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THE SHORT CRAZY SUMMER OF DAREDEVIL DOOLEY

Ah, Spring in Santa Rosa. The colorful roses, the whiff of barbecue, the deafening roar of overpowered engines at the fairgrounds that ruin the evenings for everyone living near downtown. Now that the city is trying to lure developers into building high-rise apartment buildings, perhaps someone should mention that those units will be uninhabitable on weekends when there are motorcycle/hotrod races, destruction derbies or monster truck rallies. Hey, while we’re discussing a makeover of the downtown area anyway, could we please consider swapping the locations of the county fairgrounds and county admin center? Just a thought.

Santa Rosa’s always been a race-lovin’ town, however, starting with our hosting the first California Grand Prize Race in 1909. Even when there were fuel shortages during WWI and WWII we packed the grandstand to watch drivers spin around the dirt track and not-so-rarely crash. There have been deaths (two motorcycle racers were killed in 2016) and some of the pileups became the stuff of legend, such as the flaming tangle of nineteen Model T Fords in 1939 (“a smash-up spectacle Cecil B. De Mille couldn’t have staged,” gasped the Press Democrat).

Of all the events at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds I’ve read about in the old newspapers, there’s one I’d have truly loved to have attended: On July 4, 1918, Ed Dooley and another driver slammed their massive cars together head-on at an impact speed of 100 MPH, the men jumping out at the last second. At age 39, Dooley had never done anything like this before; he was a portly ex-salesman who apparently woke up one morning and decided he was fearless.

Dooley was never a race car driver; he only drove big, heavy touring cars which would seat 6-8 people and at the time cost as much as a small house. He had a gimmick, being that he only drove with his knees and feet, his hands cuffed behind his back. That’s not quite as astonishing as it might seem, as in all photos he is seen with the handcuffs behind his neck, so he could have swung them over his head if he needed to take control in an emergency or needed to scratch his nose. And although the automatic transmission didn’t yet exist, the cars he used were easy to shift gears because they had a linear gearbox, not the “H” pattern on today’s manual transmissions. A video of one of his favorite model cars, the Winton 6, shows the layout which made it possible to shift by throwing his leg over the stick (the entire short video is worth watching if you’re at all curious about what’s needed to restore such an old vehicle).

(RIGHT: Ad for the 1917 Oldsmobile Eight)olds8

On his 1918 WWI draft card Dooley listed his job as “performer in exhibitions” which was quite a new claim – in every earlier document he’s simply a salesman. He worked mostly for J. W. Leavitt & Company, which was the Oldsmobile dealership in San Francisco and distributor for the brand in California and Nevada. Ed was always described as well-known and well-liked, which is to say he had the traits of a good car salesman.

Almost nothing about Kieran Edward Dooley can be found prior to his adventures with handcuffs. He was born in Minnesota in 1879, the youngest of nine Irish farm children. His future wife, Nellie, was born four years later on a nearby farm.

Nor do we know why he started doing shackled driving stunts in 1917 as the “Cowboy Chauffeur.” A mid-life crisis? He was associated from the beginning with western themes and had a custom saddle to fit the hood of his car. At rodeos, local cowpunchers would try to hold on while Dooley made the car “buck” and sometimes he chased down a steer as the cowboy on the hood tried to rope it.

We know he made appearances that year at a rodeo in Salinas, the Stanislaus Livestock Fair and the Arizona state fair, but if he was paid much or anything for these appearances is anyone’s guess. It’s possible he was underwritten by the carmaker; in a 1917 newsletter for dealers, “The Oldsmobile Pacemaker,” it was boasted, “this feat of Dooley’s of driving without his hands and of guiding the car with his knees, proves how absolutely true the alignment of the wheels and steering mechanism is and how easily an Oldsmobile may be handled.” Another blurb appeared in the Los Angeles Times where Dooley praised the Oldsmobile Eight as a “super-quality” car.

It may be discovered he performed at other 1917 rodeos and fairs in the hinterlands – many newspapers from smaller counties are not yet online, and he didn’t get much coverage anyway. There was one brief item in a Modesto paper when he appeared there, and they misnamed him as “Dan” Dooley.

But truthfully, the hands-free driving schtick had limited appeal. It was more like a party trick, and one of the mentions that year had him driving up and down one of San Francisco’s steepest streets on a bet with other salesmen at the Olds dealership.

Come 1918, however, the “Cowboy Chauffeur” was reborn as “Daredevil Dooley” and “‘Suicide’ Ed Dooley.” Ed still did everything handcuffed but it became part of a complete show: “Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo,” which was to make its world debut at the Santa Rosa fairgrounds.

Dooley now had a press agent, a performance team and a small fleet of luxe cars to wreck. Who bankrolled the show is unknown, but it seems clear the objective was to get a Hollywood deal. An item in a Sacramento paper was clearly lifted from a PR handout: “Dooley has worked with Doug Fairbanks, Bill Hart and many of the big leaguers in the picture and racing world, and a year ago beat Barney Oldfield and others in the Phoenix race.” He was never in a race of any kind with Oldfield and no mention whatsoever can be found of him associating with moviemakers, although a newsreel crew supposedly filmed the whole doings in Santa Rosa.

The novelty act in the show was the “world’s youngest driver,” Ed’s son Ronald, who they claimed was five years-old but was actually six (Ed also shaved a couple of years off his own age when he registered for the draft later that year). More PR, this time appearing in the Press Democrat: “…this little chap, who cannot reach around the steering wheel, who has to slide ‘way forward in his seat to reach the brakes or change gears, is a thoroughly accomplished driver. Dooley tested his son repeatedly in the heavy traffic of San Francisco, and is satisfied that the boy has won his spurs.”

There were eleven parts in the Santa Rosa program, as transcribed below. Ed did his usual handcuff tricks and the cowboy bucking stunt along with a tug of war between two autos, a relay race and a few other competitions with both cars and motorbikes. There was also “the man from the Philippines, climbing a greased pole 40-foot high,” about which the less said.

The big attraction, of course, was the head-on collision. “‘First exhibition of its kind in history,’ the press agent says.”

 

dooleysantarosa

 

From the Sebastopol Times: “…And then will come the tremendous finale, the daring, death-defying head-on collision of two big touring cars, hurtling across the field toward each other at a rate of fifty miles an hour. Few people have ever seen a serious automobile accident, and those who have bear witness to the thrill of the impact of two great bodies. It is a breath-catching sensation, the one instant before the big cars crash with a roar that can be heard for blocks…”

I’ll offer only a few comments about this stunt: Presumably the driver’s doors were removed; presumably Ed and the other driver had practiced diving out of their cars at high speeds. Still, Edward Dooley was a 39 year-old man and from his photos appeared to be more chunky than lithe. He recently also had been in a highway auto accident near Fresno, when a tire blew out and hurled him 30 feet from the car.

There are no reviews to be found of the show, but we know no one was seriously injured – after all, they did the same head-on show a month later at Idora Park in Oakland. The only additional detail is that in Oakland both cars started from inclines, so it’s possible the engines were not running at the time of the collision.

Another month passed and it was time for the California state fair. The Sacramento papers were calling him “Suicide” Ed Dooley because his new stunt was to jump over a 20-foot high house constructed on the infield of the race track. His 3,000 lb. Oldsmobile Eight would shoot up a 50° ramp, fly over the roof and crash land on the other side.

This time he would not jump free at the last moment. “What will happen however, when the car hits the ground after its terrifying drop, even Dooley himself does not know, although he hopes to escape with nothing worse than a badly smashed car and a severe shaking-up,” said the San Francisco Chronicle.

And here’s the Believe-it-or-Not! twist: As crazy as that was, Ed Dooley had an even more risky stunt planned. Less than a week later, he was scheduled to be back at Idora Park, where he would perform another head-on collision – except it would be in midair this time. Both cars would race up an incline and the drivers would jump out just before the cars hit head-on, twenty feet in the air.

We don’t know if he did that show, and nor do we know if he did the house jump – again, it wasn’t customary to publish reviews of such entertainment events. But there certainly would have been news items if someone was killed or seriously injured, just as it was reported that several attendees were taken to the hospital when an Idora Park carnival ride malfunctioned that same afternoon.

It’s certain, though, that Daredevil Dooley’s career was over, having lasted only three (two?) months. Maybe his backers became cost-conscious after seeing how many $4,000+ autos he was busting up (the equivalent to about $70k per car today). Maybe it was because there was light attendance at his shows, as the Spanish Flu was near its peak and people were advised to avoid public places. Or maybe he could no longer ignore the toll on his middle-aged body caused by all those jumps from speeding cars.

Ed Dooley died in San Francisco about a year later, in December 1919. The cause was said to be “an attack of rheumatism” but it was probably a heart attack – at the time they didn’t understand rheumatoid arthritis is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease.

Had he reflected upon his daredevil days, I’m sure he would have remembered the Santa Rosa appearance as the high mark; not only did he receive the most publicity here but it was the only time his son was part of the show. Our ancestors, however, might not have remembered the day so fondly, as people all over town found themselves being pestered by all that noise in the middle of a very pleasant Summer afternoon. Say, did you just hear a terrible car crash? It sounded awfully close.

 

Item from The Los Angeles Times, November 18 1917
Item from The Los Angeles Times, November 18 1917

 

 

Undated portrait of Kieran Edward Dooley (Photo: Ancestry)
Undated portrait of Kieran Edward Dooley (Photo: Ancestry)

 

 

Illustration from "The Oldsmobile Pacemaker," December 1917
Illustration from “The Oldsmobile Pacemaker,” December 1917

 

 

 

 

sources
Edward Dooley, one of the best known salesmen in the local automobile trade, has been appointed general manager for the Master Spark Company and will make his headquarters in Los Angeles. Dooley has been a member of the J. W. Leavitt Company and is well known to motorists throughout this part of the state.

– San Francisco Examiner, June 8, 1915

 

DOOLEY READY FOR BIG STUNT
HANDCUFFED HE WILL DRIVE OLDSMOBILE FROM METROPOLIS TO SALINAS

Tomorrow a spectacular stunt advertising the California Rodeo will take place. Ed Dooley will leave San Francisco at 12:30 p. m. from Third and Market street with his hands securely hand-cuffed behind him and under these difficulties will drive an Oldsmobile to Salinas. Miss Kitty Doner, leading star at the Cort theater, will lock the handcuffs and speed Dooley on his way…

– Salinas The Californian, July 16, 1917

 

COWBOY TO RIDE AUTO AT RODEO
Bucking Motor Car to Be Feature of California Round-Up Next Saturday.

Despite the fact that one of his arms was broken when a high-powered racing car crashed into his “broncho” automobile recently, Edward Dooley, cowboy motorist, who recently drove from this city to Salinas with his hands manacled behind his back, will appear at the California Cowboys’ Roundup, to be held under the auspices of the Newspaper Men’s Club of San Francisco at Ewing Field, September 8, 9, and 10.

Dooley, who is under a surgeon’s care, declared yesterday that he would put his car through its paces at the roundup with his good arm strapped behind him and the injured member in a sling…

– San Francisco Examiner, September 2, 1917

 

NOVELTY STUNT OFFERED FAIR

Most people have enough trouble driving an auto with their hands but Ed Dooley, called the “Cowboy Chauffeur,” found that too tame and so he has developed the habit of driving the festive motor car with his hands handcuffed behind him. Dooley is in Phoenix planning to hook up with the State Fair for an exhibition if such a thing is possible and with him he brings a big scrapbook of notices of his stunts on the coast.

Dooley has driven hundreds of miles using his feet to shift gears with and his knees to steer by. He climbs in his car up an artificial flight of steps set at an angle of nearly 40 degrees and he does a number of other hair-raising stunts besides, according to press notices.

– Phoenix Arizona Republic, October 10, 1917

 

 

See Ed Dooley at the Fair today ride around the track at 40 miles per hour in an Oldsmobile “8” hand-cuffed and steering with his feet!

– Oldsmobile ad in Phoenix Arizona Republic, November 14, 1917

 

 

Drives Auto Without Use of Hands or Feet

Ed Dooley, who recently drove an Oldsmobile from Los Angeles with his hands handcuffed behind him, has arrived in San Francisco.

Dooley has found that the Olds is the easiest car on the market to-day to handle this way, and has decided to prove this fact by driving around this city manacled with his hands behind his back.

He has a wager with some of the salesmen of J. W. Leavitt & Co. that he can drive an Oldsmobile up Jones-street hill, stop half way, back down, and then proceed up the hill.

Dooley will drive his auto along the Ocean boulevard in this method this afternoon.

– San Francisco Examiner, December 9, 1917

 

 

A spectacular automobile rodeo, with touring cars, runabouts and motorcycles replacing the bucking broncos, wild steers and outlaws of the old rodeo, will be the attraction offered July 4th at the Santa Rosa Fair grounds. The feature of the day will be a head-on collision between two huge touring cars. Ed Dooley, known from coast to coast where daredevil automobile driving creates a thrill, has assembled a group of daring spiries into an aggregation known as Dooley’s Rodeo Company, and the intrepid crew will present their sensational feats of skill and danger on the afternoon of the Fourth.

Dooley’s Los Angeles-Yuma race across the sands of the Mohave won him national recognition as a driver of utter fearlessness. His feats, throughout the southwest country are spoken of with bated breath. His run last year from San Francisco to Salinas, with his hands manacled behind his back, was at once the joy of those who love a new thrill, and the bane of the speed cops.

This year “Daredevil Dooley” as his associates in the auto game call him, has perfected his handcuff driving to such an extent that throughout the entire rodeo July 4th, he will do all his driving, no matter how difficult the feat or how desperate the chance, with his wrists handcuffed behind his neck.

Dooley drives with his knees and the muscles of his legs. Just a few paces ahead may loom sudden danger. Despite the fact that he has not the use of his hands, an almost indistinguistable [sic] motion of the muscles sends intrepid driver and his car safely by. Automobile and motorcycle racing, an auto race backward, a hundred yard dash between a sprinter and an autoist, and several other racing novelties — in all of which Dooley drives handcuffed, will comprise the early part of the program.

Another feature of universal appeal will be the driving of Dooley’s little five year old son, Ronald. This handsome, curly-headed lad, who, his dad claims is the youngest professional driver in the world, handles his big car with a sureness that many an older driver would envy.

The tug of war between two big autos will provide thrills of a different nature. The sight of the huge cars tugging and straining in an effort to conquer their rivals; the battle of the gasoline giants is well worth watching.

But the great feature of the day, the soul-stirring, hair-raising tremendous finale of a program full of thrills, will be offered by the head-on collision. A huge Winton Six will be sent by Dooley (handcuffed) hurtling across the field to crash head-on into a Cadillac, started from the opposite side of the race course. The crash of these two big cars provides a sensation well worth experiencing.

Prior to the opening of the Rodeo. Dooley and his fellow motorists will take part in the big Moose parade. The Fair grounds gates will be opened at noon on July 4, and the rodeo will advance sale of seats will be announced shortly. The price of admission will be $1.

– Press Democrat, June 23 1918

 

BIG AUTO RODEO AT SANTA ROSA ON JULY FOURTH

…Dooley, who has won a name for himself throughout the country as one of the most daring men who ever handled the wheel of a car, will present many novelties in the way of thrilling driving on the occasion of the big rodeo.

“Daredevil Dooley,” they called him when he flashed into national prominence in the Los Angeles-Yuma Desert Classic several years ago; and in the southwest, men who saw his reckless performance in the wild dash across the sands still speak of his feats with awe…

– Petaluma Argus, June 24 1918

 

THE AUTO RODEO HERE ON FOURTH
Whole Lot of Merriment and Sport Is Promised by Stunts of “Dare Devil Dooley” and His Aggregation When They Show Here on the Holiday.

Hundreds of small boys from Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, who are counting impatiently the days until “The Fourth,” which will bring Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo to the Santa Rosa Fair Grounds, are no more impatient for the big day than a certain little fellow, just past his fifth birthday, down in San Francisco.

War demands for powder this year promise to do away with fire-crackers altogether, but the head-on collision of two great touring cars, a giant Winton six and a Locomobile, which are already in Santa Rosa awaiting the word that will send them crashing head-on into each other, this collision of the gasoline giants, the kiddles know, will cause a bang! bigger than any cannon cracker they ever fired in the days before the “Safe and Sane” rule went into effect.

Down in San Francisco, is the little five-year-old son , of “Daredevil Dooley,” the auto handcuff king who will put on the big show. Little Ronald Dooley is counting the days before the Rodeo just as impatiently as any lad who has been figuring on how he would he able to “raise” the price of admission.

For Ronald, on the afternoon of July 4, will make his first bow to the public in the game his father has learned so well, that of professional automobile driver. From the time he has been able to walk, the little fellow has had a love for the big fast cars his daddy uses, and nightly takes his ride behind a daring driver. Little by little, he mastered the controls himself; and now this little chap, who cannot reach around the steering wheel, who has to slide ‘way forward in his seat to reach the brakes or change gears, is a thoroughly accomplished driver.

Dooley tested his son repeatedly in the heavy traffic of San Francisco, and is satisfied that the boy has won his spurs; so Ronald will give his first public exhibition of his skill July 4.

And here’s the good news for all the other kiddies who have been looking forward to the big show and wondering whether there would be a tent for them to sneak under (which there won’t).

In order that there may be a goodly bunch of little fellows and their sisters out to make little Ronald feel at home, Dooley will admit free all children under ten years of age who are accompanied by their parents. Up to 16 half price will he charged.

Remember, the head-on collision of the big autos, racing together at a 50-mlle-an-hour rate, will not be the whole show: not by a whole lot. There will be automobile races, three fast motorcycle contests for purses of goodly size; an auto tug-of-war, automobile bucking contests, an auto hurdle race, racing backward, and many other big events. It will be a big day for both the kiddies and their parents.

In the morning. Donley and his drivers will take part in the Moose parade, with their cars and motorcycles. The gates will open at noon, and the big show will commence promptly at 2:30.

– Press Democrat, June 27 1918

 

DOOLEY’S AUTO RODEO SANTA ROSA JULY 4

…And then will come the tremendous finale, the daring, death-defying head-on collision of two big touring cars, hurtling across the field toward each other at a rate of fifty miles an hour. Few people have ever seen a serious automobile accident, and those who have bear witness to the thrill of the impact of two great bodies. It is a breath-catching sensation, the one instant before the big cars crash with a roar that can be heard for blocks…

– Sebastopol Times, June 28 1918

 

ED DOOLEY AND HIS SON ARE HERE

Ed Dooley, famous for his daredevil automobile driving, and his five year-old son are here preparatory to their exhibition at the race track on July 4th. Mr. Dooley has many interesting tales to tell about his experiences and narrow escapes while performing his feats in his big Oldsmobile “8.” Many times he had escaped death by only a hair’s breadth, and has lain in hospitals several times from accidents received while performing his stunts. Following is an article that appeared recently in a Fresno paper after a harrowing handcuff drive between that city and Modesto:

Edward Dooley, handcuffed auto pilot, narrowly escaped death early this morning when the automobile he was driving to the county fair here was ditched as a result of a blowout while the machine was rounding ‘death curve” on the road between this city and Modesto.

The machine, which was traveling at the rate of fifty miles an hour, was completely demolished and Dooley was hurled a distance of thirty feet, escaping, however, with a few minor scratches and bruises.

Dooley, who was a feature at the recent California cowboys’ round-up held by the Newspapermen’s Club of San Francisco, had been showing at the Modesto round-up and was making the handcuffed drive to Fresno on a wager.

At the time of the accident he had covered the greater part of the distance between Modesto and this city in the record time of two hours and 10 minutes.

– Press Democrat, June 29 1918

 

“DARE DEVIL’S” BIG FROLIC DN THE MORROW

When “Daredevil” Ed Dooley, hands manacled behind his back, hurls his powerful automobile out onto the Santa Rosa Fair Grounds track tomorrow afternoon, his appearance will signal the opening of one of the most spectacularly thrilling programs ever presented on a California race course.

For Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo will be truly a twentieth century roundup. with motor-driven cars, automobiles and motorcycles, replacing the fractious steeds and wild steers of the conventional rodeo; their daring drivers performing feats of skill and danger in a manner bound to bring the throngs to their feet with cheers for the intrepid performers.

Dooley himself is the premier of the daredevil crew who will race their gasoline steeds in novel contests of all kinds. The veteran of a hundred tracks, who has no superior in his line, will perform all his feats without the use of his hands, which will be firmly handcuffed behind his back. With this handicap, he will race the most reckless drivers of his crew; he will drive backward, will take part in the auto relay race, and in the stake or hurdle driving.

The motorcycle races will add their quota of thrills and excitement to the program. Dooley has secured ten of the fastest drivers in the bay district, and will present them in three death-defying contests. Substantial prizes have been offered the winners in the various races, and each man will be out to make the fastest time of which his machine is capable.

The auto bucking contest will be another event far out of the ordinary, and should prove productive of considerable excitement. Dooley during the past week has been busy rounding up range riders famous for their conquests of outlaw horses, and has offered a large bonus to the rider who can stay on a saddle attached to the radiator of his automobile.

– Press Democrat, July 3 1918

 

PICTURE MEN AT RODEO

With the completion of the track for the head-on collision of two big touring cars at the Santa Rosa Fair grounds on the afternoon of the Fourth, Edward Dooley manager of Dooley’s Automobile Rodeo, announced today that all is in readiness for the spectacular entertainment. Dooley has built a runway for the two cars, that will send them unerringly together to destruction at a fifty-mile an hour rate. The head-on collision will be the spectacular finale of the day’s program of thrills.

Attracted by the possibilities of the many novel events, moving picture producers have been besieging Dooley for the exclusive rights to film the various features; and today Dooley announce that he had finally closed with a San Francisco movie man.

The latter will “shoot” not only the automobile and motorcycle races, but the auto tug-of-war, Dooley himself in his sensational and daring exhibition of handcuffed driving; little Ronald Dooley, five-year old driver; the auto hurdle and relay racing; the auto bucking contest, in which a cowboy attempts to keep to the saddle strapped securely to the radiator of a bucking automobile; the racing backward, and all the other unique events.

Dooley announced today that he would himself pay the war tax on admissions; so there will be no charge outside the admission price…

– Petaluma Courier, July 3 1918

 

PROGRAM AT THE AUTO RODEO HERE THIS AFTERNOON
Card of Events That Will Be Pulled Off by “Daredevil Dooley” and His Performers at the Race Track This Afternoon, Beginning at Two o’Clock.

The program for “Daredevil Dooley’s Auto Rodeo” at the race track, beginning at half past two o’clock this afternoon, will be replete with many startling and unique features, and “Daredevil Dooley” and his five-year-old son, manly Master Ronald Dooley, will be the principal stars, assisted by a galaxy of other lesser stars. The auto tug-of-war, the great motorcycles and many other features will be on tap for the thousands this afternoon.

“Daredevil Dooley” can do most anything he wants with an automobile hurdle, drive it blindfolded and with his hands manacled and goodness knows what else. His work has attracted thousands at many rodeos.

THE BIG PROGRAM

First event – Motorcycle race; amateur: 10 miles: $5O cash prizes.
Second – Relay race with nine automobiles. First time ever attempted.
Third – Tug-of-war; automobiles.
Fourth – Stake race; with automobiles. First time on record.
Fifth – Ronald Dooley: five years of age; world’s youngest driver; demonstrating his complete control of seven-passenger, 60-horsepower touring car.
Sixth – “Ed” Dooley (“Daredevil” Dooley) in exhibition handcuff stunts
Seventh – “Daredevil” Dooley vs. B. C. Madden in five-mile auto race; Dooley driving handcuffed.
Eighth – Automobile bucking contest.
Ninth – The man from the Philippines, climbing a greased pole 40-foot high.
Tenth – Motorcycle race; five-mile; professional entrants; $50 cash prize.
Eleventh – Head-on collision between a Winton “Six” and a Locomobile “Six”. “First exhibition of its kind in history.” the press agent says.

– Press Democrat, July 4 1918

 

AUTOS TO CRASH AT IDORA SUNDAY

All is in readiness for the sensational head-on automobile collision which is to be staged in the stadium at Idora Park tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 o’clock sharp.

The spectacle will be a thriller from start to finish.

From the heights of two inclines at opposite ends of the stadium. “Daredevil” Dooley and Jack Rigo will drive the autos at breakneck speed to collide head-on in the center of the stadium.

To see these powerful cars driven to destruction at top speed, with the drivers clinging desperately to the wheel up to a fraction of a second of the terrific compact, is to experience death-threatening suspense, relieved only by the final crash in which the machines crumple up like a deck of cards.

Thrill is piled on thrill during the brief period the autos are racing toward each other, speeding at more than 50 miles an hour.

Dooley and Rigo must keep their nerve. They must use iron control and their eyes must work in unison with their minds. Otherwise they, too, face destruction.

But the spectators need have no fear. “Daredevil” Dooley and Jack Rigo have ridden in this spectacle before. They will leap from the machines a moment before the smash. They will jump to safety.

At any rate Idora visitors are promised the most sensational spectacle, free in the stadium, that has ever been staged in Oakland.

– Oakland Tribune, August 3, 1918

 

Dooley Will Jump Over 20-Foot House in an Oldsmobile
Other Stunts Will Be Performed at State Fair by Hair-Raising Dare-Devil.

Ed Dooley, famous the country over for his spectacular stunts with automobiles, is here this week and will stage a series of events at the state fair destined to thrill the thousands as they have never been thrilled before.

Dooley will use an Oldsmobile in a sensational leap over a house Monday at 3:3O and several other hair-raising feats will be pulled off during the week. Dooley has worked with Doug Fairbanks, Bill Hart and many of the big leaguers in the picture and racing world, and a year ago beat Barney Oldfield and others in the Phoenix race. He is using the same Olds he used in this race.

Dooley has just finished a 188-mile drive in 4 hours and 45 minutes handcuffed and he will demonstrate his handcuff driving some time during the week at the fair grounds. In the handcuff driving Dooley works with his hands behind his back and his performance has been the wonder of automobile men since he first staged this remarkable event.

– Sacramento Union, September 1 1918

 

[State Fair schedule] …This afternoon promises to be one of the most interesting of the fair. The most sensational features will be the harness races and the dare-devil ride of “Suicide” Ed Dooley, the cowboy chauffeur.

Dooley will hurl his big Olds machine over the top of a twenty-foot high house while driving with his hands handcuffed behind him.

Dooley, guiding his car with his knees and manipulating the gears with his feet, will depend upon the momentum gained from a dash up a runway to the eaves of the house to carry him clear over the roof.

– Sacramento Union, September 2 1918

 

DOOLEY WILL DRIVE HIS CAR OFF HOUSETOP
Cowboy Chauffeur to Give Spectacular Exhibition at State Fair

The big spectacular thrill of the California State Fair programme will occur Monday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock, when “Suicide” Ed Dooley, the cowboy chauffeur will hurl his big Oldsmobile Eight touring car over the top of a twenty-foot high house while driving with his hands handcuffed behind him at a speed of thirty or forty miles an hour.

The house and wooden runway approaching it are being erected on the infield of the race track in front of the grandstand especially for the stunt. The runway, rising sharply on a 50 degree angle, will end abruptly a foot or two below the eaves of the house and several feet distant from the side wall.

Dooley, guiding the car with his knees and manipulating the gears with his feet, will depend upon the momentum gained from his dash up the runway to carry him clear over the roof. What will happen however, when the car hits the ground after its terrifying drop, even Dooley himself does not know, although he hopes to escape with nothing worse than a badly smashed car and a severe shaking-up.

– San Francisco Chronicle, September 3 1918

 

Cars, Head-On in Air, To Be Idora Card

Two automobiles, racing down inclines from opposite ends of the stadium, leaping across a space of fifty feet and crashing head-on in mid-air, this is the spectacle supreme which will thrill Admission Day crowds at Adora Park Monday afternoon.

This thriller has never before been attempted. Engineers have figured out the weight of the cars, the speed necessary for them to travel and the exact spot, twenty feet above the ground, where they will collide head-on.

“Suicide” Ed Dooley will drive one of the machines and Jack Riga the other. Both drivers will jump to safety a fraction of a second before the cars leap skyward.

– San Francisco Examiner, September 7 1918

 

Ed Dooley, Popular Auto Man, Is Dead

Local motordom is this week mourning the death of Ed Dooley, one of the best-known salesmen identified with the industry. Dooley died Friday following an attack of rheumatism.

Dooley was quite a character, as his many novel stunts with an automobile were so daring that they attracted the attention of the general public. One of his recent feats was to tour to the Salinas rodeo with his hands securely fastened with handcuffs, while on another occasion he drove with handcuffs on through the traffic in Market street escorted by motorcycle police.

For years Dooley had been identified with the distributers of Oldsmobile cars and trucks, having worked as salesman for J. W. Leavitt & Co., as well as the former handlers of this line.

Dooley was not only prominent in the automobile world, but he had a host of friends in all walks of life. Politicians and theatrical people also knew Dooley almost as well as motorists, and he is being mourned by thousands.

A widow and six-year-old son survive.

– San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 1919

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WINTER IS COMING: THE YEAR BEFORE PROHIBITION

Prohibition is starting soon, or maybe not. When it begins (if it does) enforcement will be really strict, or the law will be mostly ignored. No alcohol will be allowed anywhere, or there will be exemptions for wine and light beer.

The year was 1919 and anyone who claimed to know what was going to happen was a fool or a liar. Both probably.

This is the story of how Prohibition came to be the law of the land. Before continuing, Gentle Reader should not expect the sort of tale usually found here. Santa Rosa or even Sonoma county are not center stage; this time our ancestors are in the audience, where they would have been watching with rapt attention and gripping their seats tightly – because the ending of this drama just might end up causing financial catastrophe for many dependent upon the wine industry.

In 1918-1919 most Americans likely thought there were long odds that a completely “bone-dry” version of Prohibition would be enacted. Several times during the lead-up it seemed there were going to be exemptions for beer and wine, or the law would be toothless because it wouldn’t be enforced, or the amendment would be tossed out as unconstitutional. All of this kept the nation (and particularly, wine-making Sonoma and Napa counties) on edge.

What happened nationally in those months before Prohibition is a story well worth telling – and that’s even without mixing in the dramatic detail that crucial decisions were supposedly being made by a President of the United States who was only dimly aware of current events, having just suffered a massive stroke. But strangely, I can’t find a single book (much less an internet resource) that gives this tale its due. Prohibition authors waste little ink on everything between Congress proposing the Eighteenth Amendment and the dawn of the bootleggers; Woodrow Wilson biographers focus on the stroke and his obsession with having the U.S. join the League of Nations.

Read the old newspapers, however, and find this stumbling march towards Prohibition was told in screaming headlines, making it one of the top news stories in the year following Germany’s surrender.

Only Russia's execution of Czar Nicholas was important enough to squeeze prohibition news out of the headlines. Press Democrat, June 28, 1918
Only Russia’s execution of Czar Nicholas was important enough to squeeze prohibition news out of the headlines. Press Democrat, June 28, 1918

 

Another excuse for writers avoiding these doings is because there are so many entangled parts that it can leave you cross-eyed trying to sort out what’s what. To assist Gentle Reader (and myself) a timeline is provided below which tracks the key moments in the story. Surely it will be a valuable aid to plagiarizing students for years to come.

And finally (before rejoining our show already in progress), this article is part of a series on the 1920s culture wars, an era with numerous parallels to America today. While this chapter covers the launch of Prohibition, the bigger theme is how our nation became so completely polarized over this single issue.

Just as WWI was ending, Californians voted on whether they wanted to go to war with their neighbors.

Voters were surely giddy when they went to the polls on November 5, 1918; every day brought more good news from the war front. German soldiers were surrendering en masse and their sailors were mutinying on the battleships. Terms for an armistice were finished and waiting for Berlin to sign. In a mere eight days The Great War was about to become history.

On the Californian ballot, however, were two propositions which supporters promised would “shorten the war and save untold blood and treasure.” Neither actually had anything to do with the war effort and only showed how those yearning for Prohibition had become jihadists for the cause.

Prop. 22 banned all manufacture, import or sale of intoxicating liquor, thus creating “bone-dry” Prohibition. But that wasn’t all; it imposed draconian punishments on anyone who broke the law – $25 and 25 days in jail for first time offenders, cranked up to $100/100 days for third and subsequent offenses.

1918propvotingProp. 1 closed all the saloons – so you’d think all the teetotalers who had long called themselves anti-saloon crusaders would heartily vote in favor. Wrong! To the bone-dry moralists it was a stalking horse because it allowed alcohol to stay legal. Sans saloons, drinks could still be served in restaurants, cafes, hotels and other places where it “affects the women and boys and girls as well” [emphasis theirs]. The expensive quarter-page ad seen at right appeared in the Press Democrat and many other newspapers statewide.

Both failed to pass, although Prop. 1 came closest. In Sonoma and Napa counties Prop. 22 lost by about 16 points and nearly twice that in San Francisco. Yet in Los Angeles county and all the other counties nearby, harsh Prop. 22 won – sometimes by almost 3 to 1 margins – and they also generally voted with the dead-enders who wanted to wipe out all alcohol everywhere by voting against Prop. 1, which didn’t grant the purists everything they wanted.

There’s your snapshot of California prior to national Prohibition’s final sprint to the finish line. The state was culturally divided between the north and south, with Los Angeles and San Francisco being the two poles. In the 1920s LA was “the promised city for white Protestant America,” as historian Kevin Starr put it, “prudish, smug and chemically pure.”1 Overwhelmingly Anglo-American, no other ethnic group even topped five percent, including Hispanics. By contrast, one in five San Franciscans was foreign-born, mostly German, Italian and Irish – cultures which certainly did not shun drinking – and the greater Bay Area similarly reflected a diversity which looked a lot more like Europe than the WASP-y Southland.

California was unusual in having such a strong geographic split over prohibition; in the rest of the country it was mainly a city/country divide. Dry advocates were mostly rural, anti-immigrant and conservative, while the Wet faction was clustered in liberal multi-ethnic towns and cities with factories and working class jobs. Both sides shared the hyper-patriotism surrounding WWI during 1917-1918 – which the bone-dry crusaders tried to exploit by casting anything to do with alcohol as being harmful to the war effort and un-American (see the previous article, “THE MADNESS OF 1918“).

Getting those propositions on the statewide ballot was a major accomplishment of the prohibition movement. A decade or so earlier, it only consisted of scattered righteous bullies trying to intimidate local governments into restricting saloons – how that played out in Santa Rosa was discussed in an earlier article. By 1918 they had become a force to recken with, thanks to the money and political heft of the Anti-Saloon League as well as their lineup of celebrity speakers – among them preacher Billy Sunday and conservative Democrat William Jennings Bryan). They were still righteous bullies, but now they had clout nationwide and were prepped to purge America clean.

TIMELINE TO PROHIBITION

1917

Dec 17   Congress sends Eighteenth Amendment to states for ratification

1918

Nov 11   End of WWI; Wilson delivers Armistice address to Congress
Nov 21   Wartime Prohibition Act signed by Wilson
Dec 01   Breweries closed

1919

Jan 16   Eighteenth Amendment ratified
Feb 06   IRS rules any drink over 0.5 percent alcohol as intoxicating
May 01   Wartime Prohibition Act bans using foodstuffs to make beer, wine or liquor
Jun 27   Volstead bill introduced
Jun 30   Wartime Prohibition Act bans sale of beer, wine or liquor
Oct 10   Volstead sent to Wilson
Oct 27   Wilson vetoes Volstead, overridden by Senate next day
Nov 19   Senate rejects Treaty of Versailles/League of Nations membership

1920

Jan 17   Prohibition begins
Mar 19   Senate rejects Versailles for second time

1921

Jul 02   Official end of U.S. involvement in WWI by act of Congress and President Harding
Aug 25   U.S.–German Peace Treaty

Here’s the cheatsheet on Prohibition: The 18th Amendment banned “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors,” but not drinking alcohol, buying it or making it yourself. It also said nothing about how it was to be enforced. Months after it was ratified by the states, the Volstead Act (PDF) defined what “intoxicating” meant, which exceptions were allowed and put the IRS in charge of enforcement. The Wartime Prohibition Act was passed into law immediately after the war had ended. It was entirely separate from the 18th Amendment and had no purpose other than forcing prohibition upon the nation ahead of the Amendment’s start date.

The Eighteenth Amendment was really, really close to being ratified when President Wilson addressed Congress on Nov. 11, 1918 with the message, “the war thus comes to an end” – yet still he signed the Wartime Prohibition Act ten days later. It was supposed to apply only until “the conclusion of the present war and thereafter until the termination of demobilization… as proclaimed by the President.”2

The Wartime Prohibition Act was both mean-spirited and a dirty political trick. The Senate and House had bitterly hashed out the language for the Eighteenth Amendment to include a year’s grace before it was enacted, which would allow the alcohol industry to wind down without hardship. As it wasn’t yet ratified, no one yet knew when the countdown would start – but this new law broke the deal by declaring Prohibition would begin on July 1, 1919, come what may. It also put Wilson and his Democratic Party in a sticky position. The Democrats then were an uneasy alliance of “Wets” (mostly northeastern cities) and “Drys” (old Confederacy). By signing the bill which included the Wartime Prohibition Act, he risked pissing off much of the party’s political base. Wilson would spend much of the rest of his presidency trying to undo that.

warprohibitionactadLEFT: Wartime Prohibition Act ad appeared in the Press Democrat, July 23, 1918

But it would have been difficult for Wilson to veto the Act – although it’s said he signed it reluctantly – because it was actually a rider to an important agricultural bill. Also, Wilson personally wanted no truck with the prohibitionists, both due to his disposition and because they tried to bully him during his 1912 run for the White House.

A few months earlier the Sonoma County Farm Bureau had sent a letter to the White House pleading for Wilson to not sign the Act into law. The letter included valuable figures; there were 20,000 acres of wine grapes in the county and passage would “mean economic ruin to hundreds of families in Sonoma county, whose sons are now offering themselves for the supreme sacrifice…immediate prohibition will mean the loss of $4,000,000 this year to the producers of Sonoma county. Obviously this loss will seriously impair the ability of the banks of the county to meet their quota of Liberty Bonds, War Savings Stamps…”

It was soon after New Years’ 1919 when the Prohibition countdown began, after Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment. But what was it, really? A toothless, symbolic nod to morality or a law greatly expanding police powers? Until the Volstead bill came along six months later, everyone seemed to have their own ideas.

While that pot was simmering, provisions in the Wartime Prohibition Act began to kick in. First came the May 1 ban on using any kind of foodstuff in the making of boozy beverages. This had little immediate impact as the 1919 grape harvest was months away and breweries already had been shut down the previous year as businesses non-essential to the war effort (MORE).

But shortly ahead was the July 1 start of bone-dry prohibition, which President Wilson wanted to squelch by having Congress amend or repeal the Wartime Prohibition Act. Still in Paris for the Treaty of Versailles negotiations, he sent a message on May 20 to Capitol Hill: “The demobilization of the military forces of the country has progressed to such a point that it seems to me entirely safe now to remove the ban upon the manufacture and sale of wines and beers…”

When Congress ignored him, Wilson sought to abort the Act by having demobilization declared complete. Just days before the Act’s prohibition was to start, Wilson was told by his secretary (Chief of Staff, today) that “best opinion says” the War Department was to announce demobilization by August 1, so he should be able to suspend the ban on wine and beer at that time. Sorry, the Attorney General cabled Wilson the same day; there would be no imminent demobilization because a million men were still in uniform under the war emergency call up.

In the last days of June, drinkers in Sonoma county and elsewhere were beset by panic. The Press Democrat reported all wineries with retail stores were mobbed; “the rush of this week is beating records. People are buying a supply to take into their homes so as to have it there for their own use. The supplies being laid in run all the way from two gallons to a hundred and even a larger quantity.” The owner of a liquor store told the PD that his shelves would be empty before the deadline.

As the nation braced for impact of total prohibition, this happened on June 30: The Department of Justice completely reversed its position and announced it would not enforce the Act’s ban on the sale of beer. Why? Because there was a pending court decision on whether “near beer” could be considered intoxicating.3

Press Democrat headlines, July 1, 1919
Press Democrat headlines, July 1, 1919

This development flung all the cards into the air once again. If the Wartime Prohibition Act’s definition of intoxicating was in question, then so was the very legality of the Act. And if the federal government wasn’t going to enforce it, then what laws regarding alcohol applied? Breweries reopened quickly and started making light beer, which was legal under the laws written in 1917. Should saloons still close? The Justice Dept. threatened they could be prosecuted retroactively if the Act was upheld in court. All closed in Petaluma; most in Santa Rosa apparently didn’t, as the City Council declared they would continue to accept the quarterly payments for liquor licenses – but no actual licenses would be issued. The situation was nuts.

Keep in mind all of this chaos surrounds just the Wartime Prohibition Act – a set of laws balancing on the fiction that WWI was still underway, although it had actually ended eight months prior. Eighteenth Amendment prohibition was still on the horizon for the new year, but the Drys in Congress were determined to keep the Act in place until that moment. “To repeal war-time prohibition now is like giving a half-cured drug fiend opium for a few months,” said Kansas GOP Rep. Little. When the Act was sent to the Supreme Court to settle its constitutionality, the House passed the most onerous bill yet, restricting alcohol under the Act to 0.5 percent. Like our little cartoon bear seen at the top, reprieve was only momentary – there was always another axe waiting to fall.

During those summer months the Volstead rules were under debate and rumors flew. All liquor advertising would have to be removed or painted over (true); people could be arrested for telling someone where they could get a drink (false). The government could take away your home if you had liquor on the premises (false); the government could seize your car or truck if liquor was found in it (true).

Wine makers in Sonoma and Napa were particularly susceptible to rumors because the grape harvest was approaching and they desperately wanted good news. The PD reprinted an item from the St. Helena Star squashing a report that the ban on wine would be lifted just in time for the crews to begin picking. Nope. But there was actual good news when the first Volstead details were announced in September; there would be exemptions for the making of wine for sacramental and medicinal purposes, and Kanaye Nagasawa promptly announced the Fountaingrove winery was “going ahead with plans to pick the grapes and make them into wine, just as though there was no such thing as a prohibition law,” according to the PD.

That happened in September while President Wilson was spending a month on a private train barnstorming around the country, trying to drum up public support for the Senate to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. His tour was cut short when the President suffered a mini-stroke, which was not revealed to the public. Back in the White House on October 2, Wilson had a major stroke which left him partially paralyzed. This too was kept secret from the public, even the Congress and Cabinet members. For the remaining 17 months of his presidency, we now know crucial decisions for the country were being made by a troika consisting of his secretary, doctor, and primarily his wife, Edith.

During those fragile early days after the stroke, Congress sent him the Volstead Act to sign. While the press had hashed over most of its rules and regs under the upcoming enactment of the 18th Amendment, the Act also contained an ugly surprise – immediate enforcement of the Wartime Prohibition Act. Although real Prohibition was only three months away, the Drys wanted to give everyone else in the country this one last poke in the eye.

The White House vetoed the act, pointing out there was a distinct difference between the permanent constitutional amendment and that temporary wartime measure, which Wilson had asked Congress to cancel a few months earlier.4 The veto message was written in the first person and signed by the president, although it’s now believed he had no role at all in writing it and probably knew nothing about what was going on with the issue, so carefully did Edith shield him from any upsetting news.5

The Act went back to the House, where the Dry “steam roller” (as the NY Times put it) rushed through a veto override after it was noticed a number of Wet congressmen coincidentally were absent that afternoon. After their defeat, historian Vivienne Sosnowski wrote, “…the anti-Prohibitionists stormed out of the House as soon as the vote was counted, feeling defrauded by what seemed to them to be an illegitimate and essentially malicious act: They felt like stunned victims of a savage ambush.”6 The Senate joined to override Wilson’s veto the next day and the Volstead Act was now law. America was officially bone dry.

Before the Senate actually voted, however, the White House announced it would annul the Wartime Prohibition Act just as soon as the Senate ratified the Treaty of Versailles in the near future. The peace treaty would have given Wilson the power to do that, as the veto message specifically proclaimed demobilization was complete. The Press Democrat jumped at this lifeline:

Press Democrat headlines, October 29, 1919
Press Democrat headlines, October 29, 1919

What a lift of the “wet ban” would have accomplished is unclear, as the Volstead Act was now law and it had immediately flicked on the switch for prohibition (note the “Bone Dry America” deck below the banner hed). With such little time remaining before the Jan. 20 start of Prohibition, it could only have sown confusion. I believe, however, that the White House announcement was a pivotal moment in the history of our nation – and maybe even the world.

Less than a month later, the Senate rejected the Treaty of Versailles, and with it, U.S. membership in the League of Nations. Historians agree America’s failure to join the League left it weak and rudderless during the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy, key developments leading to WWII. But reasons why the Senate refused to ratify the treaty are less clear.

Gather a group of eminent scholars on American history in a room (tip: They’ll all be underpaid by their universities, so at least offer nice canapés). Some will argue it was because Congress hated peace terms in the treaty. Some will argue it was because Congress hated the League of Nations charter. It was because the nation was in the mood for isolationism. It was because Republicans were miffed at Wilson for not including them in treaty diplomacy. It was because Wilson’s stroke (which no one knew about at the time, remember) had left him disinhibited and implacably unwilling to negotiate with Congress. It was because there was a bipartisan faction called the “irreconcilables” who thought the whole thing just stunk. And you know what? ALL of those scholars are right. There were multiple reasons why the Treaty of Versailles failed to get a two-thirds Senate vote.

But go back and read the newspapers at the end of October 1919. The pressing concern was this: Will the Drys demand Congress oppose the treaty because passage might mean Wilson lifting the “wet ban?”

Oh, no, said the Anti-Saloon League (see transcript below), we wouldn’t monkeywrench something like that – and besides, wartime prohibition would continue until another treaty was eventually signed with Austria-Hungary, they said, both moving the goalposts several years further away and revealing that yes, the League took Versailles ratification as a serious threat to prohibition.

This was a turning point in America’s history, but on the eve of that critically important Senate vote, our political system was paralyzed over anything which might possibly touch the (increasingly irrelevant) Wartime Prohibition Act.

Soon it would be 1920, which would not only be the birth of Prohibition, but also the death of the Progressive era in America. It was to be a major election year and Wilson would be a lame duck even if he had been capable of leadership; in the next Congress, two out of three representatives would be from a Dry district. Appeasing those voters was paramount, and best to be on the record voting down the Treaty of Versailles, even though there was only a possibility it might have given the Wets a brief and meaningless win.

Thus here’s the obl. Believe-it-or-Not! punchline to our story: Hey, we may have lost the chance to avoid World War II, but at least we completely eliminated the possibility of some schlubs drinking a lite beer for a few weeks around New Year’s 1920.

As 1919 came to a close, the tribe of the Drys were jubilant, not just for the banishment of alcohol, but for victory in their culture war – in modern parlance, they were satisfied that they were now “owning the libs.” New York Congressman Richard F. McKiniry said at the time it was mainly about the rural areas spitefully “inflicting this sumptuary prohibition legislation upon the great cities. It preserves their cider and destroys the city workers’ beer.”

For them Prohibition was an end in itself – but other Drys had religious fervours that Prohibition was to lead America into becoming their New Jerusalem. I’ll give the last word to Daniel Okrent, author of the best modern book on Prohibition: 7


…by the time the Volstead Act became law, the Drys had become giddy in their political dominance and confident they would retain power sufficient to correct any errors or omissions. They believed that their cause had been sanctified by the long, long march to ratification, that it had truly been a people’s movement every bit as glorious as any other in the nation’s history…Over the next decade, the product of eighty years of marching, praying, arm-twisting, vote trading, and law drafting would be subjected to a plague of trials, among them hypocrisy, greed, murderous criminality, official corruption, and the unreformable impulses of human desire. Another way of saying it (and it was said often in the 1920s): the Drys had their law, and the Wets would have their liquor.

 

 

 

 


1 Material Dreams: Southern California Through the 1920’s by Kevin Starr, 1990, summary of chapter 6, “The People of the City: Oligarchs, Babbitts, and Folks”. The “chemically pure” remark comes from a famous 1913 essay, “Los Angeles: The Chemically Pure” which bemoaned that LA had been taken over by intolerant moral purists from the Midwest with a “frenzy for virtue.”

2 Misunderstandings about the so-called Wartime Prohibition Act are common and it’s easy to see why; even with modern internet search tools, information about it is damned hard to find. That title wasn’t used very often at the time (and usually spelled “War-Time” or “War Time” when it did appear), and was frequently just called the “Norris Amendment” because the rider was added by Senator George Norris, a progressive Republican from Nebraska who led that party’s dry faction in the Senate. It is also often misstated that it was part of the “Emergency Agricultural Appropriations” bill, but it was actually attached to the Food Production Act for 1919 (H. R. 11945). Some authors further confuse it with the 1917 Food and Fuel Control Act, AKA the Lever Food Act, which placed restrictions on industries deemed nonessential to the war effort. When Wilson signed that earlier bill on August 10, 1917, he issued a further proclamation cutting back brewery output by 30 percent. For primary sources and more details, see this excellent study produced by the Carnegie Endowment in 1919.

3 “Near beer” had been a common term since at least 1909 and meant 2.75 percent alcohol by weight – or 3.4 percent by volume, which is the way we usually measure alcohol content today. This was the maximum content for beer as set by the 1917 Lever Food Control Act. Today’s light beers are about 4.1 percent ABV.

4 To the House of Representatives: I am returning without my signature H. R. 6810…The subject matter treated in this measure deals with two distinct phases of the prohibition legislation. One part of the Act under consideration seeks to enforce war time prohibition…which was passed by reason of the emergencies of the war and whose objects have been satisfied in the demobilization of the army and navy and whose repeal I have already sought at the hands of Congress…it will not be difficult for Congress in considering this important matter to separated these two questions and effectively to legislate regarding them; making the proper distinction between temporary causes which arose out of war time emergencies and those like the constitutional amendment…

5 Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper, 2009; pg. 415

6 When the Rivers Ran Red: An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America’s Wine Country by Vivienne Sosnowski, 2009; pg. 45

7 Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent, 2010; pg. 114

 

sources
SCORES IN RUSH TO LAY IN WINE
Unheard of Rush at Wineries in the County Where Wine Can Be Purchased at the Present Time in View of Approach of July First.

It might be said that there is a great rush on at every winery in Sonoma county where wine can be purchased these days in view of the approach of July 1.

This has been the case for weeks past, but the rush of this week is beating records. People are buying a supply to take into their homes so as to have it there for their own use. The supplies being laid in run all the way from two gallons to a hundred and even a larger quantity.

It is said that scores of people who openly state they have never drank wine before that they are not in favor of stopping the industry and are not going to let the opportunity go by to have a taste while tasting remains.

A well known winemaker in town yesterday stated that he never saw such a rush as had been on at his place this week by people calling and buying wine to take to their homes. Among them were people, he said, who were not in the habit of drinking themselves, but wanted to see their friends enjoy a glass of wine even after the war-time prohibition became effective, when they are their guests. Just three days more of a rush, if nobody rules to the contrary, some homes are going to be very popular after July 1.

– Press Democrat, June 28 1919

 

OLD JOHN GIVEN MERRY OLD RUN
Thousands of Dollars Worth of Liquors Were Sold to People to Take to Their Homes by the Various Establishments Here Saturday

In establishments where liquors are sold in this city there was the biggest rush of years on Saturday.

Men and women, in view of the “bone dry” law becoming effective so soon, were laying in a little stock, many of them for medicinal purposes.

In one establishment before seven o’clock at night, it was stated over one thousand dollars’ worth of liquor had been sold at retail in bottles and in dimis. or in cases since the store opened in the morning and the proprietor stated that he would be all sold out before the time for closing came Monday night.

The rush continued at the wineries and hundreds of customers were purchasers of a little wine or sherry to tide them over for a time and allow them to gradually taper off into the enjoyment of some other beverage.

Old John was given a merry old run here Saturday. There is one more day and night left for the saloons.

– Press Democrat, June 29 1919

 

NAGASAWA BACK FROM EAST TO MAKE WINE FROM CROPS
Japanese Vineyardist Hopes for “Reprieve,” But Will Use Output for Medicinal and Sacramental Purposes If the Drouth Continues Unabated.

Confidence that the grape crop and vintage of 1919 will be disposed of without any loss is displayed by Kanaye Nagasawa, owner of Fountaingrove, one of the largest vineyards and wineries in Sonoma county, and Nagasawa is going ahead with plans to pick the grapes and make them into wine, just as though there was no such thing as a prohibition law.

[..]

– Press Democrat, September 4 1919

 

GRAPE AND WINE SITUATION IN NAPA COUNTY DESCRIBED

The following article regarding the grape and wine situation from the last issue of the St. Helena Star, will be read here with interest:

Winemakers and grapegrowers are still up in the air and don’t know just where they will land. There seems, however, to be brighter prospects than before that the entire crop of grapes will be cared for.

Wine making in the old way, for beverage purposes, seems to be a thing of the past, at least for this year, as the law does not permit its manufacture for beverage purposes, and notwithstanding rumors there is no evidence at hand that the ban will be raised in time for this vintage, if at all.

ALL KINDS OF RUMORS

All kinds of rumors are afloat about raising the ban on wine making, and all such merely confuse both winemakers and the grapegrowers. One rumor reached St. Helena Wednesday coming indirectly from the office of the Collector of Internal Revenue in Los Angeles that the ban on winemaking would be raised on September 25. Immediately the Star wired the collector for verification and authenticity of the report and received the following reply:

Los Angeles, September 4, 1919.
St. Helena Star. St. Helena. Cal.:
Statement erroneous. Absolutely no information at this office regarding amendment of present regulations concerning winemaking.
John H. Carter. Collector.

Another report is that demobilization will be declared on November 15, but the grapes will either be harvested or will have perished on the vines by that date. The thing for grapegrowers to do is not to pay any attention to rumors.

[..]

– Press Democrat, September 12 1919

 

PROHIBITIONISTS NOT TO INTERFERE IN PEACE SIGNING
Associated Press

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28.-—Senate parliamentarians of years’ experience said that although the question never had been raised before, they believed the prohibition enforcement bill became law from the moment of the Senate action in overriding the veto at 3:40 o’clock today.

Prohibition forces in and out of the Senate will not attempt to delay ratification of the peace treaty because of the White House announcement that wartime prohibition will end with formal ratification of the pact, officers of the Anti-Saloon League announced.

E. C. Dinwiddie, in charge of the Anti-Saloon League fight before Congress, said dry forces adhered to the belief that wartime prohibition would stand until the Senate had ratified the Austrian treaty, but regardless of that “the league will not attempt to block consideration of the treaty.”

– Press Democrat, October 29 1919

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