Wine Consumption Circa 1934

Fortune has re-published an article on “The Wines of the U.S.” originally written in 1934, shortly after the December 1933 repeal of prohibition.


The article reported that:

In 1918 U.S. wine consumption was 51,000,000 gallons. During prohibition it trebled. Mr. Garrett was one of the few people who realized that amazing fact — that by 1928 the annual consumption of wine had become about 160,000,000 gallons a year. During those years liquor consumption increased only 50 percent — by gallons, 60,000,000. Yet the liquor business was organized and aggressive, and the wine industry had been disrupted.

The statistics told Mr. Garrett more. In 1918 some 3,000,000 gallons of wine were imported to fill the slippers of chorus girls and the gullets of the rich. Most of the 51,000,000 gallons produced domestically was sold in bulk and drunk by the foreign-born people of the cities. Of the 159,000,000 gallons consumed in 1928 only a few thousand were imported and only 5,000,000 produced legally and domestically for refreshment while communing with the Lord.

That left 154,000,000 gallons which were made illegally in cellars and legally in homes. Since the foreign-born population has not increased since 1918, it seems logical to conclude that much of the 100,000,000-gallon increase in those years was due to new habits contracted by the rank and file of the population. In other words, prohibition has done something very startling to the taste of this nation.

What a potentially fascinating setting for exploring organizational processes. In particular, the distributed, interactive and sociomaterial organization of (il)legal practices, and the role of such practices in (re)shaping the regulatory landscape.

One potentially sympathetic jumping off point that comes to mind: Lauren B. Edelman, Christopher Uggen and Howard S. Erlanger, 1999, The Endogeneity of Legal Regulation: Grievance Procedures as Rational MythAmerican Journal of Sociology, Vol. 105, No. 2, pp. 406-454.

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