December 5, 1933: Prohibition repealed, but Duluth remains dry

On this day in 1933, while the rest of the nation celebrated the repeal of Prohibition, Duluthians still could not get a drink—nor could anyone else in the state, for that matter. In fact, only 23 U.S. states were ready to sell alcohol legally. This was due to state laws passed prior to the 1919 National Prohibition Act, which remained in force even though the national law was shot down with the ratification of the 21st amendment. Duluth would have to wait for a change in the state law, but police chief R. E. Donaldson said he “anticipated no trouble” from throngs of Duluthians heading to Superior and back for a drink. He would put no extra patrols “to guard against an overly enthusiastic display of conviviality resulting from the dry era’s demise.” But what about Superior? Was it legal to get a drink there? Not yet. It was still under a city ordinance banning the sale and manufacture of liquor that predated the 1919 act as well. It would take a city council vote to repeal the local liquor law, but technically, it couldn’t get that done in a day: any repeal ordinance would first have to be published in a local newspaper. That didn’t stop several Superior night club owners, some of whom openly advertised the sale of liquor at “Repeal Parties” scheduled for that night. During the last year of Prohibition, Duluth police arrested 88 people for possession of liquor, 25 for the transportation of liquor, 25 for keeping blind pigs, and one for operating a still. During the same period it confiscated 535 gallons of liquor and 420 gallons of liquor mash.

This cartoon, which appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on June 21, 1932, was captioned, “Still holding the dike.” (Image: Zenith City)