The “Noble Experiment” was a complete failure

James O. Southworth
Thursday, June 6, 2019

Prohibition was labeled the “Noble Experiment” and originally undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduct the burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and also to improve health and hygiene between 1920-1933.

I have always been curious of the days of Prohibition. I spent time in the South in the Air Force back in the 50’s and at that time there were a lot of “dry” counties in Alabama and Florida. In other words, there were no saloons or places where the public could go and drink with the exception of night clubs that allowed patrons to bring their moonshine into the club. There would be bands playing.

You had to go to a “filling” station or gas

station to get your moonshine since it was illegal to sell in the open publicly, although it was available anywhere in that area at that time. One problem that existed was that sometimes, moonshiners would use wood alcohol and other poisonous ingredients and people would die and/or go blind from drinking moonshine. It was always contained in a quart jar, clear and to tell you the truth, it tasted awful. Most people put up with the taste merely to get drunk and the federal and state authorities were not able to collect tax on this illegal alcohol.

This story is originally from the Columbus News during the 1920’s in Stillwater County and the Under-sheriff’s actions in enforcing the law, researched by James O. Southworth.


Three More Stills Taken

Columbus News

August 18, 1921

“County Attorney Parcells and T.I.

Bolton, Under-Sheriff, did a land-office

business in curtailing the number of white mule highballs available the last of the week when they took three stills in one fell swope. The first haul was a made in the rooms out of the rear of the George Hess shoe shop where a still and little of its by product was found in a good workable condition although not operating at the time. Hess was immediately arrested and it out on bail.

The second capture was Dave Griffen and a fine still in a coal mine on Hensley Creek. This was a number one layout of a good capacity for varnish (whiskey) and both still and Stiller were hauled into the cells of the law and the trial will be held shortly.

The third raid involves Floyd Kenyon, also of the territory northeast of town, where a fine outfit had been working prior to July

4. “The ‘bootleg’ business and especially the illicit manufacture of the old white mule must go, as far this county is concerned,” declared Mr. Parcells. “When cockroaches and a few houseflies are added to the ingre- dients of drinking liquor, it is going a little too far. We may not stop entirely the manufacture and sale, but we are going to try to reduce the sales to such an extent that the numbers of ”moon” will at least have time to age properly.”


August 25, 1921

Columbus News

Booze Car is Camouflaged

Well camouflaged and hidden in a patch of tall sweet clover. A practically new Studebaker car was found near Rapids the last of the week by Tom Bolton, Undersheriff, and three parties, two men and a woman, were taken into custody. The trio apparently thought they were being pursued and took this means of throwing chasers off the trail. The suspicious actions instead resulted in a telephone call to the Sheriff’s office and later arrest. The car, which was four months old, showed signs of hard usage, in fact, the occupants admitting to turning the car over three times before stopping in a chase out of Winnett with the authorities still on their trail to take a cargo of booze. Bolton arrested the men for operating the car without a license, and when it was found to contain a case of high grade, blue ribbon whiskey, it was searched here in Columbus. Dick Richards, the district game warden on whose farm the car was cached, looked around the field that evening and found an additional two cases of excellent goods. The trio gave their names as Mr. and Mrs. Louis Maybell and Harry Jeft- er. They were bound to the district court and released on the payment of $150 cash bond. The car is still here and it is generally supposed that it was stolen to run the gauntlet” End of excerpts from the columbus News dated 8/11/1921- 8/21/1921.

Ultimately, prohibition was legal method of controlling the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages and extreme laws of regulating the liquor. Temperance movements, especially the Anti-Saloon League and the Prohibition Party, became increasingly militant in the U.S. during the 19th Century. After World War I, national prohibition became law by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution; in spite of the strict Volstead Act, law enforcement proved impossible. It was a period of bootlegging and unparalleled drinking. In 1933 prohibition was repealed by the 21st Amendment.

A number of states, counties, and divisions maintain full or partial prohibition local option.

As a result of the public’s annoyance with this law, the prohibition of alcohol in the United States, often called the “Noble Experiment,” ended the problem in February 1933 when Congress passed the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing the 18th Amendment because it never worked.


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