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 (http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/03/29/pot-protectionism-and-unions/).  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  Saying that Prohibition of alcohol "failed" because it was repealed misses the point of both what it actually accomplished, why it was enacted, and why it was actually repealed.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 (http://talkofthetownwc.com/blog/2010/03/snapshots_discovering_the_proh.html) 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.