Those familiar with American history will remember a dark time in our past – the era of Prohibition, beginning in 1920, where the production, transport, and sale of alcohol was made illegal by the Eighteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
On December 5th, 1933, the amendment was repealed by ratification of the Twenty-first Amendment, the first and last time (to date) that a constitutional amendment was entirely repealed in the United States. The final statewide prohibition law was not repealed until 1966 (with Mississippi at the rear, ironically doing none of the sippin' as the last state to repeal the law).
Fast-forward 82 years to December 3, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois, for a massive party celebrating the anniversary of Prohibition's ratification - The Last Speakeasy: On the Eve of Repeal. Held at the Chicago History Museum, the event maintains a Prohibition-era theme from food and drink to costumes, music, and activities. The wildly popular event sells out every year, so we were pretty excited to attend in 2015.
Everyone in the juice joint was dressed to the nines. All the dolls were sporting their finest glad rags, from sequin dresses and fur stoles to pearl beads and sparkling headbands. The fellas were looking swell too, in sharp suits and suspenders, even a fedora or two.
The Last Speakeasy had plenty of activities to partake in. The dancefloor had professional instructors teaching attendees how to hop to the waltz, fox trot, and Charleston. There were multiple concert rooms with jazzy jams being led by Steve Anthony & his Society Orchestra and Kevin McIlvaine & friends.
The gambling tables were a popular spot throughout the night, as attendees received complimentary poker chips for guests to try their hand. There was even a whiskey barrel-shaped bus giving jitney rides out front!
The museum didn’t serve up just any hooch. The folks from Templeton Rye served up excellent cocktails all night long hand-crafted by expert bartenders and mixologists. The prohibition-inspired cocktails included an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan.
Actors dressed in conservative fashion wandered the event, presumably dressed as members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, an organization that served as a pivotal force behind American Prohibition. The night ended with men dressed up as policemen came around with a portable siren, ordering us delinquents to vacate the juice joint.
For a prohibition party, the event sure was the bee’s knees. We had a great time getting dolled up, hitting the dance floor, and rolling the Baccarat dice. The Chicago History Museum put on a real whoopee, but we’re still thankful for the repeal!
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