Bootleggers and the Repeal of Prohibition

"wine-o" label "made with fruit and berry juices no artificial flavor used not carbonated"
Wine-O, Astoria Soda Works, Oregon, 1918. See more labels in the Liquor and Beer Trademark Gallery.
In 1919, following the passage of the federal Volstead Act, the Oregon Legislative Assembly ratified the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution; this helped pave the way for national prohibition. Local officials, along with federal revenue agents, sought out and prosecuted violators of the ban on alcohol manufacture and consumption.

In 1923 the Legislative Assembly established the Prohibition Commission to enforce the state's liquor laws. In later years it passed laws assist public officials in the prosecution of crimes stemming from the prohibition of liquor, particularly the granting of greater powers to the police with regard to search and seizure. In 1931 the Legislative Assembly abolished the Prohibition Commission, transferring all enforcement to the State Police.

Prohibition created new possibilities for those with good imaginations. For the enterprising, determined to stay within the bounds of the law, there were commercial opportunities. Many attempted to evoke fond memories of the period before prohibition. They formulated non-alcoholic drinks that included words associated with liquor.

Drawing of glass with beverage and ice cream inside.
Ice Cream High-Ball, John H. Starbird, Washington, 1922
Businesses that had been active in the liquor industry scrambled to find new ways to stay afloat. Henry Weinhard's, a Portland brewery, bought out Puritan Manufacturing Company and thereby gained the rights to manufacture such non-alcoholic beverages as Ras-Porter, Graport, Loganport, and Cherriport. Others let their frustration show in the period just after prohibition took effect. Jesse Day of Prineville was apparently so disgusted that he registered a trademark with the title "Nothing." In what must have been a biting commentary on the times, the trademark was to apply to a "temperance beverage."


Opportunities also existed for those willing to stretch or break the law. Some were caugh by law enforcement. Effects of the ban can be seen by examining records such as still registrations:


While not able to locate every illegal still, officials carefully tracked those used for legal purposes. Police reports documented extensive surveillance by state prohibition officers, sheriff's deputies and others. These often led to arrests and fines as was the case for Arthur Pedersen:

Arthur Pedersen Report of Violation of Prohibition Law
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J.H. Starbird's trademark for Ice Cream, 1922

Officials were assisted in their efforts to "stamp out bootlegging" by informants who provided details about illegal organizations in Oregon:

An informant's tip landed Richard Sargent in the county jail, $500 poorer. His partner, who later escaped, told deputies they couldn't go upstairs because there was a sick person there. Instead, they found Sargent with an elaborate still:

However, his partner may not have been lying - Sargent was released early from the county jail because he was suffering from tuberculosis.

The Repeal of Prohibition

Drawing of pirate ship sailing into sunset with "Belvista" word above. Below "The E.G. Lyons Co. San Francisco, Cal"
E.G. Lyons Co. trademark for Belvista Wine (#387), 1893 (Enlarge image)
In 1925 and 1931 the Oregon Legislative Assembly refused to pass bills that would have sent to the voters a call to reconsider statewide prohibition. "Wet" interests finally used the initiative petition to put the question before voters in November 1932. This initiative was passed by the voters, effectively eliminating the state's machinery for penalizing infringements of the prohibition laws:

In the summer of 1933, voters repealed Oregon's constitutional prohibition amendment, and shortly after Oregon ratified the 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution, repealing national prohibition.

This did not mark the end of liquor control in the State of Oregon; almost immediately following the repeal of national prohibition, Governor Julius Meier began efforts resulting in the formation of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, or OLCC, which continues selective regulation of liquor manufacture and sales in the state.