It finally happened on January 16, 1919. Church bells rang across America as the state of Nebraska voted to seal ratification of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The United States, the “first great nation to go dry” was about to enter a new era.
No Prohibitionist was more ecstatic than Evangelist William Ashley “Billy” Sunday.
NOW HELL WILL BE FOR RENT — BILLY SUNDAY
By REV W.A. SUNDAY
Richmond, Va, Jan 16 – The rain of tears is over. The slums will soon be a memory; we will turn our prisons into factories, our jails into storehouses, and corn cribs. Men will walk upright. Now women will smile, children will laugh, Hell will be for rent.
If any State fails to ratify the amendment, the star in the flag that represents it should be draped in mourning.
Uncle Sam’s knockout blow that sent the Kaiser and his Junker gang of cut-throats and John Barleycorn and all his cohorts to the mat for the count makes me more proud than ever that I am an American and have lived to see this day.1
So sermonized Billy Sunday in newspapers across America as “the last nail was driven into the coffin of King Alcohol.”2
Instead of “heaven on earth”, hell wouldn’t be “for rent” as Sunday proclaimed. Rather, all hell would break loose in the form of bootlegging, moonshine and a level of lawlessness never before seen in America.
The January-February issue of Digging History Magazine explores the lead-up to the history-making event which occurred on January 16, 1919 when Nebraska voted to ratify the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was the culmination of decades (and decades) — reaching back to the 1700s of colonial America — of prohibitionists advocating for a more temperate society. One of the most famous prohibitionist was a saloon smasher (literally!) What a character she was!
This year will feature several articles on the volatile year that was 1919. In so many ways events of that year changed the face of America forever. The January-February issue is on sale by individual issue purchase. Better yet, a subscription (three options to choose from) is the best value.
Boston, Massachusetts inarguably holds a revered place in American history. The city is home to numerous buildings, locations and historical markers recalling seminal events of our history as a nation. Yet, one plaque commemorating a strange and now mostly forgotten event is the subject of this first article of 2019. Why this story? A century later, in retrospect, it now seems to have portended one of the most volatile years in American history. In an attempt to chronicle the disaster – its causes and consequences – Stephen Puleo, author of Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, posits:
. . . the real power of the molasses flood story is what it exemplifies and represents, not just to Boston but to America. Nearly every watershed issue the country was dealing with at the time – immigration, anarchists, World War I, Prohibition, the relationship between labor and Big Business, and between the people and their government – also played a part in the decade-long story of the molasses flood. To understand the flood is to understand America of the early twentieth century.
And so, this is the first in a series of 2019 articles recalling the tumultuous year that was 1919 – and how it changed America forever.
Boston: January 15, 1919
A rumble, a hiss …. or was it a boom and a swish? Headlines trumpeting the strange, sticky, deadly disaster initially implied it was an explosion. Lawyers for United States Industrial Alcohol (USIA), parent company of Purity Distilling Company, would incessantly claim it was an explosion set off by “evilly disposed persons”. Explosion or not, the event occurring on January 15, 1919 made sure the word “molasses” remained in Boston newspapers for months to come – years, actually – as court proceedings would eventually be drawn out into the longest case in Massachusetts history.
The rest of this extensive article (complete with footnotes and sources) is featured in the January-February issue of Digging History Magazine. On sale in the magazine store, or start a subscription (three budget-minded options) and never miss an issue!
Digging History Magazine was launched in January 2018 and twelve issues were published last year. I decided to publish a free article index for anyone interested in taking a peek (all at once) at a list/synopsis of all articles. All 2018 issues are available for sale in the Magazine Store, some at reduced prices, along with the free article index.
The first issue of 2019 is also available (January-February). This year the magazine will be published bi-monthly, but still packed with articles focused on history and genealogy, This issue features articles which take a look back at events of 100 years ago. This year the magazine will feature several articles looking back at 1919, a volatile and momentous year in American history. February is Black History Month and this issue features a guest article written by the descendant of a freed slave whose legacy still matters today. Two articles on manumission and free people of color owning slaves are of interest both historically and genealogically. Feature articles include:
- The Boston Molasses Flood of 1919: could it have been an omen for the volatile year ahead for America?
- Hell for Rent: A Nation Goes Dry: On January 16, 1919 Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the 18th Amendment to the United States Consitition. One year later, King Alcohol would be dead – or would he? A bit of history on the temperance movement, including the outrageous tactics of one well-known “saloon smasher” who made a name for herself in the early twentieth century.
- Edith, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Theodore Roosevelt unexpectedly became President of the United States in 1901, following the assassination attempt and death of President William McKinley. T.R. wasn’t too far into his presidency before a long-forgotten incident occurred. It seemed innocent enough at the time, but would generate a firestorm of criticism, especially from Southern Democrats who already didn’t trust him.
- The Life of James Clemens – From Slavery to Unspoken Greatness: This issue features a guest submission from one of the descendants of James Clemens, a freed slave who went on to participate in the Underground Railroad movement. His story still matters even today.
- Manumission: Free at Last (or perhaps not) – This extensive article explores the subject of manumission of slaves. A bit of history and stories of controversial manumissions (they all seemed to be controversial). Mathews v. Springer was a precedent-setting case in post-Civil War Mississippi.
- Free to Enslave? is a look at a few incidences of free persons of color owning slaves. One of the featured characters, William “April” Ellison, was at one time the largest slave owner in South Carolina, and a cruel one at that. Milly Pierce’s story is a bit more hopeful, but it’s a piece of African American history that sometimes gets overlooked.
- Jaybird-Woodpecker War: This long-running feud in Fort Bend County, Texas had nothing to do with birds of any feather – rather, it was an all-out race war which stretched into the 1950s.
- What’s in a Name? Sometimes you just have to do a little digging when something piques your curiosity. Such was the case with an unusual name given (Seawillow) to a girl born in the middle of a torrential rain storm in 1855.
- OK: Everything Has a History – even the word we use millions of times a day: O.K. It was part of a silly nineteenth century fad, but yet endured.
- America Waldo Bogle: It wasn’t easy being a person of color in Oregon Territory. America Waldo Bogle’s story is a story of perservering and succeeding despite racial tensions.
- Preview issue here
She was born Sarah Jacobs to parents Oliver and Harriet Jacobs of Toledo, Ohio in approximately 1855. The family was enumerated in the 1860 Census in Toledo and listed as being of the Mulatto race, and Oliver was a carpenter. By 1870 the family had migrated to Chicago where Oliver was still employed as a carpenter. Sarah was fifteen years old that year and by the 1880 census she had married Archibald Goode, he employed as a stair builder.
This article is no longer available for free on this site. It has been enhanced with footnotes and sources and is available for purchase in the magazine store as an Individual Article.
Happy New Year! 2019 is off to a good start here at Digging History with a redesigned web site. It looks a LOT different than the previous one.
The new look is crisper with a new logo which highlights our genealogical research services and charts AND Digging History Magazine. Last year the magazine had its own web site, but experience has proven it will be better situated here now. No more going back and forth between the two sites. Makes sense, huh?
Click on Digging History Magazine and see what’s in the store:
- Subscriptions: Three levels to choose from to fit any budget; all subscriptions are automatically recurring until you tell me you want to stop. Pay-by-check is also available; see details on subscription page.
- Individual Issues (2018 had 12 month issues; beginning in 2019 issues are bi-monthly)
- Special Editions – Currently only one issue, Early American Faith (99 pages or articles, no ads, all focusing on early American faith)
- Individual Articles: From time-to-time some articles will be available for individual purchase rather than part of an issue. Individual article purchase available upon request by contacting me.
- Free Samples: Here you’ll find samples of previous issues (includes only selected pages from a particular issue) or a link to our YouTube preview site. Want an entire issue to try out? See the right side-bar to provide your email and subscribe.
- Purchase Month-to-Month Genealogical Research: A great way to budget research an hour at a time as a recurring subscription (until the project is finished or you would like to stop).
Many of the original blog articles remain, although some are pulled from time-to-time, enhanced and rewritten (adding new research, complete with footnotes and sources) and featured in an issue of the magazine. Most of the writing these days is for the magazine, although I will occasionally post a thought or two, or advertise a special offer (research, charts, magazine) as a blog article.
You might ask, “Is it worth it to purchase a subscription?” That depends — are you a history-lover? Do you enjoy reading about unique historical events or characters? Are you a genealogist or family history researcher (or want to be one)? If you can answer “yes” to any of those questions, then I would say YES (of course I would say that)! Most issues these days are running between 65-80 pages — no ads, just lots of history and articles focused on genealogical research. You’ll find the genealogical research articles aren’t “dry” — they are packed with history as well. There are other publications that do “dry” … I don’t do “dry” 🙂
Again, if you’d like to view an entire issue go to the right side-bar and provide your email address to subscribe. Already a subscriber to the web site? Go to the Individual Issue page and check out the issues available. Just contact me and indicate the issue you want and I’ll send it to you for FREE just to see what it’s all about.
I’m always looking for interesting history to write about. Feel free to contact me with your ideas (or maybe you’d like to submit an article for publication?). I love history. If you’ve landed on this page, you probably do too. Let’s explore together . . . “Uncovering history one story at a time.”
Your friend and fellow history-lover,
Here at Digging History there are a couple of tag lines I like to use to convey the site’s purpose. One quote belongs to Rudyard Kipling:
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
The other is one I use for Digging History Magazine:
“Uncovering history one story at a time”
Both are reflective of what I think history should be — just stories. Think about it — there’s a story (history) behind everything. I honestly can’t think of anything that doesn’t have a history (a story), can you? I absolutely love digging around in old newspaper archives (one of my research specialties), and I write a fair amount of the stories published either in the blog or magazine straight out of those old newspaper accounts. I particularly enjoy reading newspaper articles from the Victorian era — there’s just nothing quite like old-fashioned Victorian prose.
Nothing, however, can compare to the stories we pass down to our family. Genealogists are always searching for meaningful records of an ancestor’s existence: census records, land records, military service and so on. Sometimes I think we are so focused on those (often elusive) records to the exclusion of missing the stories.
Today I drove my Mom and Dad over to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for a delicious Thanksgiving meal. Yesterday my Mom asked me to be sure and print a copy of a record she had come across years ago after my grandmother passed away. Today she had a story she wanted to tell around the Thanksgiving table.
It’s not one of those highly-sought-after records, yet both genealogically and historical significant to me and my family — especially because of the stories my Mom told us today. The record may not look like anything genealogically significant (click to enlarge). In fact, at first glance one might wonder whatever in the world is it?
There is, in fact, quite a bit of history on this 4×6 card — especially if you know the stories behind it. This is a record of about a year and a half of visits to see Dr. Duke, a Littlefield, Texas physician who was my grandparents’ family doctor when they lived in the small farming community of Spade. At the top is my grandfather’s name. Although his name was “Roosevelt Young” (named in honor of Theodore Roosevelt, U.S. President in 1902), he signed his name “R. Young”. However, everyone called him “Bud” (also noted on the card) and his address was Littlefield Star Route 2.
The card is a record of visits and care for Bud’s family, several of which were for my Mom. My grandmother once said my Mom was “born sick”. She has experienced lung and breathing issues all of her life. The first entries on this card (4-42) for $1.00 and $15.00 were for a hospital stay when my Mom (seven years old) was unconscious for three days, her life literally hanging in the balance. Today she told us the tearfully emotional story of how her mother got on her knees and prayed and gave her daughter to the Lord’s care, after the doctor had told my grandparents he had done all he could do and it wasn’t up to him any longer. So, as my grandmother prayed, it truly was in God’s hands.
Mom told us today that while she was unconscious those three days she would sing “When the Saints Go Marching In” — the beginning of her “singing career” she now likes to say! On this Thanksgiving Day the record took on new meaning because we heard the poignant story behind it. It now means more than just a card with dates and dollar amounts — it’s a precious memory.
If you’re a genealogist, don’t toss these kind of records aside if you run across them. There may just be an interesting story, or, if you’re fortunate enough, a precious memory.
- The War to End All Wars. World War I, also referred to as “The Great War”, was considered the first modern war, and until 1917 was a European war, albeit with increasingly dire and daunting implications for the United States. It would also be the first major conflict both prosecuted and propagandized at the direction of the nation’s Commander in Chief.
- Mining Genealogical Gold: Finding Records of the Great War (and the stories behind them). World War I, aka “The Great War” is historically considered the first modern war. Both historically and genealogically speaking, the records generated during this volatile time in American history are potentially a treasure trove of fascinating information. The best part? Lots of stories!
- Rolling Up Their Sleeves: World War I and the Road to Suffrage. After decades of campaigning for equality and the right to vote, women were ever so close to victory by the time the United States entered World War I in 1917. At war’s end even Woodrow Wilson was ready to acquiesce and push through the Constitution’s Nineteenth Amendment.
- PANDEMIC! On the Home Front: Blue as Huckleberries and Spitting Blood. Spring 1918. War headlines were intense enough by the spring of 1918 – the world was reeling from a war unlike any other in the history of the world. Soon – very soon – the world would be reeling from a different kind of war.
- Remembering Tombstone Tuesday. A look back at the very first article published at the original Digging History blog.
- Feisty Females: She Taught Amelia to Fly. When Amelia Earhart wanted to learn how to fly an airplane, the deal she struck with her parents required she be taught by a woman pilot. That pilot, Neta Snook, was a woman of many “firsts” – one of the first female aviators, she was the first woman accepted into a flying school, the first to run a commercial airfield and the first woman to run her own aviation business..
- Believe it or not . . . stranger things have happened: The Luckiest Fool in the World. World War I, the most deadly conflict in recorded history, was over and a bit more light-hearted era was just around the corner. Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly made a name for himself as flag pole sitter — a one-of-a-kind daredevil.
- The Roaring Twenties: Wing-Walking. Another Roaring Twenties fad that actually led to amazing advancements in aviation technology. Ormer Locklear wasn’t just a daredevil — was a sky-devil.
- Way Beyond the Call of Duty: Milton Rubenfeld
- and more
Affordable subscription options available here. Note that the 3-month, 6-month and one year subscriptions now come with a 30-day trial.
- American Poltergeist (and other strange goings-on). America has had its share of strange other-worldly phenomena. America’s first ghost made an appearance (or so they say) in 1800. Early colonists seeing flying ships . . . hallucinations or the real thing?
- Sister Amy’s Murder Factory. It’s a long and winding saga of what some call America’s first female serial killer. Was she crazy-crazy, crazy-manipulative, wicked-crazy or just plain crazy? You be the judge.
- Brown Mountain Lights: Appalachia’s Historical Mystery. A historical perspective from Kalen Martin-Gross, an Appalachian native.
- Genealogy Speaking: It’s Time to Rake the Leaves. It’s fall, it’s Family History Month, and what better time to take a closer look at the “leaves” on your Ancestry.com tree. You might be surprised at some records which may not be useful at all.
- Are you one of THOSE kind of people? If you’re a genealogist, you know THOSE kind of people I’m talking about — those who can’t pass up a cemetery stroll. What is with genealogists and dead people?
- Those Dang Saucers Appear Everywhere. You’ve heard about UFOs seen in the 1940s and 1950s. In July 1952 there were an unusually high number of sightings. What was that all about? Plus, an extensive look at the so-called Lubbock Lights.
- Hideous Insidious History. Quite often history inspires us. Unfortunately, sometimes it disgusts us. We don’t need to look away, but instead learn from it and pledge it will never happen again. A new column introduced this month.
- Grave Headlines. People (supposedly dead) coming up out of their coffins (and scaring the bejeezus out of funeral attendees!). No way (yes way!).
- Joseph Faubion: The Man Who Died Twice
- and more
Affordable subscription options available here. Note that the 3-month, 6-month and one year subscriptions now come with a 30-day trial.
To be a writer, one must write. And so, on October 1, 2018, the 25th anniversary of becoming a self-employed entrepreneur, I write. It’s not what I started out doing 25 years ago, yet I am slowly, but surely, pursuing my dream of becoming a writer. Honing my God-given skills. As long as you’re alive and kicking you can pursue your dreams. Therefore, I must continue to write.
Will I write a book(s) someday? Perhaps so. I have amassed a portfolio of several hundred articles over the last few years, any number of which could be expanded into a book. I have also amassed more article ideas than I’ll ever have time to write. The great thing about history is you never run out of something to write. What happened two minutes ago is history.
I rather enjoy researching and writing my monthly publication, Digging History Magazine. I am also a genealogist, helping people discover their roots. I write their family stories as well. As I pointed out recently, researching and writing makes me a better genealogist.
It’s cathartic in a way, writing about long ago events, making a connection with the past. I am there. I try to take my readers there. Not all history is inspiring and uplifting, unfortunately. Parts of it – to our corporate chagrin – are outright disgusting. I wrote one of those kinds of stories for the October issue. History doesn’t always have a happy ending.
I am always exhilarated once I get a 60-70 page issue written, graphics designed, edited, finalized (yes, I do it all — it’s just me!), up for sale in the Magazine Store and off to subscribers to enjoy their monthly history fix. The magazine site, however, is not inexpensive to operate, and subscriptions and single issue purchases have been too few and far between this first year. I have been discouraged way more than I’ve been encouraged . . . yet, I will continue to write.
I make it a point to personally email each new subscriber to thank and tell them what a blessing they are to me – because they are, even if they’ve only purchased an $8 three-month subscription. I’ve experienced plenty of disappointment this year. Nevertheless, even those three-month subs inspire me – propel me — to keep writing.
This summer I made a new friend who purchased a three-month subscription, but just wanted to try it out. I cancelled the subscription so she wouldn’t be charged again three months later. However, something happened and she was mistakenly charged anyway (I’m still a newbie at this subscription administration thingie!). I emailed her right away to apologize and tell her I’d get her a refund if she still wanted to end her subscription. To my joyful surprise she emailed me back: “Please keep the subscription. I enjoy your magazine!” Was it perhaps kismet that she was mistakenly charged? I don’t know but those eight words were a much-needed pat on the back . . . keep writing.
I haven’t reached even that elusive “50 Out of Seven-Point-Six-Billion” . . . not yet. Still, I continue to write and publish and hope. I am a writer. Therefore, I will write . . . and write . . . and write.
If you are a subscriber, YOU ARE A BLESSING TO ME — make no mistake about it! If you enjoy the magazine, refer a friend — you’ll be a DOUBLE BLESSING TO ME! If you’re not a subscriber, I invite you to try it out. I promise you won’t be bored because history is more than a bunch of dates. We are uncovering history one story at a time. Rudyard Kipling said it best: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
A Free 30-Day Trial is now available with 3-month, 6-month and one-year subscriptions. Don’t like the magazine? Just tell me before the 30-day trial period is up and I’ll cancel (delete) your account and you won’t be charged further. Why would I take a chance on giving away an issue without the promise of a recurring subscription? My new friend told me, “Please keep the subscription. I enjoy your magazine!”.
Sharon Hall, PROUD Writer, Graphic Designer, Editor and Publisher of Digging History Magazine
September is about to wrap up and I’ve already given away one free issue of Digging History Magazine today. Would love to give away some more (today or any day)! Following is easy and you’ll get notification of occasional blog posts and special offers. The current special offer ends on December 31, 2018 (more details below). Click the image below and it will take you directly to the Digging History Magazine web site; scroll to the bottom of the page; type your email and subscribe.
CURRENT SPECIAL OFFER
Anyone purchasing a subscription of any length will receive a chance to win a custom-designed family history chart or 10 hours of genealogy research. See details here. There’s a bonus attached to this special offer: Purchase one subscription of any length and get one entry; REFER a friend (and let me know you have referred) and when they purchase a subscription you will receive TWO more entries. Refer more and get more chances!
Sharon Hall, Publisher and Editor, Digging History Magazine