Georgia Prohibition – No Bottle in the House; No Soda at the Fount

Did Berrien’s own Jonathan P. Knight almost nix Coca Cola in Georgia? Knight grew up at Ray City, GA before moving to the Berrien county seat at Nashville. He was elected to Georgia Assembly first as state representative and later as state senator, and was known for his fiery activism against drinking. He was chairman of the Temperance Committee in the Georgia Senate and was outspoken about the prevalence of drinking in the very halls of the Georgia Assembly.

Jonathan Perry Knight, 1902.

Jonathan Perry Knight, 1902.

J. P. Knight, of Berrien was among the foremost champions for statewide prohibition on the sale of liquor, which was passed in Georgia in July 1907.  Knight didn’t think the law went far enough and was among the first to point out that the law contained very large loopholes, namely, that liquor could continue to be served in social clubs where members kept their own stock in private lockers.  Knight’s bill introduced July 17, 1907 was aimed at closing this loophole.

1907-jul-17-jp-knight-pushed-prohibition

Knight to Present Bill to Banish Club Lockers

Those of the clubmen of Georgia who boast a convivial liking for the cocktail, the highball, or the mint julep, as the particular taste may dictate, and have been consoling themselves with the fond belief that, after all, prohibition would not mean such a hardship forthem, as at the worst they would be able to keep their well-stocked lockers, where they would always be easy of access, have a rude jar coming to them, if Senator Knight of the sixth district, chairman of the temperance committee of the upper house, has his way.
     The former representative from Berrien has in his desk a bill the purpose of which is to declare that any place in which liquors are kept for sale or use, whether by individuals or corporations, is a tippling house, and consequently in violation of the prohibition bill which he expects to see entered on the statute books of Georgia.
     If this bill is passed, it will not only be illegal for clubs to supply their members with drinks, but it will be impossible for them to provide lockers in which members may keep their own liquors and mixing materials.  It will then be possible for a man to get a drink only within the confines of his own home.

But some thought the state prohibition laws were too tight – Prohibition could have ended the sales of soft drinks in Georgia as well as alcoholic beverages.

Ocala Star, July 17, 1907 reports J.P. Knight's bill for prohibition

Ocala Star, July 17, 1907 reports J.P. Knight’s bill for prohibition

Ocala Florida
Thursday July 18, 1907

GEORGIA WILL BE A GEM

———–

Of Purest Ray Serene in Prohibition’s Diadem

———-

No Bottle in the House; No Soda at the Fount – The People will be proper to Climb Zion’s Happy Mount

Atlanta, July 16. – Senator J. P. Knight, of the seventh, from Berrien county, chairman of the state temperance committee, says he will introduce a bill tomorrow, not only to prevent the sale of liquor in private clubs but to make it a misdemeanor for any member of any club to keep a bottle in his private locker.  He thinks there is no question about its going through along with state prohibition.


Soft Drinks Will be Scarce

Atlanta, July 16. – It is claimed if the state prohibition bill passes practically all the soft drinks manufactured Georgia will have to go out of business. A small quantity of alcohol is required for the purpose of preserving the syrups, which are the basis of them, and with state prohibition in effect it will be impossible to secure it. – Savannah News.

Georgia’s prohibition law went into effect in 1908, although Knight’s proposal to tighten the prohibition  was not adopted.  For a while at least, alcohol remained available in Georgia’s social clubs, and while the presence of alcohol in sodas became widely known, the demand for soft drinks soared under Prohibition and ever after.

1907-aug-1-bainbridge-dem-prohibition-and-soda

“SOFT DRINKS.”

     Apropos of prohibition, word comes from Washington that the Internal Revenue Bureau has discovered that in many of the so-called soft drinks dispensed from soda fountains there is present alcohol in larger percent than in the same sized drink of beer.
     If the man with the soft thirst could take a deep draught from the onyx covered receptables in which certain extracts and essences are concealed in soda fountains, he would consume a drink probably from 40 to 60 percent alcohol. With the addition of fizz and the other things that are artfully welded to make a soft drink the precentage is cut down considerably.
    Local druggists, it is said, may expect to hear that the internal revenue officers have determined that mixers of these extracts and essences with carbonated water shall pay taxes for the privilege of competing with the regular bars. The internal revenue laws says that before a man may mix a drink containing alcohol he must take out a rectifier’s license.
    Now the soda water man takes essences, extracts and syrups containing alcohol, and adds water to taste to produce a beverage, and is rumored that the internal revenue commissioners will be instructed to issue rules so worded to compel druggists who desire to use the alcoholic essences to become rectifiers and also retail dealers in spirits.
     It is claimed that in some soft drinks served from soda fountains there appears 4 percent of alcohol, while beer is claimed to contain less than 3 percent.  Most of the soda fountains in Bainbridge, however, use almost entirely the fruit juices, which contain not more than a fraction of 1 percent of alcohol.
     Druggists state, however, that some extracts are still used and that in some of them the “spike” is two-thirds of the entire fluid. A small drink of the pure extract would serve much the same purpose as several mint juleps and gin rickeys mixed in the regular bars.

The Georgia legislature turned its attention to taxing the “bring your own bottle” clubs,  thus preserving the revenue of the state, the privilege of the wealthy, the future of Coca Cola, and the appearance of temperance for the lower classes.

For a time the legislature offered the “wets” some loopholes—near-beer saloons serving low-alcohol drinks were permitted, as were alcoholic beverages in locker-clubs—but these were closed in 1915. Georgia ratified the Eighteenth Amendment for national prohibition three years later. It did not vote for repeal of national prohibition, but after that occurred, Georgia repealed its own statewide prohibition in 1935. –New Georgia Encyclopedia

Even after the passage of national Prohibition, the Demon Alcoholmoonshine liquor, the kind that simply makes a man forget himself and everything else – was widely available in south Georgia, and public drunkenness in Ray City led to “free fights and a good deal of threatening and a considerable amount of gun play.” It must have been a personal embarrassment to Jonathan Perry Knight that in his own home county of Berrien the consumption of alcohol remained so rampant.

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2 Comments

  1. Charlene Taylor said,

    December 17, 2016 at 3:53 am

    2nd cousin 4x removed.

    Thanks SO MUCH for this fabulous article!!! Love it!!!

  2. December 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Good article. Temperance was an American form of Fascism. Prohibition never works for anything, including drugs. (And, no, I don’t take nor ever have taken, illegal drugs.) It’s not Christian to boss others around.


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