana.  Wheeler didn't draft Hoosier dry laws, and when Shumaker wrote to League officials it wasn't to Wheeler.  While I very much intend on making some more mention of him should I get the chance to craft a second edition of the book, to say that it is lacking because Wheeler doesn't play a prominent enough role in Shumaker's story is to not realize that it is Shumaker's story, not Wheeler's that I was trying to tell.

Be that as it may, a student of mine sent me a link to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about Wheeler this week (hence the "second" haunting experience in a month), which you can read here:  The author is Daniel Okrent, who has a new book out about Prohibition (which is going to be used as part of Ken Burn's upcoming miniseries for PBS about the Dry Era).  Okrent, I think it is safe say based on reading both the article and his book ( wants to know  why/how Prohibition came to pass, and in looking to have a main character to explain it all (or perhaps even to blame) he settled on Wheeler.  Indeed, his article title calls Wheeler "the man who turned off the taps."

I have no problem with this in the main.  Wheeler was important for the coming of Prohibition.  He also was a national figure.  And he has an interesting story.  But I do have problems with some of the implications.  First, that (to again quote Okrent) Wheeler "foisted temperance on a thirsty nation," is to fall into the old Wet trap of arguing that Prohibition was "put over" on the nation.  It wasn't.  Wheeler was but the tip of the spear, so to speak, of what Drys had been working for since the late 19th century (at least).  This is why understanding what was going on at the state level (such as with Shumaker) is so important.  The coming of national prohibition was the culmination of efforts across the nation.  It was not just because a small cadre of Drys sent Wheeler to Washington!

In all actuality, if you want to "blame" someone for the coming of Prohibition, blame the brewers who dominated the saloon trade in the early 1900s who refused to abide by even the most basic of laws.  There would have been no Wheeler (or Shumaker for that matter) had Wets not provoked them by disregarding laws and being a part of political corruption (not to mention other things).  At the end of the day, it was American Society at large, both wets, drys, and damps, that produced Prohibition.  Not Wayne Wheeler (or Shumaker for that matter) all by himself.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One Year On

So, a year ago today "Prohibition" officially became part of the book world.  And what a year it has been!  Thanks to all of you who now own a copy (whether I compelled you to do so or not)!  At last check, the book is in libraries in 39 states and 4 foreign countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Taiwan, and Germany).

The past week or so has also brought with it two more academic reviews.  The first, from American Catholic Studies ( no doubt due to my publisher being Notre Dame, which was a balanced review.  But the one I was in many ways waiting for was in the Indiana Magazine of History ( which was probably as close to a raving review (in all the good ways) that an academic can hope for.  All in all, all good!

Lastly came news that I'll be speaking at the American Historical Association's annual meeting in January 2011.  The location is Boston.  The topic will be Shumaker.  Considering in the coming months I'll be crisscrossing Indiana (Munster in May, Franklin in July, Indy in August, Goshen in October), starting next year in "the city on a hill" sounds just about right!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

When you write a book, you have to anticipate that not everyone is going to like what you have to say, whether in whole or in part.  I've been very fortunate to get some good reviews, from students, friends, and professional colleagues.  But in the past week, Prohibition has also come, if not exactly under attack, at least under critique.

The first came from David Kyvig in The Catholic Historical Review (  Let me say what an honor it was to have Prof. Kyvig write a review.  When it comes to experts on the repeal of Prohibition, he is at the top of the list (quite literally having written the book).  And he offered up a balanced, in the main, review of the book.  However, if I was to critique his critique, it would be that I didn't write the book he wanted me to write.  Indeed, his largest issue (and he did make some valid points that I hope to one day be able to redress in a second edition) was that I didn't present a "balanced" view of Prohibition in Indiana.  Of course, I wasn't exactly seeking to write such a book.  Rather, I was writing the biography of a man (and a movement) who thought Prohibition was a good idea.  It wasn't going to be balanced in that sense!  I could quibble on some other things, but if that is the worst thing he can say about the book, then so be it.  All authors have to take critiques after all (and Kyvig's book once got a similar critique from Jack Blocker).  It comes with the territory.

The second critique was a bit more interesting, on a technological level at least.  While doing a quick search (yes, I Google the book often, just to try and get a feel for things), I stumbled upon a reader blog, in which someone had made mention of Prohibition.  Obviously, I had to see what was said!  The post was from 4 days ago and "Nuthatch" from "NW Indiana" was complaining about "slogging" through the book.  Indeed, Nuthatch admitted that it was full of information they found of use, but complained the writing was "uninspired."  Who knows, maybe Nuthatch will come around the further they get into the book.  Perhaps not.  I know you can't please everyone all the time.  Of course maybe it also had something to do with Nuthatch saying that they were also bored by reading their camera's instruction manual, I don't know!

Here's to hoping that May will bring more good news.  It already looks like I'll be speaking to the Marion County Historical Society in August, and who knows, maybe some better reviews are forthcoming!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Upcoming Book Events

As the semester at Butler winds down (though online, it never ends...and for that, I'm thankful), planning continues on the Summer/Fall-leg of the Prohibition book tour (such as it is).  Here is what is for sure, with some other things still in the works:

Thursday, May 27th, Munster Historical Society -- 8pm EST (7pm local)

Saturday, July 10th, Johnson County Historical Society -- time to be announced

Thursday, October 14th, Elkhart County Historical Society -- time to be announced

It also looks quite possible that I'll be speaking to the Marion County Historical Society and Hamilton County Historical Society at some point this summer as well.  And who knows, some other historical societies or libraries or bookstores, might come along as well!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On Fleming

During Easter, I was given an op/ed from the Wall Street Journal from back in January (you can read it for yourself here:  It was about Prohibition and its author was Thomas Fleming.  Now, at the outset, let me say how much respect I have for Mr. Fleming.  His books on the Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers are top-notch, well written, and well researched.    And while I appreciate that he doesn't just "limit" himself to one period (he's written about World War I) -- which is something I wish more historians did, or even one genre (he's done some *gasp* historical fiction), but with this op/ed he missed the mark.  In 15 well written paragraphs he committed or repeated 15 fictions about Prohibition.

Now, I realize that people can disagree about Prohibition (just see my last post where I discussed the article by the Cato Institute), and I have no problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is when people, including historians, refuse to engage in a discussion based in the facts, but rather repeat old canards, perhaps even ones they were raised on, that rewrite history.  So, to set the record straight, even if it is after the passage of 3 months, and while understanding Fleming's own space limitations since he was writing for the Journal, here's what I have to say about Fleming's op/ed:

1.  Fleming acknowledges that sin and morality were a driving force for drys, however he seemingly attempts to separate the two.  That is he says one group of drys saw drinking as a sin, and another group of drys were moral reformers trying to be just like the abolitionists of old.  That they were, in the main, one in the same (as the life of Shumaker shows) he does not seem to want to admit.  Why he tries to make this distinction, I don't know.  But it implies a lack of understanding of the Protestant reformer tradition in America.

2.  Fleming introduces readers to one of the top American drys and economists of the early 20th century, Irving Fisher, who asserted that introducing Prohibition was going to increase American industrial productivity and help America's workers.  Fleming seems to dismiss Fisher's claims and work, but doesn't counter them.  Here in lies the problem, he can't.  Fisher was writing at a time when large numbers of workers came to the job hungover and possibly even drunk.  Fleming does not.   The world pre-Prohibition was both similar to the one we live in today and very very different.  What the drys did with their reform helped create the modern American we have today.

3.  Fleming introduces readers to eugenics (the science of the "well born"), which like many other reformers (both dry and not) of the Progressive Era, Fisher subscribed to.  And indeed, perhaps many drys were both narrowly and even broadly eugenicists.  But what does that prove?  If Fleming is trying to use subtext to link dry eugenicists to the Nazis, he is on dangerous ground indeed.  If he is trying to imply that some reformers saw alcohol as inhibiting "race betterment" (to use the language of the time), or even that alcohol might have promoted crime etc, does that discredit those ideas just because eugenicists held them?  Eugenicists were also among the first and leading advocates of genes and heredity, and I assume that Fleming isn't discounting those scientific facts just because eugenicists subscribed to them.

4.  Fleming talks about how drys (including the Anti Saloon League) used democracy at the local level (via local option laws) to enact Prohibition.  I'm confident he isn't implying that political activism is a bad thing.  Why shouldn't concerned citizens get involved?  But what I find more interesting is the lack of mention as to WHY those drys were organizing.  Fleming fails to mention wet/brewer corruption of local politics, nor does he talk about the violence and vice that were part of saloon life.  Even beyond drinking for the sake of drink, drys had good reason to want to deal with alcohol and the industry behind its production.

5. Drys soon moved their activism from the local to the state level, and then on to the national level.  In part, this had to do with the ease of transportation of alcohol from wet areas into dry ones (the advent of the automobile, not to mention the use of inter-urbans and trains).  Fleming decries this imposition on wets, making it into a monumental hardship.  Doesn't what drys did make sense?  And furthermore, what they were doing in seeking to put limits on interstate commerce was little more than what other reformers were doing (such as with prostitution via the Mann Act).

6.  There is no doubt that World War I (and the associated anti-German sentiment) aided drys in achieving Prohibition on the national level.  What Fleming fails to note for his readers is that the dry crusade was something of a cultural struggle wets and drys.  There was, in other words, plenty of animosity between many wet German-Americans and many native born American drys BEFORE the war.  That drys would use World War I to their advantage is really not surprising, nor is was it unexpected.

7.  By April of 1917, a majority of states were dry (including Shumaker's Indiana, which went dry that very month), and all of them had some legal limit to alcohol on the books.  Fleming, however, implies, that World War I made national Prohibition possible, when in fact all it did was speed up the dry timetable.  If they were guilty of anything it was being opportunistic.  But if you were a dry in 1917, could you be blamed for acting when everything seemed to be going your way?

8.  Fleming devotes an entire paragraph to attempts by drys to make the Army dry and to halting the use of grain to make alcohol, both as a war measure.  But he doesn't explain why this is troubling.  Nor does he mention that most of the other combatant nations either pondered or attempted similar actions.

9.  Anti-German sentiment was hardly the sole province of drys during the war, which is something Fleming seems to imply.  After all, the restriction on the German language was hardly a dry idea.

10.  Fleming does a disservice to the discussion of the ratification of the 18th Amendment.  At the time, it was the fastest ratified amendment in American History.  Fleming never mentions its ratification, instead implying that it all but bogged down.

11.  To say that Wilson's signing of full Wartime Prohibition cost him German and Irish voes (for the 1918 mid-term election), as Fleming does, seems to ignore that the nation was now at war against Germany and allied to Great Britain!  The Democrats, spearheaded by Wilson, had run in 1916 on the promise that they would keep the nation out of the Great War.  Indeed, Democrats attempted to paint Republicans from the top down as "war mongers" for talking about preparedness.  This was part of a re-election strategy to keep German and Irish voters in the Democratic fold.  Wilson waited roughly a month after being sworn in for his second term to ask for a declaration of war, which is probably something the Anglophile president had wanted to do since 1914.  German and Irish voters had a much larger reason to turn on the Democrats than wartime Prohibition.

12.  The Volstead Act was the enforcement law for the 18th Amendment, the Constitutional amendment that Fleming never acknowledges had passed.  Wilson's veto measure, which was quickly overridden, was penned after his famous stroke and in the midst of his "recovery."  We actually don't know what Wilson thought about Volstead at the time.  It is highly likely that his wife penned the veto measure, not the president himself.  But Fleming is content with discussion of Volstead, he goes on to assert that "tens of thousands" of people suddenly found themselves unemployed once the law went into effect in 1920.  That's not exactly true either.  Many brewers converted into other businesses, as did many saloons.  The net unemployment of Prohibition is almost zero, as American industry boomed during the 1920s.  Those who did lose their jobs quickly found new ones.

13.  Fleming virtually repeats the old line that during Prohibition "everybody" was drinking.  The evidence, simply put, does not support such wet propaganda.  Had Fleming consulted Norman Clark's work, he'd have seen that most studies indicate that drinking dropped nearly 90% and that most people never saw the inside of a bootleg saloon or engaged in home brew experimentation.  Furthermore, drinking levels AFTER repeal   don't return to pre-Prohibition levels until the 1960s.  In short, most people weren't drinking and most people didn't return to drinking after repeal.  Indeed, Fleming seems to miss the point of the 18th Amendment's ratification:  minorities don't pass Constitutional Amendments.  Wets may have blamed Prohibition for the Great Depression, but surely Fleming doesn't actually believe that (though he does imply it). After all, that would discount the international loan/monetary system, over production, banking abuse, and the stock market (not to mention problems with American agriculture and the rebound of European economies).

14.  Franklin Roosevelt NEEDED repeal, the 21st Amendment was proof that he and his New Deal were doing something.  Furthermore, he was just as opportunistic in 1932/1933 as drys had been in 1918, and could cite good reasons for bringing about the repeal of Prohibition.  But leaving no wet propaganda unrepeated, Fleming asserts that FDR's repeal was a blow to the Mafia, all but implying that the Mob and gangsters had been born because of Prohibition.  This shows a lack of understanding the history of organized crime in America, and is simply wrong when it comes to the Mob's finances and future.  For one, while the Mob did make millions from bootlegging, that was simply more money the Mob was making.  It was already making millions from gambling, prostitution, and the start of influence within unions.  Furthermore, the Mob didn't "die" because of repeal, it kept going quite strong right up to the 1970s and 1980s, when the Federal Government finally broke the back of the Italian Mafia (only to have to face off against the Russian and Chinese organized crime families).

15.  In his final paragraph, Fleming links Prohibition (as an attempt at economic restructuring) to events today (with the Federal Government increasingly active in automobile production, health care, and banking), and sees it as a warning to us today.  But he'd do better to go back and reread his first paragraph.  Prohibition's goal was not to restructure the economy, it was about sin and public morals.  Asserting otherwise is to not give drys their due, nor to say that they unintentionally attempted such a restructuring is a misreading of the historical record.

There is other news to spread, but I think I've written enough for now.  But if you want to read about how Prohibition actually happened in Indiana, then pick up:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

As March Ends, the Madness Begins!

The end of March marks an important chapter in the history of Prohibition is Here to Stay.  A year ago, Russ Pulliam of the Indianapolis Star published a wonderful editorial on the book (which he has reissued in other forms since).  And then, at the start of April 2009, I got in the mail my author's copies of the book.  Of course, looking back, it was in March of 2005 that I defended my dissertation which became the book to begin with!  But as March 2010 comes to close, there is much to think about and look forward to!

For starters, Prohibition (and some of the myths about it) remains in the news.  Yesterday the Cato Institute ran the following story on their website about debates over the legalization of marijuana in California (  In doing so, they pointed out how bootleggers "supported" Prohibition because of the profit motive involved (just like pot growers today are often found at the lead of anti-legalization efforts).  Economic arguments, and to some extent personal liberty arguments, aside what is often missing in such discussion with my friends who are Libertarians is the morality of a given law.  That is, like the Baptists mentioned in the Cato article (and the Methodists I write about in Prohibition) many people don't just weigh if something "makes sense" from a monetary standpoint or if people "should" be allowed to do things, but if such an activity is "good" for both the individual and for society.  Of course one might argue about how we are to determine if something is "good" or not, but moving a discussion simply into money or rights, while ignoring the morality of a choice doesn't get us very far.  Saying that Prohibition of alcohol "failed" because it was repealed misses the point of both what it actually accomplished, why it was enacted, and why it was actually repealed.  Using it as an argument to talk about legalizing drugs also misses the differences between alcohol (as a chemical substance) and illegal drugs (not to mention the difference between those drugs, and the potential of a slippery slope of legalization).  Some of this I discuss in the book, some of it I'm working on for other projects.

Secondly,  the end of March holds out much promise for the future -- when it comes to the book tours.  Contacts have been made with several conferences and book fairs, which may bear fruit in the next year.  I've also been asked to prepare a manuscript on Prohibition from a trans-national perspective. Likewise, it looks as though I'll be speaking to the Elkhart County Historical Society in October, possibly the Marion County Historical Society this summer, and I'm talking with the Johnson County Historical Society today about a speaking date.  Perhaps other spots will open up as well (I've been in contact with the Munster Historical Society as well).  Here's hoping that the tour around Indiana will continue, as the event at the Whitley County Historical Society ( was GREAT!

Lastly, a word needs to be said about March Madness!  For the past three years I've been proudly employed by Butler University.  I'm very proud to see the Dawgs in the Final Four, very happy that I made the decision to include BU on the back of the book cover, and very honored that students (both past and present) have enjoyed the book and have even gone to the mat with the bookstore to get it put on the faculty shelf!  Its a great school to be affiliated with in so many respects, and an honor to get to teach such a bright group of students.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shumaker comes to Columbia City

Ever since 1994, Columbia City has been a part of my life. Sure, back in high school I'd been there once or twice (to go to Paige's Crossing), but once Erin entered my life, so did Columbia City. Her dad's family is based there, so I've had the pleasure of being a part of lake activities as well as witness the fun of Hoosier Hysteria there, not to mention getting an inside view of one of greatest county courthouses in the state (and I'll just say it, nation). Today, however, marked a new moment in my relationship with Columbia City. Today, I got to be "Professor Lantzer" there for the very first time.

The Whitley County Historical Society hosts a monthly event called "Second Sundays" in which they have guest speakers come in and give presentations to the public. Last year I contacted the WCHS about bringing Shumaker's story to "the City," and my proposal was accepted. The WCHS is based in the home of Vice President (former governor and Columbia City favorite son) Thomas Marshall. As luck would have it, not only does Marshall play an important role in my book, but March 14 also happens to be his birthday, so it all came together rather nicely as it turned out.

The WCHS went all out. There was good publicity in the Ft. Wayne papers and a presence on the internet beyond my own efforts on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to PR, they also put together a nice display, complete with artifacts from a brewery that had operated in CC, some clippings on Prohibition raids on stills, and lots of things from the WCTU. The centerpiece by far was the Francis Willard memorial window from the old Methodist Church. The PR paid off, as the hall was filled, and not just because I had 7 family members in attendance, there were about 30 other people there I'm not related to!

My talk itself centered on Shumaker (of course) but also on the 1908 election cycle, when Shumaker and Marshall first went head-to-head. It went well, the questions after I was done were great, as was the discussion I had (actually before as well as) after the talk with folks who were there. This included the grandson of the woman for whom that aforementioned memorial window had been dedicated (who also passed along that his grandfather had been saved at a revival in town and had taken the temperance pledge, which helped him land the aforementioned grandmother as his wife), the grandson of Attorney General Arthur Gilliom (whose father I had the honor to interview), a member of the ABC board for Whitley County, and a local oral historian who recently interviewed a man in the southern part of the county who told about a brewing operation that never closed when Prohibition became law, and was never shut down during Prohibition.

All in all, it was just a great time! I was very happy that Erin, Kate, and Nick got to watch me in action, and very pleased that my CC in-laws and my parents were in attendance to boot. I hope there are more days like this for the book, it was a very nice way to cap off the spring set of Shumaker talks.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shumaker comes to Anderson

Today I took part in the 30th Annual Indiana Association of Historians conference. It was a snowy trip up to Anderson (where this year's conference was held), but well worth it. The conference was at Anderson University's "off site" MBA building (which is a partnership with Purdue). It was a nice place to hold a conference, and right off of I-69, so very easy to get in and out of (and probably a bit easier than going on to the Ravens' campus proper).

It was good to see some my IUPUI profs, who are now colleagues, as well as colleagues from Butler, as well as meet others from the University of Indianapolis and Anderson University (these were the Big 4 at the conference this year). I was part of a panel that looked at Religious History. A colleague from Butler gave a paper on the rise of the Methodists in Indiana, I talked about Shumaker (re-introducing him to the state), and a prof from Anderson talked about missionary activity in the Belgian Congo. It was a good panel, and of course we went long! The comments were good (though basically everything he questioned is in the book), and I got a question on Catholics and wine for the Eucharist. So, as professional presentations went, I thought it was good. We had a full room, which is always nice too! We'll see if that translates into any more book sales or not! In the meantime, I was asked to be part of a Peace and Justice panel at the end of March (but we'll have to see if that can happen or not).

Up next is taking Shumaker to Columbia City. There is a possible "road trip" to talk about Shumaker at NorthWood High School in Nappanee, but we'll see about that. And who knows, maybe something else will open up as well! In the meantime, I enjoyed my trip to A-Town and am thankful that my parents were able (and willing) to make the trek down to watch the kids so that I could.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

HEAR and There, Drys are Everywhere

Tonight I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with HEAR ( about the book. It was a nice chat (well, you know if you give a professor a platform, he's going to fill up maybe I got on a roll!)....with lots of good questions. It was a great time in Noblesville!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is Mother Nature A Wet?: Snow and the DC Book Talk

Let me be clear, I love Washington, D.C. I love going there, researching there, staying there, and getting to see friends and family. And if you can spend time (and I urge you to stay on Capitol Hill) in the midst of power (as well as people who want it and those who think they have it), it is just an awesome place to be -- whatever time of year.

Now, how does all this tie into Prohibition, not to mention Shumaker? Well, this past weekend (two days after the State of Union and the same day that President Obama met with Congressional Republicans) I arrived in D.C. The purpose was to do a little research, do some work, maybe relax a bit, and then talk to the IU Alumni Association's Washington, D.C. chapter about Shumaker, IU and Prohibition (including why Bloomington is still officially a dry campus -- the legacy of President William Lowe Bryan, who hired and nurtured Paul V. McNutt as a law professor, who in turn was the governor whose "little New Deal" undid Shumaker's life's work).

Sure, when I landed, it was cold. But it had been cold in Indiana, and I didn't really care that I had flown to Milwaukee before arriving at Reagan National. Off I went on the Blue Line Metro to Capitol South and I was there. After a little time at the Library of Congress, I passed by the Capitol building, the Supreme Court (which, by the way, sits right beside the Methodist Building, where Shumaker's co-religionists once kept watch and pushed for legislation ), through a sea of uniformed military (both foreign and domestic), and down to the Hyatt Capitol Hill for more work and some rest. After a night of rest, it was time to talk Shumaker to the alums.

And then, the snow hit! I walked throught it on the way to the Metro. Along the way, I noticed our government in action. There were good federal employees out shoveling the snowy walkways in front of our nation's buildings. Of course, in front of the Capitol, I got to see why we have a debt. One worker was spreading salt on the snow, and about 30 seconds behind him came someone with a little snow plow, plowing the freshly salted snow! But I made it to where I needed to be and waited.

The snow, of course, caused delays. I'm from Northern Indiana. I understand snow and what it can do to a city and what it can do to drivers who aren't (and even sometimes those who are) used to driving on it. So I was ready to wait. I ate lunch. I got to visit with some of my family (thanks Jeff, Spencer and Abby for making the trek), and then the IU folks began to slowly trickle in. I really appreciate the fact that they braved the elements, and am very thankful that Nikki White put the event (the centerpiece of which was the IU-IL basketball game) together. But of course there was the snow, which dropped attendance (not unlike the buzzer beater shot that gave IL the win), and meant I needed to get to the airport sooner rather than later. Nikki was gracious enough to invite me to come back the next time I'm in D.C., an invite I'll be taking her, and the Alumni Association up on.

The end result, was a good trip to D.C., although it wasn't over JUST yet. I got to the airport and then waited. My flight was supposed to leave at 3pm, we got pushed back to 330. We sat on the the plane for over 4 hours, before taking off for Atlanta. I made my connection with 30 minutes to spare, and got home safe and sound a bit before 1am.

The only conclusion I could draw from this D.C. adventure was that Mother Nature was a wet! However, the Shumaker bandwagon continues. Next stop: Noblesville, February 3!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Year -- Off and (Dry) Running

Some things are set, some other things are in the works....but here are where things stand at the moment:

In December, I made a massive "get out the word" push to libraries in Indiana and around the nation. So far, it is slowly but surely getting "Prohibition" onto more library shelves. I've been keeping track, somewhat on World Cat....though they don't cover everyone (including the Wakarusa Public Library and Yale University).

Next week (January 30), I'll be speaking to the Indiana University Alumni Association's Washington D.C. chapter about the book! I'm very excited to take Shumaker on the road.

That event will be followed up by a February 3 speaking event before the Hamilton County Treasure Hunters' Club. At the end of February, I'll be taking part in the Indiana Association of Historians annual conference...where I'll be reintroducing the state to Shumaker as well.

And then in March, I'm supposed to be talking about all things Shumaker before the Whitley County Historical Society.

In the works.....the release of an article in TRACES about Shumaker, Prohibition, and African Americans, a possible talk to the Marion County Historical Society, and maybe in 2011, bringing Shumaker to the Elkhart County Historical Society!