New Savannah spot: American Prohibition Museum

Disclaimer: My wife works for the company that put together the American Prohibition Museum. I was not charged admission on my first visit.

The American Prohibition Museum is an interesting tour through a time in American history I think a lot of people don't know about — a time we can learn a lot from.

That will be a story for another post, though. For now, this is just a look at the museum.

If you're not familiar with Savannah, you should know that booze plays something of a big role here. Our open container law allows you to walk around in the historic district (read: tourist area) with a drink. You can still see openings in basements and walls for tunnels used for rum running or kidnapping.

When Georgia voted to go dry a dozen years before prohibition was ratified as a constitutional amendment, Chatham County seriously considered seceding. It would have formed Chatham State, with Savannah as its capital.

The museum takes us through the temperance movement, from marches and posters and cartoons and editorials as early as the 1850s, through the rise of the political version of the movement, and into prohibition, when alcohol became the realm of mobsters (Al Capone saw his rise through bootlegged liquor), auto tinkerers (people would buy scrapped chassis and outfit them with souped-up engines to outrun the law) and pharmacists (Walgreens never would have become a national chain without being the primary dispensary of medical whiskey during prohibition).

We learn the Charleston. There's a speakeasy (also open after the museum closes for the evening). There's a room dedicated to racing — those souped-up bootlegger cars became the beginning of NASCAR when there was no longer a need to outrun police with a trunk packed full of illegal booze.

We even learn how to distill whiskey and what the penalties would be if you were caught with bootlegged whiskey — or worse, a still. And we learn how much business and tax money was lost during the years of prohibition.

Admission is reasonable, and comes at a discount if you buy online or as part of a package with a trolley tour. Give yourself 45 minutes to an hour inside, longer if you grab a drink. It's located in City Market, with an entrance next to Wild Wing Cafe.

After the museum closes, the speakeasy opens to the public (no hats or shorts, guys).


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