June 29, 1919: Twin Ports residents descend on Oliver to stock up on liquor

On this day in 1919, droves of Duluthians and Superiorite headed to Oliver, Wisconsin, to buy as much booze as the town went dry. Duluth had been absent of alcohol for two years, voting in April 1917 to go dry. Superior became dry in 1916, returned to wetness in 1917, and dried out agin in 1918. The same day Superior voted to dry out for the second time, the town of Oliver, Wisconsin—just across the St. Louis River from New Duluth—became the closest town where Duluthians and Superiorites could buy liquor. A presidential order forced Oliver to go dry beginning June 30, 1919. Before Twin Ports drinkers made it to Oliver, thieves burglarized the town’s Eagle Liquor Store, making off with $2,900 (more than $36,000 today). Police described it as a “professional job.” Luckily, the thieves didn’t touch much stock, and Oliver had two other liquor stores and a saloon—all of which had raised their prices considerably as dryness approached. Shoppers eager to stock up jammed the road to Oliver, and it reportedly took hours to cross the bridge. On the Minnesota side, police in New Duluth awaited each car returning from Oliver, checking to see if they had sampled too much of their new purchases before driving home. Once Oliver was dry, Iron River, Wisconsin, became the closest town in the region that was still wet and within driving distance. The entire nation became officially dry January 16, 1920.

The Oliver Bridge between Duluth, Minnesota, and Oliver, Wisconsin.

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