north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

ID:

Marker Text:

Essay:
     Restrictions and regulations related to the sale and use of alcohol have existed in North Carolina since the early 1700s. The temperance movement began around 1820, with calls for statewide prohibition by the 1850s. During the Civil War, the legislature prohibited the use of various crops to make alcoholic beverages, not because of the deleterious effects of drinking but because the crops were needed for food. To raise money for the Union war effort, in 1862 the Internal Revenue Service began to tax spirituous liquors, a tax applied in North Carolina after the war. In 1874 the General Assembly passed a local-option law, giving townships the option to vote on local prohibition. If a community, represented by one-fourth of the eligible voters, voted for prohibition, county commissioners would not be permitted to issue saloon licenses. In 1881 the act was extended to the county-level. In the 1870s the General Assembly also began passing special legislation prohibiting saloon licenses in areas as small as a one-mile radius around a church to areas as large as Henderson County.

     In December 1879, the State Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church met in Wilson and resolved to request that legislators consider statewide prohibition. This marked the first step toward Prohibition in North Carolina, with the second being made the following year when the Baptist and Methodist denominations took similar actions. Lobbyists and legislators struggled with the issue of statewide prohibition until a direct vote of the people in 1908 made North Carolina a Prohibition state, effective January 1, 1909. North Carolina was the first state to adopt Prohibition in such a manner. The federal government’s Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution became effective in 1920 making it illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating liquors in the United States. The amendment was repealed in 1933, with North Carolina one of two states refusing to ratify the repeal.

     In 1935 the General Assembly passed laws that granted local options for the sale of alcohol, with the provisions for Alcoholic Beverage Control Boards administering retail shops. On July 2, 1935, the state’s first ABC Store, offering legal alcohol for the first time in twenty-six years, opened in Wilson to an excited public. Shoppers purchased 825 bottles of liquor, at a cost totaling $1,003, during the seven hours the store was open. Unaware that law dictated a 6 P.M. closing time, about another 100 potential customers were turned away. There were no reports of rowdiness or drinking on the premises, behaviors that had been predicted by the prohibitionists. The over-the-counter sales, depicted in newspaper photos of the day, in time became a familiar sight.


References:
Daniel Jay Whitener, Prohibition in North Carolina, 1715-1945 (1945)Wilson Daily Times, July 3, 1935, and August 5, 1935
(Raleigh) News and Observer, July 3, 1935
The State, July 13, 1935
Minutes, first meeting of the Wilson County Liquor Commission, June 29, 1935


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