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In colonial times, the average American drank about seven gallons of alcoholic beverages per year, more than three times the current consumption. Beer and hard cider were important components of the daily food diet, and spirits were respected for their medicinal properties.

George Washington’s whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon produced 11,000 gallons of liquor in 1799. John Adams started every day with a draft of hard cider before breakfast, and Thomas Jefferson was considered the epitome of sobriety since he restricted his drinking to only 3 to 4 glasses of wine with dinner.

This program looks at how attitudes about drinking evolved over the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries. We see how a confederation of disparate forces, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Methodist Church, and the women’s suffrage movement, took a nation of imbibers dry. We look how the nation’s Noble Experiment in social engineering, by some considered a compassionate attempt at improving the general health and welfare, led to terrible unintended consequences.