June 30, 1917: Duluthians get soaked before going dry

On this day in Duluth in 1917, Duluthians enjoyed their last legal dance with John Barleycorn while across the bay Superiorites prepared for his return. While national prohibition was still two years away, Duluth had voted on April 17 to go dry on July 1. Police captain Anthony Fiskett told the Duluth News Tribune that he had toured Superior Street and “never have I seen the equal of the drinking tonight.” The Spalding and St. Louis hotels sold beer at fifteen cents a glass, and many of the Bowery bars offered shots of whiskey for a dime. Old bottles long tucked away were dragged out, many wrapped in cobwebs, and auctioned off. At twilight patrons stood four deep at most bars; by nine p.m. it was “impossible to get within ten feet of a bar.” Meanwhile, across the river, Superior was preparing to reopen saloons shuttered a year before, when the city voted dry. That decision was overturned in another election a year later. Saloonkeepers of Superior’s former 168 drinking establishments fought to obtain a new license and hurried to prepare their former bars—converted to lunch counters, tea rooms, and “soft drink parlors” a year before—back into drinking establishments to serve Superiorites and the citizens of the soon-to-be saloonless Zenith City. Read the history of Prohibition in Duluth here and about Duluth‘s liquor laws here and here.