1919 Kalispell Ordinance: Alcohol
I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one from each year up until now. This week’s post will cover a Kalispell ordinance I found from 1919.
The United States Prohibition lasted from 1920 to December of 1933. Even though it didn’t officially start until 1920, three quarters of all states had ratified the 18th Amendment by 1919. Montana beat that date by voting for prohibition to start on December 31, 2018. And that is how Kalispell City Council’s ordinance #350 came to be.
Specifically, this ordinance stated that “Every person who sells, exchanges, gives, barters, or disposes of, any ardent spirits, or any compound thereof capable of use as a beverage, or any ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors of any kind to any person, persons, or association, or corporation, in the City of Kalispell, or who manufacturers or introduces into, or attempts to introduce into the City of Kalispell, any ardent spirits, or any compound thereof capable of use as a beverage, or any ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors of any kind, shall be guilty of the offense of boot-legging, and upon conviction thereof shall be fined a sum not exceeding three hundred dollars, or imprisoned for a period of not to exceed ninety days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.“
That extremely long run-on sentence said, in a nutshell, Alcohol is prohibited and consequences could include a fine of up to $300, and/or up to ninety days in the slammer. They were covering all their bases!
So Montana got an early start on prohibiting liquor, but how did things go from there?
As might be expected, many parts of Montana were not supportive, at least not after a while. In many parts of the state, police would look the other way when they saw anyone breaking this specific law. Law enforcement also accepted alcohol as bribes. Spirits were served underground at speakeasies (and sometimes literally underground – see this link for one example of a speakeasy that was located under North Main Street in Butte). Some women became bootleggers, distilling in their homes, often hiding the still from their husbands and earning some extra money by selling their alcoholic products.
After a time, Montana representatives decided the prohibition experiment was a failure. There was a high cost of policing with low return, and increasing numbers of people were drinking. In addition, the state was losing tax revenue. So Montana became the first state in the United States to repeal the prohibition. In 1926, they decided to allow alcohol use again. That being said, they were the very last state to actually ratify the 21st Amendment, which occurred eight years later in 1934.
As can be seen by the above, Montanans are not big supporters of regulations.
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