The Importance of Being “Gently Stewed” – Mencken, Governor Ritchie, and Prohibition

The Importance of Being “Gently Stewed”: Marion Elizabeth Rodgers on Mencken, Governor Ritchie, and Prohibition

By Sara Witman, 3/14/2011
Research Librarian
Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander

menckenbook1At the start of her lecture to a packed room at the Baltimore Bar Library on February 8, Marion Elizabeth Rodgers, author of Mencken: The American Iconoclast, mentioned the wine reception immediately following the talk.

“On such occasions,” she said, “I am reminded of one of Mencken’s favorite doctrines, that ‘the whole world would be better if the human race was kept gently stewed’ … which brings me to the topic of this evening.”

Continue reading at Law Library Association of Maryland.

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Another excerpt from the Law Library Association of Maryland article:

Rodgers provided fascinating details about life in Maryland during Prohibition. According to Rodgers, by the end of Prohibition, Maryland was “one of the wettest states in the Union.” Ritchie announced that state troopers would not bother places selling alcohol in Maryland. Speakeasies were declared to be “cigar stores” with a door in the back with a window; when you knocked on the door and said, “Joe sent me,” you’d be let right in.

Another interesting fact was that many people brewed their own beer in Baltimore during the time because alcohol was very expensive. In some neighborhoods, the air on Sundays would smell deeply of hops and malt. Mencken brewed his own beer each Sunday; the guinea pigs for his brew experiments were often the musicians of the Saturday Night Club.

H.L. Mencken enjoys an Arrow beer at the Hotel Rennert in 1933, after Prohibition was repealed. Sydney Levyne, H.L. Mencken, Francis Jencks, McGill James, Hamilton Owens (L to R).( Frank Miller / Baltimore Sun Photo )

H.L. Mencken enjoys an Arrow beer at the Hotel Rennert in 1933, after Prohibition was repealed. Sydney Levyne, H.L. Mencken, Francis Jencks, McGill James, Hamilton Owens (L to R).( Frank Miller / Baltimore Sun Photo )

Related: 80 years later: The anniversary of Prohibition repeal

This entry was posted in 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, Baltimorons, Beer, Bootlegging, Booze, H.L. Mencken. Bookmark the permalink.

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