POPULAR PROHIBITION-ERA SONGS (Illustration) American History History Social Studies Film

This image depicts the cover of a song, published in 1919, entitled “I Never Knew I Had a Wonderful Wife until the Town Went Dry.”  Lyrics by Lew Brown; music by Al Von Tilzer. Online via the Library of Congress. Click on the image for a better view.


As the prohibition crusade gained momentum, popular songs expressed the plight of families devastated by alcohol abuse. The Library of Congress contains many examples. Here are a few highlights:

  • "The Drunkard’s Child"

    You ask me why so oft, father
    The tear rolls down my cheek
    And think it strange that I should own
    A grief I dare not speak.

    But oh my soul is very sad
    My brain is almost wild
    It breaks my heart to think that I
    Am called a drunkard’s child.

  • "The Lips that Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine"

  • "Take the Sparkling Wine Away"

  • "A Parody on Uncle Sam’s Farm"

    The drunkard is so foolish that he will money waste,
    On liquor, when there’s water more pleasant to the taste;
    The water is much cheaper, and much more healthy too,
    And never makes a man a fool - which liquors often do.

    It never yet caused people to quarrel and to fight,
    Or come home intoxicated at twelve o’clock at night.
    Cold water never caused man in the gutter to be found,
    And never, as I know of, to feel upward for the ground.

Some towns and states succumbed to the pressure, passing laws that abolished alcoholic beverages long before the 18th amendment required it. Popular songs, celebrating such victories, tried to convince men that living in a "dry" town did have some benefits. One notable example makes the point:

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Apr 13, 2017

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