Constitution Center to focus on ‘American Spirits,’ the Prohibition years

    This fall, the National Constitution Center plans to re-examine America’s historic struggle against alcohol.

    “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” exhibit, opening in October, will focus on the complex circumstances and iconic figures surrounding prohibition and its impact on later history and constitutional study.


    David Eisner, president of the Constitution Center, said the events of the prohibition years provide insight into the American experience.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    “‘American Spirits’ illuminates the role of civic action in shaping our nation, the very definition of American freedom, both of which are themes that are at the heart of what we do here at the Center,” Eisner said. “Step back in time to an era of flappers and suffragists, bootleggers and temperance workers.”

    Exhibit curator and writer Daniel Okrent said the prohibition period is a fascinating and controversial subject.

    “How did it happen that a freedom-loving people would put into its foundational document something that forbade something that Americans had been doing since the first colonists arrived?” said Okrent.

    “But they did, and it lasted for 14 extraordinary years. And I hope that this exhibition will demonstrate to people not just what it was, but how it did happen, how it came to pass.”

    Artifacts in the exhibit include original copies of the 18th and 21st Amendments, the hatchet used by saloon-busting temperance worker Carrie Nation and the period telephone that was the subject of the first wiretapping court case in American history.

    The exhibit will run until April 28 before it leaves the Center on a tour of the country.

    In addition to Okrent, the author of “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” collaborators on the project include filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick from the PBS documentary series “Prohibition,” which aired last fall.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal